Leonard Cohen ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons’
I attended a philosophy festival a few days before the war in Ukraine. The sensation of fear over the war was visceral. The writers, academics, politicians and thinkers at the philosophy festival had been trained to offer support and contribution towards democracy and very often the normative foundation for their being published would be to offer some way of improving our democratic society and preserving our civilisation. The idea that you had an authoritarian dictator willing to use his nuclear weapons to annex a neighbouring democracy was an outlier that did not exist within their discourse.
In Vladimir Putin they were witnessing someone seeking to violently oppose and damage many of the problems they had spent their entire lives trying to solve. Putin is opposed to stopping global warming. According to Bill McKibben: ‘Sixty per cent of the export earnings that equipped his army came from oil and gas’. Putin doesn’t regard the truth as essential. He has actively supported fascist thinkers that deploy Nazi like attitudes towards Jews and Homosexuals. According to one of his advisors democracy is a system manipulated and encouraged by Jews and Homosexuals to ‘enslave the homeland’. Through hacking campaigns Putin has explicitly and consistently acted to damage democracies in America and European Union. His actions suggest that he would like to destroy the security and political structure of the entirety of the Western Liberal order. Therefore, when Putin went to war with the Ukraine, he went to war with every one of those thinkers who had been making contributions towards the future of our civilisation.
The events in Ukraine have triggered seismic geopolitical movements. We are facing the worst Refugee crises in the history of Europe with more refugees than in the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The return of the far-right throughout the European Union was mainly a reaction towards the Syrian Refugee crises and the failure to talk about the reality of the political impact of refugees may be fatal for the European Union in the long term. The great demand for fossil fuels to replace Russian Natural gas has been concerning for all those in environmental activist circles with statesmen like Tony Blair calling to temporarily mine coal, the planet’s dirtiest fossil fuel, and Joe Biden entering into oil negotiations with Saudi Arabia after promises to make the state a “pariah” after the murder of Jamal Kashogi. The FT writes that ‘the crises in the fossil fuel markets could have been an opportunity for politicians to accelerate their green energy plans. But fears of inflation and energy security anxieties seem instead destined to trump climate policies.’ The International Energy Agency says the world will burn a new high of fossil fuels this year.
The reaction towards this collective trauma has been strong. Barring Russian businesses and Oligarchs from Modern Rome has created a sense of Western identity. These sanctions made everyone aware of the efforts that Russians had to be part of the Anglophone and European empire. We were never conscious before these events that Russians, perhaps even Putin, felt condemned to have not been born to America, Britain or France.
Nonetheless, even as I feel the strength of our democracies, I can’t help but realise the constellation we have formed is readying itself for war. These alliances, these nuclear weapons, these submarines, these cyber weapons and these autonomous weapons were built to defend, to deter and to defeat.
All of those born in the post World War Two world have been born to a world ready for nuclear annihilation. The equation is simple. If one nuclear bombs gets fired this planet will be destroyed. For those in the post Cold War world this threat has never seemed likely. Now it is a serious possibility that Putin, a man isolated from Russia, fearful of relinquishing power and in the final act of his life, will fire a nuclear bomb.
Through the invasion of the Ukraine Putin has entered the unknown. This is the first attempted European annexation since World War Two. He isn’t aware of the impact of internet technologies will be towards modern Warfare. He isn’t aware of how automation and artificial intelligence is going to impact the war. He isn’t aware of the impact of the climate crises. He isn’t aware of the impact of Ukrainian morale. He isn’t aware of the impact of the Russian people’s response. He isn’t aware of how the impact on the markets. He isn’t aware the impact of Chinese opinion, China have their own imperial goals, and 71 of the countries part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, making up 547 billion pounds worth of trade with China, condemned the War in Ukraine through the United Nations. Putin therefore is much like those at the philosophy festival, a social scientist experimenting to translate his ideas into reality, in this case using an army and a nuclear arsenal to enact the greatest gamble of the 21st century.
Remember, Putins dreams of annexing the Ukraine likely started in 1991 with Ukrainian independence. Since then the planet has changed dramatically. Who would’ve known that at a time of war, an international hacking network known as Anonymous would be intercepting Russian army communications and exposing military databases.
For everyone hungry for battle, we don’t have to risk nuclear annihilation to hurt Putin. Instead, we have the ability to protect the Empire through destroying his most useful idiots in Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump.