Professor Mearsheimer – also referring to other academics – notes that at a time when all public and intellectual life revolved around the rivalry between the West and the Soviet bloc, it was possible to make arguments in favour of the Soviet Union. Quite publicly and without any problems. This did not mean that the public or the elites were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. But it was taken for granted that it was part of the discussion.
Today, it is the case that anyone who challenges the “narrative” of Russia as an absolute irrational evil is attacked and pushed out of the public space. And Professor Mearsheimer works in America, which is super-free on this subject – compared to Europe.
In the end, it is the Western world that pays the price. When discussion is forbidden, thinking is forbidden and stupid solutions are adopted.
When discussion is forbidden, thinking is forbidden and stupid solutions are adopted.
The American professor is looking for a difference in the behaviour of the Soviet Union and Russia. For decades the Russians have operated in a way that they will go along with absolutely anything, and the Western elites have become accustomed to this. Gradually, a sense developed that there is an American right to behave in a hostile manner, to renege on promises, to ignore international law, to violate treaties, to violate Russian borders with warplanes, to fund and direct some political forces in Russia, etc. When it is felt on the Russian side that a reasonable line has been crossed and the Russians are beginning to fight back, some in the West see this as a betrayal.
I add a related reason. Namely, that Russia is seen as easy prey. The inconclusive war performance in Ukraine, where the Russian army is failing to defeat NATO forces, contributes to this. Sensible, rational people would take advantage of the situation to negotiate something advantageous. But rational people do not rule in the West. It is ruled by an irrational Lebonese mob. Such a crowd trembles in fear or lynches you. There is no in-between. So Putin’s main problem is that he inspires little fear. If you offend the Islamic community, you know you’ll lose your head. But you can insult the Russians in any way you like, you can spit on their saints, you can make up horrible stories about the rampages of their spies and feel safe. You know they won’t come for you.
Russia is seen as easy prey. The Soviet Union was not considered easy prey.
The Soviet Union was not considered easy prey.
But something much more fundamental has changed. Until 10 years ago, in the intellectual and media environment, individuality and the ability to distinguish oneself were valued if backed up by strong arguments. Can you still imagine that Hampl, for example, was still regularly invited to Czech Public Radio in 2015?
Today, the mentality of the dull crowd that attacks everything that is different prevails. In all strata of society, but most strongly among the new aristocrats.
Today, the mentality of the dull crowd that attacks everything that is different prevails
However, I am pleased to say that there is a group of very intelligent analysts who can work in such an environment. They proceed as follows. They are well aware that to understand the whole situation you need four elements: the strengths of the Russian army, the weaknesses of the Russian army, the strengths of NATO, the weaknesses of NATO. However, in their analyses they have focused exclusively on the weaknesses of the Russian army. So they can do a solid analytical job and the crowd will not turn against them, but they must not cross the line.
It is good that these articles are being produced. But the reader should be aware that they only see a small part of the picture. And he should not be surprised that the Russians still have tanks and soldiers left, that they can advance and that their economy has not yet collapsed.