“America, the Exceptional” By Richard Sale

Richard Sale headshot (2)

It cost some labor to put these musings of mine together because I am not a scholar on Russian history or the Cold War, but an obsessive reader who turns to books to try and figure out what is happening in certain areas of the world.  And it seems to me that the suspicious superiority with which we greet Russian pretensions today is not new, unique or surprising.

John Dewey once said that “habits are conditions of intellectual efficiency,” but when reactions to something new is habitual, we are in a lot of trouble. There have been many warnings by distinguished historians who claim that failures in international diplomacy are chiefly due to a certain national willfulness in pushing ahead idealistic conceptions to save the universe, combined with an inability to see events from another’s point of view. We see this today in the Ukraine crisis. We Americans don’t see other countries for what they truly are, because when a conflict comes, we look for similarities where we should be looking for differences. When we don’t find similarities, we become bitter. We Americans believe that if other nations had made more strenuous efforts to adopt our priceless values, our structures, and worshipped our innovation and hard work, their countries would have turned out to be more like ours — not good to be equal to us, but sufficient enough for history.  There is only way to salvation in the world, we have taken it.

What lies at the base of many of our attitudes of judgment is national conceit. We don’t see others as being different from us. We don’t attempt to see events of another’s history objectively, but through the narrow lens that idolizes our national self image, an image that has never truly existed, but which never gets repudiated by U.S. public opinion because it is so flattering to us and to our pretensions of virtue. In our eyes, the events of our history seem just another testimony of our unique success in the world.

 President Wilson’s Illusions

The Obama administration seems to me a cracked bastion of outdated Wilsonian principles.  President Wilson, as you recall, framed foreign policy preconceptions based on a peculiar idea of human nature and worldly order. Man, he said, was essentially a peaceful creature and because of that, democracies were more peaceful than countries who weren’t democratic and people of other countries who became democratic and who were granted the right of self-determination, would have no reason to go to war. (The naiveté of this leaves one speechless.)  Unfortunately, in the words of the French diplomat Talleyrand, this was not simply stupid, it was a mistake.

We all know what our values are — the promotion of democracy, human rights, collective security, and economic prosperity. The result is that s a nation, we enjoy a loathing of anything that smacks of realpolitik; and we despise the concept of the balance of power or any policy based on spheres of influence because of its immorality. And because we are always right in the eyes of God or men, our assumptions are rarely logically vulnerable.

When we try to promote democracy or try to impose a moral framework on countries where it is simply not applicable, we run into trouble because the history of others can’t be duplicated — their traditions, necessities, and historical imperatives, the habits and customs of their populations, are driven by their own unique past and culture. We Americans allot ourselves infallibility there should be uncertainty, trial, exploration, groping for a keener discernment, reaching for finer perceptions in order to get used to what is unfamiliar to us, and because it is unfamiliar, threatening to us. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, our own national conceit, the idea that our history has already found the answers that will bring harmony to the world and requires no others, thus has a tendency to deform what we explore.

What is the source of this overestimation of America’s virtues and conduct?  What is the source of this excessive, national self-regard? We see in American policies all sorts of posturing, ostentation, competitiveness, envy, self-display and a lust for power, not only in politics but in the public imagination.  When it comes to comparing ourselves with other nations, we always triumph, but why? I believe it is because of an error of perception – a defect of sight so grave that what is merely small is seen as gigantic, a mere speck is perceived as a planet, the needle is perceived as a tree, the lowly scuttling crab is seen as a dinosaur and so on.

There is another factor as well.

I think it was George Kennan who said that it is hard for any us to come to a reasonable and honest self-estimate, either as individuals or as a nation.  As a very small boy, the first inkling I had that someone found me interesting was my grandfather. I was a good singer with one of that high-pitched boy’s voice, and he would collapse in joy as I belted out Rodgers/Hammerstein songs like “Oklahoma.”  In other words, our self estimate is mainly founded on the reactions of others to our personalities, and it is the same with nations.  They, like us, want to be seen, recognized, praised and approved and thought well of. Favorable recognition is every human being’s unacknowledged god, but it is also the god of a every nation as well. Every country craves for first-rank standing.  The thirsts for the glorification of the national ego are always present everywhere. Unfortunately, in America, the exalting consciousness of our virtue often blots out our ability to examine accurately our faults. We are incessantly engaged in an all out scramble to be seen as more talented, resolute, fearless, industrious, morally upright and virtuous, and we pretend that our competitors in the world, who are vying for the same thing, are simply doing so from the wrong basis. Conceit is always slanted, partial and unjust. In our lust for self-admiration, we forget that our worship of our predominating power in the world implies another’s subordination to us, or that the expansion of our national power implies the relative powerless of someone else in the world community.

Russia and Its Fears

“In what is truly tragic,” wrote Hegel, “there must be valid moral powers on both sides that come into collision. Both suffer loses and yet both are mutually justified.”

We in America are quite at home with the Monroe Doctrine. We are completely complacent about it. Competing nations with their own idea of national interest were never consulted. We simply announced unilaterally we would control the affairs of North American and Latin American countries. We had secured our own sphere of influence in North and South America, yet we bridled when a country like  Russia, with a system hostile to ours, did basically the same thing in its own areas of national security after WW II.

Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe was a very calculated, vast, sinister and brutal plan for expanding and consolidating Russia’s power.  Beginning in 1944, the Soviet Union swept into the Baltics, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, northern Norway, Poland, etc, and the Soviet government used its armies to impose communist power on helpless, conquered states and peoples. Stalin once said of WWII, “This war is different from wars in the past because the armies will spread their own social system as far as they can reach.”  (This is not the actual quote, but close enough.)

The West was off balance in the early days of 1945-47. The United States had expected that the Russians after the war would to rebuild, institute economic reforms etc. U.S. actions in 1945-7 were designed not to jeopardize U.S. Soviet relations. Speaking of Eastern Europe, Churchill said of Stalin that he did not want war but he wanted to enjoy the fruits of war. Stalin was obsessed with security of the countries bordering Russia, and he quickly set about recovering all the Russian territories that had been lost at the end of WWI.  What was startling and off-putting was the Soviet ideology – the belief that Leninism would one day conquer the world and extend its faith and power over the whole Earth, and that anything that furthered that aim was right, and whatever hindered it was wrong. Any objections of historical fact were merely bourgeois pedantic niggling. There were no such things as “truth” any more, there was no need for trust, and the Soviets felt it was fine to falsify facts and they would feel no shame if their truthlessness was exposed.

For the United States, WW II was fought for solely for military victory and American policy eschewed any diplomatic goals beyond that victory. We had no Eastern European policy worth mentioning. President Franklin Roosevelt cared about the Poles because America had six million Polish voters. He disliked the idea of spheres of interests, but it is indicative of the shallowness of his thought about any sound or realistic diplomatic settlement with the Soviets in the East by casually telling Stalin that U.S. forces would leave Europe within two years. What had been balanced became sharply askew.

It should be remembered too that Russian forces were the chief agent in bringing about Hitler destruction chiefly because of Moscow’s command economy that had mastered the techniques of mass production where the Nazis had not.  So after World War II, the Soviet Union left its huge armies in Eastern Europe, keeping the East Europeans under the frightful rule of the secret police and military domination. But the Russians had gained those prizes at a frightful cost, and they intended to keep them for its own security.

