We have all heard the irresponsible statements coming from US politicians and, which is far more worrisome, generals: Putin must be ‘stopped’ and Russia must ‘not be allowed’ to achieve her various nefarious goals.  A typical such statement was recently made by retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey:

General Barry McCaffreyBecause so far NATO’s reaction to Putin’s aggression has been to send a handful of forces to the Baltics to demonstrate ‘resolve,’ which has only convinced Putin that the alliance is either unable or unwilling to fight. So we had better change his calculus pretty soon, and contest Putin’s stated doctrine that he is willing to intervene militarily in other countries to ‘protect’ Russia-speaking people. For God’s sake, the last time we heard that was just before Hitler invaded the Sudentenland

Nevermind that the “we” that “heard” such statements from Hitler let the Soviet Union shoulder roughly 80% of the war effort, including the most difficult part when the Soviet Union single handedly turned the tide of the war, and waited for Hitler to be certain to be defeated before opening a 2nd front.  McCaffrey clearly feels that the “indispensable nation” now needs to step into the mess it created in the Ukraine and stop the “new Hitler” again (former “new Hitlers” include Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, both of whom allegedly presented an existential threat to the “Western Word”).

The real danger of this kind of rhetoric is in the implications of the narrative which underlines it.  It goes like this:

There is a “Putin doctrine” which, under the disguise of protecting the rights of Russian minorities outside Russia, aims at reconquering all the territory of the former Soviet Union.  This is done by using propaganda to inflame these Russian minorities, get them to protest and make unreasonable demands, and then to intervene using a new form of warfare called ‘hybrid warfare’ which relies on a mix of military, intelligence, civilian and political activities as well as support from Russian mobsters, infiltrated “KGB” agents, etc.  This ‘hybrid warfare’ provides the Russians with a degree of ‘plausible deniability’ backed, if needed, by a perceived ‘escalation dominance’ (the ability to control how high and how fast the conflict can escalate).  The potential targets of this “Putin Doctrine” are quite literally all the former Soviet republics and, first and foremost, the Baltic Republics, Moldova, Georgia and, who knows, possibly even Poland.

All of the above is absolute and total nonsense.  There is no “Putin doctrine”, “hybrid warfare” and “plausible deniability” as CIA-coined concepts, the very *last* thing Russia needs is to “conquer” any part of the former USSR, least of all the poor and useless Baltic states, Moldova or Georgia (which it could have easily conquered in 2008!).  But the fact that this entire theory is rubbish does not make it less dangerous, precisely because it is based entirely on paranoid ideas rather, than facts.  Think of it; is there anything at all Putin could do to signal that he has absolutely no intention of invading Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia?  No, there isn’t.  Even if Russia did completely demilitarize Kaliningrad and move all her forces 300km away from these statelets, this would not remove the Russian minority there, nor would it remove this minority’s desire to not live in a Apartheid-like status of “non-citizens”.  So, any such withdrawal would be interpreted as a “new phase” of the “hybrid warfare” were “old KGB tricks” are used instead of “traditional military aggression”.  The bottom line is this: this rhetoric cannot be disproved being, as it is, based on ideas.  Besides, how do you prove a negative?

This rhetoric also implies an inevitability.  Russians are imperialists, the KGB president is up to KGB tricks, and “new Hitlers” are popping up like mushrooms after the rain, they must be stopped, and only the ‘indispensable nation” can do that.

Captain America

Captain America

There is an apocalyptic tone to all that.  Listening to these American ignoramuses, one gets the feeling that the fate of mankind is literally depending on these freedom loving generals to save civilization and mankind from the absolute darkness embodied in these “new Hitlers” who combine the features of Darth Vader, Sauron, and Lex Luthor.  Putin becomes a character which each American has been raised with, the notorious “supervillain” who, by necessity, must be opposed by a superhero à la Captain America.

Of course, Captain America is not quite what he used to be.  In fact, Captain America has not won a real war since 1945.  But nevermind, here comes the “Empire of Illusions” (to use Chris Hedges’ expression) to the rescue of the sordid reality: as long as the American people, thoroughly zombified by the Idiot-tube, *believes* that “we kicked Saddam’s ass”, that “Slobo” “got the Hague” and that Gaddafi’s “people” gave him some “well-deserved” “street justice” no amount of actual failure on the ground matters.  These are two parallel worlds which never touch each other: real life, and “life” inside the American TV set.

The big question is: which one will prevail?

Honestly, I don’t know.

In a sane world it is quite impossible to imagine that a country which lost every single war it fought in the past 70 years would decide to top off this series of defeats by taking on the country which defeated both Napoleon and Hitler.  But in the TV-world to which American politicians and, apparently, generals cater to and, possibly, live in, the “exceptional nation” might well have to take on the “white man’s burden” and save mankind from the looming Darkness from the East.

My biggest fear is that that Russia might have to smack down yet another “great leader of western civilization”, but that the price in human lives this time around might be even much higher than the other two previous times.

There will be no American politicians in Moscow to celebrate Victory Day this year.  But for once, I sure hope that they will at least turn on their beloved TV sets, watch and think about what this celebration commemorates and ask themselves a simple question: are we really that stronger and that smarter than Napoleon and Hitler were?

The Saker

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world