Authoritarian regimes love to create and then exploit chaos because chaos is a means to intervention and control.
History is replete with examples. It was political chaos in Indonesia that led to dictatorship in the 1960s. In China, Mao’s communist revolution occurred in the chaotic aftermath of World War II. Peasant troubles and czarist corruption in Russia during World War I led to the Bolshevik overthrow of imperial czarist Russia. The lesson learned is that political chaos ripens circumstances for authoritarian control. This was the fear of many on Jan. 6, 2020, with the insurrection and chaos that ensued at the U.S. Capitol and the possibility of a move to take control by declaring martial law.
I highlight these examples because no matter the outcome, the last chapter of Putin’s war in Ukraine will result in a tumultuous set of circumstances. If Russia wins, expect years of lawlessness, rebellion and guerilla warfare overlaid by heavy-handed Russian rule reminiscent of Ivan the Terrible.
If the Ukrainian forces are able to evict the Russian military, apart from the likely downfall of Putin, the reconstruction of Ukraine will be a monumental task with the potential for all kinds of mischief, possibly reminiscent of the end of WWII in Europe.
With the widespread destruction of Europe following WWII, especially in Germany, Joseph Stalin sought ways to catalyze the disarray in hopes of using force to create a Stalinist dictatorship in Berlin and East Germany. Western allies realized Germany was key to reestablishing an economically stable post-war Europe, a Europe with democratic and capitalistic ideals.
If anything good has emerged from this horrific war in Ukraine, a conflict that has cost 40,000 civilian lives so far, it is the political reunification of Europe and the NATO Alliance which had been frayed by a variety of factors over the past decade.
The European Union has almost unanimously agreed to ween itself from Russian oil and gas, a huge economic consequence for the Russian Federation. The European Union is in the process of creating an economic cartel of oil and gas, liberating itself from dependence on Russian energy supplies.
Even so, the aftermath of the war will leave Ukraine in devastation. Chaos and disarray are pathways to vulnerability and predation. The U.S. and NATO nations need to have two critical objectives ready and in the works. First and foremost is a plan for Ukraine’s economic recovery. There’s a historical model for such a plan: The European Recovery Program, also known as The Marshall Plan, named after then-Secretary of State George C. Marshall, formerly a five-star General of the Army.
The purpose of the Marshall Plan (1947) was to rehabilitate Europe’s wrecked economy through large infusions of capital, financial aid and in-kind assistance. Stalin refused to participate, and history wrote the end of that story. Russia and its Eastern European satellite nations paid the price.
David Roll, a trustee of the George C. Marshall Foundation and author of “George Marshall: Defender of the Republic,” wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal that: “The Biden administration in collaboration with the European Union has organized a task force to reduce European dependence on fossil fuels: Call it a ‘Marshall Plan for Energy Security.’ Its principal focus will be on Germany, which is the largest importer of natural gas from Russia. By reducing Germany’s need for fossil fuels, the U.S. can again help make Germany a bulwark against antidemocratic forces encroaching on the region.”
A stabilized Germany is key to a stabilized, democratic, free-market Europe. It’s also key to a unified Europe when it comes to rehabilitating Ukraine and a critical antidote to further Russian predation.
The second objective, now more urgent than before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, is to further shore up NATO’s fortifications. The war in Ukraine has been very costly to Russia, monetarily, materially, blood and treasure. It can ill afford further invasions if the cost goes up, which means making sure that Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to NATO must move swiftly to fruition. Other NATO nations must enhance their military preparedness with lessons learned from what’s happened militarily in Ukraine.
Make no mistake. Putin’s war in Ukraine deserves our sustained attention, just as Ukraine’s citizen-soldiers have sustained their courageous battle against incredible odds. General Eisenhower, before he became President of the United States once said: “War is a grim business, a business justified only as a means of sustaining the forces of good against those of evil.”