“When fanatics are on top, there are no limits to oppression.” — H.L. Mencken
February 24 will mark one year since the conflict between Ukraine and Russia reignited into armed hostilities.
When Joe Biden was asked recently how long the combat might persist, the politician replied: “As long as it takes.” Unfortunately, nobody seems to know what “it” is. In short: no talks, no diplomacy, no strategic goals, and apparently still no exit ramps for the next two… or six years. Clearly, Biden believes he can ride the Ukraine war horse to a second term.
Biden may be correct. Another “forever” foreign war seems to have overwhelming bipartisan support in Washington.
Concurrently, whilst POTUS fielded soft balls from Judy Woodruff on PBS, Jan Stoltenberg raised troubling questions in Europe. Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, claimed that the Ukraine army is using artillery shells faster than NATO (including the U.S.), can produce… or replenish.
No reports of ammo shortages on the Russian side, however.
Recall then, that America alone has already provided $100 billion to Kiev and the Zelensky oligarchs to cope with Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation.” As the first anniversary of the Ukraine cage match draws nigh, Putin has abandoned euphemism and now calls the conflict a “war.”
The difference between an operation and a war is a little like the difference between a tremor and an earthquake. Still, Washington and Moscow are on the same page on at least one issue.
Putin seems to have accepted the fact that Russia and America are now at war; albeit for the moment, a hybrid, proxy, or surrogate war. NATO and the EU will continue to identify as catamites, playing follow the American leader. All sides also seem to agree that Ukraine will continue to serve best as cannon fodder; that is, if Ukraine and Russia don’t run out of fodder in the next two to six years.
Proximity to Russia, ethnic affiliation, and considerable sentiment makes Ukraine a strategic interest for the Kremlin. For Cold Warriors in the West, Ukraine is just another opportunity to bait the bear, a confirmation of the Russophobia that seems to work so well in American domestic politics.
Seems the genuine historical meme playing out on the Russian frontier is a 21st Century edition of the Great Game where American/EU/NATO imperialism could be substituted for the British Empire. Russians may have replaced “WOGs” or “Orientals” in the vernacular, but race still trumps ideology. The ugly Soviet man is now the ugly Russian, a Slavic demon. General Clapper (former DNI), you may recall, claimed that Russians were “genetically” driven.
Race is the weapon of choice in all political arguments today. As the American left likes to say: “it’s only White people killing Whites” in Ukraine. So what’s the problem? America views itself, the world, and war today through melanin-colored glasses.
Recall, too, that even Volodymyr Zelensky knows how to play the race card. When challenged about his neo-Nazi associates, Zelensky claimed to have Jewish ancestors.
Recall, too, that Afghanistan was similarly another proxy small war circa 1979-89, when American clandestine forces engaged the Red Army at Russia’s back door. America tried to ally itself with the mujahideen jihad in Afghanistan, and that strategic error became a 30-year case study of blowback, punctuated by 9/11, the rise of global Muslim terror, and America’s ultimate 2020 humiliation in Kabul.
As for leadership today, behind Biden and Putin and with Ukraine’s Zelensky, we have a beatified pawn—and a veritable foreign aid ATM, again withdrawing $100 billion to date from the U.S. alone. Still, Zelensky is both a tool and a fool, maybe even a “useful idiot.” NATO and Washington are willing to fight Russia right down to the last Ukrainian. All wars are absurd, but Ukraine is unique for its corruption and mushroom cloud potential.
The indiscriminate fiscal fire hose that corrupted Saigon, Baghdad, and Kabul is likely to do the same in Kiev.
And yes, forsaken by the EU, Moscow seems to be tilting east, but Russia is at its core, a European nation. The Kremlin knows that Lenin’s Marxism is just history now, along with religious fascism and those jihads in the Ummah. The Chinese political model today is the best cautionary, if not toxic, hybrid: a bizarre and untested strain of totalitarian communist capitalism.
The state is the culture in China these days.
Beijing also owns $980.8 billion or $1.8 trillion dollars of U.S. debt, depending on who you ask. America is the world’s biggest debtor nation; Russia doesn’t even make it to the top 20. Some argue that China has already purchased the Biden family. As they used to say back in the Nixon era, if you want to know who is screwing whom, “follow the money.”
