For those who don’t know, I am Generation X. I grew up in the last years of the cold war. The USSR was an evil empire, we were forever on the brink of Nuclear war. As R.E.M. said, “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel Fine.)
Then came Gorbachev, and Glastnost; The fall of the Iron Curtain, the collapse and break up of the USSR. It was the end of the world as we knew it. And it felt fine. In the new world that emerged, war on a global scale seemed unlikely. Nuclear war even less likely, because we all knew there could be no winner, and who would be that stupid?
And yet, here we are, on the brink of World War Three, with a Nuclear threat hanging over our heads. Not the Eighties nostalgia I was looking for; it was bad enough when legwarmers made a comeback. I am honestly surprised we are in a Shooty Shooty Bang Bang war. I expected WW3 to take a different form. I thought if it came to war with China, it would be a financial one. As China owns the debt of so many countries, they could just repossess out battleships rather than sink them, or clamp the wheels on a tank and haul it away.
Russia’s chief weapon in misinformation. They’ve been using it for years, call it the evolution of the propaganda wars in the 70’s and 80’s. The west stopped bothering with anti-communist scare tactics because, well, we won. The USSR broke up and everyone embraced capitalism. The west moved on to anti-Muslim rhetoric, and Russia spent a few years getting it’s shit together.
The along came Putin. A man with a dream, a plan, and many years of utterly ruthless KGB experience.
Russia has been at war with the west for years, we just didn’t recognise the preliminary stages. They embraced the power of the internet and set up vast networks doling out misinformation. Small things at first, and then the lies got larger. See what small lie people will believe and then feed them a bigger one.
False information was behind a lot of the fear and prejudice that surged prior to the Brexit Referendum. Britain left the EU, leaving the European Union weaker, with other countries planning an exit, and Britain itself divided between Leavers and Remainers. It’s six years later and people are still pissed off. Many people based their decisions on fake news later traced to Russian Bot farms.
The Information War has been particularly successful in the US. The divide between Republican and Democrat has transcended politics to something far more visceral. In the olden days, Politicians who disagreed would describe their opponent as wrong, misguided, and would say his plans would hurt the nation. Now, their opponent is Evil, trying to destroy the country, seeking to take away your rights and you must resist their socialist authoritarianism.
Like when water seeps into cracks, freezes and widens the cracks, Russian misinformation has divided, fractured the western countries. We have been divided against ourselves. The small cracks have become giant chasms, and it is through these canyons that Russia has invaded Ukraine. and left the west gasping, not sure what to do. Or rather, not sure what they Can do.
Other contributing factors to western lack of response include: Global Pandemic which has left most countries without the financial, social or psychological wherewithal to send troops abroad. In many cases they will struggle to defend their own borders.
Also contributing; the ocean of Russian money that has flooded major cities like London, New York, Toronto, etc in recent years, inflating the property markets, as well as swelling the coffers of political parties, helping to keep them in power in exchange for allowing the oligarchs to launder their money in peace.
But it wasn’t until men with guns crossed the border into Ukraine that we realised we were at war. We really should have been paying better attention.
That said, the Ukrainian People have been an inspiration. Putin expected this campaign to be a walkover, and he has been thwarted by a people who will not take his bullshit about liberating them, and will never accept his rule. The Ukrainian Librarians’ Association has cancelled their conference with this statement “We will reschedule just as soon as we have finished vanquishing our invaders.” As librarians, I expect they will expel the Russians quietly, and in an organised manor.
Russia may, probably will, take over Ukraine, but they will never rest easily. Their rule will be like a blanket over a bed of nails.
And Here in the west, we’re wondering how far Putin will go. He’s already threatening a Nuclear response to any western nation who gets to uppity at him. And that may be a genuine threat. The terms he used, ‘Special Alert’, isn’t one usually used, but it’s not safe to say he’s bluffing. Looking at what he’s already done, can you really say “He wouldn’t do that?” about anything.
In the face of that, however, we can’t not resist because of the fear of what he might do.
We all need to be a little bit Ukrainian. We need vanquish their Invaders, before they become our invaders.