Russia must be part of the West

Great nations have great histories.  Over time, these develop into a national character.  The Western tradition contains many such nations, each with unique pride, burden, and curse.  Let us consider the case of Russia.

Russia has survived for more than 1,000 years.  These have been marked by great challenge, suffering, brutality, and achievement.  Natural resources abound.  She sometimes has considered herself to be of essentially Western heritage, while at other times, she has assumed a unique identity.

Spasms of mayhem have marred Russian history for many centuries.  From the very beginning, there has been a tradition, persisting to this day, of assassination as an instrument of national policy.  Plane crashes, poisonings, fatal assaults, and suspicious accidents continue to be an expected feature of domestic and international practice.  Successive governments have not made an effort toward a plausible denial of culpability in these matters.

A nation with this legacy can be powerful, but it cannot be great.  True honor requires excellence across multiple domains, which must include a political and social environment promoting a concordance of liberty, justice, prosperity, and demographic stability.  Citizens must want to live there, and immigrants must want to come.

A new existential challenge for Russia is now developing, with demographic turmoil and foreign threat from a newly militant China.  Fertility rates are dangerously low, and the capacity for recovery is dubious at best.  Its hereditary endowment has been gravely damaged by two catastrophic wars in the 20th century.  The survival of the culture is threatened.  It can be saved only by affirming its heritage and embracing identification with the West.

There is much to recommend this perspective.  The Russian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1725.  A rich tradition of science, arts, music, and literature has continued, with some troubles, from then on.  Russia is linked to the West by language and religion.

The political culture of Russia, in contrast, has been a consistent reign of a strong executive, a highly patriotic but atomized peasantry, an acceptance of brutality, an absence of non-governmental civic society, and, sadly, the frequent persecution of dissidents, and a general lack of concern for the rule of law.

Russia has a long history of suspicion that other Western countries, and especially the United States, have maintained a pervasive animosity to her, and that they would take every opportunity to do her harm.  She sees the world as putting constant pressure on her borders, and history confirms such threats.  Ottomans, Mongols, Frenchmen, and Germans have contributed to this perspective.  Her vigilance is validated by experience.

But the truth is that Americans, at least, don't now think much about Russia.  When we do, we wish that it could be strong, prosperous, and free.  In short, we hope that it could become a normal and friendly country, ready to be the eastern bulwark of defense against the newly emerging Mandarins.

Future wars may not be dominated by kinetic activity.  Conflicts will be seen across multiple domains, including trade, education, cultural power, political stability, psychological operations, deployment of offensive and defensive technology, and strong moral vitality.  There will always be a place for guns, bombs, tanks, ships, and planes, but these are likely to be used primarily as threats, feints, and deceptions.  New challenges such as EMP attacks and cyber disruption will have to be deterred in the same way that nuclear war has been in the past.

Russians thus have arrived at a Hobson's choice.  They can strive to forge an alliance with China, whose people vastly outnumber them and whose leaders despise them.  The Chinese can be expected to attempt to subordinate Russia to a dwindling status on the world scene.  Or Russia might consider an embrace of a reality principle and come home to the more salubrious culture of the West.

Recovery and repair will not be easy. The Russian population cannot forget the bloodletting and demographic damage of the First World War, the Bolshevik coup, the policy of contrived famines, the purges, and Second World War.  And these cultural catastrophes come as a capstone to nine prior centuries of ruthless government.

But it must be done.  Russia faces an existential challenge, and the rest of Western civilization confronts an extreme danger if its eastern bulwark should fail.  In short, Russia must, in her own survival interest, throw her lot in with the West, and the West, for its own sake, must accept her.

This can happen when we join in a legal, economic, cultural, political, and military community of interest.  Necessity must be the mother of invention. The project will require creative thinking on both sides.  We need Russia, and Russia, most certainly, needs the West.

Great nations have great histories.  Over time, these develop into a national character.  The Western tradition contains many such nations, each with unique pride, burden, and curse.  Let us consider the case of Russia.

Russia has survived for more than 1,000 years.  These have been marked by great challenge, suffering, brutality, and achievement.  Natural resources abound.  She sometimes has considered herself to be of essentially Western heritage, while at other times, she has assumed a unique identity.

Spasms of mayhem have marred Russian history for many centuries.  From the very beginning, there has been a tradition, persisting to this day, of assassination as an instrument of national policy.  Plane crashes, poisonings, fatal assaults, and suspicious accidents continue to be an expected feature of domestic and international practice.  Successive governments have not made an effort toward a plausible denial of culpability in these matters.

A nation with this legacy can be powerful, but it cannot be great.  True honor requires excellence across multiple domains, which must include a political and social environment promoting a concordance of liberty, justice, prosperity, and demographic stability.  Citizens must want to live there, and immigrants must want to come.

A new existential challenge for Russia is now developing, with demographic turmoil and foreign threat from a newly militant China.  Fertility rates are dangerously low, and the capacity for recovery is dubious at best.  Its hereditary endowment has been gravely damaged by two catastrophic wars in the 20th century.  The survival of the culture is threatened.  It can be saved only by affirming its heritage and embracing identification with the West.

There is much to recommend this perspective.  The Russian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1725.  A rich tradition of science, arts, music, and literature has continued, with some troubles, from then on.  Russia is linked to the West by language and religion.

The political culture of Russia, in contrast, has been a consistent reign of a strong executive, a highly patriotic but atomized peasantry, an acceptance of brutality, an absence of non-governmental civic society, and, sadly, the frequent persecution of dissidents, and a general lack of concern for the rule of law.

Russia has a long history of suspicion that other Western countries, and especially the United States, have maintained a pervasive animosity to her, and that they would take every opportunity to do her harm.  She sees the world as putting constant pressure on her borders, and history confirms such threats.  Ottomans, Mongols, Frenchmen, and Germans have contributed to this perspective.  Her vigilance is validated by experience.

But the truth is that Americans, at least, don't now think much about Russia.  When we do, we wish that it could be strong, prosperous, and free.  In short, we hope that it could become a normal and friendly country, ready to be the eastern bulwark of defense against the newly emerging Mandarins.

Future wars may not be dominated by kinetic activity.  Conflicts will be seen across multiple domains, including trade, education, cultural power, political stability, psychological operations, deployment of offensive and defensive technology, and strong moral vitality.  There will always be a place for guns, bombs, tanks, ships, and planes, but these are likely to be used primarily as threats, feints, and deceptions.  New challenges such as EMP attacks and cyber disruption will have to be deterred in the same way that nuclear war has been in the past.

Russians thus have arrived at a Hobson's choice.  They can strive to forge an alliance with China, whose people vastly outnumber them and whose leaders despise them.  The Chinese can be expected to attempt to subordinate Russia to a dwindling status on the world scene.  Or Russia might consider an embrace of a reality principle and come home to the more salubrious culture of the West.

Recovery and repair will not be easy. The Russian population cannot forget the bloodletting and demographic damage of the First World War, the Bolshevik coup, the policy of contrived famines, the purges, and Second World War.  And these cultural catastrophes come as a capstone to nine prior centuries of ruthless government.

But it must be done.  Russia faces an existential challenge, and the rest of Western civilization confronts an extreme danger if its eastern bulwark should fail.  In short, Russia must, in her own survival interest, throw her lot in with the West, and the West, for its own sake, must accept her.

This can happen when we join in a legal, economic, cultural, political, and military community of interest.  Necessity must be the mother of invention. The project will require creative thinking on both sides.  We need Russia, and Russia, most certainly, needs the West.