The most difficult thing for most people to grasp is that the first mover of history is not people or events but ideas. The thing that sets it all in motion is a mental construct or a set of constructs that form the concept of a potential future. It is this mental image, not always well defined, out on the horizon that motivates men. Often the popular players in the drama are not fully aware of the ideas behind their actions. They are men of action, not thinkers, so they act on what they believe they know.
The simmering conflict in Ukraine between Russia and the American empire is a good example of how ideas drive events. On the surface it looks like a petty and pointless conflict between two old rivals. As Pat Buchanan notes in his recent column, Ukraine is meaningless, in terms of national interest, to the United States. Buchanan is speaking in practical terms here. Ukraine has nothing but corrupt politicians and poor people who deserve better than their current rulers.
This lack of practical interest does not prevent the usual suspects in the American foreign policy establishment from claiming otherwise. They see Ukraine as another block in the containment wall they are hoping to build around Russia. For them, the Cold War never ended, because their hatred of Russia goes back to much older ideas about Russia and Eastern Europe. For them, Ukraine is important because it is important to the Russian sense of itself.
For Russia, Ukraine is the line in the sand. Their role in the region goes back to the very dawn of the Russian people. Not only does this region have practical interests for the Russians in terms of doing business with the West, but it is the Russian frontier with the West, the place where the West ends and Eurasia begins. The American empire annexing Ukraine into the West is an act of war because it is the next logical step in the West invading Russia proper, a habit going back to Napoleon.
There you see another one of those ideas that is driving the scheming sessions in the West over Ukraine. The American empire is animated by a set of ideas we now call liberal democracy. One of the ideas within that basket of concepts is the belief that there is only one moral way to organize a society. That one way, conveniently enough, is liberal democracy. Anything and anyone opposed to it is outside the family of man and standing athwart the flow of history.
The alternative to that universalist belief in liberal democracy, the thing that stands in the way of history, is not an alternative universal belief, but rather the rejection of the claim to a universal order. The opposite of the unipolar, global order organized around a secular religion is a multipolar world that reflects the different histories and traditions of the human family. In other words, what opposes liberal democracy is the rejection of it being the one true god of man.
This is what lies at the heart of the Russian interest in Ukraine. Few in the West bother reading Dugin, but he is rejected as a neo-fascist ideologue because that is how the hive mind of liberal democracy works. In reality, Dugin is not much of an ideologue but more of the rejection of ideology. Universalism is the traveling partner of ideology just as it is with religion. The ideologue starts from the assumption that his beliefs are correct, which by defining means the alternatives are wrong.
Duginism accepts that there are many ways for a people to organize themselves and these ways are tied to their history as a people. What works in the West is not going to work in Africa or Eurasia, because the history and traditions of the West that created liberal democracy do not exist in other places. To impose liberal democracy on a people without the necessary ingredients for it is no different than forcibly converting a people to a new religion, which is the liberal project at heart.
As this applies to Russia, it means the interests of the Russian people are only tied to the global order in so far as the global order tries to impose on them. History says Russia needs to maintain a buffer zone between itself and the West in order to guard against whatever the global order is calling itself at the moment. The long open country was what defeated Napoleon and Hitler. It is what is required to defend against the American empire and its cultural forces.
This is why war between the West and Russia may be inevitable. Universalist creeds like liberal democracy cannot abide by dissent. That is why the West in general and America in particular operate like theocracies now. Dissent, even in the mildest form, suggests the one true faith is flawed. Worse yet, it suggests it is proper to question the tenets of the faith. This suggests the wheel of history does not move as the faith requires, which calls the whole project into question.
This is why the American empire must bring Russia to heel. Washington views Russia as it does heretics at home. The annexation of Ukraine is not about mundane things like money and power. For sure, powerful people are benefitting from this by cutting deals with the crooks running Ukraine. Opportunists exist in every stage of history. What is animating foreign policy, however, is a millenarian zeal to finish the liberal project and bring about the final chapter of humanity.
On the other side, it is why Russia must resist this encroachment. In order for there to be a Russia it must exist outside of this ideological space called the West. Russia is defined by being both in Europe and outside of Europe. The Russian people have always been at the top of this alternative order populated by the people of Eurasia, so they exist to maintain it. To succumb to the West, to be incorporated in the liberal order, is to cease to exist as a unique people.
At a practical level, the war over Ukraine is a pointless fight over trivial stuff, but it is the ideas behind it that make it world changing. From the perspective of the mullahs in Washington, the survival of the West is at stake. From the perspective of Russia, the survival of the Russian people is what is being challenged in Ukraine. Even though the Finlandization of Ukraine looks like a practical solution, in reality there is no compromise between these two conflicting ideas.
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