It’s been hitting me hard lately how so much of the agony we’re living through now originates in our bungling response, or lack of response, to the fall of the Soviet Union.
When the USSR collapsed in on itself under the weight of its own illogic and corruption, we could have recalled the lesson of the stunningly successful Marshall Plan, then only four decades in the past: Do not let a defeated enemy sink into despair and humiliation. In your own self-interest, help the foe succeed, and become a friend.
But no, as the Russian empire fell, America and the West stood back, trusting that freedom and free markets would be enough.. But instead, oligarchs and gangsters used their new liberty to set about looting their own country.
And the horrors of communism were replaced with the horrors of thugocracy.
So? Maybe we didn’t care so much, since there was money to be made by us as well.
But the corruption spread. And it breached the borders of the West as Soviet aggression never could.
Ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin and his gang didn’t need to invade Britain with an army. They did it by buying up luxury real estate with their looted billions, or by parking their money in British banks, or by negotiating joint ventures with British corporations.
And it turned out they they could do the same to the United States — except that even better, in an incredible stroke of luck, they apparently were able to make a partner of America’s future president. When no reputable American bank would lend to him, they bailed him out of his bankruptcies and, by the evidence, hired him as a money launderer, converting their cash into condos.
We humiliated Germany after World War I and got World War II. But we learned, and got it right with Germany and Japan after World War II. They became two of our strongest allies.
And then, after the Cold War, we made the same, old, terrible mistake again.
And here we are.