The Strategic and Moral Dimensions of Putin’s War

The strategic crisis created by the Sino-Russian rapprochement of the 2000s has now been brought to another stage. It underlines anew a host of factors, not least the Nixon Presidency’s skill in exploiting the earlier Sino-Soviet split, but, more gravely, the degree to which the Eurasian ‘heartland’, to adopt the term of Halford Mackinder, and to adopt another of his terms, its ‘pivot’ in western Russia, remains a core geopolitical challenge. For Mackinder and others — the Imperial General Staff in 1919, for example — this challenge was taken further with concerns about Russia and Germany being allied, and this indeed was to be a key issue in successive crises. Stalin’s alignment with Hitler enabled both to divide Eastern Europe in a bloody fashion, the ultimate appeasement of Nazi Germany and one that robbed the Soviet system of any claim to moral standing in international relations. Putin’s calls for the deNazification of Ukraine have a richly ironic tone given his past praise for Stalin, who also considered peace with Hitler in 1942 and 1943.

The postwar Soviet geopolitical order spanned from the Elbe, where the occupation of East Germany provided a crucial base for armies able to threaten Western Europe, to the East China Sea, as the Soviet Union under Stalin both supported Mao Zedong’s victory in the Chinese Civil War and encouraged Chinese intervention in the Korean War.

This range made the Soviet Union a particularly challenging geopolitical threat, and it is one that is important to Putin’s worldview. For him, as for many Russians, Russia is either an empire or it is nothing; and Ukraine is the principal obstacle to this pursuit. This is not a defensive interpretation of Russia’s position, but one, to Putin, of a necessary imperialism. Putin definitely wants to install a pliant system there. This goal is central to his new European order, an order not only of territorial change but also of a force-based logic in international relations. Sermons about international law are irrelevant as far as he is concerned. Indeed, the force of contempt that he feels and expresses is one that is further engaged by such a response. It is a natural consequence of dictatorial policies, for the consequences of dictatorship are international as well as domestic. There is a common psychology in which restraint, from within and without, is not only unacceptable, but also contemptible. As such, there is an inherent ‘moral’ character to international relations, however much ‘realists’ might seek to ignore or circumvent it.

Morality as a context provides us with another approach to the Ukraine crisis and the more general geopolitics of ideology. In recent years, and culminating with a cultural ‘takeover’ at the current time, there is a critique of the West based on its role in Atlantic slavery. This is then used as the basis for a set of intellectual and public-activist strategies that serve, directly and indirectly, to call into question Western culture and more generally to suggest that it is simply a hypocritical value system and therefore of no moral consequence domestically or internationally. Indeed, this provides a key adjunct to a ‘realist’ position adopted by those who find all governance deeply flawed. In a repetition of left-wing activism, the so-called ‘woke’ agenda helps the opponents of Western values, and the enemies of our countries, by suggesting some form of moral equivalence or, indeed, that the West as in some way worse.

This is particularly malign in the case of slavery. The account of slavery that is offered relates to the Atlantic slave trade, a terrible period in which over eleven million Africans were enslaved by other Africans, sold to Westerners and transported in miserable circumstances and to miserable ends in the New World. This was appalling, and a stain on the history of Western and African societies in that period. Somewhat less attention is devoted to the prevalence of slavery today, conservatively estimated as over twenty million people, and, even less, to the extent to which there is public slavery in the shape of those brutalised by autocratic states. The acme is North Korea, where the entire population are in effect slaves. Conquest is a particularly dramatic form of enslavement, and notably so when one democratic nation is conquered by another. Thus, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine represents a form of enslavement that has moral as well as geopolitical consequences. The degree to which that is not grasped by Western commentators who see slavery as a matter only of private ownership is striking. It represents a failure not only in the assessment of slavery, but also one of the moral character of international relations, more particularly the true meaning of self-determination.

This provides a key to the justifications employed by Putin. None relate to matters of popular consent, even in the perverse form of Soviet on-party republics. Indeed, Putin is critical of the Soviet presentation of Ukraine. His democratic deficit obliges him to use a historicised ramble through a Russian vision of geopolitics, one that is based on a call to fear.

Jeremy Black is Professor Emeritus of History, Exeter University

37 thoughts on “The Strategic and Moral Dimensions of Putin’s War

  • colin.white18 says:

    Should Putin succeed in transforming Russia to the Russian Empire, it would be a very evil empire. This dream must be shattered by a united West.

