July 31, 2022
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, and the Global Culture War
While in America we tear down monuments to Robert E. Lee, in Russia they tear down monuments to Lenin
The war in Ukraine is not really about Ukraine—it is not about Ukraine’s sacrosanct borders which have been supposedly violated by Russia. And it is most certainly not about the vaunted “defense of democracy,” as we constantly hear screamed in our ears by the media and by a broad panoply of American (and European) political and cultural leaders, from Nancy Pelosi to Lindsey Graham to Boris Johnson.
None of those rationales, none of those justifications for the fanatical involvement by the United States, its puppets in NATO, and the EU, explain why the conflict in that remote part of the world is so vitally important globally that it literally has the entirety of the “woke” American Left and the great majority of Republicans, in tow, literally standing on their chairs and desks to frantically applaud such charlatans as former X-rated comedian and authoritarian Volodymyr Zelensky (and his wife) as “champions of freedom and democracy.” The specter of Graham and Pelosi outdoing each other in the bellicosity of their rants against President Putin and Russia is only a little less sickening than their lascivious ideological embrace of each other.
There are two major reasons that war has come to eastern Europe, and they have very little to do with Ukraine or the horrible sufferings of the Ukrainian population.
But they have everything to do with Russia, its president, and Russia’s current position in the context of global politics and the heretofore inexorable advance of American globalist hegemony.
Since the end of the Second World War the United States has been involved in essentially two major global conflicts: the first was the Cold War waged against Soviet and world Communism. Most of us of any substantial age can remember the days when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union and its satellites “the evil empire.” We came of age when Nikita Khrushchev’s pledge “to bury” us was believed to be a real and present danger to our very existence. The United States, then, and its allies in NATO and in other alliances were seen as the champions of freedom and liberty, and essentially of Western civilization against the Soviet behemoth which threatened to extirpate what we held dear and enshrine a murderous tyranny worldwide in its place.
All the while during that conflict our own inherited Western and Christian-oriented cultural foundation was being progressively, at times imperceptibly, hollowed out. Some of our best writers and philosophers did notice—James Burnham, Sam Francis, a few others; but it took the man “with orange hair” to finally rip the mask off, if only haphazardly and for the most part unknowingly, of what was actually occurring and had occurred here in the USA and in Western Europe. The rhetoric defending “the West and its traditions” continued in our vocabulary, but the reality had radically changed. T. S. Eliot noticed what was happening in his 1948 work, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, that we in West were “destroying our ancient edifices to make ready the ground upon which the barbarian nomads of the future will encamp in their mechanized caravans.”
The Communist threat ceased in 1989-1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolving of the Warsaw Pact and Eastern Bloc. And, surprisingly for many who controlled American foreign policy then and as they do now, what emerged in many cases in much of Eastern Europe and in Russia was not some efflorescence of “little democracies” based on the model of Big Brother America. In countries like Hungary, Poland, Serbia, and especially in Russia, it was almost as if a veil, a prophylaxis which had covered—and in a real sense, protected—these nations from the worst aspects of American “Coca-cola” culture, had been lifted, and they were back fifty years earlier, as if the Communist period were some bad fleeting dream or nightmare. And older religious and political beliefs, which had never been extinguished by decades of Communism, re-emerged. Nationalism and religious faith came out of from the catacombs to inspire millions.
Liberal democracy—the American model spread worldwide—was just one option for those countries and their citizens. And despite the zeal and hyperactivity of dominant American foreign policy and the aggressive inroads by the worst aspects of American “kulchur,” avariciously foisted off and spread infectiously by international corporate capitalism in partnership with the managerial state, resistance in the East was far more resilient than in Western Europe, where a half century of secularist indoctrination and destruction of traditions and historic religious belief had had its effects.
This rude realization soon dawned on America’s foreign policy establishment, producing what in effect is a second global conflict—between those nations chained to the tentacles of secular globalism and those outside that increasingly totalitarian consortium.
Neoconservative zealot and Fox News icon, the late Charles Krauthammer, celebrated what he called the emergence of a “unipolar world,” where liberal democracy, secularism, globalism, and an international managerial class would reign supreme. But his hopes and the desires of American neoconservatives and establishment “conservatives” for an American-dominated world where Francis Fukuyama’s dream of “the end of history,” the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy, would be triumphant, were premature.
In the East, where Russia was emerging deeply scarred and battered from its nearly suicidal seven decades of Soviet statist tyranny, the global project hit a snag. Not at first, or so it seemed. For Russia after 1991, under Boris Yeltsin, sought accommodation and partnership with America and its NATO allies, even at one point, after dissolving the Warsaw Pact, pursuing some form of association with the Western alliance.
