In the past few weeks, I have commented several times on the way Western media and politicians either overlook or fail to understand the Russian Way of War as implemented presently during the military operation in Ukraine. They judge the success or failure of the Russians by what the U.S. Armed Forces would do if their objective were to subdue Kiev. With no ‘shock and awe’ opening by the Russians and considering the very slow progress of their move to free the entire Donbas region from Ukrainian control, Western commentators consider the Russian effort a failure.
Perhaps the most extreme analysis and most dangerous conclusions were presented on 6 May by a British journalist who has for decades written about Russia and is widely considered to be an expert, Mary Dejevsky. Her article in The Independent was given a heading that almost says it all: “By hyping up the Russia threat, the west helped ignite this war. It turns out that Russia had a far more realistic idea of its own strength, or lack of it, than the west allowed.”
In the body of the article, Dejevsky takes us back to the days of the USSR, which despite its faltering economy in the Gorbachev years was considered in the West to be a military powerhouse. The country’s poor performance in the Afghanistan war and then the total collapse of the Soviet Union forced a revision of the mistaken notion of a military threat from Moscow.
Now again, she believes the West has overrated Russia’s arms. She supposes that the arms manufacturers in the West have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth. However, Russia’s poor results against the Ukrainian forces, which have been trained and supplied by the West, compels us to think again.
Unfortunately, Dejevsky goes beyond this observation, which is shared by all too many Western commentators. Her concluding paragraph merits full quotation:
“The west fatally misread a weak state as a strong state, meaning that its attempts to second-guess Russia’s behavior largely misfired. If there is to be any new relationship between the west and Russia – which is unlikely to be very soon – the west must start with this basic reassessment. It must accept that Russia is a weak state, and that the west and Nato are strong.”
Quite amazing that she does not see what is right in front of her nose. About Russian military strength, the fact that Russia now occupies a part of the Ukraine bigger than the United Kingdom thanks to its advances in the ‘special military operation’ somehow does not register. As for economic strength, it is also amazing how blind she is: the market economy of Russia today is vastly more resilient than the command economy of the USSR. Indeed, no other country on earth could have withstood the ‘sanctions from hell’ that the USA has imposed on Russia since 24 February.
But my key point is that if Russia is deemed to be weak, then American and EU pressure will have no limits and will precipitate a reaction from the Kremlin that takes us straight to Armageddon. Vladimir Putin has threatened precisely this and he is, above all, a man of his word.
Now I would like to direct attention to delusional thinking on the Russian side that may in its own way head them and us to Judgment Day. The material for my commentary is a front page feature article on today’s online edition of Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a high quality pro-Kremlin newspaper.
Pride of place in the right column is an interview with Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. His position may be likened to that of Jake Sullivan in the USA. He surely has the ear of Vladimir Vladimirovich and what he says in this interview should worry us all.
Patrushev opens by stressing that the root evil in present world crises as in the past is Washington’s striving to consolidate its global hegemony and to prevent the collapse of the unipolar world.
“The USA does everything to ensure that other centers of the multipolar world do not dare raise their heads. However, our country not only dared but declared for everyone to hear that it will not play according to imposed rules. They have tried to force Russia to renounce its sovereignty, its self-awareness, its culture and its independent foreign and domestic policy. We have no right to agree with this approach.”
So far, so good. I broadly agree with Patrushev on the foregoing. But the problems begin as he proceeds, in particular his expectations of what the future holds for Europe:
“What awaits Europe is a deep economic and political crisis for the various countries. Growth of inflation and lowering standards of living already are making themselves felt on the pocketbook and in the mood of Europeans. Moreover, large-scale immigration adds to the old threats to security. Almost 5 million Ukrainian migrants already arrived in Europe. In the near future, their numbers will grow to 10 million. The majority of the Ukrainians arriving in Europe expect Europeans to maintain and look after them, but when they are forced to work, they begin to rebel.”
Patrushev goes on to forecast food shortages that will push tens of millions of people in Africa and the Near East to the edge of starvation. To live on, they will try to reach Europe.
He concludes: “I am not certain that Europe will survive this crisis. The political institutions, supranational associations, economy, culture, traditions may all recede into the past. Europe will be gnawing at its knuckles, while America will be rid of its main geopolitical fear – a political alliance between Russia and Europe.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Patrushev is confusing what he would like to see happen with what indeed will probably happen. Intellectually mediocre, conformist and slavish in their pandering to the American overlords as the leaders of the EU Member States and EU central institutions may be, they are unlikely to lose political control at home. Their instinct for survival is not that far gone yet. Moreover, passivity and indifference to the political class are the rule in most of Europe. What the highly unpopular Emanuel Macron just achieved in winning reelection is proof positive of that reality.
Patrushev’s belief in Western weakness is as fraught with danger as the notion among the U.S. and European political establishment that Russia is weak. These misconceptions easily lead to reckless policies of brinkmanship.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022