Not too long ago, a Ukrainian singer won the Eurovision competition with a rousing song called 1944 about the fight that the nation faced against the Nazi war machine, made all the more tragic that getting rid of Nazi Germany only meant oppression from Russia as part of the Soviet Union for nearly half a century more. One wonders what sort of songs will be written about the war of 2022, where Ukraine has once again found itself to be host to an assault by Russia and various puppet regimes. Perhaps taking a page of the generally defective rhetorical playbook of contemporary leftists, Putin has claimed that he is engaging in a disarmament campaign and a denazification campaign in Ukraine, showing his fondness for the big lie that he shares with a great many other contemporary dictators and their imitators.
In one of my many conversations with friends about the war in Ukraine and what it means, I was asked what is next, and what other countries are vulnerable, every nation I listed to my friend–who is himself in the Middle East–was a place where we had mutual friends. Two of them live in Taiwan, another couple of them live in Estonia, and so it goes. Recently I have had the chance to look at a map that shows the military expenditures of NATO nations, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the only nations that have been good at spending money on their military to keep it in a state of readiness and preparedness are those countries that have a tradition of military operations (the USA, UK, and France) or those who border very dangerous areas–the Baltic nations, Poland, and Greece. It seems as if having a close border to Russia makes one aware of the danger that one is in, to prepare accordingly.
I noticed the attitude of a nation that seemed to feel it was under siege when I visited Israel in 2007. A great many of the people I traveled with seemed to prefer Jordan, but being a person who has some understanding of what it feels like to be under siege, and thus in a state of being permanently vigilant and alert for threats, I was far more empathetic. Without being a particularly warmongering sort of person, I wonder how it is that one could avoid signaling one’s weakness in ways that make the world as a whole a more dangerous place. There are ways, both formal and informal, when our honor is at stake and we find ourselves pushed into a corner and unable to act with a great deal of freedom because we have made promises that are being called upon, regardless of how enthusiastic we are about repaying them.
As I write this there is fighting going on in and around Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It seems quite likely that despite the brave efforts of Ukraine’s army that the capital will fall sooner rather than later. It is unclear what this means as a practical matter, as Ukraine has the space and likely the national will and popular fervor to resist indefinitely and it is unclear what Russia’s ambitions are for the long-term, given that Ukraine is increasingly unwilling to be dominated by Russia or to accept a neutrality that leaves it isolated and dependent on Moscow, and Russia is unwilling to let Ukraine find itself into a European political and military and economic order that leaves it all the more isolated itself. Russia seems determined to rule or ruin, and the odds are looking high that ruin is the most likely outcome of all of this violence. How far those ruins will extend remains to be seen.