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The West gives Putin a refresher course in physics — and judo

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Aside from this piece - which I agree with  - I am not a big fan of George Will regarding substance, but I do enjoy his style.  (emphasis mine)



The physics of international politics sometimes tidily illustrate Newton’s third law of motion: When two bodies interact, their forces on each other are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. Vladimir Putin’s war has provoked opposite forces of more than equal magnitude.

NATO was created in 1949 to (said its first secretary general) “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Putin has provoked Germany to do what various U.S. presidents have fruitlessly exhorted it to do: stand up. That is, to embrace diplomatic and military roles commensurate with its European centrality and economic vigor.

For decades, Germany’s foreign policy had often been liberal, as Robert Frost defined a liberal: someone “too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” (LOL, So true!) But in last Sunday’s emergency Bundestag session, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the left-of-center Social Democrats said goodbye to all that.

“To set boundaries for warmongers like Putin,” Scholz announced 100 billion euros ($113 billion) to modernize Germany’s military. Germany will at last meet NATO’s goal-cum-duty for members to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, a commitment tepidly avowed by, and not constraining for, most NATO members. Germany, Scholz said, will build “the next generation of battle tanks,” and might purchase U.S. F-35 fighter jets and — Germany has been queasy about drones — Israeli drones. Two liquefied natural gas terminals will be built to receive LNG from the United States and Qatar, reducing Germany’s current 55 percent dependence on Russian gas. Germany, which is sending Ukraine missiles and armored vehicles, has ended its opposition to other countries transferring German-made weapons (howitzers from Estonia, rocket-propelled grenades from the Netherlands) to an active conflict zone.

In Scholz’s coalition government, the foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, is from the generally pacifist Green party. She said Germany’s “180-degree turn” means “leaving behind a form of special restraint in foreign and security policy,” but “if our world is different, then our politics must also be different.” The coalition’s third party, the Free Democrats, stands for fiscal rectitude but called the increased defense spending “an investment in our future.” Credit Putin for this epochal transformation.

Some people eager to propitiate Putin have suggested the “Finlandization” of Ukraine. A 1948 treaty with Moscow lodged Finland firmly in the Soviet sphere of influence. But Pekka Haavisto, the current foreign minister of Finland (which is a member of the European Union but not of NATO), says of Finlandization: “We don’t recommend that path to anyone.” And: “It is very important that NATO keeps its open-door policy, that Finland keeps the right to apply ... and that is our position for Ukraine and Georgia as well.” In Sweden, too, NATO membership is being considered.

In 1910, almost 40 remarkably peaceful European years after the Franco-Prussian war, Norman Angell published “The Great Illusion,” which became one of the first international bestsellers. His argument was that major wars — those between developed nations — would be prohibitively expensive, hence futile, hence unlikely. Wars had become too disruptive to be feasible in an economically interconnected world.

Stanford University’s president agreed: “The Great War of Europe, ever threatening ... will never come. ... The bankers will not find the money for such a fight, the industries of Europe will not maintain it.” David Starr Jordan said this in 1913, the year before the beginning of, essentially, a 30-year European war.

Eleven decades after Angell wrote, the ever-thickening fabric of globalization is still insufficient to prevent all wars. It might, however, enable noncombatant nations to coordinate the inflicting of economic pain severe enough to force even a barely developed nation, such as Putin’s ramshackle Russia, to buckle.

Putin’s Russia might be, in President Barack Obama’s dismissive estimation, a “regional power.” But its region is Europe. And as Dominic Sandbrook, the British historian, says, “Fixated on their own modernity, obsessed with the here and now, many Western politicians seem unable to grasp that at the eastern edge of Europe, history really matters.” That they grasp it now is another of Putin’s self-wounding ricochets.

Daniel Yergin, in “The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations,” writes: “In 1976, the Leningrad Evening News reported that a previously unknown local ‘judoist’ had won a judo competition” and predicted that more would be heard about him. He was the 23-year-old Vladimir Putin. One principle of judo is to turn an attacker’s force against him. This is what — Newton’s third law of motion applied to international affairs — the 69-year-old Putin is now experiencing.


Edited by homersapien
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