American neoconservative scholar Robert Kagan says “the global power and influence that has characterized most of the post-Cold War era and still governs the world today” is the United States of America, “the only truly global superpower during the Cold War.” According to Kagan, America, with its unparalleled wealth, might and extensive international alliances created a global hegemony. He says that hegemony was not created by the collapse of the Soviet Union; it only enhanced US global hegemony.
This short paragraph sums up perfectly how the criminal war Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Ukraine was provoked by NATO (that is the only superpower and its extensive international allies) and why it is probably not going to end anytime soon.
Mr Kagan audaciously writes in his Foreign Affairs article (The Price of Hegemony) that the US had not tried to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union; on the contrary, Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, saw NATO as an escape route from Russian and Soviet imperialism. They thought allying with Washington would rescue them from the Russian yoke. Mr. Kagan says that had the US rejected the Eastern European demands to join NATO, Western European countries would resist the US Many Americans, he says, would like to have the Eastern Europeans’ pleas to join NATO and other Western institutions rejected because they don ‘t understand the true nature of being the only true superpower because they are “unconscious of the daily impact that US power has on the rest of the world.”
Mr Kagan, as usual, bends the truth passionately. He argues that even the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev asked former US Secretary of State James Baker to have a unified Germany should be “contained within European structures.”
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who entered politics on the wave of the Revolutions of 1989, briefly serving as deputy spokesperson for the first democratically elected government of East Germany led by Lothar de Maiziere, warned her fellow East Germans, reminding them that a probable unification with the West could entail membership in NATO. She mentioned the (West) German objections to NATO membership. Consequently, West Germany would not become a member of the alliance until 1955. Correspondingly, Mrs. Merkel’s Germany never consented to the NATO expansion toward the East and in 2008 she blocked Ukraine’s NATO bid. When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said she was responsible for war atrocities in April 2022, Merkel reiterated her explanation about her 2008 decision.
But it is quite easy to rewrite the post-Soviet history especially after witnessing the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now no one is going to question Mr. Kagan when he opines Putin’s invasion has taught Americans their purpose in this world. Americans are now willing to pay the price of the hegemony and learn to use their power.
What about Mr. Putin, who thought that the Kremlin always complained of having been duped every step of the way. Putin says former US President Bill Clinton had promised former Russian President Boris Yeltsin that NATO would not move “an inch” to the East. Putin said: “You cheated us shamelessly.”
In other words, Putin knew the West in general and NATO, in particular, had been lying to the Russians. For instance, when NATO had created a training facility in Ukraine’s Yavoriv military base, in western Ukraine, some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the border with Poland and 30 kilometers northwest of Lviv in the Yavoriv district, Putin had discovered that it only had Classes on modern mapping techniques and hands-on training of man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), those portable surface-to-air guided weapons that threaten low-flying aircraft, especially helicopters. Ukraine’s secret service chief is the person who also played the role of secret service chief in Zelenskyy’s famous TV series that opened the way to politics. But Putin’s security team consists of his former colleagues who have been doing their job for the last three decades; they should have known that NATO had brought 10 such portable missile launchers in Ukraine for every Russian tank that would participate in the invasion as they did in the Donbass region.
Depending on the rudimentary reports that seenped from the Russian opposition that the Russian army had not yet recovered from the devastating budget cuts of the Yeltsin years, many people in the media (including the writer of these lines) dared to surmise that Putin would not repeat his actions when he invaded Crimea and parts of Donbass in 2014. Russia was strongly integrated into the Western financial system; it would not afford any sanction on its financial and commercial systems. Russia had more than $100 billion in the US banks and the Federal Reserve (Fed) and having them frozen would have a devastating impact on the Russian economy. Not only has the US frozen them, but now it is going to liquidate them assuming that those funds have, in effect, been seized indefinitely. We all thought the Western Europeans’ dependence on the Russian gas and oil was vital and they could not cut it off in case of a Russian assault on Ukraine, but that assumption was very flimsy because Arabs could easily run to the rescue of the EU.
Under these conditions, a sage manager and a sharp leader like Putin would not start a hot war when a cold one was perfectly serving his interests. Probably, Putin must have thought that it was going to be an invasion of another small country, expecting it to be quickly overrun. If he did, he now knows he has been mistaken so very badly that he put the world once again in the condition that former US President George W. Bush had declared in 2001: You are either with the US or against the US Besides, the bed he is making for himself in Ukraine is not going to be comfortable at all.
Still, there is a chance to stop this silly war that Russia is not going to win.
As John Arquilla, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s friend and a retired professor of defense analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School, would tell Putin as a piece of free advice: “Make peace, you fool.”