A new foreign policy for Europe
"Give Russia a free hand on the Continent."
[Update: for actually-correct Ukrainian hatefacts, see this clarification.]
Either that fool Putin is about to invade the Ukraine, or doing an excellent job of pretending to be. This is very encouraging for clowns like me who still believe in history: it suggests that history, at the late year of 2022, might not even be over.
Some Americans believe that this is unacceptable—that, to paraphrase FDR, America’s frontier is in the Carpathians. For those who believe that Europe, even Eastern Europe, is America—full of proto-Americans who have not yet taken the trouble to apply for their blue passports—there is no alternative but to fight! To defend the sovereign nation of Ukraine (and its important energy resources, etc), along with the fundamental principles of international law.
America must defend herself. This aggression will not stand. The utterly realistic concept of a guerrilla war in 21st-century Europe has even been broached—by the sensible, grownup department paid $750 billion dollars a year to defend the USA. Seems like a good idea, right? Let’s start with some geopolitical facts.
The historical context
Ukraine was the core of the original Russian state and had, till New Order was a band, been a province of Russia roughly since James II was King of America. The Ukraine is slightly less Russian than Texas is American, and way more Russian than Alsace is French. There were a few centuries when it was overrun by the Turks, or something.
Any civilized Ukrainian speaks perfectly good Russian—the “Ukrainian language” is a peasant dialect. The President of Ukraine is not even fluent in this “Ukrainian” argot, which is slightly more important in normal urban life than Welsh in Wales.
Like “South Sudan,” the modern “nation” of “Ukraine” is a joke drafted by the State Department—a historical coincidence conceived in Stalin and Alger Hiss’s collusion to give the former one UN vote, in the very important General Assembly, for each of his provinces—then given birth in one of Boris Yeltsin’s vodka binges. And Wilhelm II is in the picture too, somehow. And it was a great way to break up the Soviet Union.
The situation as I see it
Now, freshly-bedecked with its gain-of-function laurels and showered with confetti after the victory of Afghanistan, the USG turns its eye to a land war in Europe—for the purpose of rescuing this bureaucratic construct from the 1990s, out of Kaiser Bill by Alger Hiss and Boris Yeltsin.
Americans, friends, countrymen: if we have a dog in this fight, then every dog is ours. I submit that not every dog is ours. Please do not ban me for my doubt that every dog is ours—or even for my belief we should have no dogs at all.
In fact, I think that if America could decide that we have no dogs in any fights besides our own—and who would fight us, but to fight our dogs?—this “world without allies” would prove superior not only for all Americans, but also everyone else. Dogs should be free to run and play—they should not be chained up all day—and the right to make war is the most fundamental attribute of national sovereignty. In our neo-Westphalian future, there are no puppet states and no fake countries; every nation is independent: it exists by its own might. If that might fails, it disappears.
Well, a man can dream. But this principled isolationism is only a way to punt the question of what should actually happen here. Let’s zoom in and analyze the situation from the perspective of both players. Maybe there is a win-win plan for cooperation.
The situation from Putin’s perspective
Wargaming it from Putin’s perspective, the Anschluss of the Ukraine is a great idea. However, the trouble with Putin is that his great ideas are only great in the abstract; somehow, he never quite achieves greatness in the concrete.
For instance: why isn’t Crimea, one of the world’s jewels of real estate, dotted with charter cities full of global nomads? Crimea could be like California, but with police. Instead, so far as I know, it is a half-ruined backwater ruled by some petty local thug.
It seems important to caveat this discourse that if the real Putin invades the Ukraine, this will probably not be good for the Ukraine—either in the long run, or the short. But it should be. Since this is an essay about the theory of foreign policy, rather than some kind of Moscow-sponsored tongue bath, let us imagine an abstract, ideal Putin. Invading the Ukraine will probably be quite good for both real and ideal Putins.
The real Putin will strengthen his image as the restorer of Greater Russia, and firm up his internal power position. Sanctions against Russia will not harm its business as a trade-surplus energy exporter; they will harm Putin’s Westernized opposition. (And imagine if Russia demanded gold for its natural gas.)
