AS Kathy Gyngell reported yesterday and expands upon today, Mark Steyn and the historian David Starkey have articulately described the naive, idealistic mindset of many Western citizens who can’t get their heads around why Russia has invaded Ukraine and is acting so belligerently towards the West. If you ask me, the effect of the post-war hippie culture and its concomitant sentimentality (see John Lennon’s fatuous lyrics) on the western mindset has made us collectively weaker, and weakness isn’t conducive to security which is a prerequisite for peace. Minds that are muddled with marijuana and/or the mawkish platitudes of contemporary culture like ‘give peace a chance’ haven’t grasped this.
Now, while I’m very much opposed to Russia’s attack on the Ukraine and am no fan of Putin, an understanding of the realist theory of international relations explains how states, and regional alliances formed from states, are primarily motivated by self-interest. This explains why during the Cold War the United States fought wars and proxy wars against communism within various countries. Put aside the ethical considerations of the outcomes of these interventions – I didn’t agree with all of them – from a cold rational perspective they made complete sense because if communism became the dominant global power it would have been the end of the US and western capitalism. Whatever the rights and wrongs of some of those interventions, to have surrendered to the spread of communism would have brought immense suffering and oppression to many more people. As Thomas Sowell puts it: ‘There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.’
However much we are horrified by it, Putin is acting in accordance with this realist theory of international relations. He believes the security and interests of Russia are affected by Nato and EU encirclement in states that were previously aligned with Moscow. He is acting in what he believes to be the interests of Russia. We might not like it, but it’s rational. This is in no way a justification and nor do I agree with what he is doing. It’s merely an objective analysis of his motivation.
My own view is that when Gorbachev proposed joining Nato, as Putin did later to Clinton, Russia should have been invited in with open arms. It was a terrible strategic mistake that it didn’t happen and we rubbed Russia’s noses in it by inviting in their former satellite states. There are those who will object and say, ‘but Russia is so corrupt internally, how could we have such a state within Nato?’ My answer is that Nato member Turkey is deeply corrupt with an Islamist-leaning government. The United States, for all that I admire about its constitution and purported commitment to liberal democracy, is plagued by anti-democratic crony capitalism in the forms of the military-industrial complex and the revolving door between Big Pharma and governmental regulatory agencies. No country is perfect. I’d rather have a corrupt nuclear power like Russia onside in a military alliance rather than have them feeling they are under threat from most of Europe and the United States. As we can now see, that approach isn’t exactly working out.