Events have happened apace since Russia commenced its Special Operation a couple of months ago. A situation that was unthinkable a year ago is evolving at a frightening pace both in and out of the Ukraine, and with that, the possibility of armed conflict between Moscow and NATO has never been so near. In light of the progressive deterioration of Ukrainian affairs as well as the vitriolic rhetoric coming from the western capitals, many are examining the prospects of conflict across Europe. This article however will look at the matter from a slightly different perspective.
Setting the Scene.
Before speaking of the potential fun and games which may come before summer is over, we must first look at the key spheres of power, which will shape affairs that will surely have the world following a very different course than it has over previous decades. More importantly, we have to view how not only the political élite but also the countries and people will react to their nations suddenly not only being at war, but suffering the privations that this may involve.
Nothing happens in the world without Uncle Sam somehow involving himself. If not the instigator, he insists at being at the head of affairs, his historical omnipotence still being respected by many, even in the face of a rapidly-changing global power shift. The corridors of power are inhabited by those who profit most from the wars he fights and supports, yet as we have seen in Afghanistan and Vietnam, there comes a time when he is forced to cut his losses and run.
Either as members of the EU or NATO, most European nations alongside Switzerland, Finland and probably Sweden are sitting right where any action is most likely to happen. Moreover, they have also been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that things really do happen to Washington’s benefit. In spite of this, as Russia has finally reacted to the malfeasance on its borders, the unity which has been the byword of western organizations for decades has shown rifts between member states. Some nations offered the Ukraine assistance long before others, a number of countries pushing hard against Russia whilst others have stood by refusing to become embroiled in transatlantic powerplay. Quite how solid European foundations really are can only be tested by actual conflict, yet with the diverse nations and histories of Europe having caused immeasurable divisions before, it is likely that if push came to shove, some nations would push for war a lot harder than others.
The US Empire.
These are nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, each attempting to stoke the fires of war safe in the knowledge that the resulting blaze will never come near their own shores. All have made huge efforts on Washington’s behalf, yet if war were to break out, it would be interesting to see what human resources they would risk in a conflict of their own making.
Hungary and Serbia.
Hungary is both in NATO and the EU with Serbia party to neither. Notwithstanding, both nations are very conscious of the current climate and unwilling to involve themselves in others’ business. This has caused more than raised eyebrows in Brussels, Budapest not wanting to bear the consequences of Europe’s support of Washington. Serbia is far more pro-Russian, yet has taken a very balanced approach to present proceedings since February. Neither nation wishes to go to war, yet their western neighbors consider inaction to be collusion, their stance being that ‘you’re with us or we’re against you.’
With all that said, Europe can be divided into three categories, western and neutral nations along with Russia. Now that lines are drawn in the sand, we have to put the masses under the microscope.
Western Social Warriors.
As ever, the first population we need to examine is the United States, and it doesn’t matter which way you look at either the nation or people, it is anything but united. With a criminal élite running the show and criminality and guns playing such a big part of the everyday lives of so many Americans, were it not for the fact that there are so many Joes that just tolerate this state of affairs, the place would have exploded decades ago. This country truly is the birthplace of virtue signaling, apparent equality and social justice, yet with so many people trying to be different from everyone else, the mind boggles as to how most of the Americans under forty could ever be coerced into either hardship or fighting for their government. Subsequent administrations have made life so bad for so many that the army is the only option for those from poorer backgrounds, and were it not for the ‘economic draft’, Uncle Sam would have great issues staffing his huge military machine. In terms of how wars, both past and present are considered by the public as a whole, with forever wars having the importance they have had over recent decades, conflict is considered by many everyday folks to be avoided at all costs. The Stars and Stripes may fly as high as the stories regarding the alleged American bravado of a century ago, but the average American today has no intention whatsoever of joining the armed forces unless absolutely forced to do so.
Things are little better in Europe, with armies paying far less and private sector jobs therefore being much more attractive. Once upon a time, armies turned away all but the best candidates, yet today, few wish to serve. Recent decades have seen ever-greater difficulties in filling the ranks at the same time as the younger generations are too busy trying to either be someone else or support the cause du jour rather than having any objectivity regarding anything of importance. Give most of the youngsters a flag and they will gladly wave it, yet take away dial-up pizzas or internet and you can wave their support goodbye. The many battles that have taken place throughout the old continent during the last millennium do to a very small degree play a part in the common psyche, yet traits such as ‘the Blitz mentality’, whilst often voiced, are scarcely to be seen in the modern demeanor.
At the same time as Europeans have largely forgotten the pain and crimes of the Second World War, the same conflict, known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia, is remembered every year. Those who lost family members, even eighty years ago, still commemorate the fallen without fail. Moreover, having suffered the deaths of over twenty five million, many of them to the horrors of both Leningrad and Stalingrad, the Soviet people were the real victims of the 1940s. Fast forward to today and in contrast to western nations, all Russian men have to complete military service. This is considered an essential part of their life, irrespective of their chosen career upon completion. This means that not only is army life part of every household, so is national pride, the importance of this impossible to overestimate.
As has been seen, the people of Russia are diametrically opposed to most westerners in their mentality, yet the countries and their economies also have a big part to play.
It is known by all that the US is the richest economy on the planet, yet far fewer realize that it has the highest level of debts. Fewer still care to mention that it has no real way, imagined or otherwise to resolve this critical issue. As Gonzalo Lira recently mentioned, if the US was any other nation, the IMF would impose austerity on the country immediately. In case of war, just as in World War Two, the Fed can print money at will, yet unlike that time, even with the Great Depression affecting the US as it did, Washington was not facing a financial hole as large as it is today. Another stark comparison between today and ninety years ago is the fact that the American manufacturing sector has shrunk drastically, the country today relying so heavily on imports whilst the skill base has shrunk so much.