  • abrogard says:

    Two years of covid training have taught me a thing or two about reading punditry.
    And one that claims to know: (for Putin) ” Russia is either an empire or it is nothing “is prime suspect stuff.

    When you add this claim: (there was a historical incident) “..that robbed the Soviet system of any claim to moral standing in international relations. ” Meaning, presumably now and forevermore. It’s slam dunk.

    Not worth reading.

  • abrogard says:

    Pity there’s no edit function.
    Here’s a bit of background:

  • Andrew Fraser says:

    The author would do well to watch this video from 2015 in which Prof. John
    Mearsheimer explains why the Ukraine war is the West’s fault (it almost seems
    as if the lecture was delivered last week):

  • andrew2 says:

    While I don’t want to debate on whether the West is worse based on “wokeism”, the moral superiority of our current Western society is marginal at best. A culture that does not value life: kills it’s babies, kills it’s elderly, experiments on it’s embryos, undermines the family unit as the foundation for it’s society, distains organised religion, brainwashes a large slab of it’s young people into sexual experimentation, rewards greed, makes an average house unaffordable to an average family. This is not a strong society. It’s a collection of isolated egos living together with no cohesion. Do you send your sons to die for this empire as families did in the past? The only advantage to having a dictator as an enemy is that you have a human face to hate rather than a shadow.

  • pgang says:

    ‘Western commentators are calling Putin a madman. Britain’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, says the Russian president has “gone Tonto”.
    Well, maybe he has; or maybe he is merely exceptionally driven by nationalist sentiment, ruthlessness, cynicism — and rage.
    But it’s the west which over “climate change” really has totally lost its mind.’
    Melanie Phillips

  • pgang says:

    andrew2, well said.

  • DougD says:

    pgang – read the comments on The Age articles on the Cannon-Brooke’s offer for AGL so he can shut down its power stations. You would think he’s Mother Theresa re-incarnate. None mentions that his majority offer partner is a large Canadian funds investor who is most certainly not a brand-new species – an altruistic capitalist.

  • John Michelmore says:

    I’m sorry but this has to be the most worst onesided article I’ve read on Quadrant for some time. What about some perspective please. The West has been poking the bear for years and continues to poke the bear; so what do you expect, eventually the bear reacts.
    +10 andrew2 and abrogard!

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Andrew2, your critique of the West rings true – as a critique. As does Melanie Phillips justified exasperation about the madness of climate politics. But there is still much that is good in the countries of the West and many who uphold its grand and humane traditions, including Christianity. People can still lead productive lives and live in relative peace and with relative freedoms. Corruption exists but it is subject in many ways to the rule of law. The media is often fraudulent here too, but the possibility exists for other viewpoints to still be heard. The ideal of liberalism is not dead, although its practice is wanting. Scott Morrison may be, to put it kindly, a little slow and very much out for himself. But he is not any sort of gangster, nor an evildoer, as Putin is. I’d prefer to live in Australia, the US, or any country in Western Europe including the UK, rather than live in Russia, which is the litmus test.
    We shouldn’t throw babies out with the bathwater. A timeworn image, but it still has meaning.
    As for slave ‘ownership’ – the British-led West got rid of it once its evils were known; the Romans never did. It is still rife in various forms in the Islamic world today.
    In terms of overall enslaved populations, the Russian serfs were slaves until the 20th century. And slaves to communism after that. Many Russians today feel rather as slaves, with the sword of retribution in the form of murder or imprisonment against them if they step out of line; and it is seen as almost normal, as are corrupted elections.. In the West, while such things may happen, they are seen as outrages. Yes, we do have to meet the challenges put out by climate ‘elites’ wanting to ‘re-set’ our Western liberal world. But as long as the ballot box holds (it may not) we can still complain and push for change. In the US parents are doing great pushback right now against ‘woke’ anti-white racism and the gender confusers.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    I’ve commented on other threads about the realpolitik involved in the Russia/Ukraine situation, ie. the strategic issues. Russia feels a threat on its borders, and talks up this threat to commence Empire-building (rebuilding). The West, as the EU, the US and NATO, all have barrows to push against Russia and push them they have done. Currently, there is a lot of ‘information’ around, often as sheer disinformation, but very little certainty so far about what is going on. It’s rather early yet to assess how what has gone on in the past in international powerplays are now playing out in the present.
    I thought the article above was useful in drawing attention to Putin’s idea of a ‘necessary’ Russian Imperialism as the way many Russians think about their Imperial past and how they may now be projecting it onto Putin’s ambitions. That’s all.

