The root of Putin's aggression is 500 years old

How many “new standards” can we handle? It is said that Putin’s war against Ukraine will trigger a “new cold war”. I’m not ...

How many “new standards” can we handle?

It is said that Putin’s war against Ukraine will trigger a “new cold war”. I’m not so sure. In some ways, what Putin is trying to do is not sort out the results of World War II, but World War I.

Listen to me. If you were to draw a timeline of human civilization since, say the ancient Romans, the world only worked on one principle: if you wanted it and had the strength to take it, that was up to you.

From the 1500s to the end of World War I in 1918, the western world was in the age of empire: the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire, etc. . Some 500 years of European imperial history ended in 1918. , and brand new nations were formed: Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the USSR in place of the Russian Empire. The world has entered a new era.

But what was it?

The world took leave of all this death for a few years which we call the 1920s, during which the League of Nations – the West’s attempt to prevent such a massacre – failed. In 1929, the world collapsed into the Global Depression, which allowed the rise of Nazism and Hitler in Germany, as the world was simply too caught up in the Great Depression to stop it.

What Hitler did then was precisely what all Western nations had done for centuries: take what he had the strength to take and keep taking until a greater force stops him.

It was Hitler’s genocidal massacre that took him away from 600 years of Western power games. The formation of the United Nations was intended to bring the world together so that another Hitler would not arise.

But the Cold War from 1945 to 1991 was not the new era that World War I ended. It was more of a pause, while the world settled the (nuclear) Cold War, which was the tangled end of WWII, which was really just the tangled end of WW1.

The 20th century – for the West – was mainly the story of trying to unravel the age of empire that died first in 1918 and then again in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet empire after World War II, which was really just the centuries-old Russian Empire. , who himself fell in 1918.

And we still haven’t gotten to what comes next. That’s why Putin chose a Hitlerian posture for his attack on Ukraine, he makes an old new normal: the new swastika in his “Z” tag. Putin himself always refers to World War II to justify his land grab. Denazifying Ukraine in 2022? Sounds as silly as QAnon!

Putin, like much of the West, cannot understand what is coming next, so he looks to the past. America and Europe believed that the end of the Cold War marked the era of liberal democracy. But a generation later, liberal democracy is also running its course – collapsing much like the Soviet Empire: from within, through internal rot. Internal contradictions, as the Bolsheviks said.

Which brings us back to Putin’s war, our new normal, because it could take years to sort out.

Why then is Putin able to invade Ukraine?

First, he is a dictator. And like Hitler, he surrounded himself with henchmen who long ago stopped feeding him reality, and gave him only what he himself had regurgitated. First they poison their own country with propaganda, then they come to believe their own propaganda, then their underlings, collaborators and boot lockers start feeding the dictator only what he wants to hear. As the Wicked Witch says in the musical “Oz,” “Don’t nobody bring me bad news!”

But most importantly, what happened after the era of empires and the bloody turmoil of the 20th century in 1945 was actually a new world order! Yes, it was the United Nations system, much like the failed League of Nations, that was supposed to govern international norms and relations.

And as with the League, the United States played a crucial role in its founding and formation, then turned its back on the very system it had created: for the second time in half a century.

And while we enjoyed the supremacy of our post-Cold War liberal democracy, the world went to hell in a hand basket labeled “Made in the USA.” Precisely because the world needed foreign policy globalization in a UN system, but what we allowed was economic and corporate globalization, which undermined liberal democracies everywhere and the international rule of law.

So while we want to storm the barricades in solidarity with Ukraine, we will always be behind the proverbial 8 ball when it comes to dealing with dictators like Putin – there is nothing for the stop, as with Hitler, except the response of the world after the aggression began. And it took six years.

If the oceans of bloodshed in the 20th century are worth it, all we have to do is that we, dear readers, we Americans, start thinking globally, as the saying goes, and then act only locally.

Sad, huh? This simple understanding could be considered a radical posture.

I so wanted to write a fiery play in defense of Ukraine and denunciation of Putin, but the world is doing it. And I’m fed up with denunciations, fed up with demonstrations and mobilizations. The left with these tactics has never stopped a war, not once.

We are still looking, or just waiting, for the sequel. Yet every time the world drowns in blood, we create a citadel of peace, then abandon it.

Joe Gannon, teacher and author, lives in Easthampton. He can be reached at

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Newsrust - US Top News: The root of Putin's aggression is 500 years old
The root of Putin's aggression is 500 years old
Newsrust - US Top News
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