Note: The Monday Taki post is up. I was not sure about this one, but sometimes you just have to go where the original thought takes you. Sunday Thoughts is up behind the green door and it is all about the big story.
General Hastings Ismay famously said that the point of NATO was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Since the 1950’s this has been the commonly accepted view of the alliance. After the war this made perfect sense as the Western nations faced off with the Soviets. There was also the well-understood fear of German nationalism. Britain and America had just gone through a terrible war in order to defeat the Nazis.
This sentiment carried on through the Cold War, even though it should have become obvious that German nationalism was no longer a real fear. The generation that fought the Cold War, however, was haunted by the past. NATO was just one example of an institution that evolved around the fear of nationalism in general, but that special nationalism in particular. The added threat of communism, which was often described in the same terms as fascism, only added to the fear.
This fear was obvious after the collapse the Soviet Union. The reunification of Germany was the central concern, as Europe reorganized. Margaret Thatcher was opposed to German reunification on the grounds that she was still not sure the Germans had been cured of their desire to conquer the world. The Russians, of course, had other reasons, in addition to her ancient fear of German nationalism. The post-Cold War period would also be haunted by those old fears.
This specter continues to haunt the minds of American foreign policy elites, who have transferred old fears of German nationalism onto Russia. NATO probably should have been dissolved or replaced after the Cold War. As a practical matter, it existed to check the Warsaw Pact, which no longer exists. Russia was flat on her back after the collapse of communism and the rest of Europe was rushing to embrace liberal democracy and American consumerist economics.
Most important, it was obvious to anyone engaged with reality that Germany was long past nationalism, especially that special form of nationalism. In fact, fascism in general existed only in the fevered minds of oddballs out on the fringes and the professional antifascist on the Left. As a political force, political fascism was less relevant than monarchism in Europe. The only role left for NATO was to keep America engaged in Europe, which could be done economically.
Of course, those old fears have proven to be far more important than observable reality among American elites. Since the 1990’s it has been a relentless drive to expand NATO to the edge of the Russian frontier. First it was the old members of the Warsaw Pact then it was Balkan nations. Then it was the scheme to add the former Soviet republic of Georgia, a nation thousands of miles from the Atlantic. Then, of course, it was the scheme to add Ukraine to NATO.
It is assumed that the sole reason to keep adding nations to NATO is to contain the Russians, but that old fear of German nationalism is still there. Germany is now the dominant economy of Europe and the leader of the European Union. It is the German relationship with both Russia and Ukraine that is at the heart of the current crisis that had led to war in Europe. Germany has been developing stronger ties to Russia, especially economic ties, and Washington hates it.
This is why Washington has refused to even consider peaceful solutions to the crisis in Ukraine over the last ten years. Those disputed eastern provinces have been racked by a civil war for close to a decade. Estimates vary, but the consensus is that twenty thousand people have died there since 2014. The Ukrainian government has been supplying those militias with weapons, which come from the United States through the Ukrainian military or various NGO’s.
Obviously, one driver in all of this is corruption. War is good for the war business, so the usual suspects have been happy to provoke all sides in this conflict. Zelensky has been for sale since day one, so he has been easy to manipulate. The greater issue has been the number of important Americans on the payroll of the Ukrainians. Hunter Biden is just one example. Many others have been taking bribes from Ukrainian interests seeking to profit from the turmoil.
None of this would be possible, however, if Washington were not haunted by the shadow of long gone figures. The old joke was that the foreign policy establishment wakes up most nights to the sound of hoofbeats. While certainly true in many cases, it is also true that they live in the shadow of antifascism, which has become something of a cult among the American ruling class. Who they are now is defined by the fear of and opposition to that long gone political movement.
This strikes the practical minded as implausible, but people are not willing to sacrifice for practical things. That should be obvious now. The Russians are risking economic isolation in order to restore their pride and sense of identity. This war will cost them economically, but it will all be worth it to feel that ancient pride again. The Ukrainian soldiers who know they are fighting a hopeless battle, will fight to the end because there are things more important than stuff.
The crisis in Europe that promises to plunge the world into depression, revolt and possibly nuclear war is not about stuff. It is about that old specter that should have been consigned to the history books long ago. It is the apparition of fascism that has driven Western elites to the brink of madness. Their desire to free themselves of this haunting is driving them to try and reorganize the world in opposition to it. Instead, they are driving the world to organize against the madness of the West.
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