So we sat back there, passive, and hoped that the corrosion of time would curtail and weaken the Soviet Empire. Again, at the time, we did not want to challenge the Soviets directly. We had no means to. Except for a few American diplomats like Bohlen, Kennan, Harriman, Soviet expansion was not something to get alarmed about yet – Russia had been expanding since Peter the Great. In fact, in 1946, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said that a European war was most likely break out between Britain and Moscow, and the early American analysis of Eastern Europe tended to ignore that any country’s policies are extremely influenced by internal conditions and degrees of strategic necessity. Clearly, the predominance of power of any country offers the temptations of abuse to its neighbors.  Many nations including France, Spain and Germany became aggressors when circumstances gave them the chance to. Russia was no different. I know of no country where its virtue is free of conditioning circumstances. Russians and Americans have a habit of portraying the path of virtue as being the same as self interest, but it is a bad habit.


Poland was the nation state that rubbed Stalin where he was very raw.  For Stalin, Poland was the key corridor for any hostile country whose intent was to invade Moscow, and he would go all out to subjugate Poland and close that corridor.  He felt no pity in his nature and nowhere is this more evident than when he let his armies withdraw during the Polish Uprising, and simply looked on, unmoved, as the Nazis put down the rebellion, slaughtered the rebels and razed the city.

So one can imagine the feelings of Putin, the Russian leader of a collapsed empire, who looks on today as Poland, now a NATO member, is conducting joint war exercises with the U.S. Air Force. You can imagine the dire fear and truculence that shivered down his spine at the sight.

Putin’s outlook, his anxiety about Russia’s security, is an indelible feature of  Russia’s history. The S.U. was incessantly obsessed by external threats to its power, constantly obsessed with appearing strong, continually obsessed by the fear of being encircled. In this, it was much like 20th century Germany or today’s Israel.  Underneath Russia’s policy of appearing to be strong at all costs, there has always existed a layer of nervous uncertainty. Communists or no, the Russians have always paid homage to some mystical national unity, and the Soviet system, like the Tsars, had, from the beginning, been addicted either to the use of force or the threat of force, as the chief instruments of negotiation.  Russian policy thought that it was more important to inspire fear than to inspire confidence, more important to intimidate than accommodate. The Russian fear of encirclement left the Russians unaware that it was their own methods and menaces that had produced the very resistance and reactions that they had feared. And it must be asked, how many wars have been fought by nations to make the world safe for their own national system, ignoring the legacy of resentment that their actions have produced?  For many countries, there is no need of lucid persuasiveness if they have enough troops to threaten people.

The Rickety Empire

The Soviet Union was a sprawling structure that actually operated from a very narrow base of power. It was established in the desperation of 1917, when the Tsar collapsed and small, terrorist groups, crammed full of Marxian principles, seized power and then were able to survive famine, a civil war, and the interventions of outside countries in its first years. This was a system of a centrally planned government ruled by intimidation and terror under a Communist ideology.

The realization was somehow lost that in spite of its vast military power, the Soviet Empire remained an extremely backward country.

U.S. foreign policy has always been slow to separate a political threat from a military one. After WWII, two hostile systems had squared off, centralized socialism versus capitalism, democracy versus totalitarianism, both claiming their happy triumph would cap the history of the world. Both countries had a system and national beliefs that pretended they were universal, when they were actually hostile and mutually exclusive.

Soon the two hostile systems began to see each other as the seat of all evil in the world. They had an eye only for each other’s atrocities. They saw each other as two poisoned, separate wells of life. Thanks to the propaganda of both sides, the U.S.-Soviet rivalry was soon seen as a struggle between good versus evil, and the tragedy is that soon such a struggle turns foreign policy into a melodrama, involving mischaracterizations and oversimplifications on each side. Many American leaders felt that any opponents
of the United States must be lacking in virtue or they would not be opponents, so the United States approached the war with a screen of official and self serving stances, instead of seeing it as a predicament, not simply the product of someone else’s wicked will. All too often in a contest, moral judgments are merely political ones in disguise.

Kissinger and others argued that America’s power had to be focused on national interests or a “balance of interests” that were to be bolstered by American ideals, but he and others maintained that while ideals were a key requirement for American foreign policy, ideals and principles were not the main requirement for framing a sound policy. Calculation, the astute reading of personalities, and knowledge of history were key elements in framing policy, not ideology. When you saw nations in terms of their ideals, you got a false idea of what was at stake, and when you saw history in terms of melodrama, you got a deeply flawed picture. No great power in the world is ever competing for sainthood.  Neither side in the Cold War seemed aware of the fear caused by their own actions and responses, as I said earlier.  We Americans are addicted to the concept that the ambition of evil is to destroy anything better than itself.  We believe that opponents of the United States must be lacking in virtue or they would not be opponents. We perceive Evil is always vicious, predatory, exploiting, destructive, and murderous because it locked in a war with the more sound, more generous and more elevated principles. Unfortunately, this fake melodrama leaves us with very harmful characterizations and oversimplifications that aren’t vulnerable to logic.


The Soviet Collapse

The collapse of the Soviet Union was an event without precedence in history. It wasn’t invaded, it wasn’t subverted, it wasn’t defeated, it simply imploded, settling into the ground like a huge, rot-ridden house.  Its believers no longer believed. The fearful lost their fear. The activating moral impulse behind conduct had died out. The system’s moving spirit had died out, and nothing had taken its place. True there was some fighting in Lithuania and the Baltics, but on the whole its demise was peaceful, and America, in the end, was not a major player its downfall.

Long before the collapse, it was known that wherever the Soviet system went, it depressed the standard of living in all of the Soviet satellites. At the time of the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, the standard of living in Czechoslovakia was comparable to Switzerland’s, but it soon plummeted near the bottom. As time wore on, every country in the Moscow’s orbit was seen to suffer from a system that saddled them with despotism and an underperforming economy that stood like a foot on its throat. It also acted to suffocate local traditions and circumstances and made its subjects chafe under its weight. In return, the Soviet puppet governments felt themselves a beleaguered minority, besieged by oppressed nationalists, and they feared that liberalization in the satellites would collapse the whole system.

As Kissinger once said the S.U. collapsed because, while trying to ceaselessly expand, it became bloated and suffered from inner weaknesses and lacked a sense of proportion. The country wasn’t strong enough or “dynamic” enough or “creative” enough for the role that its leaders had assigned to it. It was a rigid system characterized by stagnation and inefficiency, and it rejected policies that would have helped transform it. I was stunned to discover that the Soviet-style economies were actually subtracting value from their system – that the raw materials they dug out of the ground were worth more than the finished goods they produced. The GDR, for example, was wasting billions of marks on goods that weren’t wanted or which were available at a lower cost and of a better quality on the world market. The system ended by dooming itself. Only the high-technology defense industries and the black market worked efficiently, the latter servicing needs ranging from plumbing to prostitution. The Socialist joke became “You pretend to work, and we pretend to pay you.”

Now, try to put yourself in Putin’s place here.

Imagine that your country, which was one of two Superpowers in the world, and then have to absorb the demise of the very thing on which your country based its pride. Suddenly all the sense of accomplishment, your standing in the world, your pride in being formidable (which formed the main pillar of your foreign policy) were all destroyed.  Russia, like America, was a monster country, a vast industrial, military economy whose very size was intimidating and whose very extent made its inhabitants prey to dreams of glory and expansion, just like the United States. Yet that colossal power that had unnerved and awed the world, had suddenly vanished. Suddenly, different parts of the empire flew apart. The Soviet Empire was shattered into a horde of little successor states, most of them ruled by Soviet autocrats who soon became managers of the new structures. Many were former KGB officers who had been part of the “shadow economy” in Moscow and grown rich. With the collapse of the system, they tried to recreate and re-impose the same authority they had enjoyed under Moscow. It was simply the old, corrupt Soviet system “downsized,” according to the historian Tony Judt.