  • ianl says:

    John Michelmore

    Yes, agreed. Putin is a dangerous thug but Russians are completely paranoid about their boundaries (as are the Chinese, and the North Koreans). They have been invaded too many times to relinquish that anxiety.

    So pushing Ukraine towards NATO membership really is poking the bear continually on its’ most sensitive spot. Guaranteed to force an irrational reaction. This bear in particular has European gas supply under foot, or rather claw. One irrational act provokes another …

  • pgang says:

    Elizabeth, point taken on the general liberty that we still precariously maintain.
    The judging of political leaders is a fascinating topic in itself. I think there is a problem with the current populist view of Putin as an evildoer. Putting aside the relativism inherent in such phraseology within the west’s humanistic framework (therein lies the true problem), such caricatures tend to lead to a confusion of war with strategy. Russia and Putin have an over-arching political strategy that is much bigger than this single battle, and it is from the strategic perspective that judgement should be made, not on the basis of war itself. I don’t see that war can ever ultimately achieve the goals of a master strategy, but instead is a tool that is used to deal with a specific problem within the strategy. After its military victory over Germany in 1918, the west then utterly failed in its strategy of protecting itself and Europe against totalitarianism.
    So is Putin evil for ordering this attack? Not in and of itself, as that depends on the strategy behind it.
    What is Russia’s strategy, and what is ours, and how can they coexist? How can we judge Russia if we don’t fully understand it and worse, don’t even understand our own strategic policy? It seems to me that the west’s strategy in relation to Russia was simply wishing the problem would go away, and now we’re all sulky because it didn’t.
    Another issue is the confusion of policy with personality. I’m sure that from the perspective of true Christian morality, Putin is an evildoer as an individual. But we also need to see past that to understand the greater strategy that he is enunciating. Focusing too much on Hitler as the driving personality behind World War Two ignores the fact that millions of Germans embraced the political strategy. It was German policy, as shared by Hitler and most Germans. that was evil in itself, and Germany became evil by its inheritance.
    Perhaps Russia’s fate is the same, but at this stage I honestly don’t know, at least not until I understand our own strategy in relation to Russia.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Putin is havng a bob each way with his own people. He rests on his reputation as a strong man during the 90’s, a winner amongst corruptocrat oligarchs, being one himself. Now he crushes opposition from within and with a sincere face he kisses icons and goes all out to be a son Russia’s revitalised (and State aligned) Orthodox Church. Who knows? Perhaps he’s had a change of heart, believes he is sent by God, abhors his past sins and seeks redemption by restoring Mother Russia to her Imperial throne. I don’t think that, but I guess quite a few Russians do and Putin may even have convinced himself of his God-given legacy. Dugin’s philosophies may have even advanced this view of himself to him.
    His evil doing, in my book, would require a public confession for any genuine redemption to occur.

  • Stephen says:

    Their is a lot of detail and nuance in the Ukrainian situation. Much has already been written and said and now much more will follow. To me Putin’s best strategy (and for Xi re Taiwan) to achieve reunification with Ukraine would be to reform Russia, politically, economically and socially to the extent that Ukrainians would be attracted and welcome the partnership.
    Putin may think that Ukraine is not a real country but Ukrainians clearly think it is. Russia now faces a rerun of their Afghan experience where for 11 years the only territory that was truly theirs was the inside if their Tanks.
    Tyranny and aggression must not be allowed to win.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    This comment was put up on Mervyn Bnedle’s article 25/2 at the end of a long series of comments. I think it contains economic information that illuminates the prize that is Ukraine, so here is that comment again, from pmprociv:

    pmprociv – 28th February 2022

    Fascinating stuff, while also increasingly depressing. However, I can’t help thinking much of this sophistry is simply a smokescreen. There’s no doubt that Putin must be one of the world’s smartest and best-connected street-thugs. He’s also incredibly avaricious (and addicted to ultra-luxuries), reputedly now the world’s richest person, thanks to skilfully stolen national resources. And it’s likely that his avarice has fed his megalomania, and vice-versa (psychologists would have a field day speculating about the underlying pathology, perhaps a variant of the Small-Man Syndrome). It’s possible that senility is also creeping in. One can only hope that he’s greatly over-estimated the capabilities and motivation of his own gangs, while underestimating the motivation and resourcefulness of his victims (and their potential helpers).
    However, something that has been totally overlooked in all the discussions I’ve read about Putin’s latest criminal venture are the incredible national assets of Ukraine, access to which could immensely boost his personal wealth and that of his oligarch cronies. A friend with connections to mining just sent me this:

