OPINION

The expendables

The expendables

After US President Joe Biden had made clear in his short speech last Tuesday that the United States would not go to war to defend Ukraine, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin set into motion his plan, which had long been in preparation, to invade the former Soviet republic.

About two centuries ago, the Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz published his monumental work “On War,” which contained the famous dictum that “war is a continuation of politics by other means.” The question of course is, what is Putin’s real objective in this case?

During a televised appearance on Thursday, Biden said that Putin wants to “re-establish the Soviet Union.” Sure, Russia had for centuries been a powerful empire before the US even appeared on the world map. Communist Russia resembled the evolution of the empire, dressed in a different ideological mantle.

By targeting Putin as solely responsible for the misfortune that will befall his country, the American leader seems to believe that, over time, he will succeed in turning the Russian people against their president

A key paradox was that whereas the two major multiethnic empires – the Habsburgs and the Ottomans – crumbled after the end of the First World War, the “uneducated” Bolsheviks actually managed to preserve Russia unscathed while later the ruthless dictator Joseph Stalin expanded the boundaries to the center of Europe. The vision of the czars had materialized.

Few people seem to acknowledge that what we are witnessing today is merely the manifestation of a deeply nationalist policy, the sort of policy that has so often been pursued by all European countries in the course of their history. Putin is an autocratic, hardline nationalist. He is ruthless against any nationalist that puts the security of his country at risk.

Biden’s latest speech indicated that Western sanctions are aimed at “dissecting or carving out Russia from the international economy.” Meanwhile, by targeting Putin as solely responsible for the misfortune that will befall his country, the American leader seems to believe that, over time, he will succeed in turning the Russian people against their president.

The tactic was used during the Cold War years, resulting in mass protests in Hungary and Czechoslovakia that were violently crushed by Russian troops. It will be interesting to see how Biden’s strategy will evolve.

True to the tradition of US presidents, Biden provided an ideological mantle for his decisions and wrapped up his speech by saying that “freedom will prevail.” Until that happens, the Ukrainians will suffer the destruction of war, as was the case a few years ago when Georgia aspired to become a NATO member only to eventually become the victim of Russian aggression as an expendable people.