Explosions over the Kremlin never augur well for peace and stability, inside Russia or beyond. And while it remains unclear who conducted the drone attack that authorities in Moscow have declared to be nothing less than an attempt on the life of Vladimir Putin, it is already perfectly evident that a dangerous international situation has just got considerably more precarious. Russia has even accused the US of contributing to the attack, which the State Department in Washington has dismissed as a “ludicrous claim”. Yet that does not disguise the fact that not since the Cold War have relations between the two nuclear-armed powers been wreathed in such hostility and suspicion.
It also seems clear that the matter will not end here. Rather, it could well be used by Moscow to justify further brutal and criminal attacks on Ukraine and more repression and mobilisation at home. Russian strikes have consistently wreaked devastation on Ukraine’s civilian population, so it was fitting that President Zelensky was yesterday at the Hague, home to the war crimes court where he one day hopes to see his opposite number, Putin, in the dock. All of which raises the stakes yet higher for Kyiv’s long-awaited counter-offensive, which could begin at any moment.
Britain, which has led international efforts to equip and train Ukraine’s forces, should take great pride in its significant contribution to helping the embattled country prepare for the crucial operations to come. At each stage, including at moments when our European allies wavered, this country has answered Kyiv’s call for materiel and support. As a result Ukraine is now better equipped to engage in combined arms warfare that will prove invaluable on the battlefield. While Ukrainian men and women are the ones risking their lives, their efforts would be weakened without British support.
But our involvement, which must endure, means we cannot ignore the consequences of the fighting. Ukraine’s very future as a free state may rest on the next few weeks. Meanwhile, yesterday’s drone attack, unthinkable only two years ago, reveals a Russia that is unstable, led by a man whose paranoia and isolation can only be deepening, and whose position must be growing more precarious. This then, is a moment of genuine peril. It is not enough that Britain plans solely for Ukrainian success. We must plan for the fallout from possible Russian failure, too. For that could also send shockwaves across Europe.