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Withdraw on principle – or stay in the game?

A shortish post, this.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an abomination.

The West – through NATO, the EU or the UN, or all three – is united in its condemnation of what is fast shaping up to be a military atrocity, and has imposed stringent sanctions on certain high-profile Russian individuals and almost all the country’s “outward-facing” business interests. The aim is to isolate and strangle the Russian economy, and to an extent it appears to be working; though Vladimir Putin as yet shows no sign of any willingness to withdraw – nor, really, to negotiate.

In addition, the West is supplying arms and other aid to Ukraine, as well as taking in huge numbers of refugees (though the UK’s participation in the latter has, to date, been lukewarm at best), but so far has stopped short of any direct military involvement; NATO is worried – with good reason – as to just what the clinically insane Russian president might do were the war to escalate further.

I’m too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis first-hand; but I heard about it, and this feels uncomfortably similar. And Khrushchev wasn’t mad, whereas Putin, I believe, is.

So, against that backdrop: Shell and BP are to sell their interests in, respectively, Russian energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft. Which sounds right and proper – and maybe I’m being stupid.

But sell to whom, exactly?

And, if they are selling (at a huge loss, I’m sure), all they’re really doing is divesting themselves of toxic assets – which doesn’t sound quite so virtuous.

I’m sure I’m missing something – but would it not be more sensible, more morally justifiable, to hold on to their (substantial) stakes, and use their leverage, their place at the top table, to be as awkward and obstructive as possible?

Rather like environmentalists taking a financial interest in a fracking company. Or – one for the teenagers – the anti-apartheid protestors of yesteryear buying shares in Barclays Bank. The point being it allowed them to attend AGMs, and be disruptive. BP and Shell could surely use their Gazprom and Rosneft holdings to do the same – on a rather larger scale.

Meanwhile, the world waits in a state of high tension. For what it’s worth (probably not much) I think much of the global population is already suffering from varying degrees of Covid-related PTSD. Which is why the war in Ukraine – and the threat of war elsewhere – feels particularly acute.

I can’t offer a universal panacea. But if your anxiety levels are skyrocketing, you could try a combination of a bit more wine than is sensible, hi-NRG dance music and restricting your exposure to current affairs. Works for me.

I’m not being glib; my heart goes out to Ukraine, and Ukrainians the world over. But to a degree we are all victims of Putin’s warmongering. Mental health is a fragile thing, and we must do what we have to to preserve it.

We must remain robust. Otherwise what use are we?


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