Could MAGA Republicans Plunge the World into a “New Dark Age”?
The bottom line here is that Republicans in the House and Senate who are dancing to Trump’s pro-Putin tune are playing a dangerous game that could lead to unimaginable disaster…
Last week, Senate Republicans refused to even allow that body to debate whether or not America should continue funding our commitment to the Ukrainian European democracy that is now under a brutal, violent, and sustained attack by Donald Trump’s friend, Russian President Putin.
The nations of the world are aligning themselves into alliances reminiscent of the 1930s.
The dangers associated with this are radically compounded by the Senate Republicans’ intentional decision to play politics and suck up to Vladimir Putin’s protégé, Donald Trump, who is now demanding we throw the millions of people in Ukraine into the arms of a Russian army made up in part of freed professional murderers, rapists, and convicted criminal psychopaths.
The GOP, bowing to the demands of Vladimir Putin via Donald Trump, is playing with fire. A fire that could destroy civilization itself.
World War II was fought between groups of nations proclaiming two vividly different visions of how human society and government should operate.
On the Axis side, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain had each abandoned democracy and instead embraced rule by charismatic strongman leaders who placed themselves and loyalty to themselves above the rule of law and the rights of average citizens.
They demonized minorities, proclaimed a faux racialized patriotism of “blood and soil,” used the seizure of other nations’ lands to rally their citizens behind them, and imprisoned or murdered their opponents, be they political, religious, in organized labor, the judiciary, or the media.
On the Allied side, the United States, Britain, Australia, and not-yet-conquered democratic nations of the world professed — and generally lived — a commitment to government drawing its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” This included a commitment to the rule of law, deference to legal institutions, and freedom of the press.
(The USSR and China were the exceptions among the Allies but were fighting for their survival as independent nations in the face of Hitler’s and Tojo’s attacks: sometimes the enemy of your enemy can be your friend, at least situationally.)
Today the world is watching, often aghast, as a new Axis is forming and an old Alliance is tottering.
The Axis is primarily Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea, although they’ve managed to attract a number of fellow travelers and a number of major world nations — probably most notably India, Hungary, and the Arab countries of the Middle East — who have yet to definitely take sides or are leaning toward the Axis.
The Allies, as was the case in WWII, are anchored by the United States. Our economic, military, and political power is matched only by China generally and Russia’s nuclear arsenal, but there is a growing faction within the Republican Party that is openly taking the side of the Axis against our own nation and its values and traditions.
Much like Germany’s invasion of Poland was a major tripwire for World War II, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is driving today’s alignment of nations into pro- and anti-democracy camps.
It never should’ve happened.
In 1994, Ukraine had the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons outside the United States, a remnant of their former status as a Soviet state and their most-westward position in that confederation.
The United States, Britain, and Russia met for months in Budapest to work out a deal that transferred those nuclear warheads to Russia in exchange for an absolute guarantee by all three nations that they’d respect and defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
It was called The Budapest Memorandum, signed that year by all four parties, and explicitly said, along with guaranteeing not to politically or economically interfere with Ukraine’s sovereignty, that:
“1. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.
“2. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”
Russia has been in violation of the Budapest Memorandum ever since their illegal invasion and annexation of Ukrainian Crimea in the Spring of 2014, and today defies the world to do anything about their unwillingness to honor the agreement they signed in exchange for giving up thousands of nuclear weapons and hundreds of tons of fissionable material.
If Russia succeeds in overwhelming Ukraine, then the physically largest democracy in modern Europe — with the continent’s most fertile farmland (producing 10 percent of the world’s wheat) and one of the planet’s largest frackable natural gas reserves — will have fallen to tyranny and will be forced to join the Axis.
It could be an inciting incident like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that set off World War I. Or the next step after Hitler attacked Poland in 1939.
Russia’s generals have already proclaimed that Poland, Moldova, and the Baltic states are next.
Should Russia proceed from Ukraine into the Baltics or Poland, Putin will have triggered Article 5 of the NATO treaty to which America is a signatory: it requires that we immediately repel their aggression with military force and our own troops.