In the aftermath, some Russians and former communists looked with rueful yearning at the Soviet Union’s demise. Many new states were very much under the influence of the Soviet central planning system, and many contained in their borders, vulnerable minorities, including many Russians, who felt unprotected in the new state of affairs.  The world soon discovered that nationalism and communism had much more in common with each other than they had with democracy, and virulent nationalism became the chief unifying force. Nationalism was the method, after all, that Milosevic used to enslave Serbia. Soon, former communist party functionaries transformed themselves “in a matter of months from nomenklatura yes-men into glib practitioners of pluralist party politics,” Judt said. He pointed out that their survival depended on “recalibrating” one’s public allegiances with the novel alignments of a liberal political culture.  He also noted that the nationalists and communists both had a common enemy which was capitalism, and both liked to blame post-communist woes on foreign interference. We can see precedents in what is happening today in Ukraine in what happened in Romania in the early 1990s where the Greater Romanian Party combined nostalgia for Soviet domination with attacks on Hungarian minorities and an open promotion of anti Semitism.

It is hard to fathom statements such as those made by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that declare that the rule of the protestors constitute a “legitimate” government, headed as it by unsavory and corrupt oligarchs. The following was written last week by Max Blumenthal for Salon, and its insights echo those of former U.S. intelligence officials:

“One of the “Big Three” political parties behind the protests is the ultra-nationalist Svoboda, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has called for the liberation of his country from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” After the 2010 conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok rushed to Germany to declare him a hero who was “fighting for truth.” In the Ukrainian parliament, where Svoboda holds an unprecedented 37 seats, Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is fond of quoting Joseph Goebbels – he has even founded a think tank originally called “the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center.” According to Per Anders Rudling, a leading academic expert on European neo-fascism, the self-described “socialist nationalist” Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector.

“Right Sector is a shadowy syndicate of self-described “autonomous nationalists” identified by their skinhead style of dress, ascetic lifestyle, and fascination with street violence. Armed with riot shields and clubs, the group’s cadres have manned the front lines of the Euromaidan battles this month, filling the air with their signature chant: “Ukraine above all!” In a recent Right Sector propaganda video [embedded at the bottom of this article], the group promised to fight “against degeneration and totalitarian liberalism, for traditional national morality and family values.” With Svoboda linked to a constellation of international neo-fascist parties through the Alliance of European National Movements, Right Sector is promising to lead its army of aimless, disillusioned young men on “a great European Reconquest.”

“Svoboda’s openly pro-Nazi politics have not deterred Senator John McCain from addressing a EuroMaidan rally alongside Tyahnybok.”

Putin’s Fears

With the Soviet collapse, the United States and the West moved to incorporate Ukraine into NATO.  One can imagine that Putin gazed at this event with a sense of sickening dismay. 

After the Soviet collapse, a lot of the liberated communist countries wanted to join the European Union but were refused either because their corrupt financial systems and their ravaged economies were not up to operating under the strict fiscal regulations that the Union imposed on future members.  Instead, countries like Poland, Hungary and their neighbors were offered membership in NATO as a sort of booby prize. The symbolic value of being a member of NATO had a certain flattering effect, and many hurried to join. (Washington has strategic interests of its own that favored this as well.)Which bring us to our present crisis.

Sitting athwart Russia’s access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Ukraine had been the mainstay of the Russian economy. It was rich in titanium and coal, it had a huge agriculture, and its importance remains undiminished. Many Soviet leaders including Khrushchev came from there. The most enduring and virulent of nationalists were Russians who resented NATO absorption of  what was called “the near West” of Russia, and the country’s helplessness in the face of NATO  expansion.  The resentment and they fear lie at the root of Putin’s policies.

According to numerous independent polls conducted over the past few years, Ukrainian public opinion that favors belonging to NATO is low. According to news reports, a 2009 Gallup asked Ukrainians whether they saw NATO as a threat or protection for Ukraine; 40% saw NATO as a threat, 17% saw NATO as protection, and 33% saw NATO as neither

 Coitus Interruptus

I worked on this article for three days, when I happened on an article that scooped my own. It said, “I believe that the root of the current crisis is fear, Putin’s fear, of NATO expanding into areas that make Russia vulnerable to additional outside threats. To Putin, any attempts by the U.S. and the West to try and move Ukraine out of the Russia orbit into the obit of the West he views as both criminal and dangerous. NATO is now in the Baltics and is in Poland, and the Ukraine is already is involved with NATO. Many Ukrainians don’t like it.” I was edging towards the same conclusion.

The author of this was John J. Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, who wrote a book “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” and he is dead-on.

To continue: Mearsheimer adds, “The Obama administration then made a fatal mistake by backing the protesters, which helped escalate the crisis and eventually led to the toppling of Viktor F. Yanukovych, (the elected president.) A pro-Western government then took over in Kiev. The United States ambassador to Ukraine, who had been encouraging the protesters, proclaimed it ‘a day for the history books.’”  

Mearsheimer is right. The initial plans for Ukrainian membership to NATO were shelved when Viktor Yanukovich came to power. He wanted to ensure that the Ukraine became a non-aligned state, rejecting the goal of integration into the Euro-Atlantic security and NATO membership.  Yet the situation was already complex and confusing because some portions of the country still considered its relations with NATO as a kind of partnership, and NATO and Ukraine were still holding joint seminars and joint tactical and strategically exercises and operations, giving additional horrors to Putin.

We will let Mersheimer conclude because he is better informed and more intelligent than I am:  “The taproot of the current crisis is NATO expansion and Washington’s commitment to move Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit and integrate it into the West. The Russians have intensely disliked but tolerated substantial NATO expansion, including the accession of Poland and the Baltic countries. But when NATO announced in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO,” Russia drew a line in the sand.”

I have provided a link to the whole article. Getting Ukraine Wrong – NYTimes.com www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/opinion/getting-ukraine-wrong.html.Mar 14, 2014 · … Russia by imposing sanctions and increasing support for Ukraine’s newJohn J. Mearsheimer, … New York Times. Order Reprints …


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31 Responses to “America, the Exceptional” By Richard Sale

  1. Richard Sale,
    While I agree with much of what you write, I would want to add a few qualifications.
    As the USAF historian Eduard Mark showed in 2001 paper ‘Revolution by Degrees, Stalin’s National Front Strategy for Europe, 1941-7’, Stalin’s initial strategy for Eastern Europe was not immediate communisation, but the creation of ‘national fronts’. Similarly, his strategy for Western Europe envisaged the continuation of the ‘popular front’ adopted following Hitler’s consolidation of power.
    (See http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACFB11.pdf )
    A range of compelling considerations why this strategy was always likely to fail are presented by Dr Mark. However, I think he does not adequately grasp some of the complexities of the ‘containment’ strategy as conceived by George Kennan.
    Discussions in some papers by the contemporary Russian historian Vladimir Pechatnov, notably his 2010 paper ‘The Cold War – a View from Russia’ are helpful, not least because he focuses on Kennan’s September 1944 paper ‘Russia – Seven Years’ later. The neglect of this by historians was the object of irritated complaint by Kennan himself.
    In that paper, Kennan accurately reported Stalin’s political agenda at the end of the war a kind of updated version of the agendas of radical Pan-Slavs before 1914 – not ‘world revolution’. He was also prescient in seeing that this agenda gave colossal hostages to fortune. It was questionable whether, so long as the health of Western Europe could be restored, the Soviets could in the longer term hold down Eastern Europe.
    If they failed, given the uncertain legitimacy of the regime, a process of disintegration might be precipitated which would go far into the Soviet Union itself. And, as Pechatnov notes, this was in the end what happened – although it took almost half a century, rather than the ten to fifteen years that Kennan originally anticipated.
    (See http://dspace.khazar.org/jspui/bitstream/123456789/955/1/01.pdf )
    Accordingly, part of the point of the Marshall Plan as Kennan conceived it was by providing offers of economic aid to put the Soviets into the position where they had either to allow the satellites to be drawn out of their orbit, or to replace attempts at covert control through ‘national fronts’ with a direct clampdown.
    That this ‘squeeze play’ was conceived by Kennan as a means of precipitating not simply ‘rollback’ but ‘liberation’ is evident from the NSC 20/1 and 20/2 papers he produced in the summer of 1948.
    (For NSC 20/1, see http://www.sakva.ru/Nick/NSC_20_1.html )
    So how far the abandonment of Stalin’s earlier attempts to find some kind of compromise alike with ‘bourgeois’ elements in Eastern Europe, and with the United States, could have been averted, had Roosevelt remained in charge, remains something of a moot point.