The ideal Putin would turn the Ukraine into a perfectly-governed jewel of the new, reviving, post-American and post-liberal Central Europe—with traditional clothing, modern transportation, and fiber-optic Internet, but without porn, K-pop or the gay. While it does seem unfortunate that this will not happen, take a walk around Moscow, preferably from your home in San Francisco—and measure the distance to the ideal.
The situation from Trump’s perspective
But screw Putin. Forget these Slav-squatting, tracksuited snow-apes. What’s in it for us? What about America? (We’re all good Americans here, right?)
Obviously, Gray Mirror can have no influence on the Biden administration. But, unless one of these saurians keels over, we are headed straight for a Biden-Trump 2024. A savage 2024—a real plate-throwing showdown in America’s broken marriage. Even now we all can feel the tension winding up.
We need not mention the real Trump—obviously I don’t know the real Trump—but what would the ideal Trump do?
If Trump triumphant returns to office in 2024, his first goal must not be to use power, but to take power—to relentlessly grow the scope of his office by bold, decisive action. And the proper arena for this action is foreign policy.
Trump’s goal is to expand his power rather than getting results, because results are revenue and power is capital. Rather than fish with his hands, he makes a fishing rod. Action creates power because action makes precedent.
If Trump can act on a scale on which no President in living memory has dared to act, his enemies will be daunted and afraid; his fans will be exhilarated and emboldened; and he will find it easier not just to get results, but to take even more power. Victory creates more victory, and there is no such thing as too much power.
Of course, if these actions are bizarre, imprudent and detrimental to America’s goals, they become counterproductive rather than productive. What Trump needs is not just enormous actions, but enormous wins—as soon as possible, as big as possible.
And those wins must ride roughshod over the most heartfelt beliefs and assumptions of his foes in the administrative state—then prove themselves by palpable success.
It is much easier for a new President to assert his Constitutional right to control the executive branch by controlling foreign policy—since foreign policy, by definition, has no entirely domestic axe to grind. The President’s right, as chief executive of the executive branch, to dictate the budget, policy and personnel of that branch, is at its clearest in diplomacy and defense abroad.
Therefore, Trump needs a dramatic foreign policy win that will be palpably good for America, and for the world in general, but can only be achieved by annihilating some network of power within the so-called “executive branch.” Ideally, the policy win is so complete that no organization can plausibly remain—the problem is simply gone.
The goal of US foreign policy in Europe
Under a Trump administration, the goal of US foreign policy in Europe is to impact domestic politics in America.
There are no realistic American foreign-policy goals, in the usual sense, for Europe. Realistic foreign-policy goals are either military or economic. Europe is not a military threat to the United States in any way. Europe has a trade surplus with the US, which means that cutting off trade with Europe would by definition grow the US economy.
Rather, under a Trump administration, the goal of US foreign policy in Europe is to impact domestic power in America. For example, the fall of Afghanistan liquidated the organizational structures within State and DoD that supported this shambolic puppet state. These structures are tough, but they cannot survive the end of their purpose.
The liquidation of “Ukraine,” comedian-Presidents, petrochemical magnates and all—will be an enormous blow to both State and Defense. It will suggest to all State’s other client states that Washington can no longer guarantee their “sovereignty,” whether by diplomacy or by force.
Give Russia a free hand on the Continent
But thinking only in terms of “the Texas of Russia” is thinking way too small. Rather, Trump should give Russia a free hand not just in Russian-speaking territories—but all the way to the English Channel.
The goal of a Trumpist foreign policy in Europe is to withdraw American influence from Europe. This will guarantee the defeat of liberalism on the Continent. Here in America, this will show liberals and conservatives alike that liberalism is mortal—with gargantuan effects on the morale of both. And as Clausewitz said, all conflicts are mainly about morale.
Liberal ideas are not indigenous to the region. They are Anglo-American ideas. They washed in on a tide of money, fashion, and bombs. And what nation has done more and better work, in the last two centuries, at defeating liberalism in Europe? While the Germans in the 20th century may have tried—the Russians in the 19th succeeded.
Russia defeated the revolutionary dictator, Bonaparte. The hoofs of the Cossack horse clattered on the cobblestones of Paris. Russia founded the Holy Alliance and anchored the League of the Three Emperors, dedicated to the blackest-dyed European reaction. Russian troops quelled the revolution of 1848 and freed Hungary from liberal tyranny. Russia’s reward for this was the insane Franco-British aggression of the Crimean War, an early, deranged incarnation of 20th-century liberal imperialism.
