Vlad: Are You as Smart as Bismarck?

Dear Vlad:

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your scholarly piece "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians" published back in July 2021. I particularly appreciate your feeling that

the wall that has emerged in recent years between Russia and Ukraine, between the parts of what is essentially the same historical and spiritual space, to my mind is our great common misfortune and tragedy.

How true!

But I wonder if your present military incursion into Ukraine is really the best way to restore the shared "historical and spiritual space" that goes back to the Ancient Rus that you revere.

Because Bismarck.

I am sure that a scholar like you will know that Otto von Bismarck, Minister President of Prussia, had a problem similar to yours back in the 19th century. He ruled a part of the German "historical and spiritual space" that had been fractured into many parts by the vicissitudes of history and religion -- for all that the German lands bore the name "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation."

His problem was: how to unify the German peoples that had been so cruelly split apart?

His answer was war: specifically, three short, sharp wars.

First, in 1862, Bismarck declared war on Denmark, with Austria as an ally. I suspect that this was just for practice, to prove that he could.

Then, in 1866, Bismarck declared war on erstwhile ally Austria. After defeating the Austrians, Bismarck "forced the 21 states north of the River Main to join [Prussia] in forming the North German Confederation in 1867," according to La Wik.

Then, in 1870, Bismarck declared war on France. After defeating France and its chassepot rifles with the help of the southern Catholic Germans, he unified the whole of the German lands into a single nation-state. But not Austria -- not after he'd fought a war against them.

I hereby declare a universal principle, that every political regime is created out of the brotherhood of arms, the soldiers who fought to create it and won. The genius of Bismarck was to get an ever-increasing number of Germans to join his army in the three wars, against Denmark, Austria, and France, so that in the end, in 1870, the brothers-in-arms represented the men of almost all the German-speaking lands in Europe.

It just made sense, after the heroic German army humiliated the French at Sedan, to declare a glorious German nation, the Second Reich. The German brothers-in-arms that fought shoulder to shoulder would expect nothing less.

Now, Vlad, I notice that you have not followed Bismarck’s lead. Bismarck would have told you that, if you want to unify the Russian nation including your brothers in Ukraine, you need to declare war on someone else. Who would that enemy be? Turkey? Maybe not, since Turkey is a member of NATO.

Meanwhile, it appears as though you have united all the nations of Europe against you. I imagine that is because, while 97 percent of Europeans worry about being dominated by the Germans, experts agree that 120 percent of Europeans are determined not to be dominated by the Russian bear. I wonder what you and your Russian scholars think.

You will notice that here, in the United States, we conclusively proved in 1861-65 that warring against our historical and spiritual brothers is not a good way to unify the country. Naturally, our Founding Fathers did not make that mistake. After the Revolutionary War they sensibly sent the so-called Loyalists to Canada, where, 240 years later, the brothers-in-arms of the RCMP ended two centuries of humiliation in the glorious victory of the Battle of the Bouncy Castle.

You are also doubtless aware of the remarkable success that the U.S. rulers achieved in unifying the diverse peoples of the United States in the first half of the 20th century by drafting all the young immigrant men from Europe into the armed forces and sending them off to win a couple of world wars.

Then there was the almost otherworldly achievement of the B-movie actor who won the Cold War without firing a shot and helped cause the tragic collapse of the glorious Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that you so loyally served. I am sure that Russian scholars like you, Vlad, are still trying to figure out how he did it.

When you write your memoirs, Vlad, I would appreciate your take on the kind of folks that step into a "next regime" when the old regime collapses: the party officials that end up with title to the oil wells; the secret policemen that step into political power. Think of Napoleon, a young artillery officer serving the French old regime in 1789. Your insights, as a man "in the arena" at the collapse of the Soviet ancien régime, would be helpful to future historians.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

Image: Franz von Lenbach

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