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 It’s the latest series from the legendary Norma Percy, and the three-parter contains everything you’d expect from the veteran documentarian – the right combination of revelation, anecdote, history, drama, forensic analysis and storytelling. It’s Putin, the war in Ukraine, how the West has fouled, and it’s all understandable. It’s so good you have to watch it to understand how we got to where we are now.

It’s actually quite clever that you find yourself on the edge of your seat listening to testimony from half-forgotten morons like former French President Francois Hollande. Former President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso; Cathy Ashton, once a kind of surrogate EU foreign minister; And many other former advisors, advisers, politicians and ambassadors – who have had the usual experience of dealing directly with Vladimir Putin over the years.

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In the hands of the programme-makers, the stock archive footage of the comings and goings of ministers at EU summits and conferences in Brussels and Minsk takes on the quality of a tension thriller as they reveal what goes on behind the scenes. Episode one deals with the events leading up to the first Russian invasion in 2014, when they seized Crimea and the eastern Donbass region, with minimal Western resistance and punishment and maximum Western disunity and chaos. The Russians bluffed their way to victory. When Putin attends a large gathering and is confronted by Ukrainians with hard evidence that many Russian soldiers are captured on their territory, such as ID tags and official orders, Putin comes up with a series of Pythonesque excuses: Ukrainians make it up; The Russians were “on vacation”; Or they “lost their way” at the border.

On another occasion, when Putin was denying that Russian troops had invaded eastern Ukraine, Merkel told him, according to a witness. However, she still won’t push the Russians too far, fearing an increase and loss of gas supplies. Like NATO, the European Union is completely divided. Elsewhere, Barack Obama knowingly called Russia a “regional power” that particularly insulted Putin and hardened his attitude. Obama talked tough about sanctions, but, like Germany, the Americans were not going to send military aid and go to war. This is what we learn from Obama’s close advisers at the time. Merkel and Obama did not give an interview for the series, which is understandable, because they come out of it so badly.

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Putin caught them in the bud. The typical Russian approach was to “deny and lie”, and Boris Johnson was the only Western leader who could stand up to it. Funny, that. He ignored Putin’s amusing threat to target him with a cruise missile.

Vanchipat heads like Cameron, Hollande and Barroso are mostly depicted in front of impressively full bookcases or in what looks like ornate palaces. With bombed-out Ukrainian schools or tanks rolling down Crimean roads, they are detached from the bloody reality that allowed this to happen.

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They seem embarrassed about how they were taken for a ride. Somehow, they believed only what was apparently politically convenient and never took Putin at his word when he talked about how he wanted to take back control of Ukraine. For example, Barroso says how he listened and opened his mouth as Putin said that Ukraine was a creation of the CIA and the European Commission. He admits that European divisions have encouraged Putin to push and push.

Hollande almost, but not quite, comes to apologetics: “Europe still faces this threat to its unity. When we do not punish enough at first, we are forced to punish more severely. That is what is happening today. ” No doubt about it. Let’s hope it’s not too late and the next Norma Percy series isn’t titled “How Putin West Beat the West.”


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