Saturday, October 1, 2022


Voltaire famously said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. The same can be said about Russia. It has always been an aberration, better at bulk than at sophisticated packaging. Nevertheless many have underestimated the weight of the sheer size of the place which escapes rational imagination. Napoleon and Hitler misjudged what they were getting in for. Besides, the isolationism which prevails in large parts of the country makes it immune to trends and accepted rules that prevail elsewhere. 

It is said that at Yalta when President Roosevelt proposed a toast to peace, Churchill whispered to an aide 'a piece of Czechoslovakia, a piece of Poland, a piece of Romania...' Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Lots of Western and other leaders have tried to come to terms with Moscow. Dr. Kissinger and President Nixon succeeded to a point, insofar as they never made an attempt to normalize the Soviet Union. They suggested an acceptable modus vivendi. As soon as President Gorbachev tried to normalize things from the inside, undermining the corrupt elites, he paid the price.  After the Yeltsin/Falstaff intermezzo, Putin stepped in.

He lifted the standard of living and modernized the look of things, without fundamentally changing the power structure, indeed enlarging it. The new Russian elites have shown that they were able to absorb foreign influence for themselves, while others remained largely shielded from liberal ideas. Probably this is the reason for an overriding sense of melancholic alienation which pervades in Russian literature.

Putin's Ukranian adventure is risky. Ignorance is bliss as long as the bluff holds. When it will be impossible to hide any longer the bad news out of Lyman or the body bags, the entourage around Putin will get the jitters. Hooked to Western luxury goods which are hard to get now, they do not want to further jeopardize their pathetic decorum and faux glitter. The clowns in eastern Ukraine who were paraded in the Kremlin circus have the popularity of former Nazi Gauleiters in  territories under occupation. Obviously there are many Russophiles there with little legitimacy, but there are many others.

The Ukranians and the West are facing a major quandary. If the Eastern annexed territories are Russian (in Moscow's view), will any military retaliation there by Ukraine be considered by Moscow as an act of war, with all the consequences thereof ? Does NATO have to freeze any request for memberhip from Kiev? Should long-range strategic weaponry, which could reach Luhansk & Co., be delivered to the Ukranians, or not?

This hybrid war will only aggravate the many problems that confront the West and the EU in particular. Europe sold its soul to Russian energy. History will judge if Chancellor Angela Merkel erred or not. Anyhow, she found enough willing partners in the EU to steer her policies forward. 

Pain is still a safer outcome than war. One should not give the Russian voyeur the pleasure of observing an EU in disarray. London suffered during the Blitz and by doing so England drove Hitler mad. There is a lesson to be learned there. Ukraine should receive all the sophisticated weaponry it requires. The West cannot partake in a Russian charade. If it cannot take a cue from the known Potemkin representation, it should return to the history books.

Yesterday was a bad day for Europe. One should not make it worse by not responding to a nefarious imposition or by being oblivious to the many Russians who let their views known by leaving the madhouse.

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