It was not to be, for Russia, given its position in the world, desired partnership and recognition of its own historic culture and independence. But the West, spearheaded by zealous unipolar globalists, particularly in the George W. Bush administration—think here of the role of characters like Paul Wolfowitz—desired only its subservience and integration into the New World Order.
After years of attempting some sort of equitable modus vivendi with the West, Russia realized that such an arrangement was out of the question. It would have to chart its own, independent course and find partners in the world where it might—perhaps with a formerly-hostile China, maybe with Viktor Orban’s Hungary and Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil. And thus in 2009 the BRICS association—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—was born as a loose economic and potential foreign policy alliance. But above all, it was a re-invigorated and re-assertive Russia under its President Putin that took the leadership. And it was Russia, geopolitically and strategically, that was seen as the major danger by far to advancing Western globalism.
This, then, is the first major reason for the conflict in Ukraine and the frenzied hyperventilation of the elites in Foggy Bottom and in the US Congress, and in Brussels and Geneva: the Russians, and especially their president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, have not acceded to the global project. The largest country in the world had not fallen into line like other American toadies in Western Europe.
Indeed, for nearly twenty years American foreign policy has been fairly consistent in its objective of forcing a recalcitrant Russia into one more pliant minion of a hegemonic American universal order, economically and politically.
Military conflict as an ultimate element, I suggest, was always on the table for the apparatchiks who run American foreign policy. Efforts to subvert the Russian state, to create conditions for another “color revolution” in Moscow, like the ones the US had successfully engineered in Kiev and elsewhere, including in Tbilisi, Georgia, had failed and been thwarted. American and George Soros-controlled NGOs had been expelled. American-groomed “opposition” leaders to Putin’s government, whether in the person of a Boris Nemtsov or more recently by Alexei Navalny, had failed to dent Putin’s popularity or produce a desired coup of some sort.
Since the American-sponsored coup d’etat in Kiev in February 2014, deposing the popularly-elected (and Russia-friendly) president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, Russia believed itself gravely threatened. A newly-installed American puppet regime in Kiev began the persecution of Ukrainian ethnic Russians—approximately one-fifth of the population—closing Russian-language schools and media, banning the use of Russian in legal and public affairs, and persecuting native Russian Ukrainian political leaders and political parties. As a consequence, the largely Russian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk announced their secession, and Russia occupied the heavily ethnic Russian Crimea (where the Russian Black Sea Fleet was anchored at Sevastopol). Crimea had never been historically part of Ukraine.
A bloody civil war ensued and continued until early 2022, when the Ukrainian government stepped up its anti-Russian military operations in what had become a bloody eight-year campaign that saw upwards of 14,000 Russian civilian casualties in the Russian ethnic Donbas region.
Ukrainian president Zelensky’s intention to potentially re-acquire nuclear weapons (a desire uttered in Munich a few days before the February Russian military incursion began) and his refusal to exclude Ukraine from future NATO membership, and thus under Article 5 of the NATO charter, to potentially involve NATO in required joint, on-the-ground military action against Russia, pushed the Russian bear to the limit. Putin viewed these actions as a last straw.
Whether or not President Putin should have committed Russia to military action in Ukraine certainly can be debated. Indeed, from one perspective Russian troops on the ground engaging in military action has given the zealous neoconservative globalist hawks the very opportunity they have long desired: to “bleed Russia dry,” in the words of American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, that is, to achieve on the battlefield what they were heretofore unable to achieve economically and diplomatically since the fall of the old Soviet Union: the subjugation of Russia and its integration into the New World Order. Yet, from the Russian viewpoint, Russia had been pushed up against an unmovable wall, a continuous process documented by such astute observers as John Mearsheimer, Richard Sakwa, Stephen Cohen, Henry Kissinger, and George Kenan, and it could retreat no further. A hostile Ukraine, serving as a pawn for American “regime change” and a dagger aimed directly at Moscow a few hundred miles distant, could mean the dissolution of Russia itself. Indeed, is this not the wish of fanatical neocon war hawks like Max Boot? Had not Joe Biden announced with a flourish that Russia’s president was a “war criminal” (with all the legal and not-so-legal baggage that entails)?
Ukraine, thus, becomes a Petri dish for minions of the New World Order to advance their broader goals, even if it means the death or maiming of every poor Ukrainian citizen and the total destruction of their country. Such “collateral damage” be damned; what is important above all is the triumph of the “globalist project” and success of the machinations of the European Union and the World Economic Forum (WEF), to which Volodymyr Zelensky has already acceded.
On this foundation the American political establishment, from Mitch McConnell, the National Review, and Brian Kilmeade on the so-called “right,” to Nancy Pelosi and the near totality of the national media (with a few exceptions, e.g., Tucker Carlson), on the Left, are fully united. That observation is self-evident.
