Friday 25 February 2022

In Time of the Breaking of Nations

When a 30th century historian looks at the ruins of London Bridge and decides to write a book about the Decline and Fall of the West perhaps he will decide to start in 1990, as Gibbon started his Decline and Fall with the peaceful and contended reign of the philosopher Marcus Aurelius, inspired by hearing monks chanting Latin in the ruins of the Colosseum.

But though in 1914 Europe expected then to rule the world forever the rose was already cankered.

Today Thomas Hardy's poem In Time of 'The Breaking of Nations' from 1915 came to my mind.

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.


Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass:
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.


Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

Stalin: Breaker of Nations (1991) is the title of a wonderful biography of Joseph Stalin Robert Conquest that I read twice. Now Stalin's successor is the breaker of nations. 
Thomas Hardy's poem take its title from Jeremiah.

Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms.

Putin like Adolf Hitler, Frederick the Great, Louis XIV and innumerable other men and one woman, Catherine the Great, is an Old Testament figure. 

Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau and Ursula von der Leyen also have biblical parallels (please supply to taste, gentle reader) but not with warlike or regal figures.


  1. A Word on The Ukraine

    (24th February 2022)

    For reasons that escape my understanding, someone at The Daily Mail called me a few hours ago to ask my opinion on the present war between Russia and the Ukraine. Our discussion was organised about four questions. Here is the generality of what I said in answer to each of these questions:

    1. Have we no duty to help the brave democrats in the Ukraine, who are yearning to be free of the neo-Soviet tyranny that Mr Putin represents?

    No. It is none of our business what gang of bleary kleptocrats occupies the ministry buildings in Kiev. Any British politician who so much as whispers a desire for armed intervention should be hounded from office.

    2. What about our friends in the former Warsaw Pact states of Eastern Europe? Are we to abandon these to the real possibility of creeping aggression from Moscow?

    What friends? If you will pardon my French, these countries shat all over us in 2018-19. Admittedly because our own politicians were trying to sell us out, we needed support in our dealings with the European Union. Those supposed friends in Warsaw and the Baltic States had only to veto our compelled request to put off our departure for the French and Germans to cave in and start talking sense. They looked the other way then. We owe them nothing now.

    3. And our commitment to the Atlantic Alliance?

    Please do not mention the Americans. Leaving aside our sad entanglements since 1917, America is some kind of zombie apocalypse plus nuclear weapons that might not yet be past their use-by date. It has not won a war against an equally-matched power since it defeated itself in 1865. Its army nowadays is stuffed with the sort of people who, faced with a conventional battle against the Russians, would probably shoot their own officers if these were not themselves waddling away. The Americans as allies are a net liability.

    4. What is your vision for British defence policy to 2030?

    Switching the “climate change” budget to rebuilding our navy and air force. Our new ships and aeroplanes should be wholly designed and built in this country, and we should understand that their most likely use will be against the French and the Americans.

    At the same time, though this is a digression from the main answer, we might set about remaking England as the sort of country a reasonable man would risk dying to defend.

    This is roughly what I said to the young woman who called. I doubt if any of it will be in tomorrow’s Daily Mail.

    Sean Gabb

  2. It looks therefore like we have truly entered a new phase in Geo Politics, Russia has established a siege economy that is relatively impervious to sanction and has now moved to protect what it sees as its own national security interests using a combination of tactics previously used exclusively by the West as part of their ‘Rules based international order; it has recognised breakaway republics (using the Kosovo protocol) and then sent in ‘Peacekeeping troops’ in the same manner as the West went into Libya. It has used aerial attack and a degree of ‘shock and awe’ in the manner of the first Gulf War and it intends to de-militarise Ukraine in the same way the US sought to de-militarise the Taliban in Afghanistan. What’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander as they say. It’s a horrible, horrible situation for the people of Ukraine, but it also hopefully marks an end to the endless, unchecked, regime changing destabilisation, election interference and NATO expansion that has characterised the ‘post’ Cold War era. It is to be hoped that the, relatively simple, demands that Putin previously had – no joining NATO and no weapons on Russia’s borders as well as Kiev respecting the previous Minsk accords with respect to the Donbass can now be the basis for some common sense negotiations. Whatever else, with 22/02/2022, it is clear that the new, multi-polar, world has truly arrived.

  3. Washington’s agenda hasn’t changed; it wants the expansion of NATO up to Russia’s border and a liberal pro-American regime in Moscow. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared to the media at a January 7 State Department briefing, “NATO never promised not to admit new members. It could not and would not – the ‘open door policy’ was a core provision of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty that founded NATO.”

    As I reported on February 21, German media released documents from the British archives proving that the US, German, France and Britain had indeed promised Russia in 1991 that NATO would not expand to the East if Russia withdrew its troops from Eastern Europe.

    What has changed is the position of Russia and China.

    Today Russia has a current account surplus equal to 5% of GDP, $630 billion in foreign exchange reserves and a modernized military that has no credible opposition on the European continent.

    In China it has a trading partner with an unlimited appetite for its hydrocarbons, which can be delivered overland far from possible interference by the US Navy. And it has a partner in China for high-tech R&D and industrial investment.

    Putin wanted Russia to join NATO. He wanted to be part of the West. His most effective opposition comes not from the sort of liberals who play well on the American speaking circuit, but rather from “Eurasian” reactionaries like Aleksandr Dugin of the “National Bolshevik Party,” whose politics are consistent with its historically allusive name.

    But the West has pushed Putin into an alliance with China. It is perhaps the dumbest thing the Western powers have ever done. It could be the last.

    Biden throws Putin into Xi’s briar patch
    US has pushed Putin into an alliance with China that could rank as America’s biggest strategic blunder of the century

  4. War in Ukraine started 8 years ago. Russia is now ending it.

    Maria Zakharova

    1. It did indeed start 8 years ago when Russia invaded Crimea Donetsk and Lugansk and started the war in Donbass that continued until last week when the Russians invaded further.

    2. Then again, Imperial Washington no longer cares about facts, logic, truth and most especially history. At the time of the Bush War on Saddam’s WMD’s, Karl Rove explained the Empire’s New Creed without pulling any punches.

      “That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

      There you have it. And Rove is no out-of-the-way academic scribbler inventing some high-fluting rationalization for American global hegemony. To the contrary, he’s a lifetime Swamp creature, leading beltway racketeer and the strategic brain trust of the GOP establishment.

      Needless to say, Washington continues to create its “own reality” almost weekly, and this one’s a doozy.
      There manifestly would be no war in the Ukraine today save for Washington’s machinations back in February 2014, but that bit of crucial history is now deader than a doornail.

      David Stockman's Contra Corner