Recently posted on this website was a piece entitled “End the War Now”. The essay was also published on a Facebook Page which I administer where it received a lot of support, but also a lot of pushback. The pushback largely came from non-followers of the Facebook Page. Among the non-followers, conservatives were generally more receptive to the essay than were those on the Left. Support and non-support among the non-followers was about evenly divided. And, as to be expected during this age, the negative responses tended to be angry and were largely based on commercial press presentations of the war.
While the essay clearly stated that there was no effort within the essay to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and that all war should be condemned, somehow this point managed to go unnoticed and people assumed that an argument for a negotiated settlement to the war was a defense of the Kremlin, or Putin, or however Russia was characterized.
The reality is there are strong nationist sentiments in Russia which have brought the nation to this point. The Western advised economic collapse of Russia during the 1990s; the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999; the succesive rounds of NATO expansion towards the Russian border during the years 1999, 2004, 2009, 2017, and 2020; U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Balistic Missile treaty during 2001; US. involvement in the Ukrainian 2004-05 Orange Revolution and the 2013-14 Euromaidan Revolution, the refusal of the West to consider a European security infrastructure which included Russia; all, with each successive event, seemed to drive Russian nationalist sentiments to higher levels of commitment. Like most politicians who spot a trend, Russian politicians jumped aboard to save their political careers.
Putin was no different in this regard. When he came to office in 2000, he was quite cooperative with the West and even suggested that Russian membership within NATO was a possibility–an idea which the West has repeatedly swept under the rug. He, reportedly, was the first world leader to call President Bush after the 9/11 attacks to offer both condolences and the use of Central Asian air bases for the U.S. in its upcoming war against terrorism. But with each passing perceived aggressive move by the West, which, in addition to the above, also included U.S. and NATO led wars and interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria–all within Russia’s perceived zone of interest, the nationalist sentiments strengthened, and Putin was forced to react. This became particularly true during the 2011 protests in Russia over perceived election fraud and anger over Putin’s decision to run again, and eventually win the 2012 presidential election. There was fear among the Russian ruling elite that a Color revolution might occur in Russia. It is at this moment that Putin seems to have decided to more fully align himself with the Russian nationalist forces. Prior to this, Putin was hesitant to embrace these forces. These nationalist forces consist of several strands which range from democratic nationalist to imperialist nationalist and many variations in-between. One thing which all strands seem to agree on, is they are, and have been, opposed to NATO expansion; most of these strands feel threatened by this development. Domestic politics have played a large role in Russian foreign policy.
So, here we are. Those who disagreed with the essay seem fairly united in a desire to see Russia completely defeated, removed not only from eastern Ukraine, but also Crimea. This, despite what would mean a massive loss of life among both Ukrainian and Russian soldiers, starvation on the African continent, shutdown of industry in Europe due to energy shortages, and the possible lack of sufficient heat in European homes this winter.
This view is largely the fault of the western press which never recovered from its early mistaken portrayal of Putin as the sole evil cause of the invasion without appropriate attribution to Russia’s powerful nationalist forces–forces which largely developed in response to perceived western aggressions. With this in mind, the assumption is that Russia can be defeated without serious consequence as the simple removal of Putin will probably do the trick. But it will likely not do the trick, and if Russia faces defeat, Putin or otherwise, there is little basis to believe that Russian nationalist forces will accept total defeat. This, of course, could push the world to the brink of nuclear war.
We can disagree with these nationalists forces, I disagree with nationalist forces wherever they occur, but these forces will continue to exist. One can stand on principle all one wants, but at some point the costs of this “principled” stance, i.e., a non-negotiable total victory over Russia, will result in a moral position, due to massive death and destruction, much inferior to the moral position of a negotiated solution. Hopefully the world will recognize this before it is too late.