The Ukraine Escalator

This is the escalator in the Kiev Metro or subway.

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

One way is up, the other down. In this Biden-induced war of attrition with the maniacal czarist and still KGB war criminal, Vladimir Putin, things can either get much worse or we find a proverbial off-ramp. 

I prefer the latter but realize there are no guarantees and while Putin cannot be trusted, Biden is back-footing it. 

One thing, which I found to be the case in my entire career dealing with the Soviets during the first Cold War, remains certain: Peace comes through strength. Weakness begets aggression. Resolve is the only thing the Russians respect. Reagan proved it and Trump practiced it. I lived it and have the stories and death threats to demonstrate it. If we are to end the provocation and horrors of Cold War II and stop them from becoming a hot World War III, complete with nuclear blackmail, we need to change course and follow this path. 

As the perspicacious will have surmised, our moment’s thesis and antithesis are whether or not to match Putin’s blinds and see what the cards keep dealing. The alternative to matching the bet, as connoisseurs of both poker and game theory will know, is to fold, as “The West” did during Obama’s feeble tenure—when Crimea was assaulted and given away.

The moment has made for strange bedfellows—not least Obama’s abysmal record (which was not even anti-war) with a certain slice of whatever they’re calling non-beltway Republicans these days.

Let’s note in passing, too, the alliance of totalitarians (Iran, China, Venezuela, Kingdom of Saud, etc.) who are helping Russia make a mockery of the international institutions that depend on it acting more responsibly as a Great Power—a role it has forfeited by its resort to force of arms in what is a very negotiable situation. In the resolution to this crisis, Russia must be removed from its permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Kazakhstan, just months ago, had welcomed Russian troops as liberators against some very well-organized agitators. Kremlin types had certainly gained self-confidence after people remembered what a Karabin Spetsialniy looks like. What remains to be said about the current state of hostilities? The patriotic wind at the Ukrainian Resistance’s back is clearly made of sterner stuff than whoever those Kazakh agitators were. 

Much ado has been made about picking the same side as Soros and “the Blob” in this crisis. Which brings me to Aleksandr Dugin, of the Russian Nationalist Bolshevik Party and Putin’s foremost political thinker—a Rasputin look-alike. The Kremlin, variously, has leaned on ethnic ties, religious unity, denouncing communism, and really has not been much bothered about sticking to a party line at all—which is both fascinating and disappointing, as their Pravda propaganda was always a highlight for any respectable warmonger to peruse. 

Dugin’s remarks, kindly translated into English through the good offices of a friendly editor, rely on one of Soviet propaganda’s greatest hits: Denazification. Dugin’s maximalist negation of Ukrainian nationhood—a strongly felt nationalism now ratified in history by the spirit of resistance, as were Hungary’s, Czechoslovakia’s, and Poland’s before it—puts both him and Putin on the opposite side of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev on the question of national self-determination. 

I suppose Gorbachev can still declare for the Union of the Eastern Slavs (after he let them go), but I don’t think Brezhnev would ever have renounced so useful an organizing principle as the nation-state polities which, if anything, expanded further as the independence of the Baltic states and other suzerainties regained sovereignty. 

This helpfully provides an out for previously somewhat Russian-aligned politicians in the West. Éric Zémmour, Marine Le Pen, and Matteo Salvini’s European alliance during the time they spent together in Brussels was, after all, called Europe for Nations and Freedom. Their ideological commitment to patriotic nationalism, through which they criticized EU homogenization, puts them on the same side as Ukraine—whether they like it or not. So would national conservatism anywhere—America included.

The strangeness of defending sovereignty and nationhood by force of arms next to people like Soros and the “International Community,” big NGOs, and such variegated fauna as multinational, globalist, woke capital who are all toeing the nationalist line is not lost on me. For some reason I yet fail to fully intuit, the backing of Lenin and his self-determination of peoples was enshrined in international law. Through the UNGA’s decolonization committee when Moscow behaved a little less like barbarians—helping midwife such nationalist miracles as Indian independence. To find oneself on the same rampart of this Russian Revolution as Patriotic Ukrainian Nationalists, at least, gives me some hope we’re all doing the right thing.