    For those who ask, “Why does Ukraine matter?”, here are some powerful reasons:
    It is the second largest European country by area, with a population >40 million, more than Poland.
    Regarding minerals, Ukraine ranks:
    1st in Europe in proven recoverable reserves of uranium ores;
    2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30 billion tons);
    2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in terms of titanium ore reserves;
    2nd place in the world in terms of explored reserves of manganese ores (2.3 billion tons, or 12% of the world’s reserves);
    2nd place in Europe in terms of mercury ore reserves;
    3rd place in Europe (13th place in the world) in shale gas reserves (22 trillion cubic meters;)
    4th in the world by the total value of natural resources;
    7th place in the world in coal reserves (33.9 billion tons).
    Ukraine is an important agricultural country, able to feed 600 million people:
    1st in Europe in terms of arable land area;
    1st place in the world in exports of sunflower and sunflower oil;
    2nd place in the world in barley production and 4th place in barley exports;
    3rd place in the world by the area of black soil (25% of world’s volume);
    3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of corn in the world;
    4th largest producer of potatoes in the world;
    5th largest rye producer in the world;
    5th place in the world in beer production (75,000 tons);
    8th place in the world in wheat exports;
    9th place in the world in the production of chicken eggs;
    16th place in the world in cheese exports.
    Ukraine is also an important industrialised country:
    1st in Europe in ammonia production;
    Europe’s 2nd’s and the world’s 4th largest natural gas pipeline system;
    3rd largest in Europe and 8th largest in the world in terms of installed capacity of nuclear power plants;
    3rd place in Europe and 11th in the world in terms of rail network length (21,700 km);
    3rd place in the world (after the U.S. and France) in production of locators and locating equipment;
    3rd largest iron exporter in the world;
    4th largest exporter of turbines for nuclear power plants in the world;
    4th world’s largest manufacturer of rocket launchers;
    4th place in the world in clay exports;
    4th place in the world in titanium exports;
    8th place in the world in exports of ores and concentrates;
    9th place in the world in exports of defence industry products;
    10th largest steel producer in the world (32.4 million tons).
    Ukraine matters. That is why its independence is important to the rest of the world.

    I’d guess Uncle Vlad feels that he deserves some of these riches, and why not? He’s so special . . .

  • pgang says:

    Frankly the west’s response to all this is to pull a Thunberg, and pout and say, ‘How DARE you.’ Without wishing to justify Russia’s actions (this is about Russia and not just Putin), I can’t help getting the feeling that their attitude is, ‘Well, we’ve been trying to warn you but nobody was interested.’
    As for the Ukraine, who and what are they? The world seems to be ‘how dare you’-ing Russia because they have invaded what is ostensibly a sovereign nation, and anybody who invades someone else is bad, especially if it’s Russia. From all that I can make out of public and media opinion, that is about as far is it goes.
    Let me set up a parallel imaginary situation. Israel invading Lebanon to protect its security interests and serve their strategy of maintaining Middle Eastern stability. Good or bad?
    Here’s another: New Zealand signs a defence pact with China and agrees to let them build significant military installations there. Australia invades New Zealand. Would it be suicidal not to invade?
    My point here is simply that I don’t think that this is black and white, good vs evil. Although it could be. Does anybody actually know what the tactical objective is for this invasion, beyond speculation? Is anybody listening to the Russians even now?
    About 7 years ago, Russia took control of Crimea by force. What did we do then? We ‘how dare you’d Russia, and that was it. Then we let them build a gas pipeline. Perhaps during those intervening years Russia has been trying to tell us something.
    What they got from the USA was Russia-gate and the Biden family running amok making their fortunes in Ukraine. Evil Putin aside, it must be for Russia like trying to have a discussion with a room full of children with ADHD.
    Meanwhile the west’s foreign strategy has been to spend a couple of decades spraying bullets around sovereign nations of questionable strategic value, before bugging out and leaving things in a worse position than when we started. And to ‘how dare you’ anybody who disagreed with our global outlook, the sum total of which is ‘peace – good, global warming – bad’.
    We have become such inveterate losers and hypocrites that I just can’t bring myself to castigate Russia for showing us up, no matter what sort of man Putin is.

