As is typical when it comes to geopolitics, the Russo-Ukrainian War has prompted a lot of people to make comparisons between that conflict and wars of the past. Sometimes this is done to try to understand what is going on, and what its likely outcomes might be. Other times, it’s done in bad faith, to make spurious moral claims about one of the combatants (in this case, almost always to throw shade on Putin’s Russia). So I’m going to go through a few comparisons that I’ve either gleaned from the voluminous Internet commentary about the war, or else come up with all by my lonesome. They are ranked, from dumbest to most apt (based on my own feelz exclusively, of course).
10. World War II, beginning
The absolute shit-tier comparison is to the days immediately preceding the outbreak of hostilities between Nazi Germany and what would eventually be the Allied Powers. In 1938, just months before WWII proper began, Hitler annexed the “Sudetenland”, or the portion of Czechoslovakia primarily occupied by native German speakers, into the Third Reich. This occurred legally and (mostly) peacefully, following the Munich Agreement where the powers of Europe, led by the infamous British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, agreed to Hitler’s demands for the territory to avoid a repeat of WWI.
What makes this comparison appealing is that one of Hitler’s stated goal upon taking power in 1933 was to reunite all the German speaking lands into a single Reich, to restore the nation that had been vindictively dismembered by the victorious Allies in the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI. Similarly, one of Vladimir Putin’s objectives over the past decade has been to establish the security of Russian-speaking populations in former Soviet Republics — and he has made noises about “Gathering the Russian Lands”, e.g. reuniting the Russian Empire of Catherine the Great. The problem with this part of the comparison, though, is that this goal is pretty sympathetic, and to be frank, when Hitler stuck to it, he had the widespread support of Western populations (much to the chagrin of their leaders). Nobody wanted to ignite another world war over Hitler’s fairly reasonable claim to those German-speaking lands; and prior to 2022 most sensible people (like Barack Obama for instance) didn’t want to risk WWIII over Russia annexing Russian-speaking countries.
But of course Hitler’s ambitions didn’t stop with reuniting the German-speaking peoples, and by the end of 1939 the Wehrmacht invaded Poland, and war started anyway. PM Chamberlain went down in history as a total coward for letting Hitler get away with moving the Wehrmacht past Czechoslovakia’s southern defenses — you constantly hear warmonger politicians mocking antiwar figures as “Neville Chamberlains” as a consequence.
So what makes this a terrible comparison? First, there’s no reason at all to think that Putin’s ultimate goals extend beyond the historical boundary of the USSR. Unlike Germany, Russia is naturally defensible due to its immense size and inhospitable climate; compare with Germany’s completely open eastern and western borders, which has made it politically and militarily unstable since Roman times and has led to its highly militaristic culture and history. Putin also isn’t Hitler — however you want to describe his position, he doesn’t have any kind of crazy millenarian belief system like Hitler, and his regime is basically throne-and-altar conservative pseudo-monarchism, the diametrical opposite of Hitler’s wild-eyed movement to reorganize all of society along patently crazy lines.
But in my opinion, the best reason this comparison is bad is just this — what should Chamberlain have actually done at Munich? It seems to me that the argument is that he should have told Hitler to shove the Sudetenland up his kraut ass, and launched a preemptive war against the Reich, assuming that Hitler would eventually move against the West. Which, my friends, is exactly what Putin did — assuming that the American Empire/NATO was moving to fortify and arm Ukraine as a forward operating base for the eventual invasion of Russia, he launched a preemptive attack to protect his country. Putin did exactly what the warhawks think Neville Chamberlain’s government should have done.
And given the history of the American Empire in terms of belligerence, violation of international law and customs, and wartime brutality over the past sixty years — not to mention the wall-to-wall Russophobic propaganda deployed against President Trump — who can honestly say Putin was wrong to think we would eventually do to his country the same thing that Hitler did to it?
9. The Cold War
A lot of people keep bringing up the Cold War, when the US and USSR squared off against each other with nuclear missiles for fifty years. One similarity is that the only thing preventing the hawks in the US from launching a full scale counterinvasion of Ukraine to fight Russia with US power is the threat of Putin’s nuclear arsenal. But it’s a bad comparison — there is no way one can see the world of 2022 as split between two camps anymore. In the Cold War there was the “free” West vs. the communist East, with the so-called “Third World” acting as a periodic proxy battleground between the two. But that all dissolved with the collapse of Soviet communism in the 1990s. Now, we are witnessing a return to a world of Great Powers (e.g., the US, EU, Russia, and China) with more or less equally reprehensible political systems, all vying against each other in varying degrees of intrigue and cold and hot combat. There are no good guys vs. bad guys here — or at least, if there are, they are fighting each other inside each of the powers, leaving the interpower conflicts without a moral dimension beyond the obvious one — that war is always, everywhere, horrible.