  2. Norbert M Salamon says:

    Thank you for your exposition.
    I found missing in the discussion the abject indefensibility of Russia as a historical fact greatly contributing to the so called “fear” attributed to Putin, Stalin etc.
    While the US has 2 great Oceans to thwart any invasion by non North American power [you have defeated Mexico -and keep her under your thumb, and Canada is rather defenceless mostly empty [of people].
    The history of Rus [from start in Kiev], to WW II is full of various invasions, from the Golden Horde, to Germany with occasional Polish, Swedish etc. powers conquering the nation.
    Poland is a special case of Stalin’s fear, for
    the flat lands of Poland open up to the flat lands of Russia, open to invasion as practiced by the Germans. The mountains of Carpathians and the narrow opening of Tisza Valley does not pose the same opportunity to invasive forces as was the case of Poland.
    When Mr. Gorbachev has given his consent to the reunification of E & W Germany, there was an understanding by Mr. Baker and Mr. Gorbachev that NATO will not expand to the East, after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. The USA, of course, reneged on this issue.
    The phony proposal of missile defence against the non-existent Iranian missiles in Europe was another issue, clearly aimed at the Russian Federation, and as a benefit to the US military industrial complex.
    With various color revolutions and various overt/covert regime changes over since WWII as financed and operated by USA it is reasonable and logical that China Russia and Iran must be most vigilant in defending their sovereignty, for they are essentially the only nations which hav stood up to US hegemony, forward bases, etc.
    Now at the time of the Cuban/Turkish crises involving Missiles and Nuclear bombs, Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Kennedy came to the peaceful solution to remove the offending weapons by both sides thus reducing the “fear level” for both the US and USSSR.
    It appears that the NEOCON/R2P crowd is devoid of historical reality, and are trying for war of some sort; for it is clear that NATO [as mentioned in original EU documents] in Ukraine is as much a red line for Russian Federation as was the case of the Cuban Missiles for the USA.
    Finally, recalling NASA analyses of oil, CO2, global warning etc., the issues of Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Pacific Pivot, Israel/Palestine , Saudi Arabia/Egypt/Qatar are just diversions in the battle to dumb down the American public to the coming economic collapse – which collapse can be greatly brought forward if a serious sanction war develops between US [with Satraps] and Russian Federation [with or without China’s economic problems].
    A war between the two great nuclear powers is inconceivable [except perhaps in the senile mind of Sen. McCain].

  3. Jose L Campos says:

    That the USA finds itself to be exceptional is not particularly singular. All empires find themselves to be exceptional with rights that others lack. Virgil put it succintly; Rome was to “debellare superbos parcere subiectis” that is to crush the recalcitrants to spare the submissive.He, Virgil, realized that Rome was not perfect, that the Greeks had made enormous cultural advances in the arts and philosophy, but like all exceptional people he thought that the advances of Rome in creating a legal system made the Romans superior to the Greek and justified its existence..
    Empires must essentially spread, as soon as the spread is halted the involution begins and whereas growth is theoretically infinite involution ends in zero that is in non existence. The USA is an empire, it has spread its culture throughout the world, has made English the universal language, what Latin used to be. All nations seem to be in a hurry to imitate the USA. Our fate is necesarilly tragic because we know that at some time the empire will cease to exist. That is a heavy burden.

  4. YT says:

    Those who wish to take the world and control it
    I see that they cannot succeed
    The world is a sacred instrument
    One cannot control it
    The one who controls it will fail
    The one who grasps it will lose
    The one who uses the Tao to advise the ruler
    Does not dominate the world with soldiers
    Such methods tend to be returned
    The place where the troops camp
    Thistles and thorns grow
    Following the great army
    There must be an inauspicious year
    A good commander achieves result, then stops
    And does not dare to reach for domination
    Achieves result but does not brag
    Achieves result but does not flaunt
    Achieves result but is not arrogant
    Achieves result but only out of necessity
    Achieves result but does not dominate
    Things become strong and then get old
    This is called contrary to the Tao
    That which is contrary to the Tao soon ends
    A strong military, a tool of misfortune
    All things detest it
    Therefore, those who possess the Tao avoid it…
    The military is a tool of misfortune
    Not the tool of honorable gentlemen
    When using it out of necessity
    Calm detachment should be above all
    Victorious but without glory
    Those who glorify
    Are delighting in the killing
    Those who delight in killing
    Cannot achieve their ambitions upon the world…
    We say that they are treated as if in a funeral
    Those who have been killed
    Should be mourned with sadness
    Victory in war should be treated as a funeral

  5. Richard Sale! A brilliant essay with many insights!
    Thank you very much!

  6. walrus says:

    As a very small point, Communism, as practiced by the Soviets, failed because it rejected the role played by “price signals” in an economy – which is to provide instantaneous communication of imbalances between supply and demand throughout the economic system. Price signals are “the invisible hand” that regulates a free market.
    The “Five year plan” command economy approach of centralised planners simply cannot and could not provide the flexible and instantaneaous adaptation to market conditions that a free market provides. This is best summed up by the old joke about the bureaucrat asking the fish farm manager why he hadn’t taken his quota of new tractors.
    The Chinese saw the demise of the USSR and correctly observed the cause – lack of price signals. They proceeded almost immediately to start injecting such signals into their own command economy, their first move was to allow factories to sell any surplus produced above quota on an open market and they have proceeded since then to dismantle much of the command infrastructure.

  7. Haralambos says:

    With all due respect, Mr Campos, I beg to differ with your comment that “All nations seem to be in a hurry to imitate the USA.” I believe many people worldwide would like the material prosperity available to many in the US and many of the freedoms we American enjoy, but many of those I have met do not want to imitate the US, and many individuals and nations do not want to imitate us. I believe this is a mistaken belief, and I recall that Colonel Lang has commented on this in regard to the (mistaken) belief that they want to do so.
    I would also urge folks to consider our US history in regard both Canada and Mexico: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_1812 for a history of some of our “interventions” north of the border and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_evolution_of_the_United_States for a look at our territorial development.
    I learned about these in my US history course in NYS 50 years ago, but the presentation was in regard to our “manifest destiny.”

  8. Haralambos says:

    This piece is interesting to me because it substantiates your detailed exposition, Mr Sale, and it comes from Paul Pilar. Thank you for your piece and for your investment of time to share it with us.

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The poor imitate the middle class and the middle class the rich.
    And as it goes for social classes it goes for countries.
    US is the highest exponent of the dominant civilization on Earth.
    It is where almost all the new businesses and technologies come from – not from India or China or even Japan.
    Almost all the new drugs and medical procedures have come from the Western world.
    It is also among Anglo-Americans that the highest standard of due process of law prevails on this planet (excepting Scandinavia).
    I think these are very good reasons to imitate the United States, or Canada, or even the perfidious Albion.
    The shortcoming that I see is that other countries are not emulating the right stuff from the Western Civilization – not even in Japan.

