The author traces the roots of the current war on Russia back to British strategic thinking that was first expressed at the time of the Crimean War (1853-1856):
Noted investor Simon Mikhailovich (who grew up in the USSR) points out that Churchill’s view was informed by the conflict of the 1850s. In 1854, twice-UK prime minister Lord Palmerston stated:
We are pledged by the national interest, by European interests, and by our convention with France to prevent the recurrence of the causes which have brought the war on, and this can be accomplished only by weakening Russia for a time at least, if we cannot do so permanently, in some material point.
The best and most effectual security for the future Peace of Europe would be the severance from Russia of some of the frontier territories acquired by her in later times, Georgia, Circassia (Chechnya), the Crimea, Bessarabia (Moldova), Poland & Finland.
If these were taken from her she would still remain an enormous power, but far less advantageously posted for aggression on her neighbors.
The two quotations above illustrate the folly of the Western media narrative that the current conflict in Ukraine is idiosyncratic to Putin: a mark of his insanity, the means to crush domestic enemies, fear that the example of a prosperous democratic Ukraine would undermine Russia’s more statist system.
As Lord Palmerston explained: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”
Special Relationship, anyone? Special for the UK, maybe, but it takes some explaining to enunciate exactly why Russia is our eternal enemy. Nevertheless, the interests that Palmerston expressed with regard to Russia framed British grand strategy from that time forward—and still do. The US stepped into that quagmire without a lot of deep thinking:
The great game of European politics was balance of power: shifting alliances ensured that no one entity grew overly powerful in order to preserve the core national interest of each participant. The current conflict in the Ukraine is the meeting of two core sets of national interests. Russia was invaded by the Poles in 1605, the Swedes in 1707, the French in 1812, the Germans in 1914 and again in 1941. Russia’s military problem is that it sits in the great European plain, which offers few geographic assets for defense, the reason why invaders make rapid progress into Russian territory. Russia prevails in the end because the vast distances make supply lines precarious especially when fighting in harsh winters. These victories, however, come at horrific cost in lives and infrastructure. Having friendly (or at least neutral) buffer states is an eternal Russian “life-interest.”
Russia’s neighbors see history differently, of course. Russia’s need to create defensive buffer states has subjected all of them to Russian conquest—the Poles will not soon forget the Soviet murder of 22,000 Polish officers in the Katyn Forest—they share Palmerston’s view that European security requires stripping Russia of its influence in its border countries. And thus the problem: Russia’s and its neighbors’ security concerns are all valid.
In my view some of the author’s views going forward from this point are debatable in detail, but in general they seem sound:
Policy based on that assessment is no longer valid. Russian military aggression no longer poses a threat to the world or Europe … [for economic and demographic reasons] …
The larger threat currently is from American neo-conservatives. The movement began as a collection of students, notably Irving Kristol, at City College of New York. Attracted first to the Marxists and then Trotskyists, the neocons were soon “mugged by reality,” as Kristol put it. Love of communism turned into hatred particularly of the Soviet Union—George Kennan’s containment strategy was too soft: the neocons wanted to roll back the iron curtain.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 because of economic exhaustion. …
... Charles Krauthammer, a leader of the contemporary neocon movement, declared in 1990 that the world had entered a “unipolar moment,” which he amended to an “era” in 2002: this “dominance of a single power [is] unlike anything ever seen . . . American military spending exceeds that of the next twenty countries combined.”
The author presents an extensive critique of Neocon ideology, but he then shifts to realist thinkers such as Kissinger and Mearshimer and more, all of whom warned against Neocon fantasies of world domination. In sum, the author offers this pointed assessment:
Neocon policy is directly contrary to the founding principles of the United States. Their new international order can never consent to peace, only submission: having meddled in wars of intrigue, extraction is nigh impossible. A corollary to the neocon unipolar view is that Russia no longer has claim to nuclear arms, as Krauthammer implied: “The Soviet Union ceased to exist, contracting into a smaller, radically weakened Russia.” Russia is merely a rogue state, like North Korea, to be confronted, deterred and, if necessary, disarmed, a monster to destroy. …
The neocons seem bent on testing Russia’s resolve and the MAD doctrine itself. They may view Russia as a rump state, but Russia does not so view itself.
Putin is not wrong in his estimate of the impossibility of entering into agreements with the US—or, at least not as the US is currently controlled by an extreme ideological clique.
There’s a lot more of interest, but halfway through the paper turns, as one would expect, to an extensive analysis of why the Western sanctions would be likely to backfire—remember, the paper was written in March, 2022. That this view is correct has been borne out by events since that time, but it basically rests on a very simple analysis of Russia’s resource richness, and the disconnect of the American economy from the hard realities of eartly existence. After reviewing Russia’s resource wealth, the author writes:
Russia’s wealth is based on heavy industry and labor, the dirty part of the production chain upon which Westerners rely but prefer not to see; America’s wealth is based on financialization: the value of Twitter and Facebook and Amazon and mortgage-backed securities, the pooled debt of those who work in a country that exported its manufacturing base, a country in which 77% of GDP is based on services (10% of which is fees for financial intermediation).
The conflict between these two economies may not resolve as most in the West expect. …
Again, a lengthy analysis of the likely outcome of sanctions and attempts to collapse the Russian economy follows, with an emphasis on the foolishness of driving Russia into closer alliance with China.
Interestingly, the piece ends by comparing—at quite a bit of length—the fall of the Athenian empire, caused by the disastrous Sicilian Expedition. In doing so, he also appeals to George Washington. The entire comparison is too long to excerpt—the author quotes the speeches of Nicias and Alcibiades extensively—but this may suffice to gain your interest. The author cleverly compares our Realists with Nicias, and Alcibiades with the Neocons adventurers:
The aging general Nicias, playing the part of Henry Kissinger, warned the Athenians against invading Sicily:
America has its own Nicias who speaks to us from the grave to those who would listen:
Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. . . . Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice? It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.
Such was George Washington’s parting advice to his new country, advice to which America adhered in the main, if imperfectly, until the Wilsonian adventure of World War I. But now a mad desire for domination has succumbed to the arguments that the confident, youthful, ambitious Alcibiades made against Nicias:
The Athenians chose overwhelmingly to pursue the campaign. Their army and navy were crushed, their government was overthrown, their allies defected, and Sparta would soon occupy their city. The defeat shocked the Greek world.
America’s army is not at risk in the current conflict, but its economy and financial system may be overthrown even if Russia is defeated on the battlefield. If Russia “falls apart,” Cheney’s hope with the intrigue in Georgia, the ensuing chaos in terms of commodity prices and migration would be worse for Western countries than the relative geopolitical stability to be gained by a swift Russian military victory.
In light of the current situation of Russia’s Special Military Operation we would do well to consider these views. The country desperately a national debate on where we’re headed.