  • pgang says:

    ‘Ukraine and Russian delegates are expected to meet for a second round of peace talks after they failed to come to an agreement during discussions on the Belarusian border…..It comes as the Ukraine signed an official request to join the European Union.’
    What fresh madness is this? Perhaps it’s Zelensky who’s insane, and not Putin. Does he really believe the west has his back?
    ‘The official outcome from the five-hour meeting overnight, which broke down twice, has not been reported…’
    No, of course not.
    ‘Parliament House will be lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag as a “sign from the Australian people to those in Ukraine”.
    Oh dear Lord.

  • bosco6 says:

    The ides of March.

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    My understanding is that Ukraine expressed a desire to join NATO, but that NATO has done little if anything to grant that desire. I also know of no Western weaponry placed in Ukraine to threaten Russia–until now. So who is “poking the bear?”
    Putin claims that his invasion–which, of course, isn’t an invasion (the Ukranians must have a hard time telling the difference)–is to carry out the “demilitarization and denazification” of the country. Yet some of the commenters on this site seem to think that he is the smart one, deserving of sympathy.
    In all seriousness, would you have cheered when Saigon fell? The South Vietnamese government may have had severe problems, but the country’s loss was a tragedy for her people and an illustration of our failing to stand up to tyranny.
    Since 1917, we have failed to stand up properly to Russia. The West gave very little help to the early fighters against the Bolsheviks; the West largely ignored the evils of Communism for the next several decades; the West ignored Russia’s invasion of Poland in 1939; the West called Russia an ally when she was forced to fight Nazi Germany. We played around at opposing Russia during the Cold War, but would never do it it properly (as an example, Truman would not allow McArthur to hit back properly at the forces coming out of China during the Korean War, because he was afraid of nuclear war with Russia).
    In war (as in divorce) the fault is never all on one side. But that can be acknowledged while still accepting that more of the fault is probably on the side of the large nation beating up on a small one that posed it little if any threat. Some of the countries that Hitler took over were pretty corrupt, but we still condemn his actions.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    I listened to Russia re the Crimea. I thought it was Russian and that Russia needed the deep-water port. I also listened re the two ‘Russian’ border parts of Ukraine, and thought if Putin stopped there, that would probably be OK. But I can’t listen to a complete take-over by force of Ukraine, no matter how the West may have been (unwittingly?) complicit in encouraging it, and Ukraine full of fault with its own oligarchs, nor could I stand idly by without complaint to a Russian march into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I agree it is complex and information is incomplete, but nevertheless I can’t enter too much into the ‘blame the West’ game. The West is not all bad, and far too many people are ready to diss it and toss it away without too much of a second thought – until they no longer have it.
    I want the West to repair and regain pride and proper conduct. And for Russia to back off.

  • pgang says:

    Elizabeth and Rebekah you are both putting words into my mouth. I haven’t said that Putin is deserving of sympathy, nor that the West is all bad, nor that the Russian invasion is free from moral stricture, nor even that it is in any way justified.
    But getting to the heart of the reason and history behind this military action is another matter all together, and the more I look into it, the more that I think that the west shares in that responsibility. Our Putin Putin Putin propaganda is a panacea to paper over our own failures, not just with the Ukraine but with our world outlook in general – our strategy. It does nothing to help us to understand, or to work through a solution. ‘Throw more guns at it’, is not a long term solution or strategy.
    Elizabeth I think your approach reflects the west’s in general. It lacks any sort of structure but is based on moralising and wishful thinking. Now it is too late to go back and change things. Even as you suggest, what role has Ukraine itself played in this? Has any pundit even bothered to ask the question? In the middle of a war, their president decides to sign an application for entry to the EU, which can only be intended to provoke their far stronger enemy and undermine negotiations, resulting in more death. Is that sane leadership?
    I feel a little more justified in my approach this morning. Even the left wing Australian is asking the question.
    Editorial: Putin gives wake-up call from a folly of indulgence. World leaders are forced to get real about what truly matters.
    Albrechtsen: How Putin’s Ukraine invasion has killed our Pollyanna politics.
    The narrative is changing. Perhaps the initial shock is wearing off.

