NEXT week will mark a year since Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
It is a grim anniversary, but also a reminder of a truth — that it was never meant to be like this.
5Vladimir Putin had expected the Ukrainian military to fold when his troops and guns rolled in – they did notCredit: AP5Putin also misread his main adversary, President Zelensky was expected to flee and the Russians planned to install a puppet governmentCredit: AFPWhen Putin sent his troops in last year he expected a swift victory. But for some of the fighting outside the capital Kyiv he might have got it.
Yet as often happens in war, the plans went awry from the very beginning.
Putin had expected the Ukrainian military to fold. They did not.
They were fighting for the survival of their country, while Russian troops were fighting for cynical, cooked-up political claims from the Kremlin.
Putin also misread his main adversary. President Zelensky was expected to flee and the Russians planned to install a puppet government.
Some of Ukraine’s allies actually offered Zelensky a way out. A lesser man might have taken that offer, to save himself and his family.
But Zelensky turned it down, and earned the admiration of the world for doing what great leaders have done throughout history and rallying his nation to fight.
Since then very little has gone right for the Russians. While Zelensky constantly visits the front lines, including liberated cities, cowardly Putin sits holed up in a Moscow bunker.
Having expected a cake-walk, Russian forces have ended up in a minefield of Putin’s own making.
Cities that were overrun in the first months of the conflict — including Kherson — have been liberated by Ukrainian troops. Something I watched with my own eyes in November.
And other places that Putin can’t ever have expected to battle over — such as Bakhmut — have become the Stalingrads of this conflict.
Now a global pariah, Putin is having to make increasingly unpopular decisions.
He has had to order compulsory drafts of young Russian men.
Some of these men are geared up and ready for the fight — but most are not.
And as these unwilling conscripts are thrown against the Ukrainian lines, support for Putin’s war will keep going down inside Russia.
It won’t be the only thing going down for him.
It was announced this week that Viagra will no longer be shipped to Russia, in the latest sanctions blow against Putin.
Pharma giant Viatris says that it will no longer be allowing its product to be sent to the country.
Perhaps as Putin and his colleagues take in this deflating news, they will fall back on home-made Russian alternatives. Good luck with that.
But there is a serious point here, which is that the war that Putin started is now a war that he cannot seem to finish.
How long can conflict go on?
A conflict that was meant to take days is grinding into its second year.
And the toll of human misery that it is exacting on the people of Russia, as well as the people of Ukraine, is hard to imagine.
At home the Russian elites can continue their protected lifestyles. But it is not their children being sent to the front lines.
Putin has not sent his daughters to lead the charge against Bakhmut. He wouldn’t even dare visit it himself. Of course not, he is the world’s number one coward.
So there is every chance that this deranged tyrant will continue his senseless war, detached from its reality.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian people have to suffer constant bombardment, assault and, in much of the country, a lack of even the most basic things such as electricity and running water.
How long can this conflict go on? As long as Putin wants it to go on.
The Ukrainians could end it if they had some massive military victories. But Putin is the one who started this, and it is he who is best in a position to end it.
Some people say that the Ukrainians should negotiate a peace deal in which they hand over vast swathes of their country.
But if that ever was an option, the cost in Ukrainian blood to date means that it look increasingly unlikely.
If someone broke into your house, how happy would you be to give them half of it?
A year ago Putin made a serious blunder. But it is the people outside of his palace who are suffering for it.
Them’s the brakes on reality
I AM so fed up with Sam Smith. This week the singer mentioned on TV that they like fishing.
Perfectly normal activity. Surely the country’s most talented attention-seeker could not do anything to muck that up?
5Appearing on TV, the word ‘fisherman’ came up on the show and Sam Smith immediately corrected it to ‘fisher-them’Credit: GettyWrong. The word “fisherman” came up on the show and Smith immediately corrected it to “fisher-them”. Completely seriously. As though their claim to be non-binary and therefore needing to be called “them” should be extended to everything.
I know they just want to be talked about, and I’ve taken the bait.
But seriously, I’m calling time on this codswallop.
Took a while, Sir Keir
SIR KEIR STARMER is as good as measuring up for curtains at Number 10.
As he looks at the opinion polls, he clearly thinks the next election will be a shoo-in for Labour.
5Only a few years ago Starmer was campaigning to make Corbyn Prime MinisterCredit: ReutersAnd part of the effort to secure that are his continuing attempts to tidy up the extremes of his party.
That includes his decision this week to stop Jeremy Corbyn from standing for Labour at the next General Election.
It will be the end of a kind of era.
People forget that before he was bizarrely catapulted to Labour leader, Corbyn was a well-known crank on the Labour back benches.
I met him once on Question Time when he was running for leader.
Since he’d never held any senior role in his decades in Parliament he had never been on the programme before.
I seem to remember giving him a couple of practical tips.
Back then nobody ever imagined he had a chance of running the country.
But everybody knew the size of the man.
Whenever our friends and allies could be attacked, Corbyn would be on his feet, droning away. Whenever a group like the IRA needed some cover, the MP for Islington North would be in the Commons to provide it.
Same with every anti-British group you could find. It’s Starmer’s own business who he thinks should stand as a Labour MP, but one glaring question remains.
Only a few years ago Starmer was campaigning to make Corbyn Prime Minister. He served under him in the Shadow Cabinet when other Labour MPs either refused or left the party.
Back then Starmer also defended Corbyn against all the allegations made against him.
Precisely the allegations which now mean Corbyn can’t run as a Labour MP.
So what has changed? What has Starmer learned about Corbyn in the last year or two that he didn’t know before?
Everybody knew what Corbyn was for decades.
Apart from Starmer, it seems.
Amazing how your principles can change when you get the whiff of power, isn’t it?
OUT OF BORDERIF Sir Kier Starmer and Co get into power at the next election, we can forget about any solution to our border crisis.
Labour was responsible for the explosion of mass migration to this country after 1997, and I would expect something similar next time.
Even this Conservative government is failing miserably at dealing with it. And they do seem to want to, unlike Labour.
Figures out this week show that the number of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats is 86 per cent above what it was as this stage last year, which was a record year.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he wants to “stop the boats”.
But he still hasn’t passed the legislation he says he needs to do this.
Now imagine what would happen under Labour, who don’t even think new laws should be passed and seem to think everyone breaking into our country should just be allowed in.
Nicola Sturgeon stirred up hate
NICOLA STURGEON’S announcement that she is stepping down has been greeted far too generously.
Perhaps her political foes think they shouldn’t kick her when she’s down.
5Nicola Sturgeon has arguably been one of the most malevolent forces in British politics in our lifetimesCredit: PAI disagree.
Sturgeon has arguably been one of the most malevolent forces in British politics in our lifetimes.
This is a woman whose entire career has been fuelled by a desire to pit British people against each other. She has sowed division and hatred. I won’t miss that. Even the cause she loved was harmed by her. Scottish opinion in favour of independence is plummeting.
But look at the wider destruction she leaves.
Life expectancy in Scotland has fallen during her time in power. The Scottish health service is worse even than the NHS in England. The education system, which used to be the envy of Britain, has collapsed under her watch.
And the country has a drug epidemic setting records across Europe.
So Sturgeon may have shed some tears for herself, but I won’t be shedding any for her.
The woman left a trail of destroyed lives behind her, and a country far worse off than it would have been if she’d never been heard of.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk