David Carlson: Seeing the bigger picture


I admit it. I’m a political junkie. Before politics, my passion was history. The connection between history and politics makes sense especially if a person defines politics as history unfolding.

Currently, history is unfolding in ways that make many people nervous.

I understand that, and I share that anxiety.

But I refuse to give in to the temptation to watch sports and sitcoms while the world is cooking up for something that is potentially major.

I suppose I could be dismissed as someone who is increasingly concerned about Russia’s war on Ukraine.

But I think it’s fairer to say that I’m one who believes that there’s more to the Ukraine war than meets the eye.

The bigger picture that I’m referring to is the fact that Russia has some surprising and substantial support for his aggression against his neighbor.

Despite the Biden administration’s desire and NATO’s desire to label this “Putin’s War,” Putin knows that he’ll never have to stand alone against the world.

Specifically, Putin knows that he can count on at least four fellow members of an alliance known as BRICS, who will refrain from criticizing him and may soon be supporting him militarily.

BRICS a voluntary alliance composed of five countries: B is for Brazil; R is for Russia; I is for India; C is for China; and S is for South Africa.

The five nations within BRICS have met informally but regularly since 2009, which raises the question “why?”

What links these nations?

Part of the answer is that these countries believe that their fast-growing economies, taken together, will dominate the world by 2050.

They see themselves as winners, soon-to-be winners, or eventual winners on the world’s economic stage.

Given that I’m not an economist, I’ll focus on the politics that bind the members of BRICS and explain why these countries are never likely to side against Putin.

Each of these nations looks at the current world map and doesn’t like what it sees.

Putin, the old KGB agent, is the first to act in an attempt to change the map.

Believing that the fall of the Soviet Empire led to Russia being humiliated by the United States and NATO, he dreams not just of retaking Ukraine, but of retaking Poland, Romania, Estonia and all the other nations that were once part of the USSR.

President Xi Jinping of China looks at the present map and doesn’t like what he sees either.

Just 100 miles off China’s mainland lies Taiwan, a nation he believes must inevitably be reabsorbed into China.

We can only imagine where the world would be right now if Xi Jinping had followed Putin’s lead and invaded Taiwan at the same moment last year when Putin invaded Ukraine.

And India?

There are elements in President Modi’s party that believe that India’s destiny is to expand significantly in size, to eventually control all the territory from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east.

That brings us to South Africa and Brazil.

South Africa also dreams of a different world in the near future, a world in which it will achieve its destiny to be a dominant voice in African affairs.

Brazil has similar ambitions in the Western Hemisphere, perhaps linked to another assumption of BRICS — that U.S. dominance in world affairs is diminishing.

Putting all this together, we begin to see the bigger picture behind the Ukraine war, and the bigger picture is a disturbing one.

If we listen to U.S. and NATO leaders, we are offered a vision of the future in which economic links and commitment to democracy will lead to only minor adjustments to the world map.

Putin’s war of aggression is, in the eyes of NATO and Washington, a holdover from the outdated Cold War thinking.

But through the lens of BRICS, the world of the future will be far different. And through that lens, Putin’s war isn’t some outdated holdover from the past, but the pattern of the future.

If Ukraine falls to Putin, the invasion of Taiwan by China or and an invasion of Pakistan by India could be next.

The lesson? Ukraine must not fall.

David Carlson of Franklin is a professor emeritus of philosophy and religion. Send comments to [email protected].

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