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Their productivity was low – instead of improving worker productivity by giving him incentives, they would use two of each machine in production lines.

  11. Haralambos says:

    Thank you, Babak Makkinejad. I do take many of your points, but, in regard to y0ur final paragraph, I think one problem is that we in the United States believe they ought to.
    I would also take issue with this claim: “It is also among Anglo-Americans that the highest standard of due process of law prevails on this planet (excepting Scandinavia),” especially in regard to images from Abu Graib, our use of renditions and Guantanamo, and NSA surveillance of so much of our domestic correspondence.
    Much of our dominance in many of the fields you mention indicates, in my opinion, why the US is a magnet for many bright folks who see themselves stifled where they live for many reasons. One of my points that I did not make clear enough, my apologies, is that many folks want to go to the US, but would rather stay where they are if their societies offered them the same opportunities in regard to research opportunities, good employment and advancement opportunities and other advantages, but many of the folks I know intend to return to their countries of origin.
    I have lived and worked in Europe for 35+ years in education. Many of my students and clients have no intention of adopting an American ethos and feel very adrift in the US after getting there. They appreciate much in terms of the opportunities there but dislike much about our policies and intend to return to Greece, Portugal or their country of origin once they are economically, professionally, or personally more secure. Be well.

  12. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    There are some people associated with the actions described in the linked post who are fully on board with the American Exceptionalism project, holdovers and old campaigners from the original PNAC cabal, and now the new wave. I strongly recommend that you read this investigative report, as it names names, and it casts light on how the NeoCons are clawing their way back on top.
    What seemed like a peculiar incident is revealed to have roots and branches worth close study.
    Also, while I know that Walrus has already posted a link in the prior thread to President Putin’s address delivered to the Federation Council and other luminaries of Russian politics and civil society, I would like to post this link again:
    This speech is worthy of a careful reading, and in its entirety. Sound bites will not do.
    And as an supplement to the speech itself, here is a fascinating parsing and contextualizing of that speech from the blog, The Vineyard of the Saker. The Saker certainly has a pro-Russian point of view, but one worthy of respect and serious consideration, as it is historically and culturally informed. I found his inclusion of a section of the 2013 annual Presidential speech to the Federal Assembly to be an eye-opener. See if you agree.
    Thank you.

  13. YT says:

    RE: “Perfidious Albion.”
    RE: “The shortcoming that I see is that other countries are not emulating the right stuff from the Western Civilization – not even in Japan.”
    Aye. They have not the necessary social cohesion/means, IMHO…
    The Japanese are altogether in a class of their own…
    Hence their former pride (arrogance??) back-in-the-day as the “White Man of Asia.”
    When will hoi polloi elsewhere cease treating their land-of-origin as a rubbish dump?

  14. confusedponderer says:

    “It is also among Anglo-Americans that the highest standard of due process of law prevails on this planet (excepting Scandinavia).”
    Actually, I doubt that. I rank procedural protections against administrative action in the US to be siognificantly weaker than for instance in Germany.
    The problems of appealing for instance a no fly listing are indicative.
    Even after a decade there still is no appeal in court against what is obvuiously a severe infringement of the right to move freely, even more so in a country with distances as vast as in the US. The process granted there is purely administrative and in part almost Orwellian because of the pervasive secrecy involved.
    It is because of such shortcomings, that were far less obvious at the time, Eastern European countries emerging from Communist rule explicitly rejected the US model of administrative law and opted for other models.
    The German model in particular was popular since it takes into account practical experiences with tyranny by means of administrative law during the Nazi Era and communist rule.
    And as for criminal law – as soon as the proecutor decides on ‘terrorism’ charges, secret evidence is admissible, one can be assassinated or locked away indefinitely without charges or trial, citzen or not. Hardly a model.
    As for the protections in civil law you may be more correct, but I doubt that the US model is truly that efficient, given the extent to which it delegates a lot of how contracts are made to the legal profession.
    Contracts that in the US are 30+ pages long can be written in Germany in a few pages because of reference to legal code.
    In light of such practice, thre is comparably a greater degree of legal clarity and less to argue about. Conflicts can be solved more easily, faster and more cheaply.
    Also, it makes it a tad more difficult to rip people off because of, ghasp, fairness considerations established in the legal code.

  15. confusedponderer says:

    What command economy did well for the USSR was to provide arms for Russia when they fought the German Army.
    Their industrial output was remarkable, of decent quality, and their factories were, for the time, efficient and state of the art. In fact, they iirc had gotten advice on that from American experts before the war.
    Arguably, without command economy, Russia would not have made it through WW-II.

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Your example of Greece is quite instructive where nepotism and corruption is rampant – at all levels of society.
    What exactly have the Greeks learnt from UK or Denmark over a period of 50 years?
    Why aren’t banks in Greece as transparent as those in Norway?
    In many ways, Greece is a Middle Eastern country whose religion is Orthodox Christianity rather than Islam.

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is a conversation recorded by Nikos Kazantzakis in his novel, “The Rock Garden” – almost certainly from his recollection of an actual conversation – with a young Japanese woman before World War II in which she states that the time of the White Races is over and the time for the dominion of the Yellow/Oriental races has arrived (back then – circa 1926 – if I recall correctly).
    Well, the Japanese had their moment and in China and in the Philippines they demonstrated that they could not govern alien people with any degree of success.
    That must be contrasted with the English that over a span of several centuries not only governed alien people quite successfully, but also created many new states – successful to various degrees after they finally left.
    Uruguay, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Iraq, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are all creatures of the English.
    To my knowledge, no one has been able to match their record over the last 3000 years in that regard.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think the chief distinguishing feature of Anglo-American Law is its assumption of personal liberty which, I think, is absent in other legal traditions.

  19. rjj says:

    Wahl’s resignation did not seem peculiar; it seemed to be what it apparently was: a conspicuous display of useful idiocy.

  20. Imagine says:

    More videos, more details: On Feb 20th, an organized party of around 100 neo-Fascist irregulars, armed with bats and guns, ambushed and lynched an 8-bus convoy of Russian-speaking Crimeans on the forest highway of Cherkassy returning to Crimea. The lynch party set up a roadblock; beat in the back safety-glass windows of the buses with bats; torched the buses with gallons of gasoline; apparently executed the first people out the door, to insure compliance; beat the survivors with bats, knocking them to the ground, kicking them; and then proceded to torture, degrade, and humiliate the Crimeans. They were made to crawl on the ground, grovel, and scoop up powdered glass with their bare hands. The Fascists also used steel rebar rods to beat heads in and break ribs. The right-wing terrorists made the Russian-speaking Crimeans shout “We are a disgrace to the nation!” and “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!”. A trophy shot shows a large pile of around 30 victims lying on the ground, while 10 neo-Fascists with bats stand around and gesture proudly. The violence is so mundane that the rest of the terrorists don’t even bother to have their pictures taken. The lynching party took hours to set up and run; shots show both evening and nighttime.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSapgMnHs5c Ukraine Fascist Revol’n
    Although most of the irregulars had bats, this shot shows a man in black, with black shiny shoes, talking with a camo commander with stripes escorted by an at-ease gunman outside a green police car. The policeman has white stripes on his sleeves. If the police car was used to set up the roadblock, it’d indicate an alarming level of complicity.
    The footage also shows a substantially larger lynch mob than first thought. It takes much organization to bring over 100 together. Who paid for all these people?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W0darIeDFs Bandera-fascists attack..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfinisEh-IM#t=20m33s Crimea: …
    If fascist terrorists in Granada attacked 30 Americans as a political statement, beat their heads in, made them grovel and crawl on the ground, and piled them up in a heap on the ground, you better believe America would do something about it.
    Taken together with credible statements that Igor Mosiychuk and others intended to send a “train of friendship” army to trash Crimea, this explains the unanimous RCF vote on Mar 1 to permit armed force more credibly than the backstory State is positing.
    What is more fascinating is, Why hasn’t this lynching been publicized in the Western news?
    Surely the CIA must be all over what is happening in the Ukraine? And State, as well?