There is, however, a second reason which runs through all the discussion of the Ukrainian conflict as a very real undercurrent, and it has much to do with what I would call the resurgence of Russian traditionalism and its historic Orthodox faith. It is the revival in Russia since the collapse of Communism of a militantly conservative Christian Russian Orthodoxy and the fact, evident in successive and broadly popular legislation enacted by the Russian Duma and public statements and proclamations by the nation’s leaders, that currently fashionable perversions and inverted moral and religious conditions now regnant in America and Western Europe, are not acceptable in Russia.
Back in 2014 I began documenting some of the new laws and provisions, the Russian government's support for Christianity (including the building of some 24,000 new churches since 1991), the encouragement by the State Ministry of Culture of art and films celebrating pre-Soviet and anti-Communist Russian history—even glorifying the heroic struggle of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak in his campaign to defeat the Reds in 1919-1921, and the sympathetic portrayal of Russia’s rich religious and non-Communist heritage in its educational system. President Putin, himself, has on several occasions bitterly denounced Vladimir Lenin and Communism, including at a visit to the site of the Katyn Massacre where he honored the 22,000 Polish military and civic leaders brutally executed by Soviet Communists during World War II.
Even more symbolically he has personally dedicated a large monument in honor of Tsar Alexander III, perhaps Russia’s most conservative—or “reactionary”—monarch of the 19th century. Putin has also publicly embraced the Russian Orthodox faith, a faith in which his mother secretly baptized him as a small child (cf. the detailed reporting carried by the Spanish international news service, EFE, as published by the journal, El Confidencial, March 22, 2013, as well as the book-length series of interviews, First Person: An Astonishing Frank Self-Portrait by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, New York, 2000). Certainly, there are “doubting Thomases” aplenty who question the sincerity of such a profession of faith, but if we are to judge from public actions, the evidence seems to overwhelmingly confirm his affirmation.
But it is Putin’s support for traditional Russian Orthodox belief and moral stands on issues like same sex marriage and homosexuality that have provoked unbridled frenzy in the secularized West. Despite the intense hostility of the powerful international LGBTQ lobby, he makes no apologies for his views or the views of the Russian state in such matters. Over the past decade his statements and trajectory have been quite consistent…to the point that the American embassy in Moscow has flown a “Gay Pride” flag to flaunt the wide differences between the official American “view” and Russia’s position. How much more symbolically can those differences be demonstrated?
In October of 2021 President Putin gave a speech at the International Valdai discussion forum. It did not differ, on matters of culture and morality, from numerous other speeches and declarations he had made since assuming the office president of Russia twenty-two years ago. But as a summary, I believe it an excellent perspective on the intellectual framework and thinking of a man who, whatever we may think of him, now plays an extremely significant role in world history.
I quote a portion of it here (October 21, 2021):
“We look in amazement at the processes underway in the countries which have been traditionally looked at as the standard-bearers of progress…. Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, “reverse discrimination” against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.
“…We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society – it would be more correct to put it this way – has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition and the culture of our multiethnic nation.
“The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness…. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.
“This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what colour or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
“…the new ‘cancel culture’ has turned it into ‘reverse discrimination’ that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin colour…. In a number of Western countries, the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go – not only Communising chickens, but also Communising women. One more step and you will be there.
“Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts of male and female altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risk being ostracised. ‘Parent number one’ and ‘parent number two,’ ‘birthing parent’ instead of mother, and ‘human milk’ replacing breastmilk because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder.
“Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life….is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.
“I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we in Russia will be guided by a healthy and strong conservatism…. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed – precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us.
“This conservative approach is not about an ignorant traditionalism, a fear of change or a restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on a time-tested tradition and religious faith, the preservation and growth of the population, a realistic assessment of oneself and others, a precise alignment of priorities, a correlation of necessity and possibility, a prudent formulation of goals, and a fundamental rejection of extremism as a method. And frankly, conservatism is the most reasonable line of conduct, as far as I see it….
“Again, for us in Russia, these are not some speculative postulates, but lessons from our difficult and sometimes tragic history. The cost of ill-conceived social experiments is sometimes beyond estimation. Such actions can destroy not only the material, but also the spiritual foundations of human existence, leaving behind moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time….”
A couple of years before his death in August 2008, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the acerbic critic and Christian scourge of Western liberal democracy, praised the positions of Vladimir Putin. “NATO,” he said, “is in the process of encircling Russia and depriving Russia of its independence as a nation state…. [A]llying Russia to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization that uses violent force in various corners of our planet to plant the seeds of an ideology of modern western democracy will not expand Christian civilization, only terminate it.”
Is it any wonder that national columnist and author Pat Buchanan has wondered that in the immense culture war we are in, “which side is God now on”?
Which side, indeed.