Defensive Realism

Collectivism also requires a certain level of uniformity of thought, but the aims, goals, leadership, and interests of one collective or group will differ from another. As mentioned before, collectivism has arisen as a popular form of discourse as the status quo of Anglo-American global hegemony began to recede and falter in recent times. Usually, what happens in conjunction with changes in popular discourse is a change in the global strategy of a great power. Taken as a whole, these changes in strategy, both domestic and international, relate to the concept or theory of “defensive realism.” 

As one lay intellectual in Britain wrote: “The essence of defensive realism is that as a state grows in power, it will see threats farther and farther from its borders.” It follows that each time a state expands to “neutralize a threat” farther and farther away, the immediate result is that new threats appear farther out until the state overextends itself and the “telescoping out turns to retracting back.” This retracting back occurs because “great powers weaken” and “their populations no longer want to sacrifice their children to war, they overspend or other states become powerful.” The lay intellectual added: 

“As a great power weakens, the threats disappear and they turn inward. No longer shaping the world, they react to it. The turn inward can lead to disruptive fragmentation as in the Soviet Union or gradual fragmentation as in Britain; or the great power’s politics become much more local, more concerned with domestic problems rather than imperial glory.” 

As a result of a context and situation defined and shaped by “defensive realism” which has arisen as of late, the United States and its allies in Europe are very much in reaction mode against Russia at the moment. Plus, as the history of the Cold War has taught us, and as Henry Kissinger noted: “Soviet [or Russian] pressure on the West was real and inherent, but it could be ‘contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.’” 

One must also take the balance of power factor into consideration, and how Moscow’s present-day pressure on the Western world should no longer be seen as “futile confrontations with the outside world” but rather as an opportunity seized by Moscow as a result of a shifting global balance of power in order to put pressure on the West for reasons and objectives which are not fully clear or transparent at the moment. Perhaps the only way in which the rationale and the objectives for Russian pressure on the West would become fully clear and transparent is through negotiations between the West and Russia. 

But negotiations and compromise with Russia is more of a British and European position than an American position, as demonstrated by the history of the Cold War. Washington, both then and now, perceived negotiations and concessions to Russia as being too “risky.” In Washington’s traditional view, the West’s conflict with Russia was a moral struggle based on a set of basic and universal principles rather than a mere geopolitical struggle based on national interests. As a result, the struggle goes on, even to this day. 

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