It does not matter how many blue and yellow flags you hang, how much you demonstrate support for a brave and resilient people, how much you deplore the suffering of innocent civilians, how much you sing Zelensky’s praises, how much you demonise Putin as a tyrant, butcher and war criminal. There is a fundamental truth at the source of this human catastrophe. It is a direct consequence of a string of political failures. Failures by NATO, Russia, Ukraine, the US, the EU, the UK. In other words all of us.
War itself is a crime. A crime which is almost always, in modern terms, originating in a failure to respond at a political level to the tensions building beneath the surface. Whatever that problem is, it is never, never, the case that one side is all right and the other all wrong.
This war needs to end. There will be no true winners. There will have to be compromise. Almost everywhere the options open will be the least worst, rather than the best. Ukraine must survive as a neutral sovereign state. But it will need to reach an accommodation with its neighbour, of which it was for generations a part, and with whom it has so much in the way of ties of culture, kith and kin. This will involve some re-drawing of borders. Russia has to realise that this invasion was not a good idea and has politically backfired big. But it must not be humiliated. Russia is an integral part of Europe. It will not cease to be a threat by exclusion. We must surely have seen that is not a productive policy and it is a lesson that the West needs to re-learn.
Meanwhile the ultimate price is paid in the loss of human life, civilian and military. Grief is universal. It will be felt in Russian homes too. It springs from violence and destruction, the ruin of infrastructure, lives and livelihoods. There will have to be a great rebuilding, physical and emotional. The sooner that starts the better.
Above all there will have to be many wise counsels prevailing. Since the end of the Cold War they have, sadly, been few and far between. That is why we chalked up a string of nation building failures and why this awful suffering is unfolding now.