After much umming and ahhing and a good deal of cajoling, yesterday the EU finally did the right thing and agreed to join Britain in strengthening sanctions against Putin, and in particular supporting a ban on Russia accessing the global Swift payments network.
If it took them a while to get with the programme, it’s not surprising. It’s not just that Brussels bureaucrats move at a snail’s pace, even in a crisis. It’s also that certain member states have become very dependent on Russian money, not least the Italians, who stand to lose billions from the sale of luxury goods to Putin’s kleptocrats.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has vehemently denied asking for an exemption to the payments ban. Still, it’s not a good look when, as one critic put it, the perception is that ‘selling Gucci loafers to oligarchs is more of a priority than hitting back at Putin’.
But the truth is this is only really the start of it. The kind of tough sanctions needed to really hurt Putin are the kind that are also going to hurt us too.
After much umming and ahhing and a good deal of cajoling, yesterday the EU finally did the right thing and agreed to join Britain in strengthening sanctions against Putin, and in particular supporting a ban on Russia accessing the global Swift payments network (European Commission President von der Leyen pictured)
Politicians are going to have to make very tough choices. Between doing what’s morally right, however painful, or protecting their own short-term interests. We all know which comes more naturally.
Putin knows this; indeed, he is counting on it. He knows that organisations like the EU can barely authorise the purchase of a box of rubber bands without some lengthy consultation, let alone kiss goodbye to billions of euros for the sake of a non-member state. His best hope is that venality will outweigh morality, and that when push comes to shove we will bottle it.
That simply cannot happen. It may seem impossibly unfair and unjust after the misery we’ve all endured because of Covid. But this is not just the freedom of Ukraine that’s at stake here – it’s the whole of Europe’s.
The more reluctance we show to act decisively, the more Putin will sense weakness and exploit it. He’s already made clear what his intentions toward Finland and Sweden are, should they ally with Nato.
‘Serious repercussions,’ as his spokesman put it – and we all know what that means.
If it took them a while to get with the programme, it’s not surprising. It’s not just that Brussels bureaucrats move at a snail’s pace, even in a crisis (Putin pictured with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan)
That is why we must rally behind the Ukrainian people. They are the first line of defence against this lunatic. And we are immensely lucky they are so resilient. The scenes of defiance and bravery on our television screens have been extraordinary.
Their resolve is nothing short of inspirational, from the President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking on camera from the heart of the fighting in Kyiv, to the border guards who told a Russian warship to ‘go f*** yourselves’ before being blown to smithereens, to the grandmother chastising a Russian soldier as though he were a schoolboy.
What a people, what a nation. Cultured, articulate, passionate – and unashamedly patriotic. Everyone I know feels the same: a sense of awe and respect.
Politicians are going to have to make very tough choices. Between doing what’s morally right, however painful, or protecting their own short-term interests. We all know which comes more naturally (Boris Johnson pictured)
No wonder they have such overwhelming support from pretty much every country. They have displayed the kind of heroism that almost belongs to another age. It deserves to be recognised and rewarded. On a political level, the best way we can do that is by unflinchingly agreeing to hit Putin with every sanction at our disposal, no matter the pain at home. As individuals, it means doing whatever we can to help safeguard the lives of those Ukrainians – many of them women and children – fleeing to safety via neighbouring countries.
That’s why today’s campaign by the Mail to raise funds for the refugees is so vital. It won’t defeat Putin, it won’t lessen the suffering of those caught up in this bloody war. But it will at least send a concrete message to the Ukrainian people that, man for man, woman for woman, we stand with them in their hour of need – and, perhaps just as importantly – we thank them for their sacrifice.
I hope there’s not more to the major IT outage suffered by British Airways this weekend than good old-fashioned incompetence.
Passengers were left stranded, and the website and app were offline for hours. A friend was supposed to fly to New York earlier this week, but cancelled. ‘I just don’t trust the Russians not to launch some cyber-attack on the air-traffic control networks,’ she said. Paranoid or prescient?
Brexit, Covid – and now a war that threatens us all. Has any Prime Minister in living memory had to deal with as much as Boris Johnson over the past two years? As the ancient Chinese curse goes: ‘May you live in interesting times.’
Slogan that oozed charm
It was John Betjeman, above, who said that, come the end of the world, you would find him in the haberdashery department of Peter Jones
It was John Betjeman, right, who said that, come the end of the world, you would find him in the haberdashery department of Peter Jones (aka John Lewis) ‘because nothing unpleasant could ever happen there’. I’m with him all the way.
But why is the Sloane Square store – along with the rest of the John Lewis group – dropping its famous slogan, ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’? They’ve almost certainly focus-grouped it to hell and back, but I would urge them to reconsider. There’s something about those three arcane words that perfectly capture the genteel charm of John Lewis. It just won’t be the same.
● For once, the organisers of Formula 1 do something decent and cancel the Russian Grand Prix. Pity they couldn’t have found their consciences in time for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last year.
● Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has my vote for supporting the ‘Save Women’s Sport’ Bill, which aims to exclude trans athletes – such as the swimmer Lia Thomas – from taking part in women’s sport. It is not transphobic to acknowledge that transwomen who have undergone puberty as males have natural physical advantages over other women; it is simple common sense. That saying so should be considered an act of bravery – or, in Morrison’s case, politically foolhardy – is a sad indictment of the hysterical times we live in.
Kate’s so cool…in a £29.99 jumper
Kate’s so cool…in a £29.99 jumper
My children always tease me for buying clothes from H&M – apparently it’s hopelessly uncool. Then I see the Duchess of Cambridge in Denmark in a £29.99 H&M roll-neck jumper, left. If it’s good enough for a future Queen…
The lies of Putin’s useful idiots will cost us dear
With oil prices spiking at more than $100 a barrel, Putin is raking in over $700 million a day. No wonder his government invested so much time, money and effort campaigning against alternatives to Russian oil – including, in Britain, fracking. In 2016, Russia Today – the Kremlin-backed news channel frequented by George Galloway and Alex Salmond – was several times investigated by regulator Ofcom, in one case for calling frackers ‘the moral equivalent of paedophiles’. If we hadn’t swallowed the lies of Putin’s many useful idiots, perhaps the taxpayer wouldn’t now unwittingly be funding a brutal war.
● I hate everything about the Government’s new plans for universities. Firstly, the notion that if someone can’t achieve a grade 4 in maths, they’re too stupid to go. But mostly the idea that youngsters could end up repaying their student loans for 40 years. At that rate they’ll be drawing a pension before they’ve paid off their fees. If the Government wants to stop school-leavers taking low-quality degrees with poor employment prospects, it should put the onus on universities to stop flogging Mickey Mouse courses to rake in more money.
Sarah Vine is pictured
● Wouldn’t it be wonderful to earn so much you can’t remember what you get paid? When asked his salary by a committee of MPs, the Bank of England Governor, Andrew Bailey, replied: ‘I don’t carry that number around in my head.’ It reminds me of those two Goldman Sachs bankers whose PA managed to embezzle them out of £4.5 million. They were so rich they didn’t notice it was missing, and it was only when one decided to write a cheque for £1 million that the fraud was uncovered. Another world.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have graciously let it be known from the luxury of their Californian mansion that they ‘stand with the people of Ukraine’. Putin must be terrified. Although I’m surprised they haven’t instructed lawyers. That seems to be their first port of call these days.
● Spotted: a window display in Marks & Spencer for ‘Mom jeans’. Seriously? If you must, M&S, surely it’s ‘Mum jeans’?