Life during wartime

A comment on yesterday’s blog on the impact of the Ukrainian war on our pensions


What was invested in your funds is no longer relevant – what is invested now is to all intents and purposes zero.

So for individuals , so for mighty pensions

This is called “value destruction”. There is no transfer of value, no winners to counter the losers.

The financial consequences of war are just a shadow to the personal consequences. What we lose in our pensions, only a reminder of what people in Ukraine are experiencing.

And now the most agonising of choices faces Western leaders. Do we commit to the safety of those struggling to survive underground in the cities and towns of Ukraine, and risk the widening of the war. Do we accept that this is not a localised conflict but the start of WW3?

For that means value destruction that goes way beyond what we have seen so far.

A man alone at a long table

Two nights ago, I woke at 3.30pm , plugged in my pods and listened to what was happening. A nuclear reactor had a fire, it seemed that we were on the brink of a second Chernobyl. A few days before, Putin had put his country’s nuclear capability on a heightened state of alert, previously he had talked of consequences the like of which we had never seen.

What the West has lacked so far, is a failure of the imagination. We cannot imagine what it is like to have no fear of the consequences of actions, until that is, we see a man with no fear of the consequences of actions – a man sitting alone at a long table.

I have lived long enough: my way of life
Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not

Heading for action

And to this maelstrom of a war, ex-pat Ukrainians, spoiling Chechnyans and random Britains, head for action. The common theme is “we cannot stand by“.

And yet we have stood by when the same thing happened in Aleppo, and is happening in Yemen and in Indonesia and in China. Moral relativism tells me that I am no less or more guilty for standing aside and not engaging. Buying a Ukrainian flag is not enough to assuage guilt. As was said last night by a Ukranian “we know we have your prayers, but your prayers are not enough”.

But if we head for action, if we enforce a no fly zone over Ukraine, what of it? Will a direct intervention in the war, (rather than the provision of arms), excuse a further escalation from a Russian President who has so little to lose.

Macbeth knew there came a time when further slaughter had no personal consequence

I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

Watching Macbeth’s journey to his death never seemed to me to warrant the word “descent” since Macbeth seemed more the hero , the further stepped he was in blood.

The mind I sway by and the heart I bear
Shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear.

And I fear that is how millions of Russians will see Putin, in what appears to me the denouement of his and his regime’s tragedy. Putin’s victims are as inconsequential to him as Stalin’s were, such is the asymmetry of autocracy – we can only watch and wonder.

Will the liberal order re-assert?

The liberal values of the West have made many, like me affluent. I am perhaps facing a diminution of my affluence, through the value destruction of this war but I am not facing the loss of loved ones or even the loss of my dwelling.

The assumption so far, is that while this war will go on some time, it will not destruct the fundamental order of things, the liberal democracy in which we live, this side of Ukraine.

But liberalism can be uninspiring to many people. A doctrine that deliberately lowers the sights of politics and enjoins tolerance of diverse views often fails to satisfy those who want strong community based on shared religious views, common ethnicity or thick cultural traditions

More than a generation has passed now since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the virtues of living in a liberal world have been taken for granted by many. The memory of destructive wars and totalitarian dictatorship has faded.

The travails of liberalism will not end even if Putin loses. China will be waiting in the wings, as well as Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and the populists in western countries.

A fight for our value

As I see the  investments in my pensions and ISAs written down to nothing, I ponder how much of that value belonged to me, and how much depended on the fragile values that we hold on to. The values of ES and G.

We have no right to those values, we hold them sacred, in our secular way, but they are not enshrined. A call from Putin could render part of Europe uninhabitable, it is not too far fetched to imagine a nuclear missile falling on the City of London.

For the first time in my (adult) life, I face the possibility that I am about to become part of a war that could destroy me. This time there is no failure of imagination, the consequences are being played out on my phone, laptop and television.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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5 Responses to Life during wartime

  1. DaveC says:

    You keep saying we’re a liberal democracy in the West.

    I think we have a good democracy vs many other democracies.
    But to imply we have a government that is liberal and a country of liberal people feels wrong to me.

    This kind of law alone suggests we’re veering well away from the values you suggest we represent, and could end up fighting WW3 for.

    How can a liberal country and society fear so much from protests and varying viewpoints? Do we really believe that there is right-think and wrong-think, and that our government can tell us the difference, and control it for us?
    Nineteen Eighty Four used these concepts, and all nations were dictatorships. But each society felt they were liberal, and liberators in their perpetual wars?

    Seeking peace should be the goal of any liberal. Escalating conflict makes us no better than Russia’s Putin.

  2. con keating says:


    I am old enough to have experienced the Cuban missile crisis (my final year at school in London) – that was pretty terrifying. My overwhelming memory though is of the church being packed for Sunday masses and having a feeling of a total uselessness – though the CCF did practice nuclear drills.

    I travelled to Cuba on business a great deal in the 1970s – several of my Cuban (government) friends told me that they had been petrified – they had no control over the situation at all.

    I was also in Moscow when Chernobyl happened – soviet media did not mention it for days and when they finally did, it was a starkly different story from the BBC world service or Voice of America (Increased levels of radiation were being observed all over Scandinavia by then) with much focus on the heroic efforts of those trying to contain the problem.

  3. Tim says:

    Lazy sod.

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