Putin vs the West, BBC review: World leaders seem rightly shamefaced about how they got taken for a ride by the Russian president

Putin vs the West is the latest series from the legendary Norma Percy, and the three-part series contains everything you’d expect from the long-time detective – the right mix of revelations, anecdotes, stories, drama, forensic analysis and narrative. . It’s Putin, the war in Ukraine and the way the West is written, it’s all understandable. Brilliant, and you have to watch it to understand how we got to where we are today.

In fact, it is so brilliant that you find yourself in an unexpected position where you are almost on the edge of your seat listening to the testimony of forgotten dullards – such as the former French president Francois Hollande; former President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso; Cathy Ashton, a type of deputy EU foreign minister; and other former tools, advisers, politicians and ambassadors – who have had the often painful experience of dealing directly with Vladimir Putin over the years.

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In the hands of the programme-makers, the archival footage of ministers coming and going to EU conferences and summits in Brussels and Minsk takes on the quality of a dramatic story, as the announcements are introduced about what goes on behind the scenes. The first part deals with the events leading up to the first Russian invasion in 2014, when they took over Crimea and the eastern Donbas region, with minimal Western opposition and sanctions. above all, and the disunity and disorder of the West above all. The Russians whispered and marched to victory. When Putin arrived at the main conference and the Ukrainians confronted him with concrete evidence that they had captured many Russian soldiers on their territory, such as ID tags and official orders, Putin issued a series of Pythonesque excuses : Ukrainians create it; the Russians were “on vacation”; or “lost the way” along the border.

On another occasion, when Putin denied that Putin had infiltrated and occupied eastern Ukraine, Merkel told him not to be silly, according to a witness. However, he is yet to push the Russians too far, fearing overcrowding and loss of gas supplies. The European Union is deeply divided, as is NATO. Elsewhere, Barack Obama appears to have deliberately referred to Russia as a “regional power”, something that personally offended Putin – and strengthened his stance. Obama talked tough about the sanctions, but, like Germany, the Americans at the time did not just send military aid and it could lead to war. This is something we learn from Obama’s closest advisers at the time. Merkel and Obama did not do interviews for the series, which is understandable because their exit was so bad.

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Putin arrested them. “Denying and lying” is a classic Russian tactic, and the only Western leader who seems to be able to deal with it is Boris Johnson. Funny, that. In addition, he ignored Putin’s gleeful threats to target him with cruise missiles.

Cameron, Hollande, Barroso and the rest of the cheap talking heads are almost always photographed in front of impressive bookcases or inside decorated houses. Contrast that with a bombed-out Ukrainian school or a tank rolling down a Crimean street, it makes them so detached from the bloody reality they allowed to happen.

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They seem to be ashamed, at least, of the way they have been treated. In any case, they seem to have only believed in what was politically expedient, and never took Putin at his word when he talked about how he wanted to restore Ukraine. Barroso, for example, tells how he listened, with his mouth open, as Putin told him that Ukraine was created by the CIA and the European Commission. He admits that European divisions have encouraged Putin to push and shove.

Hollande almost, but not quite, came up with an apology: “Europe is still facing this threat to its unity. When we don’t punish hard at first, we are forced to punish harder later. And that is what is happening now. There is no dispute about that. Let’s hope it’s not too late, and that the next Norma Percy series isn’t titled “How Putin Conquered the West”.


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