There is absolutely no doubt that the top two stories in Europe this week, the comeback of coronavirus and the subsequent response of national governments, and the border crisis in the east.

Well, we’ve been here before with Covid and it’s all getting a bit boring, but it’s a certain bet that Christmas is not going to be the one we hoped for.

Interested readers will be following the breaking news from Poland and Ukraine. The build-up of tensions follows a familiar pattern. The pushing of migrants over the border to the West has caught our attention, and even if we believe that Europe has a right to defend its borders, the suffering of the refugees cannot escape us. Which is exactly what Putin and Lukashenko want.

And this could be a useful diversion from Putin’s real objective in the immediate future, which is a land invasion of the disputed regions of eastern Ukraine.

Combined with a squeezing of much-needed oil supplies, the chances are that if he does invade in the days to come, the European Union will make not the slightest effort to repel him.

Who would knowingly put his head in a noose if he’s just seen his predecessor swing from the scaffold. Yet this is what Europe has done, led by Germany, in encouraging the building of more pipelines from Russia.

Merkel, and her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, who worked for Gazprom and is the serving chairman of Russian oil company Rosneft, have a great deal to answer for.

In this fine mess, Cop26, which ended on Friday, is a forgotten item on Europe’s front pages, another tragedy in the making.

PHOTO: Russian troops massed close to Belarus – satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies Similar build-ups have been observed to the noth-east of the Urainian border