It has been one year since Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian army to invade Ukraine.
What should we have learned from this illegal aggression?
From the Caux Round Table perspectives of moral capitalism and moral government, let me suggest 4 major lessons:
1. Napoleon and Clausewitz were correct: the moral is to the physical, as 3 is to 1. Ukrainian moral strength defeated Russian military capability. Clausewitz wrote that the moral forces “form the spirit, which permeates the whole being of war. These forces fasten themselves soonest and with the greatest affinity on to the will, which puts in motion and guides the whole mass of powers, uniting with it as were in one stream because this is a moral force itself.”
2. Max Weber was correct and Karl Marx was wrong. Values drive human actions, not dialectical materialism. Weber grounded capitalism as a new form of human thriving in the beliefs making up the Protestant ethic. Putin’s war is about values, not economic interest. In his article of 2021 on the history of Ukraine, he, in your face, asserts the moral rights of the Rus people to that territory. His speeches since the start of the war have reiterated that point. The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has blessed the war and so turned it for believing Russians into a religious one.
3. The European Enlightenment is comatose and at death’s door. Enlightenment values were powerful enough in 1939 to mobilize nations against the volksgemeinschaft national socialist regimes in Germany, Italy and Japan. Now, they are being tested again by Putin, with help from China and other states inclined to forms of national socialism. The case against Enlightenment values was made in public by Putin and Xi Jinping in their bilateral agreement of February 4, 2022.
States now are looking inwardly for values, not to universals and globalized visions of the common good. In the U.S., the emerging un-enlightened values are from the left and privilege 1) group identities (including racist ones) over individualism and 2) the right of an elite to indoctrinate the un-woke hoi polloi, who do most of society’s work and raise most of society’s children.
4. Terms for an acceptable peace can be deduced from the Caux Round Table Principles for Government. If all government is a public trust, then both Russia and Ukraine have trust responsibilities to avoid destruction and killing. Any dispute over the sovereignty of a territory – in this case, the Donbas and Crimea – can be resolved by giving sovereignty to a neutral party. The best example in recent history was the creation of a United Nations interim trusteeship administration over Cambodia. This arrangement allowed both China and Vietnam to back down from their claims to control Cambodia through their client Cambodian factions. The United Nations still has a trusteeship council, which could be activated to assume interim administration of the territories in dispute so that Ukraine could accept a cease fire and not lose its claim to sovereignty and Russian could similarly accept a cease fire without surrendering its claim to sovereignty over the same territory. Resolution of the competing claims to sovereignty could be sought without resort to war.