But Donald Trump, presumably on orders from Putin, has told us that if he becomes president in 2024, he will either pull the US out of NATO or simply ignore NATO’s Article 5 obligations in deference to Russian aggression in Europe.
“I don’t give a shit about NATO” is how our former president put it.
As Anne Applebaum recently wrote for The Washington Post:
“He brags that he ‘would not care that much’ whether Ukraine were admitted to NATO; he has no interest in NATO and its security guarantees. Of Europe, he has written that ‘their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually.’ In any case, he prefers the company of dictators to that of other democrats. ‘You can make deals with those people,’ he said of Russia. ‘I would have a great relationship with [Vladimir] Putin.’”
The cost of American support for Ukraine is a mere rounding error in the US federal budget, but suddenly Republican members of the House and Senate who are either aligned with Trump or terrified that he will support a primary challenger against them if they don’t fall in line are opposing further aid to that beleaguered nation.
If the US withdraws support for Ukraine (and, per Trump, NATO), as these Republicans are now advocating, one of two scenarios is likely to play out. Either could set back world progress toward democracy and freedom by a century or more.
The “No War” but “New Dark Ages” Scenario
One possibility if Republicans succeed in cutting off US aid to Ukraine and we fail to further intervene is that Russia will fully seize that nation, as it first tried to do almost two years ago, and institute a reign of terror across the countryside.
Men who had fought against the Russians will be sent to camps, tortured, or executed in front of their families. Women will be subject to mass rape or forced into sexual slavery in Russia, particularly in the remote regions like Siberia, as has already happened with some captured female Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war. And the children of Ukraine — as has already happened to tens of thousands of them, documented by the UN with criminal charges against Putin — will be sold to Russian families or Russian or international pedophiles willing to pay for them.
This will largely happen out of the view of the world, as Russia will bring down the same sort of media censorship and control of the internet that Putin is today using to hold power in Moscow.
But the other Axis countries — particularly China and Iran — will note that this Putin-aligned minority of Republicans has forced America to disengage from the world because Donald Trump has caused one of our two political parties to realign itself with dictatorship over democracy, both overseas and here at home.
This could provoke regional military actions — but not a world war — in the Middle East and Asia. And it would empower rightwing anti-democracy politicians across the world’s developed nations. Country after country would see their democracy turned into autocracy, as has already happened in Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, and other nations.
President Xi is facing discontent and economic crisis in China, a situation that will get exponentially worse over the next year or two as more and more nations move their manufacturing home or to other low-wage countries, and the Chinese real estate market unwinds. This puts pressure on him to have a “little war”: a leadership strategy to retain (and even expand) political power as old as ancient Rome’s Caesars.
For example, as George W. Bush told his biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, back in 1999, having a war is a great way to rally citizens around you and ensure your own hold on power. It was the essence of his 2004 re-election strategy even before five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court handed him the White House in 2000:
“One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief,” Bush told Herskowitz. “My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it [because his war only lasted 3 days].
“If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I have that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.’”
The temptation to use war as a way to rally support and cling to power is every bit as tempting to China’s President Xi, Russia’s Putin, and the ayatollahs of Iran as it was to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
In other words, if Republicans in Congress succeeded in killing US aid to Ukraine then China will almost certainly take Taiwan, an action they’ve been both practicing and promising for years. That could well bring Japan and Australia (and possibly South Korea) to Taiwan’s defense, provoking a bloody war in that region, although if the US has already abandoned Ukraine to Russia the greater probability is that Taiwan’s allies will similarly abandon that nation.
The Axis countries will be working to make the world safe for kleptocratic autocrats like Putin, Xi, and Iran’s ayatollahs both by asserting military threats to anybody who challenges them and also through their considerable dominance of social media.
Putin used social media effectively to get Trump into the White House in 2016, as Robert Mueller documented in his report, although ten specific and prosecutable instances of Trump and members of his family obstructing the investigation have left hanging many of the details of how deeply he and Manafort were participating.
