Thursday, 25 June 2015

An angel.....

This is a memorial dedicated to the Glorious Dead of two wars. It is between the lakes by Place Flagey, in Ixelles, Brussels.

I saw it while driving by numerous times, but following a short meeting this week in the vicinity, I decided to go and take a proper look.

It is very beautiful. It is next to the lakes, in the shade, and surrounded by flowers. There are several features, but the dying soldier being tended by an angel I found especially moving.

This is a memorial to local people who died. And as I scanned the many names on the memorial, one sent a shiver down my spine. Miss Cavell. This is, of course, Nurse Edith Cavell, who was shot by the Germans in Brussels in 1915. Her crime was to tend to the wounded on both sides, and to help displaced and injured soldiers to return to their own lines. As I schoolboy I learned about her, she is a national heroine.

At St Martin's Place, near to Charing Cross station in London, there is a fitting memorial to Nurse Cavell. I wonder, is she also the angel depicted on this memorial?


Sunday, 7 June 2015

A bloody mess...

It is very wise in Brussels to avoid making eye contact with people on the street. If you do so, they will inevitably ask for directions.

My two favourites are the lady driver who pulled over in the centre of Brussels and asked me which road she needed to take to get to Germany, and two American ladies who asked me where the Flower Carpet is. When I explained that it can be found in Grand Place for a few days every two years, and this was not one of those years, they got really upset. They had come to Brussels just to see it!

Yesterday I had the unpleasant experience of having a really heavy nose bleed whilst on my way to the local shops. It really gushed, and I found myself struggling to contain it with just a piece of tissue. There were quite a few people around, and a young couple came towards me - my hand and T-shirt were covered with blood at this point.

"Do you speak English?" the lady asked me. "Yes I do," I replied, hoping she might offer some assistance in the form of more tissue paper. "Do you know where the nearest Metro station is?" she asked.....

Possibly 20 or more people around, and so if you need directions you go to the distressed guy covered in blood.

I sometimes think that Brussels is a community of village idiots.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Putin's War....

"Russia is not a threat to NATO", President Vladimir Putin is reported as saying.

"Only an insane person and only in a dream can one imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO," the Russian president has told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Putin was correct in that Russia would never "suddenly" attack NATO. There is nothing ​unpremeditated or sudden about the hybrid war now being conducted by Russia against western Europe, and against Atlantic values ​per se.

In Moscow there has been some discussion, at high levels, of Putin's ​'Legacy War'.

The illegal annexation of Crimea might be seen as a tactical goal, but strategically it was merely a catalyst for a far grander design - the humiliation of the European Union, and a chance to undermine, and possibly even destroy, NATO. The former aim has been achieved, the latter must  now appear tantalisingly close.

The shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was rather predictable. After all, Moscow had learned from the western non-response to the downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007 on September 1st 1983. The west is afraid of conflict. Russia wants conflict.

Article 5 of NATO's Washington Treaty states that "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area".

​When an Estonian intelligence officer was seized from Estonian territory on September 5th 2014 by Russian special forces, the Russians did not need to make excuses. NATO did that for them. Article 5 was not invoked. In fact, the only time Article 5 has ever been invoked was after the attacks on the USA on September 11th 2001. Russia now understands that Article 5 has little meaning beyond the protection of direct US interests. Neither the US, nor western European states, will go to war with Russia over the Baltic nations.

And so, when Putin declares that Russia is no threat to NATO, those of us who might understand the Russian mind-set will assume that this means that the ammunition is being issued....