IT’S a good time to reflect on Vladimir Putin’s useful idiots in Scotland. Since Russia launched its monstrous war a year ago, they’ve been busy blaming the West and Ukraine for the Kremlin’s crimes.

"What could poor Vladimir do," they wail, "in the face of wicked Nato expansion, and Kyiv cosying up to the West, but unleash his rape squads and atrocity battalions?" They wilfully fail to understand that Ukraine is a free country; that their implicit support for spheres of influence reeks of empire. If Ukraine wishes to join Nato it has every right to do so. In return for sovereign ambitions, Ukraine has been butchered by a nuclear power.

Putin’s useful idiots in Scotland are a mix of old leftists stuck in the 1970s, half in love with the Red Flag of the USSR, who see CIA plots everywhere; and authoritarians who admire Putin’s Christian fascism. This is the type who cheered on Franco’s Falangists during the Spanish Civil War.

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However, as the anniversary of the war rolls around tomorrow, these fools shouldn’t blind us to the fact that the West must reflect on its own real failings when it comes to Putin. So much of what the West did in the opening decades of the 21st century fed Putin’s cruelty, helped him plot his path to war. And none of it, crucially, has to do with Ukraine’s Nato ambitions.

Let’s first think of history’s terrifying ability to repeat itself. The path of the 20th century was laid in 1918 at the end of the Great War. The Treaty of Versailles wasn’t a just peace. It humiliated and crippled the young democratic Weimar Republic, paving the way for Hitler. Old wars lead to new wars, it’s always the case.

The end of the Cold War set the scene for the humiliation of Russia, which Putin, like Hitler, ruthlessly exploited. The West didn’t welcome Russia into the democratic fold. Russia was left to rot. My own journeys in Russia showed me a nation on its knees. Poverty was endemic.

The country was ruthlessly carved up by western vampire capitalists and gangster oligarchs. Democracy wasn’t working for the Russians. Little wonder the nation eventually found itself open to seduction from a dangerous strongman promising pride and recovery.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says General Valery Gerasimov, head of the Russian Army, once told him “never again will we be humiliated”. Humiliation is the deep psychological motivation behind Putin’s crimes today, just as humiliation was the mover for Hitler. Putin, diplomats say, has never forgotten Barack Obama sneeringly referring to Russia as a "regional power".

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Post the Cold War, Russia fell off our agenda. We stopped thinking about how our actions might be interpreted in Moscow, where extremist nationalists dreamed of rebuilding the Russian empire.

We handed Putin a blueprint in March 2003 with our illegal invasion of Iraq. It showed him what was permissible in terms of foreign wars, and naked aggression. Britain and America lied their way into the Iraq War in order to launch an invasion of a foreign state which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The war destabilised the entire world, setting the stage for the rise of Islamic State and carnage in Syria.

It also made Putin think "if they can do it, why can’t I?" Significantly, Putin once told senior British officials: “We haven’t forgotten Iraq, we haven’t forgotten Colin Powell at the UN.” He said to David Cameron: “Do you remember the pictures of Abu Ghraib?” Abu Ghraib – in case, unlike Putin, you’ve forgotten – was a US military prison near Baghdad where Iraqi detainees were tortured and sexually humiliated. It marked the nadir of western power.

HeraldScotland: The illegal invasion of Iraq, where it was revealed Iraqi detainees like Abu Ghraib were tortured, showed Putin what was permissible in warThe illegal invasion of Iraq, where it was revealed Iraqi detainees like Abu Ghraib were tortured, showed Putin what was permissible in war (Image: Newsquest)

Syria’s civil war was the next failure of the West and turning point for Putin. The West was cowed after the self-inflicted disaster of Iraq, so when Syria’s butcher, the dictator Bashar al-Assad, used chemical weapons against his own citizens, we did nothing. We were weak. So Putin weighed in behind al-Assad, unleashing Russia's military against the Syrian people.

Putin was now, as the CIA’s director Bill Burns, puts it, “a combustible combination of grievance and ambition”. Post-Cold War humiliation and western sins became Putin’s toolbox as he turned towards Ukraine.

What did we do after he annexed Crimea and fomented war in eastern Ukraine? To the undying shame of the Obama administration, America refused to send vital military assistance to Kyiv, like Javelin anti-tank weapons. In one of history’s great ironies, it was the Trump administration which approved the shipment of weaponry to Kyiv in 2017, including Javelins.

The ground was set now for a new Cold War – the new Cold War we’re now living. In 2019, Russia violated the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987, by deploying new types of cruise missiles. America, under Trump, responded by pulling out of the INF.

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This week the last remaining bridges to peace between the West and Russia collapsed. Putin has now halted Russian participation in the New Start Treaty, which established nuclear arms controls.

Nor has the West made the friends we need in the global south to face down Putin at the UN. Our history of domination, sneering and arrogance is reflected in the ambivalence of nations like India, Malaysia, and Indonesia to our world view, our fears, over Ukraine.

Yesterday, as the war’s anniversary approached, China’s chief diplomat met Putin in Moscow, underscoring Beijing’s support. The day before, President Joe Biden visited Kyiv and Warsaw. The dark tracks of the 21st century lead out before us: West and East in deadly nuclear stand-off.

The war can only end with Ukraine free and its land returned. Putin must fall and face justice. Russian democracy must be restored. If Ukraine doesn’t win, then Putin will be emboldened and western democracies in Poland and the Baltic states will be next. Then Nato will be at war with Russia.

Yet success for Ukraine and the West is far from certain, and while Putin is the monster of this story, the West cannot shirk its responsibility for the dreadful future which threatens to yawn out before us through the rest of this century.