It’s April 1945. Once the conqueror of Europe, the Bohemian corporal who rose from the slums of Munich and Vienna to perform an involuntary little dance of joy outside the railroad carriage in which the Armistice of 1918 was signed where he had just compelled the proud French to dine on the same unappetizing meal of humiliation and surrender once served up to Germany, was now trapped like a rat in the catacombs beneath the Reichs Chanchellery, listening to Russian shells falling outside, as Russian Armies came ever and ever closer, with a cyanide capsule and Walther pistol as his only remaining choice.
How did it come to this?
Hitler destroyed himself and his short-lived Reich by pushing his luck too far, intoxicated by the phantom allure of a terribly bad idea which was both impractically unattainable and of no real relevance to reality.
Hitler’s ideology was, at root, a sort of political patent medicine combining German Romanticism with Populism and technological Futurism. That mixture had considerable appeal, outmarketing thuggish and divisive Bolshevism as well as milk-and-water Social Democracy. But Hitler was only an autodidact café intellectual and putting him in charge of a major country was a very bad idea.
Hitler’s big idea in the realm of Foreign Policy simply amounted to reversing German losses consequent to WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, then proceeding to implement a humongous modern revival of the Teutonic Drang nach Osten that would enserf (or even eliminate) Slavic populations to the East and take over their lands giving the German people (supposedly vital) Lebensraum and control of natural resources, particularly coal and petroleum.
This sort of stuff sounded great to German Nationalists, living mentally in the 19th Century, but all the racialist nonsense motivating and justifying this kind of barbarous piratical policy was nonsense. Germans and Slavs differed in linguistic traditions, but had lived as neighbors, immemorially, for countless centuries, intermarrying and mixing economically and culturally and politically. A “Hitler” is a Hüttler (also spelled Huettler), meaning “one who lives in a hut”, from Hütte (“hut”) and is likely of, at least mixed, ultimate Slavic origin.
Even the Germans noticed the ironies of those racialist theories, and commonly joked that “the ideal Nazi was someone as tall as Goebbels, as slim as Goering, and as blond as Hitler.”
And a “Drang nach Osten” that required 52 million Germans to defeat 170.5 million Russian, 131 million Americans, &c., &c. that pitted the German economy as well against the US economy, the British economy, that effectively pitted Germany and Italy, and Japan against most of the rest of the world was never going to work out successfully.
Karl Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, and he might very well have been speaking of WWII followed by Vladimir Putin’s newly implemented war to restore the Soviet Empire and to reverse the result of the Cold War.
In a fiery speech this week that reminded me of similar aggrieved speeches by you-know-who, Putin justified his imminent invasion of Ukraine by claiming to be a victim of Western encroachment. NATO has accepted former Soviet puppet states as members, and thus moved East. NATO troops and missiles in the near vicinity of Russia, Putin exclaimed, represent a “knife to our throats.”
What we have here is the open expression of the very old Russian claim that the security of the Russian state requires a cordon sanitaire of neutral Finlandized governments and Russian puppet states to protect the Motherland from imminent armed invasion by America, Great Britain, and the rest of NATO, all of whose militaries are even now sharpening their bayonets and covetously studying maps showing the best routes to the downtowns of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Now, obviously, anyone sane recognizes perfectly well that though the United States and the rest of NATO may have different preferences here and there, world-wide, as to exactly which kleptocrat dictator is going to rule in Shitholistan, and who gets to do arms deals, buy resources from, or set up naval bases in Slobovia, the former has utterly no claims whatsover on the vast land territories of Mother Russia and hasn’t the slightest intention of making war on Russia, absent the gravest kind of Russian provocations and aggressions against the United States itself or NATO members. Claiming that we are menacing the Rodina is just a fantasy.
So, here, we have Putin embarking on a course of attempting to re-write History which resembles one we’ve seen before, which last attempt ended disastrously in 1945. But, you know the old saying: those who can’t learn from History are bound to repeat it.
It seems to me that it’s a shame that Putin has chosen to be a villain and an aggressor. Like a lot of Western conservatives, I had some respect for Putin’s open opposition to to all the heresies of Modernism which constitute obligatory Articles of Faith in the Western Elite Community of Fashion.
Conquering and forcibly annexing your neighbor state does seem to much of the world, to be an out-of-date and really unrewarding practice. The Spirit of the Age is against it. You don’t need to conquer and absorb Wakanda to get some vibranium. You simply need to produce cool gadgets and/or valuable professional services that the Wakandans need. You sell those to them, and you buy the damned vibranium. If you conquer Wakanda, then you get a Wakandan Insurgency, costing you lives, money, and prestige, and you have to go to all the trouble of governing the place and putting up with lots of angry, ungrateful Wakandans. You may very well wind up giving up on the whole thing as a bad deal and withdrawing with egg all over your face. Then, too, you may push things too far and start a nuclear war.
Switzerland has done well for centuries taking the other approach and refraining completely from trying to conquer France, Italy, Austria, &c.
Russia is very good at designing and building functional, reliable, simple and economical versions of things. Russia also is actually wealthier than the West in the resources of High Culture and the Arts. Russia additionally has plenty of valuable natural resources, all sorts of minerals and energy. It does not need to own the breadbasket of Ukraine. Russia could easily sell Ukraine stuff and buy all the Ukrainian wheat it wants.
What Russia is not good at is government. Russia has a 900-year-old tradition of brutality and despotism. Russia should repent and apologize to all the neighboring states and peoples it has plundered, invaded, occupied, and abused historically, and it should undertake to atone by offering a sterling example of the defense of the traditions of Civilization. In other words, it should behave itself.
Clearly, Vladimir Putin, however, just like Adolph Hitler, has been abusing bad ideas (and possibly substances) much too much, and we see him today trying to do the unnecessary with the utmost violence and brutality.
Unfortunately, though he ought to stop, no one will stop him this time. Sanctions and unctuous Western rhetoric will do nothing. Like Hitler, Putin will pull off this bold stroke, while sneering at the ineffectiveness of the politicians of the Western democracies. The alarming consideration is that getting away with these kinds of things so commonly becomes a habit, and eventually the Great Leader goes too far, disturbing the peace of the entire world, and bringing about the cataclysm than consumes him.