Russia’s justifications for its invasion of Ukraine, like america’ excuses for its invasion of Iraq twenty years earlier, show that world powers have didn’t be taught the teachings of imperial hubris – theirs and others. From the traditional Greeks and Romans by means of to the more moderen French, German and British powers, geopolitical vanity is infamous for breeding deadly political stupidity.
Because the tide of war turns against Russia in Ukraine, the Kremlin’s failure to attain the promised swift victory could also be attributed to Vladimir Putin’s smug assumptions on 5 main fronts.
First, the Russian president overestimated his army’s readiness for a protracted battle of selection and misjudged Russians’ eagerness for empire by power. Russia has develop into slowed down in a pricey and considerably humiliating confrontation towards a militarily inferior however extra decided enemy. As Ukrainians volunteered to combat and sacrifice for his or her nation, Russian troopers started to abandon their models and Russian males started to flee following a partial troop mobilisation.
This leads me to Putin’s second ignorant assumption about Ukraine – a perception that Kyiv would give up inside days. Like different imperialists, he underestimated Ukrainians’ resistance to occupation and their dedication to independence. He assumed a shared future for Russia and Ukraine due to their shared historical past, when most Ukrainians hoped for a break from Russia’s imperial previous. If Ukraine’s impartial nationwide id was doubtful, Putin’s battle has ended that, galvanising Ukrainian patriotism like by no means earlier than, all of it aided by Western assist.
That was Putin’s third miscalculation. He calculated that NATO was weakened by Donald Trump’s “America First” method to Western safety and would due to this fact be gradual to react to occasions within the East. He additionally assumed that Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gasoline would make it troublesome to sever relations with Moscow over Ukraine. He was wrong. American boldness and European leeriness in direction of an emboldened and aggressive Russia have introduced the 2 sides of the Atlantic ever nearer.
In parallel, Putin assumed that the US was in utter decline, weakened by its Afghan and Iraqi blunders, hindered by financial and home issues, and preoccupied with the rise of China, and would due to this fact react timidly to a wider disaster in Ukraine. Once more, he was mistaken. Not like his predecessors’ timid response to Russia’s incursion into Georgia in 2008, its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and its meddling in Western elections, US President Joe Biden used the invasion of Ukraine as a chance to unite the West towards Moscow, and to cripple the Russian economic system.
All of which leads me to Putin’s vainness and self-righteous assertions, the worst of all sins. Pushed by a way of non-public and nationwide grandeur, he championed the worldwide combat towards a liberal decadent imperial West, whereas main as a ruthless dictator, appearing on his personal intuitions and private dogmas with little or no regard for democratic processes or worldwide norms.
Opposite to the argument that the West left Putin no choice however to invade, the Russian chief did in truth have a selection, and he intentionally selected battle. He thought of diplomacy with a Ukrainian chief who he thought took his marching orders from Washington to be futile. So, as a substitute of courting Ukraine, he determined to crush it, as a result of as the traditional Greek adage goes “the robust do what they’ll and the weak endure what they have to”.
In impact, Putin has done all the bad things he has accused the West of doing, and within the course of has undermined the anti-imperial trigger worldwide.
Which brings me to American and Western hypocrisy over Ukraine. Putin, the Chilly Battle spook, might have develop into paranoid, however the US has been no harmless bystander. Washington has condemned Putin’s sabre rattling in Eurasia whereas enthusiastically supporting the Color Revolutions there, notably the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine – all whereas not backing the Arab Spring revolutions a decade in the past. It has demanded that Putin cease interfering in his neighbours’ affairs whereas it continues the decades-long harmful marketing campaign to remake the Center East, a faraway area it by no means really understood.
The Biden administration has righty condemned Russia for violating worldwide legislation in Ukraine nevertheless it has achieved the identical and worse in Iraq, whose folks have paid a horrendous price for no fault of their very own. Biden has by no means apologised for supporting the disastrous battle as a US senator. He and the remainder of the US international coverage institution believed the battle would finish rapidly as American troopers had been welcomed as liberators. Then President George W Bush foolishly declared “mission completed” when the actual battle had solely simply begun and would go on for greater than a decade.
Biden has framed the battle in Ukraine as one between democracy and dictatorship whereas doing all he can to enlist the assist of a number of the world’s worst dictatorships towards Russia. Yemenis, Palestinians, Syrians and numerous different victims of battle and occupation have been ignored in favour of Ukraine.
Final week, the US and its allies blasted Russia for annexing Ukrainian territories, however have saved quiet concerning the Israeli annexation of Syrian and Palestinian lands. Biden, a self-declared Zionist, has been quiet about his predecessor’s choice to maneuver the US embassy to Jerusalem. British Prime Minister Liz Truss, one other self-declared Zionist, is contemplating doing the identical for the British embassy.
Exposing such hypocrisy is necessary for objectivity, which has been totally missing in a lot of the Western mainstream media, and extra importantly, as a result of the US must cease this pretend “holier than thou” angle and assist carry a swift diplomatic finish to the battle in Ukraine. Earlier than the battle will get worse.
Whereas Ukraine might have turned the tide for now, Russia has various choices, together with the usage of overwhelming airpower and tactical nukes.
However the much less doubtless flipside situation must also be prevented, as a result of humiliating Russia might result in the chaotic disintegration of its federation, simply as Moscow’s defeat in Afghanistan accelerated the implosion of the Soviet Union. Solely this time, the end result might be messier.
In brief, hubris and hypocrisy are likely to feed into one another, leading to even larger blowbacks and the eventual decline of empires. It’s certainly nauseating to listen to Russians and People repeat the identical outdated justifications for battle as in the event that they had been credible or authentic. We all know from the traditional Greeks all concerning the tragedy of imperial wars as Thucydides recounted it in his impeccable historical past of the Peloponnesian Battle some 2,500 years in the past. And we’ve seen it repeat itself repeatedly all through the previous millennia.
So why then do world powers proceed to make the identical pricey errors, anticipating totally different outcomes? Does vanity breed insanity too?
Bear in mind, the good be taught from their very own errors, the clever be taught from the errors of others, however solely the silly be taught from neither, as we see in Ukraine right now.