We are living in turbulent times where leadership, diplomacy and lessons from history are desperately needed.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could herald World War III, placing the United States in the middle of European conflict and having to play an instrumental role in reshaping that continent.
Tensions are running high and a peaceful solution has to be the order of the day.
American leadership on the world stage is needed, more so than it has been for decades.
Liberty, democracy and the freedoms enjoyed in the West comes at a cost that we have taken for granted for too long.
With this conflict in eastern Europe, we are seeing how destructive and brutal war can get and for the first time in many of our lifetimes, the threat of nuclear war draws closer every day.
It is, therefore, disturbing to hear a potential presidential nominee contender, a governor of a populous state, a Yale and Harvard graduate, a trained lawyer display short-sightedness and ignorance of world affairs.
Speaking about Ukraine’s resistance against Russian armed forces, Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis said: “A lot of other places around the world, they just fold the minute there’s any type of adversity.”
“I mean can you imagine if (Vladimir Putin) went into France? Would they do anything to put up a fight? Probably not,” he added.
Why be so disparaging of France, at a time when America needs all the allies it can get in Europe?
France has a long history of armed conflict, one a man who purports to be a learned citizen with aspirations to leadership and political authority should be aware of.
British historian and author Niall Ferguson notes that France has participated in 50 of the 125 major European wars that have been fought since 1495 (centuries before the formation of the United States)—more than any other European state.
Ferguson regards France as the most successful military power in history. (Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower is a very good read).
The French were able to repel the Germans in World War I’s Battle of Marne (the first one), a six-day blood fest that stopped the Germans from advancing on Paris.
I’m sure DeSantis has heard of the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Years’ War. Perhaps he has heard of Shakespeare’s Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt. He may even have heard of a chap called Napoleon Bonaparte. Then again DeSantis probably writes off Napoleon as a defeated commander, preferring to extol the virtues of General Patton.
As Americans are fond of saying, DeSantis would quickly dismiss Bonaparte as “overrated”.
This war in Ukraine is a hangover from World War II and heralds yet again who determines the axis of power in Europe. Can Russia at 6.3 million square miles, the largest country in the world keep the West and NATO at bay while at the same time increasing its sphere of influence?
France entered World War II when Hitler advanced into Poland in 1939, before the United States decided to help defeat Germany.
Like Ukraine now, French ports and cities were captured and a pincer move led to the defeat of the French and Allied Forces first in northern France due to insufficient forces to mount an effective resistance.
DeSantis should be made aware of what happened at Dunkirk and draw certain parallels about evacuation and allies regrouping to fight again. He may even choose to watch the Christopher Nolan movie of the same name if that’s his cup of tea.
The Maginot Line is not a story of the French capitulating easily and going soft in battle.
The liberation of France and Charles De Gaulle’s role in galvanising the country cannot be understated or readily dismissed.
There are certain similarities between De Gaulle and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy which should be obvious to DeSantis, which run counter to his dismissal of France.
A recurring theme since World War II is the United States’ fundamental misreading of European affairs.
American triumphalism has proclaimed Europe a second-rate power more so with the United States having to step in every few decades to sort out quarrels between European states, like a parent stepping in between squabbling children.
Russia’s concerns about encroachment of its historical borders were summarily dismissed after the Soviet Union was dissolved and the United States came out on top in the Gulf War.
While paying attention to China’s rise, it took its eye off Russia and what Putin was building.
The Russian Empire and its state system have always proved problematic to the United States and Western Europe with the need to fracture it and make it militarily and economically weak, being a major geopolitical objective.
Inept government bureaucracy, fractiousness, political miscalculations with Glasnost and Perestroika together with economic mismanagement led to the breaking up of the Soviet Union with the bulwark that is NATO growing stronger in the region.
To get a clearer understanding of what is happening in Ukraine, and Russia flexing its military muscles in Eastern Europe, one has to pay attention to what Putin said during a speech celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory. The epidemic of collapse has spilled over to Russia,“ the Russian president argued.
This is the centripetal event of our times which brings us yet again closer to nuclear war but for the very first time in the twenty-first century. Unresolved issues of history that have now turned into a Chimera determined to unsettle Europe. Will NATO prove to be our Bellerophon? Only time will tell.
NATO has to be an amalgam of nations and it is important that countries willingly want to attain membership. This will entail collaboration and corporation. It does not help to dismiss the resolve of countries, particularly long-standing allies like France.
Putin’s moves may very well be predicated on perceptions that the west is morally bankrupt, effete, weak, fraught with racial tensions and beset by cancel culture, incapable of defending Europe—in other words, has no stomach to pull the trigger and get into the fray.
If the United States is to be the unifying element in stopping the destruction of Ukraine and keeping Russia in check, it will need all the friends on the continent it can get.
American leaders cannot spit in the eye of the people of Europe – particularly those who have a history of putting up a resistance.