Wouldn’t it be much better if the Russians could be great friends with us in the West? It’s in our mutual interests, especially with the shared challenges we face together, yet we are getting ever more deeply locked in mutual antagonism and there is a risk that the war in Ukraine might escalate out of control. The West acts as if Russia’s actions in the Ukraine are a surprise to us. Yet, they are very predictable if we are honest about human nature. Russia’s obsession with conflict with the West is a massive strategic error on its part. Like the guns of the doomed British Empire in Singapore, Russia is looking the wrong way. Their critical threats come from the South, East and internally from their own mindset.
So what’s going on? There are many layers to this. Let’s look at it through the lens of some of the clauses from “The New Magna — Psychiatrist’s Prescription for Western Civilization.” It’s a vision and strategy to rejuvenate the West.
4.1 Be conscious of our values and promote their healthy expression, adapted to the task and situation.
We in the West have become naive, spoiled by the freedoms and prosperity of our comfortable liberal democracies. We take survival, security, power, freedom, justice and stability for granted to the degree that we neglect them and fail to see them operating in others. We naively assume that everyone else thinks like us, has the same values and perceptions. We have tried to draw Russia into our economic orbit and to exert influence on their society to become liberal and pluralistic like ours. We have chosen to pick a fight with the Russians over gay rights, forgetting how recently it is that the West has converted to that way of thinking. Russia remains a very conservative country with a strong patriotism which we have long since discarded. The centre of gravity of their mindset remains patriotism and power which our political class mostly no longer understands. The Ukraine was an integral part of Russia for 800 years-as old as our Magna Carta. Is it any wonder that when they perceived the West trying to draw Ukraine into the EU and NATO that they would feel threatened and violated.
4.3 Manage the dark side of human nature.
The shadow side of power and pride is shame, addiction and victim mentality, all of which have a powerful place in the Russian consciousness. Losing an Empire is painful. The Persians still mourn theirs. The British are still in denial. Russia lost not only an Empire, but its whole meaning and identity when Soviet communism collapsed. It’s only natural to be nostalgic for the good old days of certainty, patriotism and righteousness. President Putin feels that shame and deep loss in his core and is determined to restore Russia’s self-respect. A sense of resentment and violation is the most powerful motivator of violence. If someone feels violated and insecure, they can be very dangerous. It’s wise to see that coming and act accordingly.
6.3 Identify common values and superordinate goals
What is surprising is the Russian government’s poor analysis of the true threats to their country. The Kremlin PR machine spews out a daily diet of anti-Western propaganda to whip up their people into a nationalist frenzy. Meanwhile the real and true threats to Russia grow unnoticed. Many Russians are drinking themselves into an early grave and, like much of the West, failing to have enough children to secure their future. Whilst their missiles face West, they seem blind to the cauldron of religious fundamentalism to the South. The Chinese Empire has its eye on Siberia. They aren’t taking it with tanks and bombers. They are taking it by stealth with migrants and traders simply walking across the border and laying down roots. Siberia is rich in resources and empty of people. China is brimming over with people and hungry for resources.
6.7 Practise empathy
In global terms, Russia is actually a Western country. It has a very distinct culture and history, but fundamentally they are Europeans. Yet we in the West treat Russia like the dysfunctional cousins at the family wedding. They crave our acceptance, but know that we will never accept them as equals. Russia craves respect, like an awkward teenager. They opened up to us when communism collapsed and we infected them with a brutal and corrupt form of capitalism. We humiliated them by drawing former Warsaw Pact countries into NATO.
16.1 Invest a World War II level of effort in discovering and implementing abundant, cheap, clean, secure and renewable energy technologies
We have wasted a great deal of time and energy arguing over the existence or not of climate change. Meanwhile, we missed the vital importance of having control over our energy supplies. This has not been lost on Russia upon whom Western Europe is dependent for much of its gas supply. It’s hard to be assertive with someone who has his hands round your throat.
26.8 Respect others’ boundaries, identity and security
Imagine how England would feel if Scotland broke away and became dominated by Iran. Imagine how the US would feel if California became a Chinese client state. We simply would not allow it to happen and would do whatever it took to stop it.
26.17 Invest properly in defence – don’t freeload on others
The US has cut its military budget substantially since the crash of 2008. Western Europe has reduced its forces from small to joke-size. Since America became the dominant power, we have lived under their umbrella with the costs and benefits of playing second fiddle. Yet we are now freeloading and the powerful Russian military can see that there is not much behind our fig leaf. We need to dramatically increase our investment in defence.
What does this mean for Ukraine? Whether we like it or not, Russia is a very powerful nation and it considers Ukraine to be within its sphere of influence. For practical purposes, it is. Our principles of democracy and self-determination are excellent but they only exist where we have the power to enforce and defend them. Russia values Ukraine vastly more than does the West and is prepared to sacrifice much more. We have little to gain and much to lose. It is foolish to pick a fight you can’t win. We must make it clear that Ukraine is not going to join either the EU or NATO- unless one day Russia becomes our friend and they join us together. That sounds totally unrealistic right now, but events in the world may bring that about sooner than we imagine.
By Dr Nicholas Beecroft
Dr Nicholas Beecroft is a Consultant Psychiatrist who has spent 25 years exploring the worlds of Medicine, Psychiatry, Business, Leadership, International Relations, Politics, the Military and Spirituality. He created the Future of Western Civilization Series of interviews with visionary leaders. He is author of Analyze West: A Psychiatrist Takes Western Civilization on a Journey of Transformation.
The New Magna Carta is a bold vision and strategy to rejuvenate Western Civilization. On the 800th anniversary of the original “Great Charter,” Dr Nicholas Beecroft proposes a clear vision of who we are, what we believe, what we value, where we want to get to and the necessary steps to get there. It is intended as a living, evolving document to be continuously improved. Far from the pessimistic cynicism of our time, the New Magna Carta envisions a bright future.