8. The Cold Civil War
I’m not sure if her originally coined the term, but Angelo Codevilla famously used the term “cold civil war” to describe the culture war that has been tearing the US apart for the past decade or so. It refers to the fact that our most contentious political issues are increasingly settled by fiat, outside of any possibility of electoral review, by judges or executive orders or general bureaucratic skullduggery, leaving no political solutions to the biggest problems we face. While I’ve made the case before that this conflict is truly global, taking place in every civilized country on Earth, it has a very different character in the US. It’s a cold war here because the only thing that has preserved any semblance of traditional life in the US is the fact that the Right is armed to the teeth, and there are pretty clear red lines that Washington can only cross if it’s willing to use violence in the Red States to enforce them.
I’ve seen commentators compare the war in Ukraine as linked to our cold civil war, because the US left hates Putin because of his opposition to their crazier demands, like transgender ideology. Indeed, if you see the world as polarized between a traditional right and an insane left, Putin’s government is the only stable power center representing the right; everything else is grassroots insurgencies that are hopelessly vulnerable to the worldwide ascendant leftism. A Putin victory is certainly a blow to that leftist globalist order. But it’s a bad comparison, because i) it’s not even a little bit cold in Ukraine in terms of war, and ii) nothing will really change in the lives of oppressed traditional groups in Western countries once Ukraine is defeated. If anything, it will make things here even worse as the regime circles its wagons against us. Putler is not coming to save us, folks; we’re on our own.
7. The War on COVID-19
Kind of a silly comparison — one is an actual war, the other is a fake war against a virus. But what makes this comparison somewhat effective is that both of these “wars” were 90% bullshit propaganda, and trying to tell what was actually happening at any given time required triangulation between many mostly untrustworthy information sources with the hope of gleaning something real out of the noise. I’ve discussed COVID propaganda extensively on this blog, but just consider the kinds of crap we’ve been told by the mainstream media about the war in Ukraine. How many people you know are convinced Ukraine can win? How many think we could successfully intervene? How many believe that the Russians massacred people at Bucha? How many don’t question the insane statistic that 30,000 Russians have already died in Ukraine? How many don’t believe that Ukraine is enthusiastically supportive of Nazi terrorists? It boggles the mind — just like all the people who believe that COVID kills 25% of the people it infects, or that the vaccines are safe and effective. Rinse and repeat.
I’ve gotten much of my news about the ‘other side’ from the guys that run the Russians With Attitude podcast, and they have made a prescient observation several times. The big difference in terms of propaganda between Russians and Americans, they say, is that Americans are dumb enough to think their government and media outlets are telling them the truth most of the time. Nobody in Russia is that gullible.
6. The Fall of the Roman Empire
Well, actually, the centuries immediately following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This one comes from Putin himself who has alluded to the idea that he believes modern Russia is the natural heir of the Roman Empire, and by extension he is the legitimate modern-day Roman Emperor. It’s not entirely crazy, to be honest. Even before the sack of Rome proper, the true capital of the Empire had already moved to Byzantium (later Constantinople, later still Istanbul) in what is modern-day Turkey. The Byzantine Empire carried on the legacy of Rome for a thousand years after various Germans swamped the Western Empire and split it into dozens of squabbling tribes It was still powerful for centuries after the rise of Christianity, and was one of the poles in the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. After the conquest of Constantinople by Muslims in the 15th century, though, one could scarcely call that city the seat of Eastern Christianity any more. In the modern world, the clear center of the Eastern Church is Moscow, and Vladimir Putin sees himself as its greatest defender. So if you hold that Eastern Christianity was what gave legitimacy to the latter-day Roman Empire, then it is somewhat reasonable to think that the Empire just migrated to Moscow after the Islamicization of Constantinople
One doesn’t have to be a crazed dictator to see that Western globalist ideology is vehemently opposed to Christian orthodoxy, so there is obviously an inherent conflict between Russia and the ascendant leftist regime of the American Empire in that regard. It also make some kind of sense that Putin would feel a religious need to “save” Ukraine from being corrupted by the Americans, by force if necessary. Where this comparison fails, though, is in its grandiosity — as much as we might love to see it, the Roman Empire is not coming back, certainly not under Russian rule. The gap in Weltanschauung between Augustus Caesar and anything that has ever lived in Russia is wider than the gap between Rome and Constantinople by a long shot. And regardless of Putin’s own religious faith, the idea that the Church can be raised back to prominence over an Empire that suffered a century of Communist-enforced atheism is over-the-rainbow optimistic. Ironically, the religion that probably has the best shot at creating a new Russian imperial identity is the pan-slavic paganism of the Ukrainian Nazis, which Putin is actively annihilating. So count me as skeptical that Putin, or his successors, will be crowned Holy Roman Emperor any time soon.