  21. Imagine says:

    Bernstein’s “Emotional Vampires” offers an outstanding introduction to narcissism and bullying. Key points: Vampires cannot see themselves in a mirror; narcissists believe they are “special”, and so ordinary human laws don’t apply to them; narcissists are almost solipcists who do not perceive others as validated humans, look at their own problems through huge binoculars and others’ through backwards, mini-fying binoculars. Bullies gain power, clarity, meaning from excitement, rage, and adrenaline. He explores countermeasures. Well worth reading.

  22. YUP! All immigrants to USA intend to return home. Some, very few, actually do so.

  23. mac says:

    We call this the “myth of return…”

  24. PailiP says:

    “He felt no pity in his nature and nowhere is this more evident than when he let his armies withdraw during the Polish Uprising, and simply looked on, unmoved, as the Nazis put down the rebellion, slaughtered the rebels and razed the city.”
    What stopped the Soviet Army before Warsaw was not an order from Stalin, but the counterattack of 39th panzer corps (4th panzer division, 19th Panzer division, 5th SS panzer division, Hermann Goering panzer division) led by Army Croup Center’s commander Field Marshal Model himself. Starting 1 August 1944, that counterattack inflicted a 90% casualty rate on Soviet 3rd Tank Corps at Wolomin, 15 km northeast of Warsaw, and drove back the rest of 2nd Tank Army.
    Thereafter, the Germans maintained 4 to 5 panzer divisions vicinity Warsaw throughout August and September 1944.
    The story is well told in Werner Haupt’s “Army Group Center-The Wehrmacht in Russia 1941-1945”, sourced from German military archives.
    It is true that the Germans subsequently razed Warsaw to the ground, but the 4-5 panzer divisions previously mentioned kept the Soviet Army from doing anything about it.

