War has returned to Europe. Vladimir Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with forces entering the country from every direction and explosions heard across its major cities.
“The war will almost certainly be the biggest conflict in Europe since 1989, perhaps 1945. It will be transformative,” Jeremy writes this morning from Berlin in a must-read analysis, taking in the impact on Ukraine and the questions for the West, but also far larger questions including how this will play out for Putin at home, and how it will affect China’s attitude to Taiwan. This week’s magazine is a special issue devoted to the unfolding situation in Ukraine.
Here in Westminster, Boris Johnson chaired a Cobra meeting this morning and is expected to announce further sanctions against Russia later today. We can expect the immediate sanctioning of a number of Russian oligarchs, but the difficult reality of disentangling Russian money from our politics means that further meaningful action, such as banning Russia from UK sovereign debt markets, may take far longer.
The controversy over Russian money will continue in the coming days, as well as an urgent conversation about the broader support the West – and the UK in particular – is offering to Ukraine. At least eight people are reported to have been killed in the conflict already. Amid the inevitable bloodshed, there will be an urgent conversation about how the UK can help those now fleeing their homes in Ukraine and leaving the country – a number that could end up in the millions.
Politicians in Westminster are already keenly aware that the impact of this war will be felt by those at home in the UK, too, as war intersects with an already acute cost-of-living crisis. Higher energy prices, higher inflation, and sanctions hitting the stock market will mean that a war in Europe creates pain for ordinary people in the UK already struggling to survive amid spiralling costs. The most serious human cost of this war will be felt by those in Ukraine, but the unfolding crisis poses a huge domestic challenge for the politicians in Westminster, as well as a major international one.