It was a cold and clear sunny day, with a faint promise of spring in the crisp air but reluctant to let go of the hand of old man winter. At the top of my agenda, indeed what kept me awake most of the night, is the bully-war, presently under way in the Ukraine. It’s not a pleasant topic but one that needs discussing, even though mine and Camp’s opinion feel so futile and inconsequential and yet I had to get it off my chest. Camp was already seated when I walked in. I took off my mask and sat down just as Vicky placed a frosty mug in front of me.
‘You want to talk about Putin’s invasion, don’t you?’ Camp said before I could utter a world. ‘It’s what he has always wanted, to be master of the universe and to bring back the USSR.’
‘Still, Camp, his brazen, brutal and unprovoked invasion of a sovereign democracy is a step too far. His personal unhappiness coupled with little man’s syndrome makes him a sociopathic bully, not unlike his one big fan in Florida. He now has blood on his hands and is a pariah for the rest of his days.’
‘We’ve seen his bloody hand at work in Georgia, Chechnya, Syria, the Crimea and now Ukraine. Like any serial killer, and make no mistake, Putin is one, each kill makes the next one easier. It’s going to be Ukraine, then maybe the Baltics, Rumania, Bulgaria. What and who is going to stop him? Nobody wants World War Three and he knows that,’ I said.
‘Yes, and therein lies the rub,’ Camp agreed, stroking his stubbly chin. ‘In fact, he counts on it. Nobody wants to risk lives in a mechanized or worst of all, a nuclear war. There will be no winners. Apparently, all those NATO rockets and tanks, all those bombers and war ships are just deterrents, not to be used, just to be shown around, like shaking a fist but not actually punching anybody. I bet you Xi is watching this very closely because if Putin can do it, so can he. I bet you he asked Putin to wait with the invasion until the Olympics were done.’
We both concentrated on our drinks for a beat.
‘I feel sorry for the people in the Ukraine and for that matter for the people of Russia. Both will suffer immeasurably and plenty will die for Putin’s psychopathic obsession and hubris.’
‘It’s not like this is a big surprise. he took the Crimea in 2014 and had his wrist slapped and fingers wagged at him. ‘Bad boy, don’t do that.’
‘Do you think the sanctions everybody threatens to unleash, even Trudeau, will have any impact on a thug like Putin?’
‘It will make him even madder and certainly will not force him to abandon any misadventure he committed to. He will double down, not back down. If it’s one thing he and his oligarch cronies like then it’s the luxury and privileges their loot can buy. Take the toys away from the boys and they will lash out like bulldogs deprived of their meat.’
‘It sounds like you’re predicting an occupation, regime change and annexation of an entire country and also that he will get away with it,’ I said.
Camp just shrugged. What’s there to lose for Putin? He’s now center stage like Mephistopheles in his own hell. Like I said, it’s where he always wanted to be. Up there with the Khans, the Tsars and Stalin.’
‘How can the world stop him?’
‘Good question my friend and I don’t have the answer. He doesn’t listen to anybody, not even Lavrov, the wily old fox who’s been Russia’s foreign minister since 2004 and the UN representative since 1994. He surely knows better but is no match for his puppet master who seems to hold all the strings in this tragedy.’
‘It’s hard to get a laugh or a smile around here today,’ Vicky said when she swapped our empties. ‘If it’s not the pandemic then it’s war of the worlds. You two are worse than turning on the telly. At least I can turn that off with a clicker.’
We both got the point and shut up and Camp complimented Vicky on her choice of mask, which was a yellow smiley emoji.