  25. Stuart Wood says:

    I am attaching an article by historian David Kaiser who has a realistic view of Putin’s Russia, like Mr. Sale. Any comment by Col. Lang would be appreciated.
    Stuart R. Wood,
    Another long telegram
    By David Kaiser
    In February 1946, George F. Kennan, then the Chargé d’affaires at the American Embassy in Moscow, wrote what became known as the Long Telegram in an effort to awaken his superiors in Washington to new realities. No one could have spoken with more authority than Kennan: he spoke Russian fluently and was highly familiar with its literature and history, and he had been serving in the Moscow Embassy for several years. The telegram, which may be read here, stated his case simply and clearly. The wartime alliance against Hitler was over, Kennan wrote, and the Soviet Union’s hopes for the new world had little or nothing in common with those of the United States. The Communist leadership deeply believed in the historical necessity of a worldwide struggle against capitalism and would do nothing that did not, in its view, further that cause. Yet Kennan was not without hope, because he did not believe that the Soviets saw the struggle as a military one, or that they had the slightest wish to resume a world war. Eighteen months later he published some of the same insights in his famous X article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” By then he was the chairman of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council. By a stroke of extraordinary good fortune, his boss, Secretary of State George Marshall–one of the half-dozen greatest unelected public servants the United States has ever produced–was a man who had risen to the command of the American Army by identifying the ablest available subordinates and following their advice. He believed the Policy Planning Council should plan policy, and during the next two years, Kennan laid the foundation for the strategy of the Cold War.
    I cannot pretend to expertise comparable to Kennan’s. I have made only one brief visit to Russia, 42 years ago, and I have never studied the language, although The First Circle and Dr. Zhivago are among the books I return to again and again in translation. Yet I would like to think that I learned diplomatic realism from him, among many other sources, and that I can put it to use in examining the new situation that has been created by President Putin’s annexation of Ukraine. Kennan has become increasingly unfashionable in recent years, and the publication of his diaries, which are a very poor substitute for his extraordinary memoirs, isn’t helping his reputation either. But never in my whole life have I felt so acutely the complete absence of anyone like him in the highest councils of our government–and thus, I am going to yield to temptation and try to suggest what a young Kennan, were he posted in Moscow today, might say.
    The Chargé d’affaires to the Secretary of State
    March 21, 2014
    The current situation in Russia, the Ukraine, and surrounding nations inevitably calls to mind the immediate aftermath of the last great crisis in the Atlantic world in 1933-45, when the defeat of Hitler and the Japanese was immediately followed by the Soviet installation of Communist regimes in various countries of Eastern Europe. It also recalls developments in the wake of the First World War, when Russia was briefly reduced almost to its current extent within Europe, facing a newly independent Ukraine and Baltic States, while retaining control of Belarus. That previous example is, in fact, more relevant. The problem Lenin and Trotsky faced at the time of the German collapse was to recover the territory they had lost early in 1918 in the Peace of Brest Litovsk, and they successfully reincorporated Ukraine into the new Soviet Union, but failed in a war against Poland and had to tolerate the independence of the Baltic states for twenty years, until the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Hitler. The current crisis began, of course, with the collapse of Communism in 1989-90, followed by the complete disintegration of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin did not come to power in Russia until 1999, and he has obviously moved much more slowly than Lenin in 1919 or Stalin in 1920 to begin increasing the extent of his territorial control and influence. The nature of his goals has become clearer in recent years, and his speech last Monday in Moscow, which I encourage all serious students of Russian policy to read, leaves relatively little doubt of how he sees the world and where he may be heading. Our first, and perhaps easiest, task, is to understand what he had to say.
    The collapse of Communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union were indeed world-historical events comparable in impact to each of the two world wars. We must be extraordinarily thankful that they were accomplished with relatively little serious bloodshed, a most remarkable outcome, but no one should have expected the emergence of a new order to be a smooth process. Indeed, President Bush and Secretary of State Baker plainly had mixed feelings, to put it mildly, about the disintegration of the USSR, and the kinds of regimes that have emerged in many of the successor states have not been inspiring. In his speech, Putin regretted the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but he did not dwell upon it, much less lay the blame on foreign influences, as he so often likes to do when discussing unpleasant subjects. What he objected to was, first, the way in which the boundaries of Soviet Republics automatically became the borders of newly independent states, and, second, the ways in which, as he sees it, the western powers have taken advantage of the situation over the last 25 years or so. There is not the slightest evidence that Putin wants to embark on a worldwide crusade comparable to those of Lenin and Stalin, and it is highly doubtful, to say the least, that he has any designs even upon eastern European nations such as Poland and Rumania. But he is not willing to accept the situation within the former Soviet Union as it has evolved to date, and the events of the last month show that he has powerful cards to play.
    It was to be expected that the collapse of Communist authority over Eastern Europe would lead to turmoil, and even to the redrawing of borders, as indeed it has. The process was not confined to the former USSR. Czechoslovakia immediately separated into its two component parts, ironically vindicating those who in the 1930s pronounced it an artificial creation that was not destined to survive. Yugoslavia, which Serbia had managed to create in 1919 by virtue of having played the key role in unleashing the First World War that destroyed Austria-Hungary, came apart much more bloodily, and it took the better part of a decade to establish new frontiers for Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia–the last still a very fragile construction. The first Bush Administration declined to intervene in the war among the successor states, but the Clinton Administration took a different view. It brought what seemed to be the last phase of the struggle to an end with the agreement on Bosnia in 1995. Then, in 1999, the rump state of Yugoslavia apparently embarked upon a campaign to cleanse Kosovo of ethnic Albanians, and the government of the United States, supported by NATO–but not by the UN Security Council–went to war with it to stop this process. The war, conducted entirely from the air, succeeded, and Yugoslav (really Serbian) authorities gave up Kosovo. Kosovar independence followed, and the United States and other NATO countries recognized it. In the succeeding 15 years, most of the Serb population has been driven out of Kosovo, although peaceably, not violently.
    It was the Kosovo war, Putin makes very clear, that established the precedent that he is determined to fight. Confronted with a conflict generated by the collapse of Communism, NATO, as he sees it, unilaterally took responsibility for determining the proper outcome without the endorsement of the UN Security Council, where both Russia and China would have refused assent. And in so doing, NATO only extended the approach it had already taken to the aftermath of the collapse of Communism: its belief that the extension of western influence and western values must be the inevitable result.
    It is at this point in the story, it seems to me, that our own government must for a moment reflect upon the wisdom of the choices made by previous administrations. There were those of us who believed that NATO, having functioned successfully for more than 40 years as a defensive alliance against Communism, had lost much of its raison d’etre when Communism collapsed, and that its role in a new world might be re-evaluated. The government of the United States, however, did not take this road. Instead, NATO became a mechanism for expanding western and American influence as far eastward as possible, and all the former Soviet satellite states of the Cold War era, as well as the former Soviet Republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, are now members. The second Bush Administration, indeed, was on the point of offering Ukraine membership in 2008, but the current Administration–wisely in my view–did not pursue this initiative.
    The US government made these decisions, it seems to me, in the belief that the Russian government’s views did not matter. They also made them in the belief–encouraged by our triumph over our Cold War adversary–that American institutions and American values were destined to triumph over the entire world. That view, specifically enunciated in the National Security Strategy of 2002, still seems to remain the basis of our policy. As one who has never held it–who has instead believed that democracy is the heritage of certain specific nations, who must always be vigilant to make sure that it functions well, and hesitant to assume that it will thrive elsewhere–I cannot say that I believe this to be the basis of a sound foreign policy. In the past five years, we have adopted another set of assumptions highly relevant to the current crisis.
    Those assumptions, in essence, seem to hold that any uprising against an authoritarian or dictatorial government must be a good thing, and that the United States should embrace revolutionary movements as soon as they have become large enough to fill the main square of their nation’s capital city with demonstrators. That is what the United States has done, Putin points out in his speech, in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria–with very mixed results. And that is also what both the United States and the EU did in Ukraine.
    Ukraine has been, indeed, the test case for our assumption that democracy must follow Communism, and its recent history has not born it out. We have assumed that anti-Russian elements within Ukraine would be both more democratic and less corrupt, but that did not turn out to be the case. The Orange revolution of 2004 did not have the results we had hoped, and a pro-Russian government returned to power. The Ukrainian people, like so many others in the western world, have been hit hard by the Great Recession, and last year they turned against that government. Both the EU and the United States seized upon this as an opportunity to return a friendly regime to power. To this Putin decided he must respond.
    In arranging the secession and rapid accession to Russia of Crimea, Putin, as his speech makes clear, has taken advantage both of ethnic realities and of history. Russians constitute the bulk of the Crimean population, and Khrushchev’s decision to transfer it to Ukraine 60 years ago took place within a completely different context. As Putin pointed out in his speech, were a Ukrainian state that included Crimea to join NATO, as has been discussed recently, NATO forces would acquire the only major naval bases in the Black Sea. The referendum just held almost certainly reflects the wishes of the bulk of the population.
    In my opinion, our government must reconsider the wisdom of the sanctions it is imposing in response to these events, since we have no means of undoing them. We do face a continuing crisis and we need strategies to face it, but we cannot make Crimea part of Ukraine again, and it will not serve the interests of the American, Russian or Ukrainian peoples to create an endless confrontation over what has taken place. Diplomacy must be based upon reality.
    The serious question we now face involves the future of the government of Ukraine. Putin denies its legitimacy, and clearly threatens in his speech to make that a pretext for intervention in Ukraine proper, and perhaps for the separation of the large Russian-speaking portions of eastern Ukraine and their addition to Russia as well. Meanwhile, the new Ukrainian government–which, it must be acknowledged, did not come to power by constitutional means–is moving rapidly to strengthen its ties to the European union. It may ask for NATO membership. Putin, very simply, is determined not to allow the West to choose who shall govern Ukraine. He clearly desires to turn more of the former USSR into a Russian sphere of influence based upon his Eurasian union. He will use what cards he has to play to achieve these goals–but he will only use the military, in all probability, if there is no opposition, as there was not in Ukraine.
    Elections are now scheduled in Ukraine. I would suggest that we invest our political capital in ensuring that all interested parties, including the Russian government, will respect the results of those elections. A conflict over the legitimacy of the government within the shrinking territory that divides the NATO alliance from Russia is a recipe for disaster, one that could even lead to war. Meanwhile, we need Russian cooperation to deal with both Syria and the Iranian nuclear program. We need, in short, to do the work diplomacy has always tried to do: to find a solution that we all can live with.
    Here the Cold War, properly understood, provides some useful examples. We must face the fact, as we did in 1946-7, that Putin does not share our values or our vision of the future. He feels Russia to be different from the West and he wants to increase its influence. He is not, however, prepared to do so by war. The early years of the Cold War featured a number of struggles within contested nations that were decided by political, rather than military means. Hungary in 1947 and Czechoslovakia in 1948 fell to Communism because of internal political changes, not Soviet military power. Finland and Austria remained outside the Soviet orbit for parallel reasons: their anti-Communist forces proved stronger than Moscow’s satellites. That also happened in the critical nations of France and Italy. It will happen now, one way or another, in the Baltic States, Moldova, and Ukraine.
    Our assumption that democracy would spread, as it were, automatically, has proven false. That does not however mean that it cannot spread–only that its spread will require determination and character on the part of the nations of the former USSR, and also of the United States and the nations of the European Union. They must assess each situation wisely and do what they can. They must also realize that the Putin government remains very important to a host of broader problems in which we have an enormous interest. Let us not not once again allow dogma to trap us into an endless confrontation with a nuclear power, punctuated by crises that put the whole world at risk. Let us base our ends upon realities and trust to the long-term movement of history.
    [sgd) George Kennan
    (not really–DK)

  26. dilbert dogbert says:

