THIS is a conflict of polar opposites. On one side of the terrifying crisis blowing up on the borders of Russia and Ukraine stands Vladimir Putin, the ruthless former KGB officer, focused with deadly intent on rebuilding the Soviet empire.

On the other are the frivolous, dithering politicians of the West, high-fiving each other at summits and conveying their condolences, after a monstrous atrocity, on the teenagers’ medium Twitter.

As Flight MH17 was shot down over our continent, almost certainly with weaponary supplied by the Kremlin, where are the statesmen of stature to lead us through these worrying times?

Don’t count on the United States, where an increasingly isolationist Barack Obama has all but turned his back on his country’s role as leader of the free world.

Don’t look, either, to the EU where the former local council officer Lady Ashton, ludicrously in charge of foreign affairs, has poked the Russian bear with a puny stick by attempting to lure Ukraine into the Brussels fold.

As for Britain, once Europe’s mightiest military power, those who run our country have spent decades winding down our armed forces while they frittered away our money on wind turbines, overseas aid and an unsustainable welfare state.

The West’s leaders must wake up and join the real world before it’s too late.

Colin Henson, Ullswater, York.