The old continent has followed the same policies as those on the other side of the Atlantic, yet not quite with the same reckless abandon as Washington. The same ills are still present however, and with the fall in manufacturing output over the last thirty years, not only are more nations reliant on the Far East, they have also lost skilled workers, this shortfall of knowledge needing decades to be replaced. There are also the implications regarding both soaring homelessness as well as immigration, many nations welcoming people from overseas, with no useful skills whilst abandoning their own people on the streets.
Europe, just as elsewhere in the West, has also seen ever more wealth move into ever fewer hands, the average citizen today being markedly worse off than he was in the nineties.
The situation from Moscow’s point of view is altogether different. The years prior to the millennium were a catastrophe for Russia, only Putin’s rejection of the western model and his curtailing of the oligarchs gradually returning the country to viability. This has, over the last fifteen years been achieved against the efforts of the West, Washington et al never forgiving Russia for putting an end to the feeding frenzy that was started by the Harvard Boys. With state coffers fuller than they’ve ever been and a broad range of Russian interests from arms to agriculture now making the country strong again, rather than the slow decline seen in the West after kicking Russia, Moscow is bouncing back in spite of the now futile western efforts to the contrary. This year has seen Moscow insisting on the ruble being used for trade, this taking the control of its trade out of the hands of others whilst ensuring that Russia’s importance as an exporter is matched by the importance of its currency.
Now that we have looked at both East and West, let’s see how they fare against each other in a variety of ways.
From Then until Now.
This article is not concerned with war itself, the countries and potential efforts by the public to support their governments’ endeavors being of greater interest. Twenty years of derision from the West and provision by Russia have reversed trends that were originally initiated to give the West everything that it wanted. With that, a rising anger on the part of Russians both in and out of politics has been matched by absolute complacency in the West, money it hasn’t got being spent whilst people with nothing have been made everything.
Dragging and Drugging.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Russia has dragged itself out of the depths of the post-Soviet pillage that the capitalist model subjected it to, yet in the West, leaders have been drugged on power whilst millions of westerners need their fix just as much as social ills need need to be fixed. With the average Muscovite never having had it so good in decades, on the other side of the divide, it is in so many cases only illicit goods that keep many people going.
Of Riches and Rags.
After all the TV shows about Beverly Hills and Monte Carlo, this is not the lot for the average westerner. In fact the further we go, the further the West is from anything that even remotely resembles what the rest of the world is taught to think. For the vast majority of people, life, just like governmental affairs, is only possible through an abundance of credit that nobody has a clue how to repay. Moreover, not only real life, but also the life we are supposed to lead is in many cases far above where means dictate. After all of that, for every mansion we see there are dozens if not hundreds of homeless whose predicament is as hopeless as the system that created them.
Russia looks the other way however, ensuring that everyone who is willing to work has accommodation, a job and a decent if not excessive lifestyle. Many have laughed at the apartment blocks seen in Russian towns and cities, but they are fit for purpose, affordable and ideally suited to the harsh Russian climate. They naturally vary in price depending on the location, yet so do wages. Credit is available, not only for mortgages but also for loans as they are in the West, yet a person or family does not depend on money they haven’t got because to a very great degree Russians do not want things that they do not need. Returning to the subject of homelessness, with the weather in Russia being as cold as it is, were people sleeping rough, the death toll would be mind-boggling and it is for that reason that the cardboard cities seen across the West are virtually absent in the Russian Federation.
Têtes à Têtes.
Finally we look at the people themselves. Today the western world which championed freedom of expression with its social media has to an ever-greater degree become its own victim, these making the West what it is. Everybody is attempting to be somebody, yet with so many anybodies being complete nobodies, society is generally trying to be something that it just cannot be. Keeping up with the Joneses now takes precedence over keeping up the loan payments, a wannabe dream world just one default away from becoming a nightmare.
Crossing the divide we see that bread and butter appear far faster than foreign holidays and the latest iPhone, needs being attended to long before dreams are even thought of. Everyone wants to make their lot better, yet the Russian mindset revolves around getting the basics in place before looking any further. Many laugh at Russians driving round in Ladas, yet rather than breaking the bank, basic affordable wheels make much more sense than putting the brakes on necessities in order to buy the latest SUV. Simply put, needs must rather than needless lust.
The three decades since Reagan and Gorbachev made their deals has seen a good deal of change, yet for all the talk of political shift, the mindsets of their peoples have altered even more. An era when the US reigned supreme is now over, yet at the same time as the people have decided that Russia is the enemy, very many of them now struggle to decide if they are a man or a woman. The traditional values which Russia still holds dear are not only forgotten by most in the West, but vilified in favor of increasingly arcane values that are an offense to anyone with morals. This issue becomes far more acute when set against current events, millions parading the streets, campaigning for what they believe is right without the slightest intention of ever standing on a military parade in order to actually fight for what they say they represent.
The flip side of the coin is that the last two decades have not only seen the measures that the West has leveled against Moscow but that a ‘Russian Renaissance’ has been made to happen fully within Russia by Russians themselves; the success of the West has in general been achieved using wealth from elsewhere and at the expense of other nations. Russians are never more at home than when in Russia, and being able to buy their own apartment and play in the park is far more important than trying to buy a trailer to put in a park…