    Reminds me of “Red Plenty”. Francis Sputford

  27. Stuart Wood,
    Unfortunately David Kaiser appears to be another historian who does not seem to have any awareness of the ambiguities in Kennan’s conception of ‘containment’, to which I referred in a comment at the top of this thread.
    If Kennan’s diagnoses, and prescriptions, are to be put forward as a model for what should be done today, this matters. It matters even more, given Putin’s somewhat bizarre claim, in his speech following the Crimean referendum, that ‘we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today.’
    In my view, there are a large number of problems – to put it mildly – with this claim by Putin, but if one is seriously to try to make sense of what he is saying, rather than dismiss him as a crazed dictator out of touch with reality, as Mrs Sikorski likes to do, one does need to look at issues with which Western historians seem remarkably reluctant to grapple.
    A critical text here is Kennan’s responses to – somewhat sycophantic – questions put to him in 1995 about his views at the end of the Second World War by the historian John Lukacs.
    (See http://www.americanheritage.com/content/world-war-cold-war?page=show )
    In his response to the initial questions from Lukacs, Kennan points to the central importance of papers he wrote prior to the ‘Long Telegram’, including the September 1944 ‘Russia – Seven Years Later’ paper which he says ‘has received the least attention from historians but was actually basic to the understanding of the later ones’.
    Also in 1995, the Russian historian Vladimir Pechatnov compared the assessment of Soviet objectives in that paper to the objectives set out in planning papers by three leading Soviet diplomats: Ivan Maisky, Maxim Litvinov, and Andrei Gromyko.
    An interesting feature of Kennan’s September 1944 analysis is that he argues that in the Stalin years ‘Soviet policy began with time to lay less stress on the immediate bringing about of revolution in other countries and to concentrate on using all foreign sympathizers, Communists and otherwise, as vehicles for a purely nationalistic Soviet foreign policy.’
    As the quotation is important, and has been ignored by historians since the analysis was first published in the first volume of Kennan’s memoirs back in 1967, I repeat it: Stalin was, according to the analysis which Kennan preferred to stick by, pursuing a ‘purely nationalistic foreign policy.’
    Essentially, Kennan was pointing to the continuities between what were the actual aims of Soviet policy at the time, and those of pre-1914 Pan-Slavs who had aspired to extend Russian influence over the Slavic peoples to the West and South-West of the Russian Empire.
    What Pechatnov notes is the accuracy of this assessment. He does not ask why Kennan went on, in the ‘Long Telegram’, to argue that the Soviets were ‘committed fanatically’ to the belief that their security depended on the subversion of American society and the destruction of American power.
    All those who bow down and worship Kennan do not seem to have noticed that absolutely nothing in what has emerged since the retreat and collapse of Soviet power vindicates this analysis.
    What is also interesting, in the light of the questions raised by David Kaiser, is Kennan’s account to Lukacs of his view both of the role of military force in Stalin’s policy, and of Soviet goals in relation to Western Europe. Many Americans, Kennan claims,
    ‘jumped quickly to the primitive assumption that the Soviet aim was to overrun the remainder of Europe militarily and then to replace the governments there, including the West German one, with Communist puppet regimes. But if one had tried to look at this assumption from Moscow’s standpoint, particularly from Stalin’s, its unsoundness would have become immediately visible. Stalin had very good reason for rejecting any such course of action.
    ‘For one thing, it would have involved the unification of Germany under a single Communist government. But this was the last thing Stalin would have wanted to bring about.’
    At the end of the exchange with Lukacs, Kennan claims that ‘I still see no inconsistency between the views I held in 1945 and those that I put forward in later years.’ It is not clear how far this claim can be accepted – but is certainly the case that Kennan was suggesting, in public, that Stalin had never wanted a united communist Germany as early as February 1947.
    An extraordinary feature of much Western writing on the early Cold War is that its authors profess to worship Kennan while both not being prepared to read what he said. Moreover, they are all too happy implicitly to assume that in repudiating the identification of containment as implemented with his conceptions, Kennan was simply lying.
    Incidentally, in my earlier comment I made one mistake. The analysis by Kennan – which Pechatnov rightly regards as prescient – of the ways in which Stalin’s implementation of the political agendas of the radical Pan-Slavs of the pre-1914 period had boxed the Soviet Union into an unsustainable strategic position is not developed in the ‘Russia – Seven Years Later’ paper. It was elaborated in the May 1945 paper ‘Russia’s International Position at the Close of the War with Germany.’
    Unfortunately, neither this paper nor the September 1944 paper are available on the web. But those who are anxious to form their own views, rather than rely on the frequently tendentious accounts of academics, can obtain copies of the first volume of Kennan’s memoirs, in which both documents are reproduced, for $4.

  28. YT says:

    RE: “uruguay, malaysia, india, pakistan, iraq, south africa, nigeria, uganda, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are all creatures of the English.”
    Oui, Monsieur…
    The “Perfidious” Albion has skills!
    Some might even agree that they [i.e. the Anglii] shouldn’t have left in the 1st. place.
    That things were better off when they were still under the “Commonwealth”.
    At least Rule-of-Law still stood a chance…
    The Yellow races dominating?
    You’d be lucky if they could rid themselves of all-encompassing Corruption amongst officials both high-ranking & provincial, a recurring problem all over asie since time immemorial…
    A Disease that serves to generate major Entropy in their societies, fragmenting them & sparking civil wars: that which is often far worse & damaging than invasion from foreign bodies…

  29. Babak Makkinejad,
    There is, in my view, a lot of sense in much of what Buchanan says. However, he makes some howlers.
    To say that Putin is a ‘blood-and-soil, altar-and-throne ethnonationalist’ is plain wrong – in fact he is an implacable enemy of Russian ethnic nationalism. In the pre-election article dealing with ‘The Ethnicity Issue’ back in 2012, he defined the ‘Russian people’ as a ‘poly-ethnic civilization bound by the Russian cultural core.’ What is critical is whether – or not – people want to identify with Russian culture and Russian history.
    If they do, they are welcome – be they ethnic Russian, Tatar, Jewish etc etc. Likewise, although the ‘core’ is of Orthodox Christian heritage, Putin has gone out of his way, time and again, to express his appreciation for the contribution of Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism to Russian society.
    The other side of the coin, of course, is that Soviet history, and also to a lesser extent pre-Soviet Russian history, combine both tolerance of and violence against different ethnic and religious groups. Extreme violence was common in particular in the Stalinist period, but was also found earlier – look, for instance, at the history of the Circassians.
    One consequence of this is that members of different ethnic and religious groups are, commonly, pulled in different directions.
    This bears upon another questionable statement made by Buchanan in relation to nationalism in the West Ukraine – that ‘hatred of Russia dates back to the forced famine of the Stalin era’. Not only does Ukrainian nationalism go back much earlier – try googling ‘Symon Petliura – but at the time of the famine Western Ukraine was in Poland.
    What is patently the case is that many people in what was the Soviet Ukraine are pulled in different directions. At one and the same time, Stalin is the perpetrator of the ‘Holodmor’ and the architect of the defeat of Nazi Germany’s attempt to turn the Slavs into a population of illiterate ‘untermenschen’.
    What has happened in recent years is that Ukrainian nationalists – including some whose forbears were complicit in those Nazi attempts – have attempted to construct a unified national identity, transcending the differences between different parts of the country, by portraying the ‘forced famine’ as a genocide committed by Russians against Ukrainians.
    The most important Western reporting on the ‘forced famine’ was done by the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones – it is now available on the net at http://www.garethjones.org/.
    My suspicion is that the appreciation of his family for long overdue recognition for the work of a very fine journalist and brave man may has allowed them to be inveigled into complicity with the ploys of Ukrainian ethno-nationalists.
    I must declare an interest. Some time in early 1933, Gareth Jones came to the chapel my grandparents and father attended in his home town of the seaport town of Barry, in South Wales, and described what he had seen of the famine. What he said had a formative influence on my father’s views, and therefore indirectly on mine.
    This also partly explains how it is that, when I read Kennan sneering at ‘liberals’ who opposed the appeasement of Hitler, my blood boils.

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You might be right about Putin at the personal level but my sense of the Russians – largely based on novels, war diaries, and a few personal acquaintances has been their sense of identity is tied not to Russian Language and Culture but to the notion of Rus.
    It almost like the way Chinese or Koreans or Japanese identify themselves.
    I get the sense of it being a wonderful thing to belong to this “Great People” called the Rus.
    I also deduced that the Russian people do not consider Jews to be Rus; regardless of how assimilated or Russo-phone they are – and likewise for other minorities.
    It is a great challenge for the Russian Federation to accommodate the non-Rus; specially the assorted Muslim groups in that country which are 10% of the population.
    Judging by the experience of Jews, I expect Muslims also will be always considered non-Rus.

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