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What is Realpolitik?

A diplomatic strategy to avert catastrophe has been revived.

Realpolitik recognizes the reality of power. It doesn’t lead with morals or ethics as we would like. If your opponent has the might to destroy you, it takes precedence.

Wise governments adhere to the rules of Realpolitik, if unenthusiastically. Many Western citizens are frustrated by NATO’s unwillingness to directly help Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s request for a no-fly zone went unmet. The Russians are clearly in the wrong. Why won’t the West get more involved?

Realpolitik isn’t needed online where many of us spend our lives. The internet is run by companies that employ their own unilateral standard. A bad actor in the online realm is permanently banned. The offending party is removed from sight.

Russia is an aggressor nation with a nuclear deterrent. Realpolitik informs us, the threat of nuclear war takes precedence over the gross unfairness of Ukraine’s situation. The goal of a moral outcome is delayed by Realpolitik, but not ignored.

Ronald Reagan was a president who appealed to moral ideals. His called the USSR the evil empire. It made some Americans cringe. Even with his strong convictions, Reagan understood he couldn’t fight the Soviet Union in a direct way. The arsenals of the USA and the USSR were too evenly matched. The number of world allies was comparable. Reagan heeded Realpolitik. His solution was found in America’s economic advantage over the Soviet Union. Reagan outspent the Russians in the area of missile defense. They went bankrupt trying to keep up.

An online generation that wields total control now faces a nuclear threat from an intransigent foe. With nuclear weapons, a country can be ethically wrong and also get its way. At least, for a time. One’s goal doesn’t change. The method changes.

Realpolitik — [H]ow to achieve liberal enlightened goals in a world that does not follow liberal enlightened rules.

Historian John Bew (via Wikipedia)

This post first appeared at The Deleterious.

Eugene Havens

Eugene is a writer working on books and websites. Check out Eugene's novel here.

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