Chronicle of February 22
It was coming
*Please note that this article was written on 28/02/2022, and all information is current as of this moment. Please note this is a rough draft only, and will remain so as the situation evolves.
We have all been shocked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I must admit I did not believe the situation would go this way. And hindsight analysis is of course the easiest and lowest form of discussion. But it would seem this was coming. A moment of crisis. And we in the West need to take stock and realise this could be a crucial moment and conflict. This will likely be just the first in a set of worldwide conflicts that will be happening over the next few decades. A series of failures in Western diplomacy, internal policies, and its general lethargy have led to this pass, as serious people have watched us, closely, carefully, for weaknesses they can exploit and change the world balance to their totalitarian notions of ‘equality.’
1: Failures and the changing balance
It has all started with the boring old facts of economics and demographics. The harsh truth is that Europe, the United states, and a few other nations considered ‘Western’ have been outpaced economically by China, India, and several other nations in the last generation. This has of course been a good thing in many respects: millions have been lifted from poverty. But with the economic centre of the world shifting eastward, this has led many powers – many led by vicious, soulless crocadilian dictators – to reassess the power balance and carry out their dreams of an irredentist, and possibly genocidal conquest of large sections of the world’s surface.
America got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 onward. This diverted the US and most of its allies to the middle east, while they focused most of their armies training and weaponry on anti-insurgency, something they are only now realising was a significant strategic mistake as the Russians, Turks, Chinese – the real, long-term military threat – have slowly evened up their conventional warfare capabilities, to the point that many strategists believe these nations could contend with the west militarily in conventional warfare terms.
The economic crash of 2008 illustrated the weakness of western economic systems. Its ineffective handling of the migrant crisis was another score in the dartboard, with many nations simply going their own way in terms of policies. Similarly there was obvious division with regards to Brexit, which ripped the EU at the seams and isolated Britain.
The poor EU response and high casualties at the hands of Covid were another reason: From most non-EU members eyes, this is evidence of an aging , arthiritic west that is physically and spiritually unhealthy.
Next came the open internal problems leading up to active discussion of Civil war in the United states with the storming of the capitol buildings. Not to mention the constant circus of US elections every 4 years. All this, in effect, hung a ‘free eats, come and get it’ sign on America’s door.
The utter disaster in Afghanistan was yet another sign, and it is no coincidence that this conflict – as well as renewed discussion of Taiwan and Ukraine – erupted mere months afterward.
Finally, the west’s general handling of the Ukraine itself has received much coverage, and indeed, Russia does have some limited justification in having fears of NATO nuclear missiles being placed only minutes from Moscow. Killings by Ukrainian fascists have occurred and there is no denying this. Yet the bottom line is that the bulk of Ukraine’s population is most definitely NOT fascist and has little interest in doing anything except defending itself. I have personally visited the country and no such evidence existed – I personally saw numerous ethnicities living together peacefully in Lviv, Ukraine’s historic capital. Generally speaking though, the West has much to learn that such ‘tip and run’ diplomatic tactics- refusing to rule out NATO membership for Ukraine, in effect notionally threatening Russia, then also refusing to back it up with troops before an invasion – is something to learn from, especially in Taiwan: either be ready to fight, or be honest and don’t sell people out.
