For many years of the past 50 years the world was divided neatly between two opposing points of view. A binary world in other words.More recently we see that there are many more divisions than two. For starters we need to understand the starting point of the divisions today.
1. The USA from the first European arrivals was anti authoritarian in orientation. Escaping from religious persecution, ethnic persecution or political persecution. Revolution for independence, individual rights etc happened over 200 years ago. So Americans have had over 500 years of those views. of course this applies mostly to white Americans.
2. Russia has been authoritarian for many centuries with only brief moments that could be called “democratic”. The Tsars were authoritarian and though the communist revolution was at the start “democratic” it quickly reverted to authoritarianism. The period after the fall of the USSR saw a brief move towards democracy but it also soon became more authoritarian ending up with Putin today.
3. England began to diminish authoritarian power 800 years ago with the Magna Carta. The power of the King/Queen continued to be limited over the centuries until the monarchy virtually has no power which now rests totally with an elected Parliament.
4. France was confused with loose control from the Monarchy until Louis XIV centralized it to the point he planted the seeds of the French Revolution. The French Revolution eliminated the Monarchy entirely and fostered views of democracy of the people. The country veered back towards authoritarianism under Napoleon but the cat was out of the bag and that did not last long. It is a joke today that there are so may political views in France that forming a representative government is nearly impossible.
5. Germany had a propensity towards authoritarianism until it was beat out of it by the severe defeat of World War II. The end of World War II set the stage for the next 50 years of European history. The division was stark – Churchill called it the “iron curtain”. In the West most of the countries became democratic in orientation and independent from domination by foreign powers (Western Germany limited in some ways). Eastern Europe was dominated by the USSR and communism forced on the countries so authoritarian in nature just like the USSR was. When those countries tried to break away, Hungary for instance, Russian troops put it down. Germany was divided providing a clear visual of how life in the West was compared to life in the East. Both the USA and the USSR encouraged the hostility and we still have the word “communism” used as a political slur by such people as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Mark Levin who have no idea what it means and confuse it with socialism and even liberalism. Then the collapse of the USSR changed the stage yet again. The major point we need to know as it relates to what is happening today is what happened to all those countries that had been under Russian domination since the end of World War 2. Suffice it to say that Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia etc who knew what it was like to live under Russian domination pushed to protect themselves against their neighbor to the east. NATO was established just for that reason so they pushed to join NATO. East Germany merged with West Germany. The basic truth is that these countries wanted to be independent and not have a political system forced upon them. They also saw the benefits of the Western economic models and wanted to have those life styles available to them as well. They joined the European Economic Union. None of this was easy, some more messy than others, and not always perfect but none of the countries want to go back to the days of Russian domination and will fight to prevent that ever happening. Ukraine saw the same things and also wanted the same things that the EEC had and NATO would provide. Not all Ukrainians but the vast majority of them. Not all people in any country think alike. The most telling statistic we see in the Ukraine war is that just over 50,000 people fled to Russia while 1,300.000 fled to the West. It is clear that the vast majority of Ukrainians do not want to be a part of Russia any more than Poles do or Czechs. or whoever. At the same time there has been no moves by Ukraine to threaten Russia militarily and indeed they have little wherewithal to do so. They voluntarily gave up their nuclear weapons etc. Meanwhile, Putin is a child of the Regan era of international politics when the world was neatly divided between East and West. On one hand there should be no reason for seeing why such a division exists any more than Poland sees it that way. We in the US do not understand that thinking. On the other hand Putin is seeing the world in the traditional Russian authoritarian view that has existed for centuries. Add that to the emotional nationalistic view that Russia is no longer the great power it was and we have what Putin is thinking. Hitler used the same thinking during his rise in Germany. England and France had to come to terms that they were no longer top dogs just as Italy did centuries ago, and as Spain and Portugal had to. Putin is therefore bucking the reality of the world today. There is an appeal to “going back” to times that seemed better. We have “make America great again” in the USA as well. Unfortunately it is easy to forget what those “good times” really were like. There will always be those people who want to see things “from the other side”. People like Tucker Carlson and a few other right wing types want us to believe that NATO moving towards Russian borders was bound to cause Russian security concerns. They basically bought into the idea that there were two natural divisions between East and West. That Russia and the Western nations were always going to be stuck on opposite sides. Why? I would wager that most young Russians would not agree. Then there will be those appeasement types like Tulsi Gabbard who encourage the view that guarantee Ukraine will not join NATO and it will all be good. We saw that movie in 1939. In the end the reality is that it is not in the interests of the USA or any country in Europe including Russia for there to be this historical division. Western Russia is part of Europe. It has oil which Western Europe can use. The Russian people want the same things as do the people of Kansas City. So historically Putin is an unnecessary throwback to a time that did not make much sense then any more than it makes sense now. Bucking history is a loosing proposition as Putin will find out. We hope he finds out sooner than later.