The Moscow-backed separatists taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine and proclaiming an independent “Donetsk People’s Republic” demonstrate the virulence of Russian irredentism. Here is one possible scenario: Clashes intensify between Ukrainian government forces and paramilitary formations organized by Russian fifth columnists. The ongoing dispatch of troops and F‑16s to Poland and the Baltic states, designed as a deterrence, redoubles anger in Russia—“a great and humble nation besieged,” a Russian general might declare.
The American president, saying his war-weary country will not seek conflict, imposes sanctions on the entire Russian oil-and-gas sector.
useful prism through which to view the affairs of states.
Their ambition to gain, retain, and project power is never sated.
A wave of cyberattacks disables Estonian government facilities, and an Estonian big shot calls the Russian leader an “imperialist troglodyte trapped in a zero-sum game.” After an assassination attempt on the Estonian foreign minister at a rally in the capital, calls grow louder for the American president to invoke Article 5.
He insists that “drawing red lines in the 21st century is not a useful exercise.”Let us further imagine that shortly after the president delivers his speech, in a mysterious coincidence, a Chinese ship runs aground on one of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, administered by Japan, in the East China Sea.
It will hold nationalism in check even as the Asian naval arms race accelerates.
Unlike in 1914 or 1939, the presence of large American garrisons in Europe and Asia sustains a tenacious Pax Americana.
Optimism, toward which Americans are generally inclined, leads to rash predictions of history’s ending in global consensus and the banishment of war.
Such rosy views accompanied the end of the Cold War.