PopeWatch: Melian World



For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretenses—either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us—and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Spartans, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Thucydides, Peloponnesian War



Pope Francis recently marked Ukrainian Independence Day:

The pope made his remarks Aug. 24, after praying the Angelus with a crowd in St. Peter’s Square.

“My thoughts go in a particular way to the beloved land of Ukraine,” he said, “to all its sons and daughters, to their yearning for peace and tranquility, threatened by a situation of tension and conflict that continues unabated, causing so much suffering among the population.”

Fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces continues in the eastern part of the country, having killed more than 2,000 and displaced more than 30,000 over the past several months.

“Let us entrust the whole nation to the Lord Jesus and to the Madonna, and let us pray together above all for the victims, their families, and all those who suffer,” the pope said.

Go here to read  the rest.  PopeWatch hopes that Ukrianians enjoyed their independence day, because Fearless Leader Putin is doing his best to make sure that it might be the last one:

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of invading Ukraine as troop movements from across the border were reported for third time this week. His accusations were echoed by both the United States and NATO.

We’re keeping track of the developments below.

Go here to read the rest.

The US has often been criticized for acting like a world cop.  Under this administration we are learning what happens when the world cop takes off his badge, throws it in the dust and walks away.  The world is rapidly becoming the world described by Thucydides in his Melian Dialogue:


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  1. Russia is forever being ruled by a tyrant, suspicious and aggressive towards its neighbors. Be it a Czar, a General Secretary, or the despot Putin, the Russian people suffer under tyranny and Russia’s neighbors live under constant threat of invasion.

  2. Russia is not an exceptionally militarized country (about 4% of domestic product is devoted to the military) and attempting to conquer and subdue a country with a population about 30% of your own is something done under conditions of general mobilization. I doubt a recapitulation of what happened in Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968 is in the offing. More likely harassment and grabbing bits of territory populated by ethnic Russians and kindred Ukrainians.

  3. Art, are you kidding with us or are you obtuse, sir?

    Are you not aware of Peter the Great’s land grabs and use of the Russian peasantry to built St. Petersburg out of a swamp with their bare hands? Care you not aware of Catherine the Great (yeah right) and her part in partitioning Poland?

    Does the word Holodomor ring a bell with you?

    Ivan the Terrible wasn’t named Terrible for nothing.

    Medvedev threatened Poland and the United States if the missile shield were put in place. Obumbler backed off, of course.

    Putin put his troops in Georgia and now Ukraine. Who is next? Poland has reason not to trust Russia at all.

  4. You’ve given me a kitchen sink of events from Eighteenth century history. As for the Ukrainian famine, that was a manifestation of horrible abuse of a domestic population, not a foreign invasion. The fragments of Georgia occupied have a total population of 300,000 and ethnic Georgians do not live there; please note that international boundaries have been somewhat unstable, so its not surprising there are adjustments on the fringes.

  5. Art Deco,

    Are you a lawyer or an econ prof?

    I’m not saying Putin (not so bright or evil) is Hitler or that Russia has the capacity to wage a real war (it took several years to shut down a couple thousand Chechen terrorists) against NATO. Anyhow, Hitler employed down-trodden German ethnics (in the Sudetenland) to partition Czechoslovakia. Some of you may remember how that turned out. “Peace in our time;” and 50,000,000 dead.

  6. I’m neither a lawyer nor an econ professor.

    There was a seven digit population of ethnic Germans concentrated in the borderlands of Bohemia and Moravia (where Czech fortifications were also found; that territory was important to Czech security) which had been mobilized by a separatist party. Bar the Crimea (and Putin was not confident enough to allow a real referendum there), Great Russians in the Ukraine tend to be fairly dispersed.

  7. Thanks, Art.

    I asked b/c I have seen you comment at an econ prof’s blog. You write on econ concepts that give me “brain freeze.”

    I only know what I read. Some maniac Russians (one so-called court jester) have spoken/written about nuking, say, Warsaw or a Baltic State capital to show (when it does nothing about it) that NATO is a hollow nothing.

