The Russian president recently let the world know that the Ukrainians are a nation of brothers, but that they have been subjected to Western brainwashing which turned them into Nazis. Apparently, he assumes that the largest and most powerful among the brothers, the Russians, are legitimized to impose their law on the smaller and weaker ones, that is, to bring them under the Russian heel. It is understandable that the Baltic countries, themselves inhabited by many Russian brothers and sisters, live in constant fear of this cannon-armed love, as do the Poles and other Slavic peoples, all of whom can be considered distant brothers. NATO would never have become so strong unless these people painfully remembered that three quarters of a century earlier, first Hitler and then Stalin preached and practiced the same kind of brotherly love.*1*
Nowhere is there such a tireless call to fight Nazis as in Putin’s Russia. But why is the Russian president eagerly copying Nazi methods that he professes to abhor? Why is the world presently on the brink of a war that could escalate into a final exchange of nuclear strikes between the West and the East?
Let’s turn a blind eye to the ideologies on both sides in order to look at the fundamentally changed conditions, which affect all states for about half a century. Until then, the great nations on this globe lived so far apart from each other that they could subjugate others at best temporarily (think of the nomadic empires and colonialism) but could never establish a lasting rule. Dominations had to take place with the help of armies that were in constant need of human and material supplies. As soon as these were missing, rule collapsed.
Things are different today – even fundamentally so. For about half a century, intercontinental missiles have been available to large states, and in the coming decades they will be available to many smaller ones as well, which means that their bombs can turn any area on the globe into uninhabitable, nuclear-contaminated deserts. This threat is permanent, and it is irreversible as long as there is no authority above individual states to put an end to it. The whole world today is in the same situation as little Europe was in the time of Immanuel Kant, when he demanded the establishment of a world government, because without such a government the European nations would tear each other apart in constant fratricidal fighting. In Europe, nations were so close geographically and so heavily armed that only a common government could bring about a permanent peace between them.
Two and a half centuries later, Europe finally realized the vision of the great German philosopher. But today’s world – though due to the spread of technical civilization more uniform than ever before – is still far from political unity, although in our time – unlike in that of Kant – what is at stake is much more than war: it is the very survival of our species. In my opinion, today’s situation should be described as follows. Mankind, already united by common technical civilization, lives in a world state without a world government, i.e. in the situation so much lamented by Thomas Hobbes, where each individual (in this case, each individual nation) strives to obtain for itself a maximum of material and ideological power, even if this occurs at the expense of all others. Under such conditions, we must speak of political chaos, which can lead to civil war at any time. However, people prefer to use a more euphemistic term, referring to a “multipolar world order”.
But states can only bring peace to their citizens if they have a monopoly on legitimate violence (Max Weber). Every functioning government is “monopolar” by its very nature and mission, even if it democratically grants the greatest freedom to multipolar, particular interests – that is, unless these conflict with the common good. Otherwise, multipolarity leads to chaos and civil war, the war of all against all so vividly described by Hobbes in his classic Leviathan. Hobbes had the Thirty Years’ War in mind.
Within two centuries, Europe and its offshoot, the United States, have upgraded technologically with exponential acceleration. Today, the entire globe is copying this process within just a few decades. Technology has brought all nations and states so close together that segregation is no longer possible. Communication and data streams bridge all distances at the speed of light, supersonic nuclear missiles can reach any point on earth in the shortest possible time. Hackers from Korea or South Africa are closing in on us just as quickly as those from a neighboring city. In other words, our species Homo sapiens insapientissimus has become a single nation through technology, but it is still in a state of civil war (remember Hans-Magnus Enzensberger).
During civil wars, no functioning government exists because no single authority exercises the monopoly on the use of force; rather, force has become “multipolar”, that is distributed among many conflicting parties. This observation applies to the individual state as well as to the entire world community. Until about the beginning of the present century, the US was the undisputed leading power. It exercised the role of an undeclared world government setting the rules of the international game. According to Arnold Toynbee, it acted far less brutally than previous leading powers. In the meantime, however, the United States lacks the economic clout to maintain its former superiority over a rising China and even against Russia, which has re-emerged as a nuclear superpower. Seen in this light, the war in Ukraine is just another chapter in the struggle of the great powers for supremacy. This struggle will only come to an end when one of the superpowers or the UN can finally assert itself in this position. For without an authority recognized by all, there can be no lasting peace – Kant’s statements are as valid today as they were at his time. Regardless of whether we want or loathe such a world government – technical “progress” forces it upon us, because otherwise this so-called progress will bring nuclear and ecological doom, as many pessimists have long feared
1 Even the most incorrigible Putin-understanders would have their hair stand on end if they could watch a daily program like “Vremja pokazhet” (Time will tell) on the first channel (Pervyj Kanal), i.e. the most popular Russian channel. In all seriousness it is claimed that in Berlin no Russian can dare to go out on the streets because he must expect to be beaten up by Russophobes. Moreover, German courts under the Swastika would issue daily rulings on the expropriation of Russian property. Likewise, Vremja pokazhet asserts that German Chancellor Scholz is about to establish a fascist regime, and that the West is persecuting Russians not for political reasons, but because Russians are once again considered subhuman, as they were under Hitler. They are persecuted for racist reasons (how stupid to cancel the engagements of great Russian artists like Anna Netrebko – this works into the hands of Russian propaganda). We further hear in this popular talk show seen daily by millions of Russians that the fraternal intervention in Ukraine was absolutely necessary, as NATO had planned to start a nuclear attack from there on Russia…
Putin sympathizers, learn Russian so you know what you are talking about! But then don’t fall into the opposite mistake of not respecting the Russians. Just remember that we Germans and Austrians behaved even more dreadfully during thirteen terrible years of the last century. Being acutely aware of our own past, I endure the ghastly warmongering in the first Russian channel.
2 On this subject, I have completed a book entitled The predictable Collapse of Techno-Civilization. It is still unpublished.