A new Holy Roman Empire has formed across the world. It is a new “nomos”—the phrase Carl Schmitt borrowed from the Greeks to outline the scope of a new Europe—of territorial and resource acquisition. In this new Europe, borders collapse and civilizational economic, political, and cyberspace diasporas harken to the real dark age, that of modernity. The world’s existential crisis is not only the makings of the mad Tsar but a competition for the “grossraum” (empire-building) of resource scarcity and areas of influence. The nomos is not written over maps or borders. It is spherical rather than linear and revolves around several dimensions as civilizational states ebb and flow, and competition extends into space and technology. Traditional ideologies of Left and Right become superfluous as the new technological materialism ushers in a tsunami of crises, wrapped in uniform elite manipulation of the political.
At present, the Western media consensus is correct about Russian aggression and aggrandizement. However, the underlying tectonic plates have shifted to a concerted new alliance. This alliance is a New Holy Roman Empire that does not sit in the heart of Europe but on the peripheries. The U.S.-British alliance is Atlanticism dressed in the old robes of liberality but the main player is the new grossraum of elite competition. The origins of the alliance are not only material and resource-oriented but also cultural. The United States has once again placed itself at the epicenter of the “liberal” order. Liberalism’s values are essentially “against” the other and presume a moral superiority that is exported through missionary ventures. It is no wonder that George Soros is a big fan of Atlanticism and keen to dismantle the main threat to the United States: the Molotov-Ribbentrop marriage of convenience between Russia and Germany. For Soros, a strong European powerhouse like Germany shifts the balance back to Europe. The United States has the strategic support of Great Britain. However, while the United States is driven by raison d’état, the British are driven by Palmerston’s assertion of self-interest dosed with a vindictive streak for enemies. Therefore, Great Britain’s enemies are Russia and Germany in equal order. Of course, this is all dressed up in the pretty verbiage of liberal values. The essential realpolitik is to weaken Germany, stoke the flames of Europe’s eastern borders, and destroy a Russo-German collaboration that would establish a super-powerful grossraum in Europe. Germany, already the dominant force in the European Union (EU), is, despite its post-war liberal fawning, essentially a “culture” state like Italy,
The Russian response reflects the structure of the two hegemonic blocks: the Atlantic alliance of the United States and Great Britain, and the Chinese-Russian grossraum. Ukraine represents the grinding tectonic plates of the hinterland. However, it is represented almost universally in U.S. and British media as a fight between authoritarianism and democracy. Yet, in 2015 The Guardian described Ukraine as “the most corrupt nation on earth.” The trend towards “authoritarianism” is a chimera as it has occurred in all political systems, not only ostensibly authoritarian ones. The geopolitical policy of the West is shrouded in the language of “humanitarian” global moral rights. War, away from the battlefield, amounts to a battle of media narratives, and here the cannon fodder is the modern man confined to the economic realm. Yet liberal democracy suffers from an internal weakness when it confronts civilizational states: the lack of homogeneity. While differentiation and individualism benefit isolated people in the economic marketplace, the world of realpolitik is suited to homogeneity, irrespective of any moral take on this position.
The “value-driven” world of the Western “knowledge class” is at odds with the “productive class,” represented by the schism shown in the shift to populism and democracy in European countries such as Italy, Sweden, and Hungary. The neoliberal dream of “deterritorialization” and degradation of the nation-state and civilizational realms—considered part of the raison d’état of a globalized market—is seen as a major threat by Russia. The Russian policy of pushback in Ukraine has been long nurtured by Russian analysts. It is not a recent reaction of some hardliners in the Kremlin, or an idea dreamed up by the mad Tsar. It is deemed sacrosanct that globalization on the scale so far seen is a strategic disaster for Russian interests due to the hegemonic effects of U.S. financial and technological monopolization of the world. Consequently, for Russia, the war in Ukraine serves two purposes. One is the expulsion of NATO from Eastern Europe and the second is to foment a crisis of confidence in globalization and build new blocks of cooperation in the east.
Russia, China, and a resurgent Germany would represent an existential threat to U.S. interests, which are already suffering from internal dissonance and social breakdown. U.S. institutions are failing to represent the heterogeneity that existed after World War II. The United States, due to this internal dissonance, always needed a foe, first communism then Islam. At the same time, this allowed for massive spending and a wartime economy that was an exportable commodity. Military aid to Ukraine is the global tax on such a system. As Vladimir Lenin apparently noted (although the quote was never attributed to him), at the heart of the Western mission is a contradiction. “When the time comes to hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope.” This contradiction is more noted when liberal democracy attempted to legitimate capital through a global liberal values-based system.
The reason why the Ukraine conflict is so essential to Russian interests is that it has its roots in the legacy of the Russian revolution. In essence, the Soviet republics were never part of a civilizational Soviet Union. It was a forced marriage and outside of European Russia; the nomenklatura of the Soviet Union had little in common with the Kazakhs or the Tartars. This is why the war with Ukraine has existential connotations for Vladimir Putin and Russia. It could lead to the collapse of the Soviet system. Everywhere the world is facing a return to populism and federalism. In the United States, this is a fundamental reaction to state aggrandizement of the liberal knowledge class. Although populism is highly democratic, as seen with the Brothers of Italy party’s recent victory, it is savaged by the liberal knowledge class since it poses a threat to their extraction of state funding through blocs like the EU. Likewise, in other regions of the world, from the post-Soviet space to Iran and Great Britain, there is a nascent democratic urge to move away from centralization. The elites of the world are battling each other for resources and financial aggrandizement but the removal of the elites would benefit a move to a Westphalian system of federation and autonomy for homogenous, civilizational states. The 1648 Treaty of Westphalia heralded a definition of respect for borders, religious tolerance, an end to the Thirty Years War, and the Holy Roman Empire. A new system based on these tenets could revitalize Europe by demolishing the liberal universalism of the EU and respecting ethnic diversity. At Westphalia, precedent and tradition were merged with law and reason. We stand now at a similar juncture. The liberality of the Enlightenment descended into the dogmatism of modern liberal democracy. Dostoevsky correctly diagnosed the descent into nihilism and materialism of modernity, writing that “If nations fail to live by superior disinterested ideas, by the lofty aims of serving mankind, and merely to serve their own interests, they must unfailingly perish, grow benumbed, wear themselves out, die.”
Brian Patrick Bolger studied at the London School of Economics. He has taught political philosophy and applied linguistics in Universities across Europe. His articles have appeared in The National Interest, The Montreal Review, The European Conservative, The Salisbury Review, The Village, New English Review, The Burkean, The Daily Globe, American Thinker, and Philosophy Now. His new book, Coronavirus and the Strange Death of Truth, is now available in the United Kingdom and United States. He can be reached at [email protected].