Now it is Russia’s fate to again to restore order in Europe. Since America is stronger than Russia, though, Trump needs to let Putin really know it’s okay to do it.
There is only one way to send this message unequivocally: withdraw from Europe.
Policy for the ideal Trump
Trump will order the withdrawal of all US forces and diplomats, all bases, embassies and consulates, from the continent of Europe. Any diplomatic conversations, if any are still necessary, can be handled by email or zoom. (Public diplomacy—Woodrow Wilson’s “open agreements, openly arrived at”—is always best.)
If these facilities did not exist, no one would invent them. In their nominal purpose—peer-to-peer communication between sovereign governments—they are anachronous. In their actual purpose—client-server supervision of satellite governments—they are obnoxious. By withdrawing all American personnel stationed in Europe, Trump is not abandoning Europe—he is setting it free. Much as Gorbachev freed the Warsaw Pact.
The new condition of Europe is that it need not answer to America for its form of government. Whoever rules France is the government of France—the government de jure is the government de facto. As President Monroe put it 200 years ago:
Our policy in regard to Europe is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none.
France had better not mess with us. But whether the regime in France is fascist, communist, monarchist, racist or anarchist, we will buy their wine and sell them our Disney merch. We don’t even care whether France is still France—it could split into little baronies; or it could be a province of Russia. The terroir will remain unchanged.
Policy for the ideal Putin
Given a free hand in Europe, Putin will not even need to use it.
There will be no tank armies sweeping through the Fulda Gap, 1976 wargame style. Even a winter gas cutoff would be hopelessly heavy-handed. Did the US invade the Warsaw Pact in 1989? It did not need to—it was the obvious center of gravity. Russia simply needs to provide backup and support for the counter-American regimes that will naturally emerge when American influence is withdrawn.
The French military, already fantasizing about a coup, will realize quickly that nothing at all prevents that coup—or even requires the resulting junta to be temporary. In fact, nothing prevents a coup from restoring Louis XX (not to be confused with Louis X).
Any such regime could justify itself merely by restoring urban public security—safe, clean streets with no-go areas. No one who had lived through the late democratic period would forget the difference, or the insanity of taking the old world for granted. Imagine thinking of 2022-style urban squalor as “normal.”
Many of Putin’s actions seem directed at shoring up his domestic authority. This is very weak by historical standards, since Putin is not in fact a Tsar—he has to pretend to be an elected, democratic politician under the rule of law.
This concession is his own surrender, and his country’s surrender, to the global rule of democracy, which is—or was—the global rule of Anglo-America. But that was then and this is now—America has pulled out of Europe. (Not including Britain.)
It follows that, just as the old postwar Europe was a laboratory of democracy, the new, post-Trump Europe must become a laboratory of reaction. Once Putin has a free hand on the Continent, every old European nation will find a helping bear-paw in restoring its traditional culture and form of government—the more autocratic and legitimate, the better.
The fundamental problem of Putin’s regime is how to expand his personal power in both depth and time. In depth, he must be more autocratic, more able to personally command everything everywhere. In time, his regime must last not only his whole life, but far beyond even his life.
The illegitimacy of 20th-century dictatorships is a black mark on autocracy, because it contradicts autocracy. A temporary autocracy has instability built in. Since the dictator of another fake post-Soviet nation, Lukashenko, must pretend to be an elected politician, no one can be sure what will happen when Lukashenko dies. Here is weakness in the strongest of regimes, under the strongest of strongmen.
Therefore, Putin’s interest in occupying Europe is to field-test Russia’s own future as a legitimate autocracy—in other words, an absolute, Tsarist-style monarchy. Since every European country was at one time a monarchy, and since the concept of mob violence, guerrilla warfare, etc, in modern Europe, is comical, encouraging a pool of experiments in reaction, monarchy and autocracy—experiments whose results may be applied in Russia itself—seems like the obvious move.
There is some danger to Russia in actually restoring the vitality of old Europe. Seldom has Russia been able to go pound-for-pound with France or Germany. But considering the state of those nations today, it will take many years for this to be a serious concern.