George Will explains Vladimir Putin’s Bismarck-like mentality as Ukraine crisis deepens

George Will explains Vladimir Putin’s Bismarck-like mentality as Ukraine crisis deepens

As the crisis in Ukraine goes from bad to worse and the Biden Administration fears an all-out invasion by Russia, right-wing commentary on Russian President Vladimir Putin has ranged from vehement attacks from Never Trumpers to praise and adoration from former President Donald Trump, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Washington Post columnist George Will is a Never Trumper and a Putin critic, but in his February 22 column, Will explains the Russian president’s views on Ukraine.

Will, now 80, has long been one of the most cerebral voices of the right — and his February 22 column is a fascinating read. Although Will maintains an anti-Putin tone, the conservative columnist also makes an effort to explain what makes Putin tick. And Will’s anti-Putin commentary is subtle rather than outright scathing.

“The ‘surly drums of war’ — a phrase from Winston Churchill, who knew the soundtrack of European history — again reverberate on a continent that thought it had heard the last of them,” Will writes. “It has not even heard the last of Otto von Bismarck.”

Will continues, “Vladimir Putin is emulating Bismarck, who used three quickly decisive wars — against Denmark in 1864, Austria in 1866 and France in 1870 — to create a unified modern Germany from what had been a loose confederation of states. Denmark lost a third of its territory and 40% of its population. Prussia’s seven-week war against Austria established the Hohenzollern dynasty, which Bismarck served, as dominant within the confederation.”

The Washington Post’s Max Boot, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes and other Never Trump conservatives have been slamming Putin as an authoritarian imperialist who is getting ready to invade a sovereign nation. And fellow Never Trumper Will doesn’t disagree with that characterization of the Russian president.

But Will, explaining Putin’s mentality, notes that Putin views an invasion of Ukraine as Russia bringing home its wayward children home after they have strayed.

“Putin believes, or wants the world to believe that he believes, that his war against Ukraine, now entering its ninth year, is an act of recreation, bringing Ukrainians home to the community from which they were sundered when the Soviet Union expired,” Will explains. “If Putin succeeds in reducing Ukraine to satellite status, and in inducing NATO to restrict its membership and operations to parameters he negotiates, he might, like Bismarck, consider other wars — actual, hybrid, cyber. The Baltic nations — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, all NATO nations — should worry.”

According to Will, the crisis in Ukraine “echoes 1938, when Hitler stirred the restiveness of separatists: ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland.”

Will argues, “Raw power lubricated by audacious lying is Bismarckian…. Bismarck was clever. Putin, with his feral cunning, might be a clever imitator.”

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