HOWARD EPSTEIN: HOW THE WEST WAS LOST
Imagine: The following letter was intercepted by Mossad last evening:-
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich
With the prospect of your 65th birthday next October, and now that I have time on my hands, I thought to review for you how it all appears to me to be going – after all, it could hardly be said that I have not contributed.
It seems that all your plans are on the cusp of complete success. The total collapse of the nation-state system in Europe and the USA is looming. Soon they will be unable even to recall life in a world in which London controlled the UK, Brussels ran Europe, Madrid called the shots in Catalonia and DC ruled 50 states.
The rot, for the rotten-from-the-inside West, set in at their moment of misplaced triumphalism on November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall was breached. The delusional Francis Fukuyama, a Harvard professor no less, had the previous summer written an essay entitled “The End of History?”, in which he argued that “the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government”. After the unification of Germany, so convinced by his own thesis was he, that the 1989 essay evolved into his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man” — the dropping of the question mark confirming increased self-confidence in his theories. Fukuyama appears completely to have missed the point, the importance of the events in Tehran in 1979 having completely passed him by. Indeed, a précis of the work states:-
“The Islamic state may be an exception, but it is not expanding–it certainly cannot challenge liberal democracy on the plane of ideas, and the religious ideology on which it rests does not resonate with traditionally non-Islamic people, nor with some younger-generation Muslims.”
Some exception – some failure to resonate! The West has since spent trillions of dollars fighting Islamic militancy – stimulated for the Sunnis by the Iranian Shia activity – since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. In that conflict, they supported the very dictator (Saddam Hussein) whom they had to remove later, in two fiscally-ruinous wars, to maintain the continuity of their precious oil supplies. And did they not create the Taliban when Soviet Russia was bogged down in Afghanistan? How they would regret that, should they have any appreciation of their mistakes!
Of course, 9/11 was deeply troubling for the American nation, already traumatized by over a dozen national traumas from the Wall Street Crash, through political assassinations and sundry other crises; to that event (which Clinton would have seen coming had he not been semi-detached by his extra-curricular activities); but their response blinded them to the greater challenge: just when they should have seen you coming, they looked the other way.
In a Fukuyama-esque response to the collapse of the Russian economy in 1998, they assumed that Russia would never rise again and, despite American military spending continuing at a rate that makes every other nation’s (and Russia’s) appear paltry, they failed to see how, whilst they have global reach, Russia would come to be camped out (with its latest world-beating tank) on every Western front-lawn from Finland to Turkey. What you always quite properly resented – American triumphalism – told them that they were the only super power, and that it would ever be so.
You quietly invested your comparatively modest military budget in a focussed and deadly way: in supersonic nuclear cruise missiles and in nuclear explosives-tipped torpedoes, with which today’s and future state-of-the art nuclear Russian submarines will be equipped. Given that only Vladivostok and St Petersburg (the latter bordering an enclosed Baltic Sea and quite easily defended) would be vulnerable to such a weapon, it must be somewhat worrying for the Americans to think that almost every major city of theirs (apart from Chicago and Atlanta) is on one sea board or another, and so fully exposed to such an attack from way out upon – or rather from under – the high seas.
And that is not all. Nature may abhor a vacuum but you just love them. The way you filled every void left by the West over the past few years has been breath-taking. From Syria, where a certain US president (no names) scratched out his own red line and enabled you to take control there – and over the Middle eastern skies – to Libya, where by now you are supporting the only challenger to the Western-recognised “government” (none of that mess would have been created if the British had not, to remove Ghaddafi, indulged in their pusillanimous stand-off way of waging war, from the air alone) to the way you reclaimed Crimea (to which you are now building a bridge from Mother Russia) – and not to mention your trial runs with neutering the Internet-based banking of Estonia, and the enfeebling of Ukrainian and Georgian electronic systems by the use of your cyber warriors – was quite brilliant.
Of course, the US made two incredible mistakes – several years apart but out of the same mould: they empowered their deadly enemies North Korea and Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, albeit postponed in each case by a few years – only.
Hubris! So very dangerous, and the one weakness to which you, with your steel-trap like mind, will never fall victim.
The US and the Europeans, too, took the Russians for dummies. They could not believe that Russia would, over time, grow out of its financial weakness of the years after 1998. How difficult was it to check the level of oil and gas reserves under the permafrost?
And they failed to notice your rise to power in 2000 – and your single-mindedness.
You, of course, knew that, had the oil price not collapsed to $27 a barrel in October 1998, but remained steady at $60, the Soviet Empire would have continued. You appreciated that, and the corollary also: that what is $27 in one year is going to go up by leaps and bounds in others – as indeed it did. That is where you were really clever, Vladimir Vladimirovich: you invested in the means of production of Russian fossil fuel so that below 6,000 barrels a year in 1998 had by 2016 virtually doubled.
Having said that, you have done even more at home. Long gone are the shortages of bread; now Russia is a net exporter of wheat. And you never raised the people’s expectations so that they would grow flabby as in the West. Furthermore, you have given the people a sense of national pride and instilled a high level of morale into the military.
What do we see in the USA and Europe? People who do little or nothing to preserve their own traditional way of life, an addiction to drugs of all sorts – proscribed and prescription – an aversion to fighting to maintain their security and a predilection for identifying with any one (or more?) of the 72 possible genders listed on Facebook!
Now, the suspicion that you may have elevated Trump to the White House has, true or not, sent shivers down the spines of the British and the Europeans in the context of their electoral processes.
Your mastery of the geo-political situation is best seen in the 3 million soldiers that you had facing the West by 2016: as the British send 300 troops to defend the Baltic states, as Sweden begins to restore conscription and Finland extends its defences, so Hungary (an EU member state) cleaves closer to you – and everyone else in Europe worries for a while, before reverting to spending their money on welfare for their vastly increased immigrant populations, and failing to increase their military spending to 2% of GDP! What a gift!
Two aspects of Russian life that have been respected and supported from before the Soviet era, through it and after it, too – education and culture – are your secret weapons for, as the West flails around trying to teach unruly classes of kids even to sit still, Russia maintains a certain discipline that means the people can take a level of deprivation that the West has totally forgotten about. And whilst the UK and the USA enjoy an ephemeral full employment, ignoring the great unemployment that AI and robotization will inflict on them, suddenly the low rate of population growth in Russia does not look like so much of a problem.
I am unsure whether you earn greater credit for your 2008 Master Plan 2.0 and your ability to have kept it secure within the walls of the Kremlin with no leaks – as every Western government department of note leaked like a sieve – or for its faultless execution.
The ability of Europe being able to field effective national armies will have faded by 2025, along with autonomous control over national and local utilities and facilities – from electricity supplies to traffic lights and perhaps the maintenance of a working Internet.
There will by then be few with any appreciation in the West of how all this came about, so immediate and comprehensive will be the need to scavenge for food between one period of fitful sleep and another. We can expect within a decade scenes throughout the West straight out of those post-apocalyptic movies, like Mad Max and I Am Legend, that you so enjoy.
What is hardest to believe is that they thought that sanctions would ever tame the Russian bear, so impressively personified by you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. They fiddled while Rome burned and you quietly built up your military, cyber and strategic positions.
All this shows a comprehensive game-plan like no other.
So, pozdravleniya and happy 65th birthday, dear President (or is it prime minister this week?).
Yours in admiration