Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Flow of History, The Ukraine and Leadership

Who is leading in Europe? Angela Merkel of Germany has been a leader through the Euro or austerity crisis in the Euro zone. Germany has been an powerful example of leadership in fiscal responsibility. Their perspective on history makes them even more frugal now than in the past. They were left with absolutely nothing twice in the twentieth century. But Germany also has a dark history of which they are all too aware. Though Germany under Merkel appears to be the only country in a position of power and leadership able to negotiate with Russia, in which they are the go to, Germany is far too tormented by their past and they tend not to exert themselves in any fashion considered aggressive. Germany fears presenting any vision for Europe or the world in light of their previous worldviews, as they would not be trusted; accused of their past sins. Or, perhaps it is themselves they don’t trust.

We all joke about France, but it is France, even over the United States, that has been taking leadership in the troubled areas of Africa. They have been well received. France looks to uphold its’ pride as a former world leader when French was the international language. French is still spoken in much of Africa. The French are aware and proud of their history and global influence, though it has waned. They have a vision to follow of who they are and where they stand in the world.

Then we have Russia and Vladimir Putin. Russia, even before the Soviet Union, was one of the largest nations in the world. Holding vast tracks of land covered with multiple ethnic groups. They achieved a cohesion few empires have accomplished in history. They are a landlocked people held together by strong expressions of central authority, often brutal, and have historically felt smothered by their neighbors. This historic dynamic is the reason behind their constant fight for access to warm water ports or any ports. Hence their drive for ports on The Black Sea and the Baltic.

This vision of empire, based on historic realities, was cemented in the form of the Soviet Union under the ideology of communism with its vision of world empire. While the people of Russia, free to protest now, express a much more harmonious vision for their future with their neighbors Vladimir Putin, former KGB, is still locked in the old ways. It is this old vision and world view that is threatening the Ukraine and western Europe, perhaps ultimately the United States. Yes, Putin’s views and tactics are something from the past but are well founded in the history of his people and his understanding of the realities around him.

Who is leading in Europe? What makes for a good leader? More than a clear understanding of their history and the geopolitical realities surrounding them I would add a leader, if he is to accomplish anything, needs a love of country, personal charisma but most of all the ability to make right and effective decisions in the course of accomplishing specific goals.

Have I left out Great Britain as a leader in Europe? The last bastion of freedom against the Nazi hordes in Western Europe in WWII? The land of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher? Well… Where Russia put forth Olympic ceremonies celebrating their deep history, culture and technological accomplishments, Britain put forth programs at their Olympic Games proclaiming; ‘Weeeee! Look at us. We’re a bunch of pop culture socialists, aren’t we cool?’ Now Britain, an empire on which the sun never set, is contemplating the independence of Scotland. Yes, Britain has become the country of socialized medicine, green energy, or rather a fear of the farce of manmade global warming, and the propagation of homosexuality worldwide. Onward Christian soldiers!

Russia is seeking to regain what they see as an empire lost by invading the Crimea on The Black Sea and threatening the Ukraine. This is in reaction to the Ukraine rejecting a pro-Russian government on the grounds of both its’ corruption and for taking a subservient attitude to its’ former oppressor.

Before all this occurred Russia had proposed a joint bailout for Ukraine by both Russia and Western Europe. Was this a ploy while even then Russia contemplated invasion? We’ll never know now. Western Europe, which for some reason I do not understand, has been keeping alive Cold War practices in their expansion of NATO. They further took the position that relief for the Ukraine was an all or nothing deal; forcing Ukraine to choose between aligning with Western Europe or Russia. How could old school Putin not take this as a threat? Being the leader he is what did the West expect?

Obviously there was a failure in leadership, a failure to provide a joint vision for Europe in a post Cold War era. Like in the past, Europe took a disinterested and demeaning attitude towards Russia.

