Air raid sirens in Europe.
In an instant, a nation of 44 million people is transported back in time. A continent is shocked back into a mindset it had hoped to leave behind. A world is faced with a crisis it had hoped was a relic of an earlier age.
In a way more real than in 2014, or at any period since 1945, the peace has been shattered. And no one knows the ways in which this could spiral out of control, because the violence and chaos of war almost always destroys oracular prognostication. We cannot see, as the Matrix said, past the choices we cannot understand; and no one can understand the horror of war. They can only survive it.
One of the things we’ve forgotten, we who have lived in the peace of the last almost 8 decades, is how fragile peace is.
We built enormous structures and poured trillions of dollars into peace after World War II. We created international laws, systems of checks and counter-checks, and armed ourselves to the teeth in case anyone tried to break it. We had phones installed that went direct to world leaders, so that we could always have a line to defuse the situation. And time and time again when we came on the brink of a general, open conflict, we backed down.
(That is not, mind you, to say that the U.S. hasn’t waged war. That we haven’t brought ruin and horror to millions. That we haven’t glutted ourselves on the very Military/Industrial Complex we were warned about. Only that we haven’t seen the outbreak of a true and open war between major powers).
But so much of that peace was built not on the concept of armament and deterrence, but on the idea that the generations which came after the horrors of World War II would do anything to avoid going back to them. That the head of a major, modern power, with tens or hundreds of millions of civilians to consider and billions of dollars on the line would not embrace the nihilistic horror of modern warfare. That they would turn back from the brink every time.
All it takes to shatter that is one person who won’t. Who no longer cares–or never cared–about the horror. Who has his eyes not on people but on an Empire, an Empire long dead but not forgotten. An Empire whose glory is remembered and whose butchery is forgiven, because a former Colonel in the KGB wants to regain what they “lost.” Lost, of course, by letting those people freely determine their governments.
Because that is what all of this is. It isn’t about NATO, because NATO is only a threat to a democratic Russia if it feels like it has the right to periodically invade and subjugate its neighbors. It isn’t about the “denazification” of Ukraine–a country whose far right parties poll at less than they do in Russia, whose far right parties only have 1 seat in Parliament, and which has a democratically elected President and Prime Minister who are both Jewish. And it isn’t about the self-determination of the “breakaway” provinces, who have always supported Russia and will duly and dutifully support Russia.
It is about Empire, and glory, and power, and one man’s quest to have all of them forever in him. To not only restore what was lost, to correct “Lenin’s mistake,” but to have him be the one who does it.
And that ambition, ego, and hatred are all that it takes to shatter the peace we’ve worked so hard to keep.
That’s all it takes to have air raid sirens in Europe once again.
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