February 25, 2022
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.
Putin feels very deeply that his Mission is to resurrect the Soviet Union. What he has decided to do is a test. Are the Western democracies as weak as they seem, and will they pull a Chamberlain? The latter gentleman is always remembered for his backing away from a bully.
Cuba all over again. However, figuring the odds as Putin has, he is not in the US backyard, I’m in my own damn backyard, and economic obstructionism is his only risk.
From the West’s point of view, there is a strong inertia for the policy that came out from the end of WWII: contain communism.
These three species of subcultures have always been around, and always will be: Utter Freedom, Considerate Freedom, and Fake Freedom. After all, we are part of God’s experiment with free will.
Under Utter Freedom, as with most of the native American tribes in North America before Columbus, there was a Chief yet if you stayed far enough away from him, you were in effect under no rule at all.
Under Considerate Freedom, there is a very active government that is well-intentioned.
Under Outright Totalitarianism, everyone knows who has the power, and how to stay invisible.
Let’s assume that most Americans would agree that the one of the three choices we all want is Considerate Freedom.
A small minority of Americans might prefer Utter Freedom i.e. anarchy but it’s hard to realistically imagine how a country the size of the USA could cooperate enough to remain militarily strong as an anarchy.
If we want to achieve Considerate Freedom everywhere in the world so that we can all get on with life without the war games of yesteryear, how would we deal with Putin’s Test?
Some Ukrainians want to move closer to the West (this is using the normative taxonomy – reflecting a bias to consider Russia NOT part of Europe which goes back millennia). Some Ukrainians feel closer to Rus (the original name of the enormous landmass between what we call Europe and India/China).
In Rus, the leader feels so strongly about Russia regaining a former greatness, and the people feel so strongly about the threat of falling out of step, that they will follow the leader into a path which could literally mean the end of the world.
They are all figuring the odds and until the first nuke is tossed they hope it can all be walked back with blarney no one will question anymore since anything goes now in the way of public statements.
Realistically, the West will wage economic war but will not want to be the first to put the torch to the kindling. Not until an inch of NATO soil is touched, at which point, head for the hills.
The comparison with Chamberlain will be answered with “This has always been part of Russia, what business is it of ours.”
It’s all a balancing act.
People will say, “If people want out of the Ukraine, they should move West and we should welcome them in.” Why not? More people will move to Considerate Freedom from Total Totalitarianism the longer we can keep the game going without flameout.
What’s the best positive outcome of the situation?
The hopeful possibility that this will bring all Americans together.
The need to be externally strong does not permit of internal squabbling and separation. We should naturally unite and forget trivial differences when faced with a common threat several orders of magnitude larger. That would be the sane response.
If we do not unite internally we will morally forfeit the leadership of the world we’ve had for three quarters of a Century.
The outcome is still up in the air. Economic sanctions will follow first. We will see what they accomplish. Completely excluding countries that practice aggression from the benefits of world trade and cooperation may take a long time to fully work. Such methods may never have worked before but that’s where creativity can come in.
We will hear about the awful treatment of Ukrainians at the hands of Russian soldiers and our blood will boil.
But we cannot put out violence with violence. We cannot end hatred with hate. Escalation reached its natural limit in 1945 when atomic weapons were first used and their implications immediately understood.
Creativity and consideration are the only tools which will get us to the promised land here on Earth. We had a chance to go that way when Joe Biden took office. But instead our leaders fought each other and fell back into the predictable old ways of warnings and threats to other world leaders.
How long will it take for the human race to outgrow violence and childish thinking?
Mr. Putin has just turned the clock back a hundred years.
Obviously we cannot think of ending the arms race at the present moment. We must continue to carry the big stick. But we can at least speak in the soft voice. It will be a start to walking back this test of our skills.
The alternative ways of being have all been proven bankrupt. What is left to us is creative diplomacy and military readiness.
Best to all,