  • pgang says:

    Perhaps the situation could be summarised by saying that while we have been lying in the grass blowing bubbles and dreaming dreams, the bad guys have been busy ransacking the house.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Thanks for this piece Jeremy, and I must say pgang, that my thinking & opinion is much in line with your’s !

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    “Elizabeth I think your approach reflects the west’s in general. It lacks any sort of structure but is based on moralising and wishful thinking.”
    pgang, I think that is an incorrect assessment of what I actually said. Firstly, in any previous commentary I’ve made on the numerous articles in Quadrant Online that press an historical interpetation, it is obvious that I have been fully aware of the sweep of history behind the emotions felt in Russia and of the construction of the ideologies used by Putin, e.g. Dugin’s, and the Orthodox Church etc. Secondly, above, it is clear that I assess that the West has played its own game of often stupidly ‘woke’ moralising and wishful thinking – which I actually abhor and feel rather insulted to have directed back as my views. The West, although it has been sententious and stupid, has I think played a blame game far less than the blame game has been played by Putin. That will be, in the end, a matter for interpretation via more facts and historical distance than we currently have. It should have been clear to you that I want the West to change radically in its approach to its own inherited culture (which it is wrecking) and that of others. Thirdly, as for having no answer – neither have you. I don’t press for more guns and want a negotiated form of agreement which recognises grievances on both sides but ends with Ukraine still having soveignty. Any sane person would want that. Fourthly, Albechtsen today is correct to point to Polyanna politics – my view entirely. I’d go further than she does though and suggest that we should remove ourselves from the renewables scam, not simply time-lag it a little which seems to be her preference. She is playing politics herself there. The Australian seems rather loath so far to put up my comment on that. Nevertheless, I regard her voice as indicative of a shift I’ve always argued for – the removal of woke politics and insane interpretations of imagined political security in the West and a return to a recognition of, and attempts to address democratically, the corrupting forces of power, on both sides, viz Biden and Ukraine’s corruptocrats as well as Putin’s. That said, the West is still a powerful moral force for good against dictators and tyrants.
    If you have any better solutions, name them.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    In case there is any confusion – under my name being bolded above on March 1, I put up a comment that is NOT MINE, but a copy of an earlier comment by pmprociv – 28th February 2022. I replayed it (letting him know) for the useful economic information it contains that illustrate well what the real stakes in Ukraine are about. pmprociv is quite dramatically anti-Putin, so do not mistake his views for mine.
    I am anti-Putin, but within the context of a highly nuanced situation, as should be clear from my own comment in reply to Rebekah saying how much leeway I had been prepared to give Putin so far.

  • pgang says:

    Elizabeth I made that assessment based on your most recent comment, which demonstrated perfectly the confused stance the west has taken to the Russia/Ukraine situation over the past decade. No policy – only wishes, which don’t make much sense anyway (how was Crimea any different?) – and now it is too late.
    ‘I listened to Russia re the Crimea. I thought it was Russian and that Russia needed the deep-water port. I also listened re the two ‘Russian’ border parts of Ukraine, and thought if Putin stopped there, that would probably be OK. But I can’t listen to a complete take-over by force of Ukraine…’
    Having read many of your comments over the past years I have a good idea of where you stand on these issues in general, but in this I think you are being far too sympathetic to ‘our side’, and falling into the common western fault of moralising from a pedestal. I would add that it is out of character for you. The west is and needs to be a moral force against tyranny but in general, and in this case in particular, it is failing in that purpose.
    We are all talk and no walk, and our enemies know it.
    Who am I to provide a solution? I’m a nobody. But even a nobody can see that this is a matter in which the USA needs to step up to the plate, especially if it wants to redeem any credibility from its vilification of Russia. Surely the President of the USA needs to be on the phone to Putin, with Zelensky and Scholz in the offing, saying, ‘We need to resolve this, and now – or else’.
    Sanctions? Cancellations? What is this – kindergarten? I wonder if we lost this war before it even started (I guess we did, given that we didn’t even turn up).
    We just don’t have any strategy that is grounded in reality, but I guess in hindsight that has always been America’s weakness.
    And now we get this from our defence minister:
    ‘Peter Dutton has warned that only China can stand in the way of Vladimir Putin now…’
    Wow, if that isn’t abject capitulation then I don’t know what is. If this really is a defining moment in history in which global power hangs in the balance, and I suspect it is just that, then things are looking pretty ordinary for the good guys. We’re getting outplayed at every turn. Rather than manning up and getting our house in order to fight the good fight, it seems that we are handing over the keys without a second thought.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    “We are all talk and no walk” – I don’t disagree pgang. But I am also realistic. Biden is no Trump and he is not going to act. He is a weak puppet of the woke left in the US and has destroyed the American energy independence that Trump generated. The politics of oil in the West have created a monster of conflicting geopolitical interests. Trump would have intervened from a position of energy independence with veiled threats of his own, and a calm appreciation that Russia may also have a viewpoint worth listening to. Without a US lead, or at least one from NATO, no other countries are going to walk into Ukraine either. There is also a great fear about escalating into a wider war.
    There is some power in simple moralising as long as it is framed in analysis of how things came to be as well as opprobrium for brutal invasion. I acknowledge forms of moral posturing are all we’ve got given current politics in the US and Europe and that they are being overdone as a replacement for effective strategy. Backing up Ukraine’s resistance with firepower is also perhaps useful, although I know good and thoughtful people who feel this is merely extending an agony for civilians and who are arguing for capitulation now, extraction from a can of worms etc – I disagree with them, btw, as I think resistance is psychologically valuable in negotiations even though it comes at a human cost. This war is has some defining elements re the world balance of powers so resistance has value. One point is that the West has moved quite a way towards providing arms and away from the initial hands-off approach (see Germany for instance); it may bring Putin to negotiate. I hope so.
    I look forward to more on the topic from Quadrant Online authors and commenters as events unfold.

