I don’t play poker!

We are approaching spring, and the days are getting brighter earlier, which is in contrast to the news that comes across our TV screens. People are doggedly going about their business, trying not to be influenced by the news, and it is becoming abundantly clear that we have misjudged the geopolitical situation, and in particular the threat posed by Russia. The depressed get more depressed and the paranoids get upset, but the vast majority of people are overwhelmed by the cruelty of war and feel victimized, albeit far from the action.

I can’t help thinking that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj was playing a blind poker game, knowing only that he had a queen of hearts and hoping for a royal flush. If so, he underestimated both the opposition and the cards in his hand. I hate poker, especially when played in geostrategic politics, because the loss is catastrophic. The threat posed by Putin, the arguments for sovereignty in the decisions of the Baltic states to apply for NATO membership are easy to see, and they are all correct. If anything, Putin has proven how right the Baltic states were in seeking the alliance as protection against the ridiculous attempts at “reunification” by the former Soviet states. It is just that there is more to this story, and this is said behind closed doors.

There is always more behind such conflicts, and it is the task of politics to assess the opportunities and risks of policies. My impression is that the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine was allowed to happen and no one really wanted to know what was going on. Another revelation that has been suspected from the beginning is that Putin has been working to disrupt relations between countries in the EU, funding and lobbying for Brexit, trying to get a foot in the door. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder inexplicably made himself Putin’s lobbyist in Germany, assuring Merkel that the offer to supply gas was friendly. The ideology of economic interdependence, which seemed to work well for many countries, was ruthlessly abused by Putin to force dependence.

The Chinese are waiting on the side-lines for a similar venture in Asia, which they are now likely planning as NATO gets involved in the Ukraine war. The world has become a different place, and everyone who suffers is a pawn of these people, sacrificed in a game that has many victims but no winners. Some say, probably rightly, that the West cannot complain because we fought in Afghanistan and Iraq without any significant withdrawal strategy, resulting in the death of millions of people and leaving a mess that is still causing suffering. Others say, “But we were right!” as if we can claim the moral high ground because we fought for a democratic ideal that is already losing its appeal in our own countries.

America already has its numerous private armies, armed to the teeth and bearing a frightening resemblance to the situation in the Weimar Republic in Germany before Hitler. He too used these forces to bring down the then young republic and establish a dictatorship. Initially he was opposed, but appeasement helped him rise, and other parties misjudged the determination of this “ridiculous little man.” We seem to be good at being wrong, and looking at the situation in our democracies, we would do well to reconsider our judgment of the world situation, which seems to be as changeable as the weather.

So let us not be misled by the sunny days but be prepared for what is on the horizon. Let’s be on the lookout for signs of storms and downpours so that we are not caught off guard.