The Acute Worries of a 20th Century Historian

I fear that we have very limited time.

The Russians have clearly convinced themselves of the truth of their own “Stab-in-the-Back” myth with Gorbachev, Jeltsin, the Democrats and the Balts in the role that the German frustrated nationalists gave to the Jews and Socialists. We have passed the two decades that it took last time for the myth to drive action.

As then aggressive nationalism is married to a deep and arrogant conviction of the weakness of the opponents due to their decadence. As then the opponents of the West have hostility to its modernity common. In their mind we have proven by our actions that the Russians have a window of opportunity. They get open encouragement from like-minded forces among us such as the regressive and increasingly repressive Hungarian leadership that we have failed in reacting to, totally ignoring what we say we stand for. Putin’s view of our weak, liberal, humanistic, individualistic, tolerant, violence-rejecting societies mirrors that of the Islamic State – and that of Hitler and his henchmen.

As then success develops a momentum and expectations. You may consider Georgia: the Rhineland, Crimea: like Austria and Eastern Ukraine: the Sudetenland. We are now seeing the warm-up to the equivalents of the early 1939 events with the West giving guarantees unsupported by real power. Events accelerate now as they did then, driven by the domestic policy needs of Putin under economic pressure.

By mental and practical preparations Putin has gained escalation dominance. The West is now diverted to the Middle East as Britain was to the Far East then.

In his eyes the fact that London allowed the Scottish referendum to proceed proves his point. If “Yes” to independence next week it will undermine the main political bridge in the Atlantic Alliance and create another small internationally immature, neutralist, appeasing Nordic country in a key strategic position search of an alternative position in the world. The Scottish National Party has already promised that an independent Scotland will never do anything that might irritate its Muslim minority.

A key politician of another such small Nordic nation, the Faroe Islanders, has just used the fact the Islands is a part of Denmark outside the EU to bypass sanctions to increase their export to Russia. The islanders’ economy and welfare is heavily sponsored from Denmark, but the Ukraine is a large “country far away about which they know so little“. It is a long Nordic tradition to let others do what it takes to safeguard their independence and future while benefiting as much as possible economically from the suffering of others. Most Swedes deeply believe that this elevates them to a superior moral position. It is a widespread decease that nations feel unhappy without the ability to be superior to others in at least one field.

As then the West believes that regaining strength from the results of economic recession must be given first priority, because our history-deprived leaders, mostly political scientists or jurists. They believe that no political development not outlined in current (economic) theories can be predicted if not an extension of known, progressive trends. Therefore one must wait to act until the future has become an urgent “breaking news” present.

Putin is now digging into his country’s pension saving to sustain his populist and popular action. How long time can he do that? How long time could Japan of 1941 run on oil reserves.

The main difference now is nuclear weapons. But remembering the 1980s’ discourse: are they usable for us, the reacting side? Especially if we have to improvise as now with no visible forward deployment highlighting the risk?

Hope that somebody can convince me that I am wrong that I am just an old paranoiac and pessimist.

I know that history does not repeat itself, but I also see all too clearly that a combination of human frailties such as narrow-mindedness, opportunism, self-delusion, opportunism, egoism, bucket-passing and avoidance of responsibility etc. is a basic condition.

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