Westerners themselves have not helped this situation. Many Western Politicians, universities and media outlets have openly propounded either far left or far right attitudes that, at worst, are downright traitorous. On one hand, we can see ex-president Trumps statements about Putin’s ‘Genius’ in his invasion of Ukraine. Yet one should not ignore that ‘Woke’ rhetoric, which has permeated so many of the usual forums for grounded discussion has stultified discussion, and generally taught westerners to undervalue themselves and their own core values, of a secular, democratic, socratic tradition, and replacing it with a bunch of notions that in this authors opinion are also borderline seditious. Teaching that multiple values systems are equal – in other words, that Islamism, Russian ethnic nationalism or Chinese Communism are equal to the West’s ideas is just plain wrong in this authors view. And there is no way round this. The obsession with race and gender (though only very specific issues of race and gender as pre-approved by the church of woke) has diverted and distracted westerners at a crucial moment. There is a deep spiritual crisis and moment of self-doubt going on in the west, which has been carefully observed in Beijing and the Kremlin and elsewhere. Much of this is a genuine guilt over the West’s colonial past and failures closer to the present as in the unwarranted invasion of Iraq and failure in afghanistan. Yet the bottom line is that A: current generations of westerners are not responsible for the sins of their fathers. And 2: It is unwise to ignore that similar ideas of guilt hobbled post-Versailles Britain and France’s response to the growing Nazi threat in the leadup to 1939. Had they responded more quickly and firmly, they may well have prevented war to begin with, as in Czechoslovakia.
While Westerners have become overfocused on race and gender issues, far more serious people in China and Russia have been looking on, licking their lips in prospect of a meal.
Can anyone truly blame them? Vladimir Putin and Xi Xinping inhabit a different world which is far away from the air-fairy over-moralistic world that many western citizens do. Their ideas are driven by nationalism, a sense of settling scores and changing the international balance to suit themselves, and darwinian “we’re stronger, therefore give us your stuff” thinking.
3: Ethnicity and China
The weaponization of ethnicity as by Putin in Ukraine has been a long theme in the last century. Many nations have used this as a prelude to invasions of other countries, to justify their irredentist wet dreams. An obvious example is of the sudetanland Germans, who justified Nazi Germany’s takeover of said regions. Many of these ethnicities don’t want to ‘reunite’ with their ‘brothers’ in aggressor nations, such as Taiwan or, indeed parts of Ukraine itself, Latvia, Estonia, etc.
China, with its vast, growing economy, classically orwellian techno-surveillance methods, scarily growing new military backed by growing missile forces (including the hypersonic weapons much-discussed) with ranges stretching into the Pacific and cyber-warfare methods is now actively considering an invasion of Taiwan, and doubtlessly watching this situation rather closely. In my opinion, this is just the first step China will take in essentially conquering the region or establishing a sphere of influence, a fresh ‘Sino Co-prosperity sphere’ if you will. There are large Chinese minorities in Malaysia, and Indonesia, as well as smaller ones scattered around South-East Asia, not to mention the Ethnically Chinese (and democratic) city of Singapore. All of these ethnic chinese could provide a sort of moral justification for future Chinese military action. After all, these ethnic Chinese have a history of being discriminated against (Bumiputera policy in Muslim Malaysia), and the mass slaughter of communists in 1965-66. Nor is it clear that Taiwan or even the united states could stop this happening without the use of nuclear weapons. US aircraft carriers are increasingly vulnerable to China’s missile systems and stealth aircraft, not to mention that
Despite its current, reasonable relations with these nations, one should learn from history: An intelligent leader like China’s Xi would know not to simply try to invade all these countries at once, and to divide them up and take them one at a time, installing favourable governments through any means necessary. Even if he does not have some grand plan to take over this region, it would be unwise to ignore the possibility. During the British takeover of India, the British consistently did not have any ‘plan’ to take over the subcontinent. After their initial victory at Plassey, they found themselves in charge of Bengal. Realising this, and realising how vulnerable the rest of India was to a potential takeover, they proceeded to annex and destroy different states there as the situation evolved, despite their own government frequently trying to stop them doing so. The point is, many conquests evolve from a single moment which can in turn spin off into more, crucial moments as the conqueror realises that opportunities exist. Few empire’s have some ‘master plan’ for conquest. They just are.
All this may sound ridiculously extreme, but the world has had a way of being unpredictable the last generation. Who predicted Covid or 9/11?
Bringing all this back to Ukraine, one can see this in China’s downright ridiculously hypocritical statement that (Paraphrase) ‘they don’t believe in sanctions’ – despite the fact that China has actually used just such unilateral sanctions against Australia, and threatened such against many other nations as its power has grown.
