Lingamfelter: Czar Vladmir I
America and the world are witnessing a dramatic paradigm shift in how civilized nations address naked aggression. It’s not the first time. We saw this in both the First and Second World Wars. After WW I, world powers attempted to counter war through the League of Nations, a coalition for the Western Allies who defeated Imperial Germany’s quest to dominate the European continent. That effort largely failed and in some ways contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler, who stirred racism and hatred citing the harsh peace terms that followed Germany’s defeat. His rise to power along with Japanese imperialism and Italian fascism produced WW II. The Allies once again responded, defeated the baneful powers and in the process created the United Nations, yet another effort to curtail future wars.
But victory among the Allies, primarily the U.S., Britain, and Russia, soon fractured. Britain receded as a world power, leaving a superpower rivalry to sprout between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Soon both would have nuclear weapons as a Cold War ensued with each superpower attempting to expand its influence in the world. The U.S., rightfully, stood with the free world while the Soviet Union advanced the repression for which it was so well known under Stalin’s reign of terror. Eventually time and American economic and military ascendancy would result in the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of new free republics that had once been subjugated by Soviet dictators. That demise has infuriated Russian revanchists like their current leader Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent and latter-day dictator. It’s precisely why he has blatantly and illegally invaded the sovereign state of Ukraine.
Putin’s war is not about any threat from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formed to counter the Soviet-inspired Warsaw Pact that existed to dominate Eastern Europe until those nations declared their independence following the USSR’s descent. Putin knows that NATO has no territorial designs on Russia. His invectives about Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO are a contrivance. Putin’s vile aggression is about one single proposition: a return of Russian domination over the post-WW II captured lands of the former Soviet Union. He seeks a resurgent Russian empire, not in the form of a communist dictatorship, but rather one closer to Czarist Russia that existed before the USSR.
Putin sees himself as that Czar who will rule not only Russia, but sovereign nations against whom he has taken military action like Chechnya (1999), Georgia (2008), Ukraine’s Crimea (2014), and lately Belarus. Putin seeks to claw back all of these countries by military force. Putin’s aggression is a significant alteration in the post-Cold War world order that respects the rights of free nations. It’s a return to the uncivil idea that sovereign nations can be overthrown and refashioned to the likings of megalomaniacs like Hitler who coerced the seizure of the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland in 1938 declaring to naive Western leaders, “the Sudetenland is the last territorial claim that I have to make in Europe.” That farcical lie made a mockery of Western diplomacy to stem the tide of German aggression that left Europe in a smoldering and miasmic heap of death and destruction.
It is all recurring before our eyes as Putin spews irrational charges that his invasion of Ukraine is designed among other things to “end Nazism” in that country, one led by a Jewish president. It’s an absurdity designed to justify Putin’s malevolence. Equally false is his assertion that it is NATO’s buildup of forces in Europe that sits behind his invasion. In truth the recent NATO build up, tepid as it is, comes after Russia’s 190,000 troop deployment encircling Ukraine. Hitler would have admired such “Putinic” balderdash.
Putin’s war has every potential to succeed. He will not be deterred by feckless sanctions proposed by the West. As Russia’s ambassador to Sweden, Viktor Tatarintsev, said in an interview this month with the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, “Excuse my language, but we don’t give a s— about Western sanctions.” They do not. Putin knows that to accomplish the destruction of a sovereign state it takes raw military power.
The Western response to Putin can be summed up in one word. Weakness. The lack of resolve to oppose the rape of a sovereign nation is an invitation for more such behavior. The Ukraine and Belarus, not members of NATO, are situated east of alliance members. And to their north is Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all NATO members. For now, NATO can maintain they have no obligation to Ukraine. But given Putin’s behavior, that excuse may dissipate rapidly as the new Russian Czar asserts the same logic toward these now free and former members of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, China, Iran, and North Korea are watching with uninhibited glee as the West succumbs to a new world order.