If we had leadership in the United States, strong leadership with a strong worldview grounded in reality, what could have been? Perhaps the United states could have used its’ military force and economic clout to open Russia economically. We could have assisted Russia in diversifying its’ economy (Russia depends economically almost solely on its’ oil and natural gas) and forced judicial reforms helping both foreign investors and the Russian people themselves. If a true leader had trouble with the government, they would have went around the government proper and dealt with the some 140 oligarchs that rule the country. Would a true leader not have found a foothold among 140 family groups? Would none of those Oligarchs have desired a more open and fair economic environment for their country?

Or is The United States leading? Some believe The United States is intentionally trying to ferment war in Europe with Russia. A friend of mine in Germany believes in the prophecies of an Alois Ihrmaier that Russia will invade Germany. Whatever the case The United States is the only nation that can negotiate with Russia and back their negotiations with the threat of overwhelming military force, something Putin understands.

A true leader would have recognized the damaged pride of the old Russia and worked to assuage these dangerous resentments. Belorussia was staged to form a common currency with Russia, much like the Euro in Europe. Political infighting and an overbearing Russia destroyed this deal in the final hours. A true leader in the United states would have understood the significance of the circumstance and would have seen the necessity of the common currency deal and would not have allowed the process to fall apart. They would have worked to support Russia in expanding the Ruble zone over their former empire while at the same time negotiating a stronger Europe (yes, expanding NATO and deploying a missile shield) along with stronger militaries and more secure positions for the former nations of the Soviet Union.

Kings David and Solomon pleaded with God for wisdom and understanding. Wisdom and understanding are the other essentials for good and productive leadership. They are the qualities through which a history and the geopolitical realities are processed. How closely a leader’s views match those of God’s views, or the truth, produces great leaders or not respectively. Look at Ronald Reagan with his vision of the shining city on the hill. His leadership and faith did more good for this nation and the world than any contemporary leader of his day. Only Abraham Lincoln and George Washington can compare.

But we don’t have a President like Ronald Reagan in office. We have a President that has never accomplished a thing in his life. A President who was known for voting present in Illinois as part of the state legislature if he wasn’t voting for killing babies. We have someone who believes The United States is the source of the ills in this world, who believes this nation needs to be substantially changed. We have a man entrenched in an ideology that has failed, is failing and like so many dictators who have come before sees not his failure or that of his beliefs but blames the citizenry or some aspect thereof. I have no idea of what sort of alternative history President Obama has studied, if any, but it wasn’t the history most of us born before 1970 were taught. And he certainly is no proponent of Christianity.

A vision for the Ukraine tempered by wisdom and understanding seems to be in play among the people of Ukraine and whatever leadership they have. The problem is they are in practical terms defenseless before Russia and no single individual is stepping forward to lead. Leadership does not come from consensus. Perhaps we should look to Eastern Europe for leadership, for someone to step up to the task. They at least understand what is at stake. Or will it be Germany that will halt the Russian bear. Putin’s vision appears to include the freedom of religion and the right to protest but can it survive? Should that be allowed to assuage our concerns over the revival of tyranny in Russia?

It is almost too late for the Ukraine. At best, if some leader should suddenly rise to oppose Putin the best that can be achieved is the preservation of the Ukraine, but what then? Has anything changed? Are we just delaying the inevitable? It will be at least a decade before those with the old vision of the Soviet Union, such as Putin, will be out of power. A vision for Europe in the twenty-first century is desperately needed, but NATO doesn’t know who they are anymore. Merkel is stuck baby sitting the spoiled brats of Europe that want their mother to buy them everything in sight, and France has chosen Africa as their arena of influence. Without someone to present an alternative vision, to lead, we have only Putin’s vision for Europe. Hence the West has already lost. Oh! Great Britain, or it may be best just to say England… They’re too busy trying to tell all of us in The United States that we all love Obamacare and should give up our guns. I imagine that would make them feel relevant again, if we were all just like them.

This all begs a follow up post: The Flow of History, The Ukraine and The Moral Authority