Sanctions are unlikely to do much damage in this author’s opinion. Vladimir Putin has carefully planned this war out, though admittedly the military part of that planning has been found wanting. Unfortunately – and bearing in mind my opening statement about how the economic centre of the world is shifting – most countries outside of Europe and the US have NOT imposed sanctions on Russia, including the bulk of Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, and of course, China. Crucially, in the leadup to the Russian invasion, a treaty was announced between Putin and Xi Jingping, the leader of China. This promise a ‘new era’ in the global order. The treaty itself involved new trade links between the two, somewhat cushioning Russia from the sanctions in a Molotov-Ribbentrop moment like the Nazi-Soviet division of Poland just prior to the beginning of WW2. In this Author’s opinion, it is conceivable this new treaty, much like the said pact, has secret clauses we may not be privy to, though we will have to wait and see on this issue.
The bottom line is that anyone who still thinks Russia is economically ‘isolated’ is just plain kidding themselves.
5: Ukraine itself
We have all watched the Ukrainian’s resistance against what many analysts were expecting would be an easy ‘walkover’ battle. And it is easy to get swept along with the amazing patriotism and bravery the Ukrainian people have demonstrated. But as of this date, it is still probable this may change. The Russians (who have only committed 50% of their available forces in this theatre), commit their reserves, bring up heavy artillery including the much-feared TOS-1 thermobaric weapons, and commit Chechen fighters (who have a dire human rights record and are frequently used as a weapon of fear). Indeed, such a scenario played out in the second siege of Grozny some 20 years ago when the city was essentially destroyed, and in Aleppo. Yet Kiev has a vastly larger population and significantly larger defence forces. Interestingly, the TASS news agency (one of the Russian state organ’s spewstreams), has suggested that Ukraine’s main forces in Donetsk and Lugansk have been ‘surrounded’ and this will eliminate some of their best forces, freeing up many more Russian troops to overrun the rest of the country. Indeed, they have stuck to the eerie talk of ‘political reforms’ that has led most to conclude this is still a takeover bid in one form or another. One Indian general has suggested that Kiev will likely fall no matter what, likely with immense loss of civilian life, and this author is in concurrence with this view. As brave and awe-inspiring as Ukraine’s president has been in his resistance, we need to look at the long-term possibility of assymetric warfare, and guerilla resistance, with most of Ukraine’s government being brought out of the way of harm – The Russians possibly intend to shatter part of Ukraine’s infrastructure, then leave, though it is hard to see what this will achieve in the long term now that the west is dead set on rearming this country. Either way this will not be a short conflict. And on a strategic level, as irresponsible and horrific as this is for the Ukrainian people. One needs to bear this in mind when drawing up plans for weapons shipments and keep an eye on how this effects Russia, as well as that countries ability to continue assymetric conflicts as in Afghanistan.
6: Regional powers and irredentism
Many regional powers have also seized the opportunity to live on their irredentist dreams. For instance, Turkey’s psychopathic president, Tayyib Reccip Erdogan, who is a supposed NATO member and ally, has been going lone ranger for years. He has threatened Greece and multiple other states with military action in the name of rebuilding the old Ottoman Caliphate, not entirely differently from ISIS did back in Syria/Iraq. He has a large, powerful and growing military including its much-feared TB drones. Turkey took advantage of divisions within western powers, such as Germany’s extraordinarily milqetoast response, as well as the unbelievably slow, bureaucratic response within the EU system before the French Prime minister Macron, much to his credit, stood in for the Greeks and showed leadership against Turkey (and the declining, but still significant) threat of Islamism where other European leaders shamefully did not. In the Caucuscus, Armenia was basically thrown under a bus by Germany and others against open Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression. Russia was betting on the same situation in Ukraine, but fortunately it would appear that this has not occurred. In this author’s estimation, it is entirely possible that Erdogan, the aggressive, borderline psychopathic leader of Turkey, who is currently beset by an economic crisis and essentially playing both sides in the Ukraine conflict, is entirely likely to simply rip up his NATO membership and ally with the new Russo-China Axis then go on his own imperial bender as diversion for the fact that he isn’t actually that good a domestic leader. One should not ignore many other nations stated nightmrish desires: North Korea, Burma, to some degree Iran, and several others are eyeing this situation.
