October 1, 2022

Vladimir Putin is a bad guy. Vladimir Putin is a megalomaniac. Vladimir Putin is a criminal. All those things are true. Similarly, Adolph Hitler was a bad guy, a megalomaniac, and a criminal. But Vladimir Putin is not Adolph Hitler and Russia in 2022 is not Germany in 1938/39. But in both cases, the future of the world hung on / hangs in the balance. But maybe not in the way you think….

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Much of the western world was already engaged in war in December 1941 when the United States joined the fight. Most of Europe and much of North Africa were under the boot of the Nazis. Meanwhile, the Japanese continued their control over Korea and had already invaded French Indochina (today’s Vietnam) and large parts of China. German U Boats were prowling the seas sinking ships around the world from belligerents and non-belligerents alike. There was a world war going on; we just weren’t active, frontline participants before Pearl Harbor. However one looks at that period, the world as we know it was under a fierce attack that eventually would have enveloped the rest of the world, including the United States.

In February 2022 none of that was true. Sure, Russia invaded Ukraine after invading Georgia in 2008 (then leaving after six months) and annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. And sure, Vladimir Putin has been saber-rattling about reconstituting the lost parts of the USSR. But the world in 2022 was not like in 1938/39….

NATO didn’t exist back then. The UN didn’t exist then. More importantly, the economic integration of European nations to one another and the rest of the west didn’t exist to the extent it does today. Lastly, in the late 1930s, the Nazis had the most powerful military on the planet, while today Russia’s troops are rightly seen as inferior to most they would face in the West.

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When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the world was not on the brink of anything resembling a world war.

If you took a time machine and went back to February 2022 and asked the American people if they’d be willing to spend more than $50 billion and send the world into an economic tailspin if Russia invaded Ukraine, my guess is they would have said no. They might have talked about bulking up NATO forces, they might have talked about sanctions, but I doubt they would have supported propping up a corrupt regime in a notoriously corrupt nation with tens of billions of dollars that taxpayers already struggling under the weight of inflation and economic malaise would have to pay. Nor would they have wanted to bring America and the world to the brink of a nuclear cataclysm.

Image: Joe Biden (cropped). YouTube screen grab.

But here we are, six months later, exactly there, with Vladimir Putin opaquely threatening to use nuclear weapons and the leader of Ukraine goading the United States to strike first with its nuclear weapons.

What is saddest about all this is it didn’t have to happen. A new piece in Foreign Affairs states, “[I]n April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries.” So essentially, in April, less than two months after the beginning of the war, the parties involved were close to agreement with returning to the status quo of what existed the day before Russia invaded. But the agreement collapsed. Why? Two words: Joe Biden.

Pravda, a Russian mouthpiece, claims that Boris Johnson tried to block any peace negotiations. Again, that’s Pravda, but it comports with known facts and Johnson never denied saying in private what he’d already said in public.

So, essentially, the combatants had resolved their conflict, only to have the west appear saying it would rather have more war. The “they” in that statement is telling. Johnson was no doubt acting on behalf of the man who “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades”; that is, Joe Biden.