Right now Russian and Chinese bots and disinformation teams have a massive presence across social media (and China owns Tik Tok), and Zuckerberg and Musk dismantling their own teams that were trying to block foreign disinformation bodes well for Axis efforts to keep American public opinion isolationist so they can do their dirty work without US interference.
I call this the “New Dark Ages” scenario, because the vacuum created by the failure of democracy in nation after nation will be filled by strongman autocrats, the way we’re today seeing the rise of that very cancer here in America, in Sweden, Italy, Argentina, and in other formerly progressive and democratic nations.
It could be generations or even centuries before anything resembling democracy returns to the Earth: remember, the democratic experiment of today is only 240+ years old, and countries across the globe throughout the previous 7,000 years of “civilized” history were almost always run by kings, queens, pharaohs, popes, and other types of dictators.
The “World War” Scenario
Should Republicans succeed in blocking US aid to Ukraine so it falls to Russia, as Trump is currently demanding (his son went on a bizarre tirade about it just last week), but Trump is not elected president by the Electoral College and Biden is still in office, a different scenario emerges.
Once Putin tests the Polish or Baltic state borders, the US will almost certainly honor its commitment to Article 5 of NATO and enter the fray.
This is what Defense Secretary General Lloyd Austin referenced in a closed-door congressional hearing last week, words that Putin fan-boy Tucker Carlson took out of context to falsely claim Austin was threatening to send US troops into Ukraine if Republican senators didn’t go along with the aid package the administration and Pentagon are requesting.
With all of NATO, including the US, aligned against Russia’s European aggression, the world will have entered what could well be the first phase of World War III. Like in the previous two world wars, that would almost certainly provoke other nations to take advantage of the world’s war preoccupation to accomplish their own territorial expansion goals. Specifically, China taking Taiwan and India taking contested regions on its borders.
Whether the war would go nuclear — or at least go beyond battlefield tactical nukes — may well largely become a function of how well it’s going, or if Putin and Xi see increasing internal threats to their own power. While every major war in history has used that era’s state-of-the-art warfare technology, it’s still likely that intercontinental nuclear weapons will be a risk not even those autocrats are willing to take.
The Russia Loses Scenario
The optimal scenario, and the one the Biden administration and President Zelenskyy are promoting, is that American funding for Ukraine is restored (and enhanced), so that Russia is pushed out of Ukraine and forced to surrender some, much, or all the land they’ve already illegally seized.
It could also include a reaffirmation of the existing agreement that Russia is currently violating, the Budapest Memorandum. (This scenario is sometimes called a “negotiated settlement,” although it requires Ukraine to first force Russia to the negotiating table through military defeat or stalemate.)
Putin has just declared his intention to stay in the Kremlin through the end of the decade and into the 2030s, but such a loss in Ukraine would create enormous pressure within Russia for regime change.
Putin would have several options to alter that outcome, including changing his posture toward the west back to the more conciliatory one he held prior to 2014 when Hillary Clinton was trying to “reset” relations and Russian media was filled with stories openly promoting American/Russian international cooperation.
Another option would be for Putin to do what George W. Bush did and declare a “little war” with some random country under an invented pretext, whether it’s a now-internal region like Chechnya or another nearby former Soviet state that’s unable to defend itself and lacking NATO allies.
In either case, the rest of the world would heave a sigh of relief and Russia may even be able to get its economy off it’s current 40%-of-GDP-devoted-to-war footing and back to meeting the needs of its people. And China would probably continue to restrain their designs on Taiwan.
What Can You Do?
The bottom line here is that Republicans in the House and Senate who are dancing to Trump’s pro-Putin tune are playing a dangerous game that could lead to unimaginable disaster. They’re essentially proclaiming that as long as they face MAGA primary election threats, they’re not going to stop going along with Putin or fearing Trump’s wrath.
But we still may be able to salvage peace for this time by restoring and enhancing aid to our ally, Ukraine.
Call your two senators and your member of the House — the Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121 — and let them know your thoughts. The longer Republicans play politics with Ukraine aid, the more dangerous the world becomes.