As in many of these situations, the Turks seek to retake lands lost during the decline of their empire and the rise of Western states, and also divert attention from these countries rising democratic movements. Yet, whatever about past infamies, the harsh reality is that the current occupants of the Greek islands want to stay, democratically, with Greece, and have little interest in being a part of a mono-religious state that has a track record of discriminating against and at times ethnically cleansing minority groups, as well as its totalitarian leader. This is the principle that applies to many of these situations: So many western imperial powers, in the past, carried out brutal slaughters that form the basis of the modern world, and it is fair to say that the current ‘rules-based’ systems put in place by the US and others have not been entirely fair to everyone, especially in terms of trade flows or territorial boundaries. None of that justifies invasions, ethnic cleansing or destruction in reverse in the name of redressing some grand balance in the present. The bottom line is that the world has changed, and the current inhabitants of these regions don’t want to ‘go back’ to some ancient balance.
All of this must seem dreadfully nihilistic. However I feel that we should not ignore realities nor bury our heads in the sand with regard to the intentions of Xi, Putin, or anybody else. They are not our friends. And their power is increasing whilst ours is not. And we will be facing an era in which the West’s options or ability to stop the expansion of these other powers will be limited.
The fact remains that if China, Russia, and other nations decided to test the west’s resolve, say during a US general election, this might be too much for the west to deal with, especially if it were divided. All that Russia or China need do is wait till the next US presidential election cycle (Which, in an astounding systemic weakness, hobbles and weakens their international response to things ranging like the Turkish aggression in 2020).
The Baltic states are obviously quite vulnerable to Russian invasion, with the crucial, narrow Suwalki corridor between Kaliningrad and Byelorussia an easy target, while Moldova (also geographically vulnerable and with its own Russian-speaking minority plus Russian base) is another, along with Georgia. It is easy to state that NATO and the nuclear umbrella it provides may deter Russian expansionism, but in this author’s view this should never be taken as a given. The bottom line is that Russia and China see the West as morally corrupt, politically divided and weak – and they just might have a point. They are likely to continue testing its resolve.
However there are many things that can still be done, such as increasing our countries military budgets, massively reforming our economic infrastructures to be more competitive as Joe Biden attempted to do last year, and of course supplying Ukraine with vast amounts of weapons, especially asyymetric weapons, though in this situation it is possible the Russians may simply destroy the infrastructure of this country and leave. Getting the balance between unnecessary capitulation as in Czechoslovakia and unnecessary aggression as in 1914 or Iraq 2003 has haunted policy makers, and should be something we need to get right at all costs. A misstep could lead to a nuclear holocaust. Yet any unnecessary copping-outs could lead to the destruction of hundreds of millions of people’s freedom, and a new world order that I think few people really want to live under.
The west needs to A: solve its internal problems, quickly, reform the US electoral system and solve the continuing issues of identity and terminal left-right conflicts which have beset it and unbalanced it the past decade. B: Come up with a unified and extremely firm strategy worldwide, with no equivocation as with Germany and Italy (who have recently U-turned in fairness) this will just be the start. There is still much to hope for: India’s place in this new world may be significant, and there are many potential allies worldwide, with their own growing economies that will serve as bulwarks against the aggressive expansion of China and Russia.
While I was in Ukraine, I bought and purchased two model plastic cows which I keep on my mantelpiece, staring at one another. Bringing the left and right back together in the West is important. If they cannot compromise and devise a unified strategy, our fate is sealed. Freedom and the package of rights which come with it should never be taken for granted. Yet Ukraine’s resistance shows there is life in us yet.
That is my final word: good luck to the people of Kiev, to the people of Ukraine and so many others who have gained and lived in freedom.
Slava, Ronan Stewart.