When the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed and China briefly looked as if it might go the same way with the Tiananmen Square protests, the West declared itself the victor, history had ended and we could sink into our sofas.
We began to get fatter and lazier. We focussed on trivia rather than issues of strategic importance. We obsessed about whether men could have babies, whether we were guilty because of slavery. We were unable to stop unarmed civilians arriving on our shores in rubber dinghies. How could we be expected to stop Russians?
My university has an excellent collection of Russian books. The subject was seriously taught until someone decided that it was no longer necessary. But hard subjects like Russian, were not replaced with something equally hard. Instead, there are courses dealing with the Da Vinci Code and the oppression of minorities in the Little House on the Prairie.
It is as if the West has decided to recline while eating delicacies only to stick a feather down its throat every few hours in order to continue its self-indulgence. Now we find that history isn’t over and we have a new Cold War only this time its coming from both sides of Eurasia. We no longer have any Russian speakers. We no longer have anyone who knows more than the basics about Russian history, society or culture.
Worse we can’t name more than two or three Chinese cities, we don’t know the Mandarin word for Hello and we can’t pronounce the Chinese leader’s surname, don’t know his first name and couldn’t name any other Chinese politician since Second World War apart from Mao.
Fortunately, we know everything there is to know about intersectionality, critical race theory and the ability of boys to become girls.
The Russians and the Chinese are laughing at our absurdity and they intend to take advantage.
China is a serious threat because of Deng Xiaoping. Unlike the communist leaders in the Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union he was able to prevent the collapse of China by crushing the protests in 1989. If these had succeeded China would not be the economic and military power that it is today. The Uyghurs in Xinjiang would have left China just as their neighbours in Kazakhstan left the Soviet Union and others would have followed leaving a Chinese core trying to be both a market economy and a democracy with a Chinese Yeltsin battling against corruption and the patronising of the West.
Instead, we have a China that can infect the West with Wuhan Flu with impunity, because it not only controls the World Health Organisation, but more importantly sell us the feathers that we stick down our throats.
It was the weakness of Gorbachev by contrast with the strength of Deng that led Russia to lose not merely the empire that it had spent centuries collecting, but also its core Rus territory.
Russia begins in Kiev and the history of Russia is the gathering together of all of the Eastern Slavic Orthodox people and then spreading Eastwards and Southwards. It was the lack of unity of warring Rus princes that led to the Russians being dominated by the Mongols for centuries. It was their unity that enabled them finally to defeat the enemy from Asia. It is not the West that Putin really fears but China. History is the same battle fought over and over.
Russia has been left so weak strategically by Gorbachev that it can no longer properly defend itself against Chinese expansionism in the Russian Far East, where the demographic situation favours China. The Chinese call Vladivostok by its Quing Dynasty name Hǎishēnwǎi. They think that it is theirs.
Putin will have made serious concessions to Xi to be given a free hand in Ukraine.
If we understood the Russian language and history better, we would know that Ukraine means literally “at the edge”, i.e., the edge of Russia. We would also know that anyone who speaks both Russian and Polish will have little trouble with Ukrainian.
Russians view Ukraine as a place that was at various times part of Poland, Austria Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. The people living there were called Ruthenians (i.e., Rus, or Russians). For this reason, it was common in Russia until recently to call Ukraine Little Russia and for the southern part to be called New Russia.
Modern Ukrainians resent this. They emphasise that they have a separate language and identity. But from the Russian perspective, Germany united people who spoke different forms of German in the nineteenth century by force of arms and if it does likewise it will be morally no different.
Putin has already brought Belarus (historically White Russia) back into his empire without actually annexing it. But if Russian tanks can invade from Belarus there is little doubt who rules and it is not Lukashenko. Putin may be satisfied with a similar situation in Ukraine.
Both Putin and Xi are intent on reuniting what they see as their territory. Xi has already gained Hong Kong and Macao, he now looks toward Taiwan.
Fighting wars to gain keep, gain or regain territory was the norm in the nineteenth century. Both Italy and Germany united by means of war. The United States held itself together by a war that prevented the independence of the Confederacy. If the Confederates had won there is little doubt that the Former United States would eventually have fought to get the South back.
The potential conflict in Ukraine is in essence the conflict between the secession movement that led to Ukrainian independence in the first place and the Russian resentment that it could not prevent it leaving in 1991. The Russians desire to get back they view as their core territory where their country began and which had been Russian for more than a thousand years. The motives of both Russians and Ukrainians would have been clear to people throughout history. It is the reason Ukraine been so partitioned so often.
The United States is going to focus on China over the next decades, because China is by far the greater threat. China has the population and it has the economics, which are the foundations of military force. The West is dependent on Chinese factories and labour.
Russia is a much lesser threat. It has a good army that it is willing to use and it has perhaps the best intelligence, plus an education system that produces people who actually speak Chinese, Pashto and Arabic. It therefore understands its opponent in a way that we do not. But the Russian economy is insignificant, it has a demographic crisis and although we depend on Russian gas, we won’t do so ten years from now.
We cannot do anything much to protect Ukraine. The European Union has shown itself to be weak, disunited and of no more strategic significance that the “First Reich” the Holy Roman Empire when faced with Napoleon.
Britain should do its best to protect our friends in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries threatened by Russian aggression and expansionism, but beside sending weapons and advisors we should recognise that we cannot stop what is going to happen there anymore than we could stop the wars of German Unification or the Risorgimento.
But the West needs to become serious. Cease teach woke idiocy in universities. This is mere decadence and self-hatred that rots student brains. Rebuild our intelligence capability by recruiting people with serious knowledge about Russia and China. Rebuild our armed forces so that we would have a chance to really deter Russian or Chinese aggression. Rebuild the NATO Alliance in Europe so that each European country makes a serious contribution to a force that the Russians might actually worry about. Cease being so dependent on the goods and resources of China and Russia. Our lifestyle depends on the whim of our enemies.
This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2022/02/he-and-she.html