    If you want to read some pure idiotic stuff, go to zero hedge and see the 9/11 deniers, and Russophiles writing that this is Washington trying to impose a police state on us.

    Someone quoted Putting twice using the term “New Russia” (I don’t do Cyrillic) which was the czarist term for the empire.

    Anyhow, Puting can have Ukraine (econ basket case). The enemy is in Washington: Obama, Holder, Pelosi, Reid, four or (depending) five Supreme Court justices, et al.

  8. Art,
    Stalin starved millions of Ukrainians to death. go ahead and dismiss Russia’s history towards its neighbors. I won’t. My greatgrandfather fled Warsaw (then part of Russia) as he wanted no part of serving in the Czar’s army or being subject to Russians.

  9. Stalin starved millions of Ukrainians to death. go ahead and dismiss Russia’s history towards its neighbors. I won’t

    The question is not whether or not Russia has been wretchedly governed (it has, and we have that on the authority of none other than Nikita Khruschev). The question is whether Russia’s neighbors live under ‘constant threat of invasion’. Small countries adjacent to big countries are going to suffer certain anxieties. Soviet Russia came by it’s empire and it’s network of clients four ways: by suppressing inchoate independence movements and reconquering seceded territories (1918-21); by absorbing some territory (the Baltics, Bessarabia and the Bucovina) and installing satrapies in the course of a catastrophic breakdown in the state system in Europe (1939-48), by internal subversion, and by the sort of carrots and sticks gamesmen employ in international politics.

    If you’ll notice, the circumstances attending the 1st and the 2d way do not obtain here.

    As for the third, for clandestine services to dispose of governments and reconstitute them is much more common in the imaginations of consumers of pinko opinion journalism than it is in real life. There are not many places where this has been done in the post-war period, and it often has some unanticipated consequences when you do (see Guatemala (1954-84), Iran (1953-79), and Afghanistan (1978-92)). Soviet Russia’s machinations in Eastern Europe during the period running from 1944 to 1948 were crucially dependent upon the presence of the Red Army in these places.

    As for the fourth way, you can see how well that’s been working out for them. Russia’s available resources are not much different than those of Brazil or France. If they’re going hunting for clients in Africa or Latin America for clients, they’ll find there’s a patron on site who’s already there and has know-how they do not. (I attended a lecture many years ago by the national security scholar Steven David. He said that Russian policy in Africa was badly hampered by personnel problems: contrary to the portrayal of Russian officials in The Ugly American, they were actually terrible at their jobs. “The Ugly Russian is ten times worse”).

    Russia’s boundary changes from 1876 to 1990 took place in the context of pan-European war. However cruelly governed Russia was at these times, that pan-European war was someone else’s idea.

    As for Hungary (in 1956) and Czechoslovakia (in 1968), Red Army garrisons were present on site; they were just supplemented with more from Soviet Russia and co-operative East Bloc governments. Soviet Russia was proportionately much larger than Russia today and it behaved like a country at war: about a quarter of its domestic product was accounted for by the military (v. 4% today). Hungary and Czechoslovakia are, respectively, one quarter and one third the demographic dimensions of the Ukraine and smaller than that geographically. A project of reconquering the Ukraine would be much more onerous. A rough analogy would be the U.S. attempting to conquer Mexico. It likely could be done, but when could you put together a critical mass of the political elite with a durable tendency to find such a project worthwhile?

    If you’re positing something like Germany’s romp through Europe during the period running from 1936 to 1941, please recall that Germany was the leading industrial power in Europe, that they required the co-operation of two other European powers during those years, and that they were comprehensively mobilized by 1939 if not earlier.

    go ahead and dismiss Russia’s history towards its neighbors.

    France had a ‘history towards its neighbors’ during the Napoleonic period. The Hapsburg monarchy stomped Serbia flat in 1914-15. Even Italy (“an asset to its enemies in every war it’s ever fought in” per John Foster Dulles) has not been adverse to grabbing territory since the end of the Westphalian era.

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