In other words, we’ve got the EU defending national self-determination, in terms Le Pen and Houllebecq could only dream of in 2014. Even Xi Jinping’s thought isn’t anti-nationalist, much less anti-Leninist. If for no other reason, then at least the transparently self-serving rhetoric coming out of Moscow can’t possibly win against a substantively superior creed. That is if all of us stand up to them.

The singularity in public contracting corruption (a worst-case scenario considered state-threatening by the sort of cyber warriors whose job it is to think about crises) is the net result of the inevitable self-dealing during the emergency period. Taking out Soros’ goons and the wackier creatures born of mutations within communism’s ideological virus—“owning the libs,” up to and including locking up the grifters who profiteered during the pandemic—will surely be the locus of domestic policy for a while to come. With them pinned down, much like the third of Moscow’s military currently tied down in Putin’s “Special Military Operation,” it is time to escalate. 

Take the escalator up, Joe. At least try to act like Reagan and not your mentors, Obama or Carter. Poland has nothing to lose but its 28 old MIGs, so drive them across the border, if need be yourself. Get the Turkish TB2 drones on site and the various old S300 missile (SAM) defense systems delivered and working, tomorrow. Show some wherewithal.

Much has been made of the escalation ladder and Putin’s willingness to bluff on nuclear matters to force the backers of Ukrainian nationalism to fold against Moscow’s aggression. Putin doesn’t set the terms. One wonders what would happen if a repeat of the Kazakh situation happened now, or if Georgia quite reasonably made the most of the chance to regain its separatist provinces, especially given their track record as beachheads for invasion.

There’s plenty of escalatory space before anything nuclear becomes the logical next step, and the bottom line is that although our pile of chips is significantly larger than Putin’s, there is no need to make him go all in. If he’s not already at full tilt, he will be soon. You have seen the live film footage of Mariupol and elsewhere. It looks like Grozny and Aleppo—the Russian form of scorched earth warmaking. Russian forces are tied up all over the world, including nearby Syria (and one of their sole remaining aircraft carriers) but also in Africa and Latin America. There’s no shortage of places to squeeze. And squeeze we must.

Having met Soros; Thatcher; and Putin—three considerable positions for this globalist/nationalist Overton Window, I can certainly say something on this debate. Soros and the European globalists loved Thatcher the economic liberal until her nationalism got in their way and then they canceled her in her prime. Putin remains so caught up in his own anti-nationalist, empire building scheme rhetoric as to have alienated Russia’s only remaining constituency outside of the rump communist parties still active in every EU country. I also have an extremely watertight record on keeping NATO’s feet to the fire, up to and including getting canceled myself by the sort of European in a gray suit who took out Thatcher. 

Maggie once said that if you stand in the middle of the road, you get hit by both sides. The Free World’s predicament is keeping the Overton Window between Soros and Thatcher. After all, as an assiduous student of revolutions, these developments might yet even keep Soros himself on the side of nationalism, even if it is only in a Ukrainian foxhole.

The Ukraine escalator should be taken up, prudently and within the contours of principled realism. Putin can be taken down, likely not assassinated a la the hothead Senator Lindsey Graham. If Biden had any gumption or resolve (and those around him certainly don’t) he would muster whatever strength he has left in his frail and weakened existence and deal fervently with the matter at hand.

This is true American Greatness. It works every time.

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About Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, scholar-diplomat-strategist, is CEO of the thought leadership firm The Roosevelt Group. He is the author of 18 books, including The Plot to Destroy Trump and, with Felipe J. Cuello, Trump's World: GEO DEUS. He appears regularly in the media, as a keynote speaker, and on television around the world. 

Photo: KYIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 18, 2022.Chris McGrath/Getty Images