Since I wrote my piece on the Russians using Syria as a test bed for the war in the Ukraine, https://wp.me/p2oiqJ-3VT things appear very differently. The seemingly more professional Russian army has not been evidenced in the war so far. The military reforms sought by the former minister of defense, Anatoliy Serdyukov have not been properly implemented and the same basic aliments that have plagued the Russian army since WWII, and many even during that war, are still relevant and embarrassingly so. I leave to those more familiar with the war of the ground in terms of tactics and strategy to keep us informed on that but I will concentrate on the human aspect of this war, factors which have afflicted the Russian army since WWII.
The first one is that the Russians have long considered the Ukrainians “little Russians” And many have assumed that the Ukrainians would see them as their “big brother” as did then Serbians in the Kosovo war of 1998-1999. NATO intervened on the side of the Kosovo Albanian Muslims using air bombardment including B-52’s to force the Serbs into a negotiated agreement resulting in the creation of an Albanian Muslim Kosovo. The Russians saw themselves as defenders of the Serbs against an anti Slavic coalition led by the United States. The Pan-slavic ideology is an old one. Like the pan-Arab movement that resonated in the Middle East in the 60’s and 70’s , one that advocated a united Arab World ( especially pushed by the wannabe leader Abdul Nasser) pan -Slavism was once a very powerful ideology, especially in Russia. It includes some 14 nations, including ; Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, and Russia. Although it is no longer a front page ideology, traces ( or more) of it are still powerful in Russia.
Hans Kohn in his book, Pan-Slavism; It’s History and Ideology, describes the feeling of indissolubility of Ukraine from Russia. ( The Ukrainians, among the peoples of the Soviet empire furnished the second highest numbers of troops to the Soviet war against the Germans ). This despite the Holodomor, the Soviet Russian famine imposed on the Ukrainians. Moreover many Ukrainians , especially, those of eastern Ukraine, long for the certainty and nanny state of the Soviet Union and view the Kiev government as fascistic. The omnipotent, omnipresent, Soviet/Russia propaganda has implanted this view. No doubt the majority of the Ukrainians, especially in the Western part of Ukraine are anti-Russian. One example of this is their often hearty welcome of the German. invaders in WWII. They flocked to the banners of the Nazi troops that invaded the Soviet Union and provided some of the most anti-semitic auxiliaries to the German army, such as concentration camp guards. The many scenes of Ukrainian crowds cheering as the German SS troops led away their Jewish neighbors, people they have lived with for generations, should not be forgotten.
The Russian elite have always been antagonistic toward the West, even using the animosity between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church ( and Protestantism) as part of an enduring war of existence. All the great Russian writers, with possible exception of Turgenev have been anti Western, including Dostoevsky. The intelligentsia of the “Eastern world,” “Third World,” the “South”…other outmoded terms for non Western nations,- share this view. This evident in the tepid support (or total opposition)of the Eastern world nations for Ukraine, despite the Western exhortations for their support.
The anti- Westernism of the Russian elite is congruent with the prevalent feeling among the so called intelligentsia of the Muslim and Eastern world., including the Chinese. Make no mistake about it, the Eastern intelligentsia is hoping for a Russian victory. They don’t see the unprovoked Russian attack on a smaller sovereign state as a bully on a weaker underdog. They see it as a war against the arrogant, colonialist, supercilious, immoral, society of the West against a more traditional, uncorrupted Russian society. It has to be understood that the result of a Russian victory may be very detrimental to the interests of the Eastern world, but the imbedded, nativist, animus against the West prevails. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky being Jewish, dovetails nicely into the paranoia prevalent in the Eastern world. In the Islamic world, the Protocols of Zion is still a big seller. They see Ukrainians as simply naive shock troops used by the new Romans (Europeans) using the Gauls (Ukrainians)against the Easterners (Persians) manipulated by the Jewish financiers.
The Western establishment elite, the policy makers, opinion makers, especially in the United States, know little of ancient world history. Who reads Will Durant, Edward Gibbons, or Arnold Toynbee today?# Those that do are usually buried in some dark, dusty ivory tower, isolated from the power elite– leaving the field to ill-educated academics who claim to be experts. They abound in the “Think Tanks,” carefully providing suggested policies and opinions that are in harmony with the views of wealthy benefactors of the Think Tank. As Durant wrote the best preparation for study of the present is the study of the past-for that is where you will understand the nature of mankind. He wasn’t referring to last weeks news either.
I began this blog post quite some time ago and since that time the momentum of the war has changed. Its is now apparent that time is not on the side of the Ukrainians . Several pieces of information indicate this. First of all the millions of Ukrainians who fled the country, (about 20% of the population) only a small percentage have returned, indicating they are not sure that Ukraine has long term viability. Secondly there have been several purges of the Ukraine government officials in a country notoriously corrupt, and there has been a number of command changes in the military as well indicating dissatisfaction of the way the war is going. In the U.S. those wishing to find out what is going on in the Ukraine military situation( like me) have had to resort to understanding the trends by what is not covered by the media– much like Soviet citizens have for decades– an exception being a a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
So now the question is this……… If the Russian juggernaut begins to crush Ukrainian resistance what happens to Western resolve? With the possible exception of Great Britain and few other smaller nations European resolve will melt. What will the US do? The Eastern nations will no longer be coy about support for the Russians. The idea that the weak Biden government will rise to the occasion is beyond possibility. The US public has been very happy to cheer from the sidelines but being physically involved will not wash.
And no doubt a conclusion of the war with Russia driving the train, whether a political settlement with part of Ukraine remaining in Russian hands or a Russian occupation of all the Eastern Ukraine will be seen as a Russian victory and a win of a resurgent East over a weak and hedonistic West.
# I would recommend Samuel Huntington’s The Clash ofT Civilizations. Despite vociferous and trenchant criticism by the” we are one village ” ersatz historians, his observations are evidenced everyday. Also Charles Hill’s Trial of a Thousand Years. He discusses Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West