During the Twentieth Century, Europe gifted the world with two titanic wars that reshaped global balances forever.
While World War I destroyed Imperial Germany’s dreams, World War II crushed Hitlerism and Mussolini’s Fascist sideshow, clobbered imperial Japan to nuclear death, and allowed the Soviet Union to pull Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain, with the connivance of the Western Allies, led by the all-powerful US and the ever haughtily proud, but exhausted, Great Britain.
This devil’s post-WWII arrangement lasted until 1989-90, when the USSR, her “socialist miracle” unraveling at warp speed, collapsed like a house of cards to be replaced by a federation of former Soviet republics, presently in the iron grip of Vladimir Putin’s “democratic communism.”
Eastern Europe’s former Soviet satellites quickly transitioned to (almost) fully Western consumer society status but retained their historically conservative socio-political and religious attitude toward US-fueled “woke modernism,” while embracing capitalist consumerism with a passion.
The collapse of Soviet communism created a short-lived enthusiasm over the assumed end of Hegelian history and produced the “post-totalitarian” idea of global politics that was introduced by Francis Fukuyama’s end-of-history concept. While this idea was craftily elaborated, it soon fell by the wayside rather unceremoniously:
Today, it’s hard to imagine Fukuyama being more wrong. History isn’t over and neither liberalism nor democracy is ascendant. The comfy Western consensus he inspired is under threat in ways he never predicted. A new Cold War has broken out. China’s “Marxist capitalism” suggests you can have wealth without freedom. And the advance of ISIS may herald a new, state-oriented Islamic fundamentalism. [Source].
Meantime, Russia, under Putin, has developed her own ostensibly, but oligarchic, “free market” model that has nevertheless defeated the drab communist regime of state-controlled stores with empty shelves and the prohibition of private business.
Today, Moscow, once the grey oppressively Stalinist hub, is a glittering, fully “westernized,” modern megalopolis brimming with all the goods of Western consumerism and the Internet Age.
But while Putin allowed markets to grow beyond the disasters of brutal command economy, thus creating standards of living unimaginable during the Tsarist and communist periods, his concept of defending Mother Russia remains ironclad “neo-Stalinist.”
The Russian “neo-Tsar” scoffs at Western liberalism (currently struggling to prove it is still relevant), wields Russian power with a spirit reminiscent of the Great Patriotic War, and has no qualms of mobilizing his sizeable modern military to defend and, if necessary, fight over, lines which, Moscow warns, must not be crossed by the likes of the US, the EU, NATO, and “world capitalists” in general.
Enter Ukraine—the very same that is trying to disconnect from her Soviet past completely by joining NATO and the EU—and thus causing Moscow to go on real war footing to avert any such eventuality.
In a previous post, I briefly analyzed Ukraine’s existential strategic value to this “post-communist” Russia, which has no room to accommodate the Western-tilting “self determination” of the most crucial country for Russia’s border security:
Ukraine is now the litmus test of Western resolve vis-à-vis a “neo-Soviet” Russian strategy molded by the Putin regime. Ukrainian yearnings for becoming part of western Europe via the EU and, eventually, NATO membership, are obvious anathemas in Moscow’s eyes. Those in the West, who continue to entertain thoughts of Ukrainian “integration” into the “free world,” via gradual erosion of the country’s deep-seated Soviet past, face an uphill battle: Russia may have become outwardly “de-Bolshevized,” and oligarchic capitalist “modern,” but this graduation into the 20th and 21st, century may be skin-deep (see this, for example).
Mother Russia remains the last white global power that refuses to bend to the West’s American-inspired “multicultural, equity, and tolerance” societal model that is already unhinging America in not-so-insidious ways—and rapidly infiltrating Western European countries in the name of “[race] non-discrimination,” “varied sexual identity,” “multiculturalism,” “acceptance of the other,” etc., etc.
Furthermore, on a more practical strategic and, to the Russians, existential level, allowing Ukraine’s “surrender” to the West would remove Mother Russia’s territorial buffer zone that is at the center of post-WWII Russian defense and security policy.
Western “wise men” are in the wrong thinking Russia has relegated the WWII catastrophe to the dustbin of history: losing the Ukraine is tantamount to amputating Moscow’s permanent strategic demand for “buffering” Russian territory against any repetition of June 1941. Anyone, inside or outside Russia, who believes that this buffer zone is negotiable, should return to the classroom for an accelerated refresher course on the origins and evolution of Russian/Soviet/post-communist Russian permanent strategic imperatives.
Current negotiations between Moscow and the Western allies over Ukraine are going nowhere. Putin, already fighting a hybrid war in eastern Ukraine in support of pro-Russia separatists opposed to Kiev, is pulling all (military) stops to warn the “free world” this is not the time for threatening Russian security over a question of “self-deremination” that carries zero significance in the post-communist, but still Russian nationalist, era of today.
The Ukrainian crisis catches the West at a time America is experiencing severe domestic political and social turbulence—that radiates across the Atlantic, and into Western Europe, whose EU faces its own severe crises fueled by the raging pandemic.
The traditional US global leadership has already suffered blows below the waterline, especially after Biden’s arrival at the White House, and obviously faces a deficit of “doable” options, which could reinvigorate Western “unity” in the face of Putin’s hard knuckles stand on the Ukraine.
Attempting to yank Ukraine from the Russian orbit, in support of “eternal Western values,” appears a poor choice against the backdrop of what any such move would cause in the battlefield—and in a world that’s boiling with back-to-back, often anti-West, crises.
Do we really want a full-blast conflict with Russia?
In a world that’s topsy-turvy and sliding?
NATO Insiders Fear Attack on Multiple Fronts
Hopes are waning within NATO that Russian President Vladimir Putin can be stopped from invading Ukraine. At the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, officials are increasingly alarmed by even worse scenarios.
Jens Stoltenberg's fist was clenched when he approached the Russians, but only so he could give them a corona fist bump. Still, when the NATO secretary-general posed for a photo with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin on Wednesday, their stiff postures and somber expressions made it clear that it was far from a relaxed occasion.
It was the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels in over two years. Ahead of the gathering, the alliance’s foreign ministers held a video conference. The United States undersecretary of state and her Russian counterpart met in Geneva on Monday. And on Wednesday, the EU foreign and defense ministers held a meeting in Brest, France.
All these meetings had the same primary aim: to deter Russia from a possible invasion of Ukraine.
But the outlook is growing gloomier. "There is a real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe," Stoltenberg said after the meeting.
Moscow is accusing the West of seeking to establish military superiority. The Kremlin is demanding that NATO stop admitting former Soviet republics like Ukraine into the military alliance. Moscow also wants NATO to withdraw its forces from its member states in the east.
These are all demands that would be very difficult for NATO to meet. Stoltenberg has emphasized that every country has the right to choose its own path, and that this "core principle" is part of the foundation for European security.
And with that, it appears that preparations for war in Eastern Europe are continuing. For the past several weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been amassing troops near the border with Ukraine, some 100,000 soldiers equipped with tanks, drones and artillery. NATO believes that hostilities could begin soon, even if not all the troops are prepared for a full-scale invasion.