Two weeks from now, March 11, 2015, will mark 25 years since Lithuania declared its independence from the crumbling Soviet Empire, the “evil empire”, as President Ronald Reagan so eloquently and accurately described it. Similar declarations followed from Latvia and Estonia. This milestone should be an occasion for celebration. Instead, there is growing fear about the future.
My Lithuanian-born wife is in frequent contact with family and friends in her former homeland. All have expressed fear about Russian intentions. My Brother’s-in-Law daughter is now in her third year of medicine. In her spare time she has written poetry and short stories. She has read the classics in English. The youngest son is shortly to leave school. Both were born after independence. Will they be condemned to face a loss of personal freedom in the future? I do not pretend to be a disinterested observer.
During our visit to Russia back in 2012, I noted in my travel diary the Russian ambivalence towards its Soviet past. At the Moscow River Port on July 5, 2012, just before our departure on our River Cruise to St Petersburg, I wrote: “Amused to see a cruise vessel named Felix Dzerzhinsky (founder of the Cheka). This reflects a typical Russian ambivalence about its past. Could you imagine a German cruise vessel on the Rhine being called the Heinrich Himmler?”
At the time, I had not fully realised that this ambivalence would harden into a peculiar and sinister hybrid ideology. Mervyn Bendle wrote a disturbing exposition of this ideology in the September 2014 issue of Quadrant. Robert Zubrin has further expounded on the work of Alexander Dugin, “Putin’s Rasputin”, who, in the development of a new totalitarian “fourth political theory”, has combined elements of Communism, Fascism, Ecologism and Traditionalism to serve as the binding creed of a new Moscow centred “Eurasionist Empire”, opposed to the West. In this context, it is less than surprising that Putin’s Russia enjoys support from a gaggle of neo-Nazis in Europe, eg Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, and an assortment of extreme Right anti-Semites. This reinforces my historic view that Communism and Fascism were vicious rivals, not ideological opposites.
My tentative view is that the largely peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union failed to extirpate the dysfunctional political culture which now threatens the rise of a new imperialist totalitarian ideology. The best analogy is the armistice with Germany in 1918, which allowed the German Army in the West to march home in good order and facilitated the stab-in-the-back legend. Full allied military occupation as opposed to the humiliating half-measures under the Versailles Treaty, would have spared the world from much suffering in the future. The dysfunctional political culture survived to spawn the horrors of Nazi Totalitarianism. I hope to stimulate debate on this question from other Quadrant readers. At any rate, unconditional surrender by both Germany and Japan in 1945, eradicated, in the case of Germany, an imperialist militarist culture, dating back to its unification back in 1871, and in the case of Japan, the ideology of Bushido, which drove Japanese expansionism.
Back to the present, the deal reached in Minsk on February 12 between Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine leaves all the advantage with Russia. The Budapest Memorandum of December 5, 1994, which provided to Ukraine security assurances against threats or use of force against its territorial integrity or its political independence in return for its accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, has been exposed as pure puffery. Putin is free to slice up Ukraine by semi-covert means. And by the way, note the absence of the Obama Administration.
Where next for Putin’s imperial project? Estonia? Latvia? Lithuania? It will be a piece of cake for the Kremlin to stir up the large Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia. Maybe Russia will roll over Estonia. It would take only a day or so. How will Angela Merkel, Francois Holland and Barrack Obama react? Would Putin fear their response to what would be rapidly a fait accompli?
These are dangerous times. The next two years are a window of opportunity for Putin’s Russia. One can only pray that Putin will be overly cautious even when dealing with a US President it is obvious he holds in utter contempt. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will only be truly safe when a US President unambiguously declares that an attack on these states is an attack on the United States. Can anyone imagine the current incumbent, busily denying that Islamist terrorism has anything to do with Islam, taking that course?
Christopher Carr is a frequent contributor to Quadrant and Quadrant Online