Electioneering while war is going on? Yawn...

Most people are literally switched off from what is an uneventful and boring election campaign whose victor is taken for granted, and has not created anything remotely exciting

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

The whole country – or at least those following politics – might be expected to act as willing audiences to the promises of both parties and the dishing-out of countless fiscal incentives. But it seems both Labour and Nationalist Party leaders are failing miserably in appreciating the long-term effects of post-pandemic inflation, and now, a war that Vladimir Putin is claiming to be a ‘special military operation’.

Most people are literally switched off from what is an uneventful and boring election campaign whose victor is taken for granted, and has not created anything remotely exciting. People are more tuned in to the Ukrainian crisis and the tragedy unfolding before our every eyes.

Most cannot understand why Nato will not intervene, a decision that would carry its own disastrous consequences by pushing an entire military alliance into war with Russia. Nor can many understand why Putin’s aggression had been downplayed early on and that his military invasion, though surprising, was always an option.

Now we are left with a volley of sanctions that are to bring Russia to its knees. The implausible scenario would mean that the sanctions bite down so hard on Putin’s rich allies and the people, that he is either toppled or killed. But foreign policy and such scenarios cannot be conjured up like they were some Hollywood script. Putin’s domestic attrition and his continued military aggression in Ukraine is putting the world on notice.

Back to Malta, the decision by political parties to compete between themselves on how much they can give out to their electorate in incentives, be they tax cuts or subsidies, does not seem to be backed by any economic rationale. Of course, there is economic growth that comes with leaving more disposable income in people’s hands, but the idea that the more you promise the better the chance in winning the electorate over, has its limits surely.

All this ignores the economic reality of the next months, with a hedged agreement for our fuel supplies coming to an end, gas prices on the increase in Europe, the expected hike in the price of cereals, foodstuffs, increased logistical costs and countless other inflationary effects that will bite down on our purchasing power. War is going to exacerbate all this.

Putin’s cruel military tactics will bring his adversaries to their knees. But his fascist actions were also catalysed by Western indolence and a refusal to appreciate the Russian bear’s geopolitical ambitions and tsarist aspirations.

In 2020, thousands of Russian troops moved towards the Ukrainian border. Putin said then that they will not go home until he had “concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of Nato.”

In the last two decades Nato has not sent clear messages that it would not move eastwards, even though some of the members of the alliance did not agree with the expansion and indeed there were those who argued that Nato should be nowhere near Ukraine.

But Nato has a foundational principle stating that any European country can join the alliance, and to Russia, joining Nato is a threat. Now Nato’s Article 5 includes a commitment that an attack on any country is treated as an attack on the entire alliance — meaning any Russian military engagement with a hypothetical Nato-member, such as Ukraine, would theoretically bring Moscow into conflict with the 30 Nato members.

So the possibility of Ukraine and Georgia joining Nato naturally has angered Putin.

Steven Pifer, who was ambassador from 1998 to 2000 to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton said when President George W. Bush expressed support for the idea in 2008, that that was a real mistake. “It drove the Russians nuts. It created expectations in Ukraine and Georgia, which then were never met. And so that just made that whole issue of enlargement a complicated one.”

In short, Ukraine’s intention to become a member of Nato was Putin’s excuse to invade. Here he is, a man who has bombed to kingdom come breakaway regions, poisoned political adversaries, waged an IT war in the US elections, and funded dictators.

Expanding Nato membership served as a pretext for Putin, and America knew from the very first day that they could not intervene, since this would trigger off direct conflict with Russia.

The eventual destruction of Ukraine will happen and not one soldier from Nato will be involved in direct military engagement. Hundreds of Ukranians will lose their life, children displaced, millions without a home, their country will be destroyed, a nation will be destroyed and the economy of Europe in some fear. With all the know-how, the political analysts knew that Putin’s madness and dislike of Nato would have led to this.

Yet they continued to entertain Ukraine’s dreams for Nato membership, but never telling the Ukrainians that unless a member a Russian invasion would not find the Americans and Europe on their side.

Not even a no-fly zone can be imposed, as the US implemented in ex-Yugoslavia, for even this would lead to a direct confrontation with Russia.

We are watching a tragedy unfold, one that could have been avoided if the West had decided to stop mincing words and abandon Nato expansionism. Now nothing will stop Putin, it seems.

MaltaToday Survey

One aspect of the general electoral campaign has been Polar’s polls for MaltaToday. This is a first for a newspaper to commission roll-on polling of people’s preferences. 

A Labour victory is inevitable but the two questions that need to be asked is by how much will they win, and whether the PN will increase its share of the vote. What is increasingly evident in all polls is a much lower voter turnout. That usually leaves a dent on the incumbent Labour party. And still, the numbers are still very high for Labour, albeit with a small reduced majority.

To get the latest polls click every day at 8:30am to see the latest data on maltatoday.com.mt