IN Tom Clancy’s blockbuster submarine thriller, Captain Marko Ramius chooses the anniversary of his beloved wife’s death to steal the Soviet navy’s lethally muffled doomsday machine. Marko is a hard man with a wounded spirit and a poet’s heart. If Vladimir Putin was similarly moved by the romance-cum-duty of remembrance, yesterday’s feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius – Apostles to the Slavs – would have been laden with symbolism for a man poised to let loose Third Rome’s dogs of war. But this isn’t a novel or a movie and there isn’t going to be an all-in brawl with Russia. I’d be surprised if there is even an invasion of Ukraine. The same ‘nudge units’ that sold us the ‘science’ of China’s pandemic ‘measures’ – and a series of deceptions going back to the First Russia Hoax – now want us to think armageddon in Eastern Europe is ‘looming’. Aping an increasingly unhinged United States – a nation recently bounced out of Afghanistan like Barney from Moe’s – khaki tub-thumpers Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton are campaigning on Anthony Albanese’s unwillingness to fight Russia. They scampered away from Mark McGowan.
In an irenic gesture prophetic and brilliant, in 1980 Pope John Paul II named Cyril and Methodius co-patrons of Europe, thus affording the holy brothers – and through them the peoples they evangelised – the same cultural prestige as Saint Benedict of Nursia. Tragically, after the collapse of the USSR ten years later and the retirement of the Wojtyla generation of statesmen – schooled in world war – such virtuosity in the grammar of diplomacy and Ostpolitic was replaced by an altogether different and foolish proselytism. Instead of leaving well enough alone after consolidating its hard-won victory, NATO’s new class of swollen-headed clerks began to encroach upon – when they weren’t re-baptising outright – nations they had absolutely no business alienating from Russia.
The gamesmanship surrounding Ukraine is shot through with two historical ironies and, arguably, one Russian miscalculation. First, the ironies: it was the Soviet Union that inspired and bankrolled Western leftists to erode the familial, educational, cultural and religious ramparts of Europe. There were no relativists in the 1960s and 70s, however, but only Robespierreans waiting for preferment and middle-age. That the heirs of old front groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament are today’s woke-mongering enemies of Russian chauvinism is what makes the deserts so just. Karma aside, the second irony is a rude blusterer becoming successor to those who opposed Brezhnevian perfidy while being prudent enough to leave humiliation out of post-Gorbachev strategy. Donald J. Trump has more in common with George H.W. Bush than Joe Biden does.
It is possible Putin underestimated the resolve of his politically and mentally failing counterpart – meaning his handlers – to make a stand over Ukraine. The White House is desperate to live down the Kabul Debacle and make a now widely detested incumbent look commanding – or even awake. With November’s mid-term elections projected to be a Republican rout, Ukraine is a proxy theatre for an existential panic about MAGA divisions amassed on the DNC’s border. The trick is to claim at some point that a non-invasion was America’s doing, that Putin was ‘stared down’ by the glassy-eyed old man from Scranton. Call it the Omicron Play: the restrictions worked because the sniffles fell back. The small contingent of US gesture troops will help sell the ruse, of course, and the media will sell the story. But the truth is Putin cannot lose. Russia is free to garrison its soldiers wherever it likes and there is nothing anyone can do about it.