As a young journalist, I covered wars and conflict in the middle east, Romania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Northern Ireland. As an academic I have spent much of my career thinking and writing about the world wars.
I have seen the impact of bombs and shells on towns and villages and the lives of their residents. But none of this prepared me for the utterly appalling spectacle of a major war on the continent of Europe. Ukraine, once shattered by German aggression and liberated by the bravery of the Red Army, is now the scene of a terrible assault launched on lies and atrocious falsification of history. We can and should protest. We owe our support to those who seek only the right to live in peace and freedom.
If there is any good news, it is that NATO has, once again, found its voice. Having struggled to find clarity of purpose in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, it has come back to life. Sadly, its message is simultaneously welcome and chilling. NATO will not send forces to fight for Ukraine. NATO members will arm and supply the Ukrainian army, but they will not participate in the defence of Ukrainian territory. The guarantee of mutual support extends only to NATO members. So, if Russian forces attack Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, or Romania, all of NATO will fight in their defence. I am sure this commitment is sincere, but I wonder whether Vladimir Putin believes it. Having invaded one democratic neighbour without facing retaliation by Ukraine's friends, might he not be tempted to advance his ambition to reunite the territories once dominated by the USSR? I fear these questions will dominate our lives for years to come and I can only hope I am wrong.
We are fortunate to be able to follow events on television and radio, in our newspapers and on their excellent websites. Nearly all of our sympathy should be for the innocent victims of this war and for those defending their homes and their freedom. However, spare a very brief thought for the journalists reporting from the frontlines. Such work might look glamorous, but it is essential to our democracy, and it contributes to the defence of liberty. Information is a weapon in this war, and we are blessed to have access to accurate information and analysis.
Many of you will be worried and concerned. My colleagues and I cannot solve these problems, but we are always available to offer our support. Please don't hesitate to ask.