5. World War I
This one has moved up the ranks somewhat since the Russians and Ukrainians have been fighting literal trench warfare for the past few months. But that’s not the real reason this comparison makes it this high in the rankings — those Cold War era trenches have already been overrun at key points, and I suspect the Russians will be rolling over the rest of Eastern Ukraine much faster than the French rolled over German positions in the Great War. No, the WWI analogy is apt because of the importance of secret — dare I say Byzantine — alliances in keeping the war going. Who, exactly, is allied with whom? Clearly the world is split between the American Empire and Russia in this conflict, but who is on which side? Eastern portions of the EU seem to be wiffle-waffling, torn between the anti-Rus sentiment of Western elites, mistrust of the West’s cultural insanity, and addiction to Russian fossil fuels for energy. NATO can’t even keep its house in order, with Turkey opposing expanding the alliance to Sweden and Finland. And what about China — or the other “BRICS” nations, as they are sometimes called — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa? Is BRICS a thing? If so, it would represent roughly half the worlds population and land mass arrayed against the American/EU axis. But none of this is taking place above board, so all geopolitical moves are taking place in an environment of intense uncertainty, just like in the years preceding World War I.
Perhaps it’s better to say that the Russia-Ukraine conflict reveals a world situation similar to the run-up to World War I — which should give people a pretty good reason to step back and defuse things before some Archduke gets capped and the nuclear fuse gets lit…
4. World War II, end
When most people think about WWII, they think about it like a Star Wars movie, with good guys and bad guys slogging it out on roughly even footing right until the very end. But that’s not how it was, at all. The outcome of the war was near certain after the German defeat at Stalingrad, which happened almost three years before VE Day. Everything after that was just a brutal slog, with the Germans continuously losing ground, but making the Allies pay dearly for every inch they took. So in one sense, the Ukraine war is quite like that — the outcome of the war is certain, a crushing Russian victory, but the Ukrainians, driven by stubborn nationalism and propaganda, are apparently willing to die by the scores of thousands to make the Russians pay for it. The utter stupidity of it boggles the mind, but I suppose the call of Valhalla remains strong in the Slavic heart.
By 1945, the sensible move for Germany would have been to negotiate a surrender to the British and Americans with the stipulation that they protect the Deutches Volk from the Soviets and not wholesale execute the Nazi leadership. The sensible thing for Ukraine at this point is to just give up, negotiating some kind of peace treaty that preserves some amount of territory for Ukrainian nationalism to keep doing its thing (just without heavy weaponry). But just like the original Nazis, the Ukrainians won’t do it, and so they will end up with their entire country laid waste, conquered completely by their enemy, and their way of life ended in perpetuity.
But another way that the Ukraine war is like the WWII endgame is in the cynical power plays being made by the Americans. In 1945, WWII wasn’t about the Allies vs. the Axis, it was already about the US vs. Russia, and both sides were maneuvering against each other with poor central Europe as the chessboard. And that is certainly what is going on today in Ukraine. This was never a war primarily between Russia and Ukraine — it is a war between Russia and the American Empire, which the American deep state has been angling for since about 2014. Were it not for Donald Trump, this would have happened in 2017, shortly after Hillary Clinton and her NGO apparatchiks took power. They literally impeached Trump for balking at arming the Ukrainians and facilitating their war in Donbass (and bullheaded provocations of Russia). What is happening in Ukraine today is a tragedy created by the American Empire to try to bleed Russia before finally destroying it as a rival. Just like in the end stages of WWII, the utter destruction of the middle man is guaranteed because the real powers at war with each other have to set themselves up for the next war. And just like Germany and Poland in the end stages of WWII, the result will be utter destruction for Ukraine and its unfortunate population.
We’ll continue this list in a few days folks, with the TOP 3 UKRAINE WAR COMPARISONS… need to keep you in suspense, because the best comparisons are still to come!