The so-called sanctions against Russia is another self-inflicted, counterproductive Charlie Foxtrot.
What’s the point of sanctions that hurt potential allies or bystanders? Even German left-wing economic seers like Sahra Wagenknecht believe that sanctions are doing more damage to Europe and the U.S. than Russia. Some analysts believe that the economic tit-for-tat could precipitate a global recession.
Who wins that war?
When you boycott a creative, industrious, entrepreneurial state, take Israel for example; the populace becomes tougher, more resilient, more productive, and ultimately, more successful.
National character is forged with fire. No pain, no gain.
And observe Mr. Putin too: putative villain, former Chekist, and former communist. He restored traditional religion, rehabilitated the Czars, and until recently was a decent business man — indeed a capitalist. If Putin were running for office in a globalist resort like Davos, he might run as a progressive.
Surely, Putin is not the perfect autocrat, but compared to whom?
Speaking of Davos, that crowd is correct about a great “reset,” just not the global corporatism about which George Soros and Klaus Schwab speak. The real reset in Europe was the fall of the Soviet bloc and the demise of Russian Communism. The entire left/right political paradigm in Europe and America was turned on its head at the turn of the 21st Century.
The global left, especially the British Commonwealth and America, is more Marxist today than Moscow. Remember when the American Democratic Party and British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand left used to be the anti-war, peace parties? Former refusenik parties in the West are now underwriting another “forever war” in Ukraine.
“Democratic” socialism, a Marxist mutation, is trending toxically in the Commonwealth and America. Indeed, the global left, taking some cues from China, is nostalgic for the Orwellian Internationale, a world led by a Davos /WEF (or better still, WTF) elite… a kind of global oligarchic nomenclature (if not Animal Farm).
Globalism and imperial “democratization,” in places like the erstwhile Yugoslavia is now viral. NATO’s dismantling of Yugoslavia was the trigger that stimulated Putin to draw a line in the sands of Ukraine. Indeed, those incursions into Georgia and Ukraine were Putin’s way of saying “enough is enough.”
We are still feeling the blowback from Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Kosovo, the two new Muslim majority states carved out of Tito’s old coalition in Eastern Europe, now provide the majority of ISIS jihadists to the Levant.
Global jihad now has two recruiting depots, and two jihadist sanctuaries in the heart of Europe.
Blowback is the failure to consider the consequences of political, if not arrogant imperial stupidity. When the Berlin Wall fell, the Warsaw Pact collapsed, and nuclear weapons were cleared from Ukraine, neither Brussels nor Washington could take yes for an answer from the Kremlin. And consider Libya too, once the most prosperous nation in North Africa; after the American blitz, now just another refugee slum, embarkation pier for most of the European Union’s illegal immigrants.
The Clinton legacy was not just Monica Lewinsky.
So here we are. “Progressive” doesn’t mean progress any more.
In the smaller universe of common sense, what used to be traditional conservative political parties, some say nationalists, are now the champions of democracy, the working man, the lumpenproletariat, personal freedom, and free speech. Pragmatic utilitarian nationalism might be trending again, according to Yoram Hazony in Israel.
When we think about Russia, Europe, and America, we need to assess history, culture and people; not just the puerile politics of the day. For the moment, Europe and Russia are like feuding neighbors, agitated and hopeful, yet very wary of public conversations or commitments. Recall, if you will, that it was Britannia and Rodina who sacrificed the most to defeat Nazis and fascists in the last century.
Yet, as a part of a nervous ménage à trois with Uncle Sam, the Big Three managed to prevail.
So there’s relevant history to contemplate and more than a little hope for better days.
In the long run, the logic of shared culture, tradition, and common sense will overcome the venality of expedient politics. Europe, writ large, without Great Britain and Russia as cultural and geopolitical bookends, is a house of cards.
G. Murphy Donovan is a former USAF Intelligence officer, Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies under James Clapper at USAF Intelligence. He now writes about the politics of culture and national security.
Image: Free image, Pixabay license, no attribution required.