For me, there is little confusion about Putin's objectives. Not so many years ago he proposed the Eurasian Economic Union...a sort of EU for former Soviet bloc territories. In truth it's not been greeted with wild enthusiasm...after all each of these territories has their own oligarchs and dictators, so why would they want to hand over protection money to Moscow? But it sets the scene, and shows in a very public way that Putin would like to return to the days of the Soviet Union. And if he can't do it through negotiated agreements, he'll do it by hook or by crook. You may have forgotten Georgia, half of which was re-absorbed into Russia. They are now just waiting for the Russian tanks to come rolling through and reclaim the rest. Crimea is one small step...the deniability of having used Russian troops is pretty weak, but not quite as weak as any poll that gets a 97+% vote in favour of moving away from the Ukraine. In the short term Russian troops are unlikely to go beyond the Crimean and Russian borders, but you can bet your bottom dollar that plenty of Russian money and effort will go into destabilising regions - and not just in the Ukraine - where there is a sizeable Russian population. At some stage, the possibility of using Russian troops (not necessarily in uniform) to protect Russians becomes an inevitability. That should be quite a frightening prospect. In recent years the West has taken an enormous gamble...by integrating Russia into the international community and economy, it was hoped it would become so entwined that it wouldn't rock the boat. Clearly that strategy hasn't worked. And not surprisingly really...have you ever seen how the Russians do business? Just look at the BP experience...effectively bullied out of Russia once it had given its expertise to exploit valuable oil reserves. But thinking beyond the old Soviet frontiers, think of other flashpoints: Iran could be given a free hand to do whatever they want with their nuclear enrichment because it could come ever closer to Russia. War in the Middle-East? Quite a possibility, and imagine how the West would be without oil from the region. Russia also supports the existing regime in Syria. Phew, I'm even scaring myself.
The Boy is continuing to enjoy his time in Austria, and I'm glad. But at the same time I'm afeared it is becoming increasingly difficult to tempt him back to the delights of academia in Edinburgh in September. I do hope I don't have to talk to him severely. I remember when I was his age, and had taken a year out in the Bavarian Alps. The return was a painful one, and even more difficult was the first term at Uni, when I struggled to return to study....on many an occasion I was tempted to chuck it in and head back up the mountains. Fortunately there was a degree of common sense in me that made me realise that I would only enjoy myself doing hotel work for a limited time...I assume The Boy has the same realisation.
Without a hint of bias, The Boy has always been a good-looking fella. I'm not saying where he got it from. In Kitzbuhel, the regional tourist board has been looking for a new poster boy for next year's advertising campaign, and the Ski School suggested The Boy. The photo-shoot was last week, and sometime the campaign will begin. Yep, a boy from North London will be the face of the Austrian Alps in 2015. And that says a lot for the Austrians...I can't think that would ever happen in France.
Here's a couple of pictures of the lad himself which I've pinched off his friends' Facebook pages