‘You know Camp, when Biden said that ‘for god’s sake this man cannot remain in power’, he meant it. It’s called a gaffe because everybody knows it to be true but nobody wants to spell it out. Also, when he called him a butcher. Yes, none of these words were scripted but Biden said what he felt to be the truth and I for one agree with him.’
‘How many times did Trump speak off script and did he get lambasted for it? Ridiculed, yes, fodder for comedians yes, but his words did not change the world. Nor will Biden’s. Let’s face it, who is the villain in this tragedy? Who is raping and destroying his sister nation and plunging his own country and indeed the rest of the world into dark times? The words of an old man will not change much, even though he is the president of the USA. The unprovoked violence unleashed by Putin is the real culprit here and Biden is right. He cannot remain in power. He needs to be exiled into a Siberian gulag or better yet, Guantanamo Bay.’
‘The Russians are told that the horrors left behind in Bucha is just a movie-set staged by the Ukrainians, disregarding the dozens of journalists who witnessed the apocalyptic scenes. Also, movie corpses aren’t real and don’t smell,’ I pointed out.
‘Still, we need to be careful condemning the culprits by twitter and social media. A careful examination of the facts with warrants, trials and convictions (even in absentia) is what differentiates a totalitarian regime from one based on the rule of law,’ Camp said.
‘Are we forgetting about Rwanda? Millions were slaughtered.’
‘It was in Africa,’ Camp said, ‘Just like the current wars in Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, Myanmar, it’s not in Europe involving one of the five big ones at the UN security council, which in fact is proving to be totally useless in stopping this war.’
‘You’re such a cynic Camp but you’re probably right.’
Camp just nodded and shifted attention to his pint.
‘Putin is exactly where he wants to be. Center stage, rattling the world’s economies, digging in for a protracted war of attrition. I also don’t think that all those sanctions are working. According to Bloomberg, only about half of the 20 richest oligarchs have been targeted so far and it doesn’t look like this affects Putin’s resolve one iota, just makes him angrier.’
‘These sanctions impact Russia’s emerging middle-class the most and you’re right. Putin doesn’t much care. Their stock market seems to have rebounded, the rouble is almost back to its pre-war level, the government is making payments on its foreign currency bonds and the Russians are returning most of their cash to the banks, thanks to the 20% interest rates. Although many foreign firms have pulled out, hundreds of McDonalds and Burger Kings are still operating and the price of Vodka and petrol remains about the same. Russia’s GDP at the end of March was about 5% higher than last year’s, and spending on home appliances is higher than ever. All in all, the economy today is stronger than during the pandemic. Parts and goods are still coming in through the back door by way of India and China and Russia is still selling about $10bn-worth of oil a month to foreign buyers, equivalent to a quarter of its pre-war exports but now they want to be paid in roubles only.’
‘It seems that confiscating a few yachts, villas and bank accounts isn’t having the desired impact,’ I said. ‘Also, there is a certain amount of sanction fatigue creeping in. Some western governments want to balance Ukrainian needs with domestic pain and then there are the 4 million refugees, mostly women and children. What are Ukraine’s chances of winning this David vs Goliath contest?’
‘Only a complete stop of imports of fossil fuels and minerals can grind the Russian economy to a halt but the world isn’t about to do that. The resulting pain in the west would bring about a mass wave of discontent which no politician wants to risk. Maybe that’s part of what Putin had in mind all along,’ Camp said. ‘Ukraine will only win this war if they get fighter jets and more weapons. Defensive weapons only as the British called them to which Zelensky answered: We’re being attacked on all fronts; therefore, all weapons are defensive.’
‘Also, the incredible resolve and tenacity of the Ukrainian people and army to fight and repel the invaders is a big surprise and is already a win for Ukraine.’
‘The indiscriminate killing of civilians by guns, missiles and starvation by the butcher in the Kremlin should unite the world. The Mai Lay massacre, where the US troops killed a whole village of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, did exactly that. It was the beginning of the end of that war. By the way, Lt. William Calley, the guy in charge of that troop, was convicted of 109 murders and served 3 years under house arrest.’
‘You two are talking about the awful war in the Ukraine?’ Vicky asked when she dropped by with refills.
‘Yes, we can’t seem to get away from it,’ I said.
‘While you two talk weapons, invasion and war, all perpetrated by men – I might point out – I’m more concerned and worried about the millions of displaced women and children. For them there is only grief, sorrow and pain and maybe a desperate glimmer of hope to someday go back home but life for them will never be the same.’
We could only agree with Vicky, who once again left us feeling a tad foolish and very much helpless and without an answer to the world’s problems. We could only drown our sorrows.
‘Enjoy your beers,’ she said.