From the 1100s, to the 1800s the main political dividing line in Europe was between England and France. By the end of the 1800s that dividing line moved Eastward putting Germany on the “other” side. Even after the defeat of Germany after World War I France still considered Germany a future threat and built the Maginot LIne defense system on its Eastern border with Germany. During this entire period there was not much difference between all these countries. The religion was Christian (though of various sects), the royal families were actually related, the culture was similar as was the racial make up of the countries. The defeat of Germany in 1945 moved that dividing line yet again eastward behind what Churchill dubbed the “Iron Curtain”. This time the division was mainly political with Russian communism becoming the system of the East. This put Eastern Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Baltic states etc on the “other” side. On the Western side of this dividing line the fear was Russia and Communism would move Western so NATO was created as a defense to prevent this. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union freed the Eastern European countries to decide their own fate and they all (except for Belarus) decided to join Western Europe. For a period even Russia itself was looking Westward and the dividing line between East and West became blurred and to some non existent. All of the countries abandoned “Communism” as their economic system. However, just like France after WW1 still fearing Germany to its east, the Eastern European countries continued their fear Russia to their east and pushed to join NATO. Meanwhile as the Europe moved into the 21st Century the dividing line between Russia and the Westward European countries seemed to be evaporating. It no longer was automatically seen as a natural dividing line. “Capitalism” replaced “Communism” as the political system. Christianity which had been suppressed under the Communist regime was back in favor. So there did not seem to be any reason for a dividing line any more. Russia was European after all. However, with the rise of Putin Russia began incorporating authoritarian aspects into the political system. This was slow and did not appear dangerous. In fact Putin became very popular for a while as he seemed to be pulling Russia together after the failures of Yeltsin. Meanwhile Putin made it clear quite early in his rise that he considered the “fall of the Soviet Union” as the greatest disaster of the 20th Century. No one took it particularly seriously. As we now know, Putin retained his KGB Soviet Union way of thinking. He wanted to regain what he considered was lost by the collapse of the Soviet Union. In other words he was looking to the past and a dividing line that was to the West of Russia. He was thinking yet again that Russia was separate from the “West” and must therefore have natural spheres of influence. Putin moved more and more towards authoritarianism imprisoning or poisoning political opposition, controlling the media and elections that insured his position. In fact he was rebuilding a political dividing line between democracies and authoritarianism but in such a way that it did not appear to most in the West that it could become dangerous. President Bush “saw his soul” and saw no danger. President Trump liked him more than his own people, President Clinton thought he was an “effective leader”. Obama did not see the danger either. So Putin managed to fool everyone – or rather – most world leaders WANTED to believe that Russia was not a threat and chose not to see the signs for what they were. Ukraine changed all that. It was such a shock that it did what most would think impossible. Unite the world in a way that we have never seen before. The reality is that the dividing lines between East and West have always been artificial and depended on who wanted power and often only one man who wanted that power and not the vast majority of the people themselves. There is little racial difference, religious difference and even cultural difference between Russians and the English. Traditions may be different but the essentials are basically the same. The differences are even more slight between Russians and Ukrainians. In that case the differences were so slight that the Ukrainians could not believe Russia would ever invade AND all the Russians who watch Russian state controlled news cannot believe that Russian troops would attack Ukrainian civilians. They believe what they are told as it fits to what makes sense to them. No matter how you cut it, this war is the result of the views of one man only. No wonder all free media has been silenced so the only views that the Russian people can see are the views of that one man. Putin.
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