Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Russia's Wilsonianism

As World War II progressed, the US became stronger and stronger such that toward the end, the other allies saw it as the most powerful Western State. And indeed most nations in the West saw the US as wanting to “export” its brand of government. FDR constantly measured himself against Wilson, and one of those measurements had to do with the postwar process. FDR sought to improve upon what Wilson tried to do. In focusing upon Wilson, FDR, the League of Nations and the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, etc. We lose sight of the fact that another nation was just as ambitious in these regards as the US was. On page 607 of In the Time of the Americans Fromkin writes, “Western Leaders blinded themselves to the obvious: it was not just the United States that wanted to remake the world in its own image; so did the Soviet Union. Unlike a Woodrow Wilson – or a Leon Trotsky – Stalin was no believer in trying to change the world at once. He moved a step at a time. Victory in the Second World War would bring him control of neighboring countries. He would give priority in the years afterward to consolidating that control. In twenty years there might be another major war, in the chaotic aftermath of which he could annex an additional large portion of the globe. In the end his regime was destined to have it all; his version of Marxism told him that. So he could wait.”

But in the meantime, Stalin sought to take as much of Eastern Europe as he could, in his own brand of Wilsonianism. Like Hitler and the followers of Mohammed, he believed that land once conquered should never be relinquished. This was a foolish and impractical strategy. Denying the German Army the option of retreating, cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of German soldiers. We have only to think of Stalingrad to see the disastrousness of that philosophy as practiced by Hitler.

In the case of Islam we see that there are still Muslims who like troubled ghosts haunt Andalusia. Much of Spain had once been conquered by Islam and now, according to Islamist and perhaps even much traditional Islamic ideology, Spain has no right to it. One day, according to their version of Islam, Andalusia will be returned to them. They too believe they can wait.

In regard to Russia and its conquering of Eastern Europe, we see that those lands were a mixed blessing to them. On the one hand, they represented the advance of Communism as the USSR saw it. On the other hand, these conquered nations did not choose to be Communistic so they chafed under the Stalinist chains. The USSR had the largest land army by the end of World War II and needed to keep it large in order to keep the Eastern Europeans under control, ward off any threat from the US and Western Europe, and be in a position to expand in the next war when that opportunity arose.

Of course that opportunity never arose for the USSR. Communism turned out to be a failure. When the violent domination provided by the Red Army was removed, the Eastern European nations, one after the other, chose Western-style governments. But like the Muslims who long for the return of Andalusia, many Russians long for the return of their “buffer states.” They give the appearance of feeling insecure if their borders abut nations not under their direct control. They feel a need to keep a large army poised on any such borders to not only repel invaders but to invade any such threatening nation and exert such military influence as to render it more agreeable to Russian wishes.

From one standpoint, what Russia has done and seems to wish to do in the future, seems strategically wise, but this is 19th century wisdom – a time when nations were a constant threats to each other. That isn’t the situation on Russia’s borders in these modern times. The “trouble” Russia is faced with is not the threat of invasion, but the threat of independence. Russia’s former ‘buffer states” want to be buffer states no longer. They want to be independent nations. They want to be free to do whatever they like, and since they fear being dominated by Russia, perhaps more than Russia fears losing its buffer states, they choose to do whatever they can to prevent Russia from ever dominating them again. They strive to become members of the EU and NATO. They strive to gain the protection of the US.


Communism was an interesting experiment, but that’s all it was. And it turned out to be a failure. So I would inquire of Russia why it wishes to retain Stalin’s version of Wilsonianism. Is there anyone in Russia today that feels that “Sovereign Democracy” is exportable? And if so, must it be exported by military force as Stalin sought to export Communism? Perhaps, but my impression is that there is nothing so coherent in the works in Russia. Their foreign policy is in an inchoate state. Many of us when we don’t know what to do in a given circumstance, fall back on what our parents told us. I wonder if that isn’t what is occurring in Russia today. They don’t know what to do about the loss of their buffer states so they are falling back on what their political (Stalinist) parents taught them.

Imperialism has an aura of seeming lucrative. It was commonly believed that Britain remained rich because it had an empire. FDR found it hard to believe that Britain had gone broke fighting the Germans, but we know now that only 1 % of Britain’s GDP came from its Empire during WWII, and as it developed the British empire was much more trouble than it was worth. The same was even truer of the French Empire. And something like that seems to be true of Russia’s buffer states. They don’t provide direct income to Russia – not in the sense of a possession that can be mined. There are trade benefits, but surely these can better be maintained by peaceful traders than Russian generals.

The old Stalinist posture of having a huge army poised on every part of the Russian border seems to have had its day. Not only does it not seem necessary in 2009, but it seems rather paranoid. Do you have serious enemies at your gates today? If so, I don’t know who they are. China has a large army, but is more concerned about India and the Uyghur than you Russians. If they comprise a threat to you, surely it isn’t imminent. What else is there? Some border disputes and civil wars internal to some former buffer states? Hardly reason for a massive invasion by the Russian army, I would think.

But, you might say, there is the threat comprised by NATO. Cough, cough, wheeze [trying to keep a straight face but failing]. Well, if you find NATO any sort of threat, then you see things in it that I don’t. What sort of threat is comprised by a force where the various national elements must call home and get permission for acts before they take them?

NATO does have some sophisticated weapons, so I probably shouldn’t laugh at them too much, but they seem more of a club than an effective fighting force. NATO is good for building understanding between the various European nations, but it does not provide a truly effective fighting force. But even if it did, can you honestly say that there are any Western nations today that are “aggressive” in the sense that Germany was in the late 19th and early 20th century? Surely not.

Save yourself some money, Russia: abolish your draft


Michael Kuznetsov said...


You must be kidding, yet I appreciate your grim humor.

You conclude with this phrase:
"Save yourself some money, Russia: abolish your draft."
Oh, do you really mean this, Lawrence?!

You assert that there is no more threat to us?
How about this detailed plan how to smash Russia.

See this:

The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy

By Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press

From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006

Summary: For four decades, relations among the major nuclear powers have been shaped by their common vulnerability, a condition known as mutual assured destruction. But with the U.S. arsenal growing rapidly while Russia's decays and China's stays small, the era of MAD is ending -- and the era of U.S. nuclear primacy has begun.

An excerpt from the article:

The current and future U.S. nuclear force, in other words, seems designed to carry out a preemptive disarming strike against Russia or China.
The intentional pursuit of nuclear primacy is, moreover, entirely consistent with the United States' declared policy of expanding its global dominance. The Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy explicitly states that the United States aims to establish military primacy: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States." To this end, the United States is openly seeking primacy in every dimension of modern military technology, both in its conventional arsenal and in its nuclear forces.



If you have any problems with the reading directly from the Foreign Affairs website, I could willingly provide you with the full text of the article.

Michael Kuznetsov

Lawrence Helm said...


See response at http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2009/07/russian-wilsonianism-and-us-first.html