  • pgang says:

    Elizabeth, agreed. It is quite difficult to estimate the true value of making good decisions. With the stolen election of 2020 it seems we have been afforded that opportunity. As the Biden administration has mishandled everything in its path and utterly debased America, we have been gifted a very clear ledger of the value of the Trump presidency.
    The latest disaster seems to be Robert Malley in Vienna, who is about to unleash misery as he bends the knee to Iran. Afghanistan – Ukraine – Iran. The dominoes of western influence and integrity are falling by the hour. We will soon reach the point where war is inevitable. This is how it happens.

  • rosross says:

    Many long-term and highly qualified political experts agree that Putin and Lavrov are both extremely smart and strategic. The propaganda claims that Putin wants to restore the Soviet Empire or greater Russia is a Western invention with little substance in reality. Demonise the man and ignore the message has been the modus operandi.

    This war has been coming for decades and Putin has patiently been planning it given consistent stupidity and intransigence on the part of the Americans and their Nato lackeys. All the West’s own work. Years of arrogance, hubris and stupidity while Putin slowly and calmly set about preparing to do exactly what he said he would do.

    At the Malta Summit in 1989, George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, persuaded a reluctant Gorbachev to support a unified Germany.. In return, and in very explicit terms, it was agreed upon that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward”.

    At the time NATO numbered 13 member nations (today there are 30) Fast forward to 1996, when, during the closing months of Bill Clinton’s Presidency, he expressed support for Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO. The US first expressed interest in Ukraine as a possible NATO candidate in 2008.
    At the time Sergei Lavrov made it clear in no uncertain terms that Russia would never allow that.

    On a positive note, Putin is strong enough to stand up to the Americans and that might make them think twice. One can only hope. However, the Americans are not going to go to war against Russia for Ukraine because Ukraine is not security critical for either Nato or the US and the Americans want to keep ‘their powder dry’ for the Chinese.

    If the US had been smart, we live in hope, they would have seen a natural ally in Russia against China. This way they drive the Russians and Chinese into each others arms. Was it really, really, really worth it to play the ego game on Ukraine when Russia had accepted the other Nato creeps toward its border but drew a line on Ukraine, which is also of no critical security to Nato?

    If the Americans are not careful, not only do they again look like military fools, but, if the Dollar global economy is cut out from under them because no-one trusts them, they will face a massive economic crisis and their greatest war may be from within. And of course, as some general said, ‘the plan goes out the window with the first shot fired,’ so it may all end very badly indeed for everyone on the planet.

