I am writing this post shortly after my most recent post about Apple products. I am spending the afternoon working my day job, and planning to write some more of my novel, but in a moment of distractedness, I read some of the news coming out of Ukraine.
It’s hard, if one thinks about what’s happening there, not to see the parallels between this situation, and earlier ones. I would argue that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be directly linked back to the UK and US’s reluctance to continue the Second World War and remove Russia from Poland. The UK had started the Second World War, after all, to protect Poland from foreign rule and, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, our supposed allies – the USSR – had taken advantage of the settlement to deny Poland that freedom.
The West’s reluctance to finish what it started in 1945 (and Stalin’s unkept promises at Yalta and Potsdam) led to the Cold War, especially after Russia developed nuclear weapons.
The lack of trust on both sides left the Russian state reeling after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. NATO expansion and Russia’s failure to democratize (in the way countries like Estonia managed), created a new tension under Putin which has led to a situation where Putin feels the need to push NATO away from his borders.
To be clear, I don’t think that NATO were wrong to expand, and I don’t think Russia are right to murder people in order to try to protect themselves from a phantom fear, but I can understand why Putin thinks he’s in the position he is.
All this to say, I don’t know what’s going to happen. The future could go in one of several directions:
- Putin could conquer Ukraine and then continue into Moldova. Any signs of complete success might draw the West into actual conflict.
- Putin could be defeated and, his pride wounded, lash out (use tactical nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, or attack a NATO country).
- Putin could fail to make headway, see his support eroding in Russia, and lash out to protect his ego.
- China could decide to help Russia by invading Taiwan and pledging support to Russia against Ukraine.
- North Korea could attack South Korea, by accident or deliberately, causing geopolitical brinkmanship to trigger a world war incorporating China, the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, and the West.
In other words, I don’t think we are living in a certain time. Things could – and hopefully will – go a lot better than I describe above, but there is real uncertainty.
And in that context, my last post feels a little banal. Who cares that I am enjoying the MacOS/iOS ecosystem when the world is about to end? When there are people being murdered by a despot in Russia – people whose existence has ended, and who love and are loved. People who had dreams, people who are gentle, kind, belligerent, and every other type of character. People who have ceased to be.
I know that our empathy must have limits. We would be paralyzed if we thought about the hardships of our fellow humans in the same way as we do of our own family, tribes, friends, etc. But we should also not forget them. The larger the number is, the harder it is to comprehend, but we should endeavor to remain appalled at the loss of life.
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Attribution: Tank photo: Graeme Main/Ministry of Defence (UK)