HAS the madness that has overwhelmed Putin been matched by a reactive madness that is also overwhelming us? In an article for The American Conservative last week, entitled The West At The Precipice, Rod Dehrer argues that it has.
Of the West’s reaction so far he concludes: ‘If the goal is to punish Russia maximally for what it is doing to Ukraine, no matter the risk, then it makes sense. But if the higher goal is to avoid World War III, well, this ain’t the way to do it.’ Waging total economic and financial war on Russia and arming the Ukrainians makes it ‘awful damn tempting for Russia, as its economy collapses virtually overnight, to lash out militarily against a Nato country’.
Mainstream news reporting has not helped. In fact Dehrer condemns it for not being journalism at all, but pro-war advocacy. He singles out Tucker Carlson for praise for refusing to conform, for pointing out the utter madness of senior figures, political and retired military, who are advocating a shooting war with Russia while using the Ukraine conflict to stifle domestic dissent; and how any questioning of US policy towards Russia war will be, indeed, already is being denounced as ‘Russian propaganda’.
You can read the full article here.
Yet question the West’s policy we must. Doing so is not to take a ‘pro-Russia’ position; it is surely about realism. The political scientist John Mearsheimer, one of the most famous critics of American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, has long argued that Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine is caused by Western intervention. He believes that pushing to expand Nato eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine; and that ‘the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for this crisis’.
Last week he was asked by the New Yorker whether recent events had changed his mind. He reiterated his analysis: how ‘all the trouble’ started in April 2008 at the Nato summit in Bucharest, after which Nato issued a statement that Ukraine and Georgia would become part of Nato: ‘The Russians made it unequivocally clear at the time that they viewed this as an existential threat, and they drew a line in the sand. Nevertheless, what has happened with the passage of time is that we have moved forward to include Ukraine in the West to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border. Of course, this includes more than just Nato expansion. Nato expansion is the heart of the strategy, but it includes EU expansion as well, and it includes turning Ukraine into a pro-American liberal democracy, and, from a Russian perspective, this is an existential threat.’
If you read to the end of the interview you may be somewhat comforted by his conclusion that ‘there’s a serious possibility that the Ukrainians can work out some sort of modus vivendi with the Russians’ now they’re (the Russians) discovering that occupying Ukraine and trying to run Ukraine’s politics is asking for big trouble: ‘That’s why I said to you that I did not think the Russians would occupy Ukraine in the long term. But, just to be very clear, I did say they’re going to take at least the Donbass, and hopefully not more of the easternmost part of Ukraine. I think the Russians are too smart to get involved in an occupation of Ukraine.’
Contrary to received wisdom he believes that there is ‘no reason to fear that Russia is going to be a regional hegemony in Europe’ and that Russia is not a serious threat to the United States. The serious threat we do face in the international system he argues is ‘a peer competitor. And that’s China’. In conclusion that ‘policy in Eastern Europe is undermining our ability to deal with the most dangerous threat that we face today.’
You can read the full interview here.
Meanwhile the Ukrainians and Russians have continued, off and on, to talk and have agreed on a tentative plan to create a humanitarian corridor. It’s something.