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    I repeat, my understanding is that Ukraine has wanted to join NATO but that–in recent years, at least–NATO was not interested.
    I cannot understand, either, why it is a “positive note” that “Putin is strong enough to stand up to the Americans and that might make them think twice.” What threat does the US pose to the world that Russia would save us from? I realise that this is going back a number of years, but after World War II the world was exhausted, and the US was the only country with the atomic bomb. She did not use it for world domination; in fact, she (and the rest of Western Europe) allowed Soviet Russia to dominate Eastern Europe–one of her most wicked acts of foreign policy, in my opinion. And it was not a matter of two nuclear powers keeping each other balanced, as has been claimed about later in the Cold War; Russia did not have the bomb until 1949.

  • andrew2 says:


    “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO. Both nations have made valuable contributions to Alliance operations. We welcome the democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia and look forward to free and fair parliamentary elections in Georgia in May. MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership. Today we make clear that we support these countries’ applications for MAP. Therefore we will now begin a period of intensive engagement with both at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP applications. We have asked Foreign Ministers to make a first assessment of progress at their December 2008 meeting. Foreign Ministers have the authority to decide on the MAP applications of Ukraine and Georgia.”

    While you may say that this statement in 2008 is not “in recent years” what has happened in recent years is the discovery of vast natural gas fields in Ukraine’s territory, which would destabilise Russia’s economy should they fall into NATO hands.

  • andrew2 says:

    Also Rebekah, following on from this, a clear decision for Ukraine to join NATO would not occur until after NATO was already fully embedded in Ukraine, because such a decision would be a declaration of war on Russia and NATO would have to be prepared to defend the country immediately from attack. What preparations have been occurring below the surface? Military coup? Military training and organisation? I don’t think they are going to announce each closer step.
    As to comments regarding “what threat does the US pose to the world”, how about everything that has happened from the Iraq war and 911 onwards? Let’s take Justin Trudeau’s actions over the Freedom Convoy as a possible scenario that awaits people who don’t tow the line going forward – bank accounts frozen, police who don’t wear name tags or badge numbers paying you a visit.
    Russell Brand’s take on this is the correct one in my opinion. The problem in Ukraine is a problem of two corrupt regimes fighting over a prize. Humanity has taken it’s eye off the ball. We have let the world be run by greedy, corrupt people who are busy trying to secure the world’s resources and control of humanity with little concern for the human cost. We have been watching the football, the cricket, the Olympic Games, Netflix, Instagram and we have let them sneek in under the radar. What is required is for humanity to lift itself to higher levels of spiritual awakening so that the grifters can’t fool us any longer.

  • andrew2 says:

    Elizabeth, I find the comment “I think resistance is psychologically valuable in negotiations even though it comes at a human cost” horrific. My mother’s family were in Poland when the tanks rolled through. My father’s family was in Holland when the tanks rolled through. In both of these situations, I cannot think of anything more horrific than putting weapons in the hands of untrained civilians and turning them into military targets. My father (aged 14) witnessed the German troops marching into his town. One came up to him and said “are you scared?” he replied “Yes” and ran away. He lived and I am alive because both countries surrendered very quickly. War is not about who is righteous, it is about who has the most power. The most horrific thing about the way Volodymyr Zelenskyy is behaving is that it shows he doesn’t care how many of his countrymen are going to die. He just wants the propaganda to show that he is good and Putin is evil. I can’t believe we are going to fall for it all over again.

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    Without throwing stones at Poland or Holland, there was also a different outlook during the war–the outlook of a country led by a man who refused to admit how badly the army was smashed by the losses leading to Dunkirk. He surely spoke for his country when he talked of fighting the Germans on the beaches, in the country, in the streets. “We shall go on to the end.” “We shall never surrender.” A leader who has that outlook, and stays with his people instead of fleeing, seems to me to be a hero and a patriot.

  • andrew2 says:

    England had the luxury of water borders and an Empire to draw from, which gave them the advantage of protection, time and resources. They still would have eventually been defeated had the United States not entered the war. No, you shouldn’t throw stones at Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium or France because the scenario for countries on the continent were far different.

  • rosross says:


    Your point about how nations like Austria, Poland, Holland etc. feel is valid but it also applies to Russia.

    The Russians have been invaded many times and savagely so, particularly by the French in the early 19th century and by the Germans in the Second World War. The siege of Stalingrad was particularly ghastly.

    Russia has been invaded by Mongols, Swedes, Japanese, Poles during its history. Nothing happens in a vacuum. If the Russians do not trust the Americans there are sound reasons for that. Who would trust the Americans given their track record of invasions?

    So, European paranoia plays a part on many counts and applies to most if not all nations, including Russia.

Leave a Reply