Friday, May 06, 2022

Europe mans up

With the exception of Hungary and its quasi-fascist leader Viktor Orban, Europe has amazed me by its resistance to Putin's brutal attack on the fledgling Ukrainian democracy. Germany has abandoned its self-conscious neutralism, along with the cozy-up policies of Gerhard Schroeder, who after he stepped down as chancellor in 2005 managed to accumulate a fortune of $20 from his Putin connections. Finland and Sweden may soon join NATO. Even Switzerland, which never joins anything more bellicose than the UN and hasn't been involved in a war for more than two centuries, has imposed sanctions on Russia and is making noises about cooperating with NATO, much as Finland and Sweden have quietly done for several years. Britain, as always, continues to punch above its weight. It's wonderful to see.

But it's the front-line nations -- Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia -- who have the most to fear from Russia, having been ruled by by the tsars and commissars for much of their history, but who have proved to be the most fearless. (When asked by a journalist how many wars Poland has fought with Russia, President Duda's staff calculated that the number was twenty-two. That may be an exaggeration, but it gives the flavor of what it's like to live in a neighborhood dominated by the monsters in Moscow.) Poland has sent tanks, infantry fight vehicles, drones, self-propelled howitzers, and 100,000 rifles to Ukraine, and it has welcomed millions -- millions! -- of Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the war.

And it's the United States, a continent and an ocean from the fighting, who only slowly follows Europe's lead. Ah, for the days of Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan! It was the last of these great presidents who defined the stakes of the Cold War in four words: "We win; they lose." It's a formula that Joe Biden might well emulate.


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