This year’s Munich Security Conference was predictably all about the imaginary danger that Russians intend to proceed westward into Europe as soon as they finish in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on their way to Air Base Jagel in northern Germany, June 2023. (NATO, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News 

Let’s listen for a moment to Boris Pistorius, the German defense minister, in a mid–January interview he gave to Der Tagesspiegel, a small Berlin daily whose history dates to 1945, when the Allies set about democratizing the Nazi-era press in the capital’s western sector.  

“We hear threats from the Kremlin almost every day, so we have to take into account that Vladimir Putin might even attack a NATO country one day,” Pistorius asserted with a display of confidence. “Our experts expect a period of five-to-eight years in which this could be possible.”

Where to begin with this liar. 

No, neither the Germans nor anyone else in the West hears threats from “Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” as we must call the Russian Federation, either daily, weekly, monthly or in any other time frame you may choose. If you can manage to listen to the Russian president over the din of flabby-minded bureaucrats such as Pistorius, you hear quite the opposite. 

To take a ready-to-hand case, here is Putin during that much-remarked interview he gave Tucker Carlson Feb. 6:

“… We have no interest in Poland, Latvia, or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest. It’s just threat-mongering.”

Threat-mongering: good phrase. That is precisely and all Pistorius was trading in when he spoke to Der Tagesspiegel.   

Pistorius’ apparent purpose was to raise the curtain on this year’s Munich Security Conference, held in the Bavarian capital last week. It was predictably all about the imaginary danger that Russians intend to proceed westward into Europe as soon as they finish in Ukraine, and Europe had better spend countless billions of additional euros on weaponry and make sure its unnatural alienation from Russia remains more or less permanent. 

Jens Stoltenburg, Washington’s water-carrier as secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, now predicts that the crisis in East–West relations is likely to endure for decades. He actually improved on Pistorius’ “five-to-eight years.”  In Munich, Stoltenburg got Putin’s threat to invade Western Europe down to three-to-five. He must consult different “experts.” 

Get this, from a report published in the Sunday editions of The New York Times:

“As the leaders of the West gathered in Munich over the past three days, President Vladimir V. Putin had a message for them: Nothing they’ve done so far — sanctions, condemnation, attempted containment — would alter his intentions to disrupt the current world order.”

Say whaaa? What we see out our windows is a “world order?” Putin and the rest of the Moscow leadership have made their intentions clear too many times to count: It is to restore order to a world the Western alliance has led to the brink of an out-of- control chaos that has many non–Western nations, Russia high among them, near to quaking. 

Let us draw the larger lesson here and then apply it elsewhere. 

Detached From Reality

Stoltenberg addressing 60th Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17. (Michaela Stache/MSC via Stenbocki maja, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Those purporting to lead the collective West are now executing a set of aggressive foreign and military policies that are not short of dangerous for their distance from the true circumstances of our time. These policies are costly — in themselves and as measured in lost opportunity — economically and socially distorting, and, straight to the point, unmoored from reality. 

There is no need to wonder what causes this departure from observable facts, diabolically purposeful as it often is, and what comes of it. This may seem an unprecedented moment in human history, but there are, indeed, many precedents. 

Barbara Tuchman told us all about them in The March of Folly (Knopf, 1984): These grand lapses reflect an absence of intellect, vision, and principle at leadership level and lead ineluctably to failure and one or another kind of mess.

The Ukraine case, the preoccupation in Munich last week, could not possibly make this clearer.

Even The New York Times, in the same edition it repeated the Russian-threat-to-Europe bit, now reports — albeit elliptically, text and subtext — that Ukraine has either lost the war with Russia already or is in the process of doing so. Among the only people still unwilling to acknowledge this are those intent on shaking loose more money and matériel to send to the corrupt regime in Kiev — those in power in the West, this is to say. 

[See: Throwing Good Money After Bad in Ukraine?]

Kiev is losing the war, but there cannot be any negotiations with “Putin’s Russia” because the Russian president — another incontrovertible lie — insists any settlement must be on his terms. So: more money, arms, and therefore lives, all wasted on a lost cause, but the door to talks that could end the conflict, suffering, and wastage must remain closed.  

Deceptions & Self-Deceptions

Carlson interviewing Putin in Moscow on Feb. 6. (Kremlin)

This is how the West’s purported leaders insist on shaping the world we live in — a world based on deceptions and self-deceptions. This is what Tuchman meant by folly. 

As Israel’s atrocities in Gaza continue daily, the delusions among the policy cliques in Washington and the European capitals are yet more grotesque. 

In my previous column I considered the post–Gaza planning the policy cliques in Washington are currently running up the flagpole. Its three “tracks,” briefly enumerated, are the good old two-state solution providing for a separate Palestinian nation, formalized relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia — this the steel I–beam supporting Israel’s place in the region — and a renovated Palestinian Authority that will govern Gaza after Hamas is removed. 

None of these propositions bears the slightest relationship with reality. Not one. They are all, please forgive me, masturbatory fantasies. But never mind: They are in the works as a new U.S. policy in West Asia. 

Antony Blinken emerged from one of his multiple rounds of talks in Riyadh in mid–January to declare the Saudis had responded positively to his proposal for normalized relations with Israel. The Saudis wasted no time pushing a custard pie in Blinken’s face, making public a statement saying there is no chance of ties with Israel without just settlement of the Palestinian question. 

Let’s call this the march of folly in real time. 

I thought further about those policy proposals after filing the above-linked commentary and recognized in them a subtext we must not miss: It is the working assumption that when Israel is done with its grotesqueries in Gaza the dust will settle, the region will come to forget, and all will return to some kind of normal.

This, it seems to me, is the greatest of all the delusions the Atlantic world’s policy circles now entertain and act upon. 

There is no chance — does this go without saying? — that Israel, the Palestinians, or West Asia will return to any kind of status quo ante once Israel disperses those Palestinians in Gaza it has not murdered.

Israel is already down as a pariah state. If it were South Africa I would say it is the early 1980s on history’s clock, 15 years or so before the apartheid regime gave up the ghost. 

As is well-known, loyalty to the Palestinian cause had faded among Arab nations and further abroad prior to the events of Oct. 7. Now the world is again paying attention, as South Africa and the International Court of Justice announced last month. As the Saudis just signaled, the fate of Palestinians — and of Israel, and of the U.S position in the Middle East — are bound together now.  

The Biden regime, epicenter of the West’s delusional foreign policies, especially those concerning the non–West, has permanently altered its position in West Asia. Overexposed on the ground, it is likely to find itself more vulnerable than it has been for the past eight decades and more suspect on the diplomatic side even among those nations it has traditionally counted friends.   

Policy unrooted in reality cannot address the challenges or crises of its time. Those who shape it, having no capacity to address such pressing circumstances, are on their march to folly.   

What do you give it before the consequences of the West’s delusions — in Ukraine and in relations with Russia; in the Middle East — become evident? Five to eight years? Or three to five?

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for The International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, lecturer and author, most recently of Journalists and Their Shadows, available from Clarity Press or via Amazon.  Other books include Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. 

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

16 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Grand Delusions

  1. LeoSun
    February 22, 2024 at 03:04

    Patrick Lawrence, nails it, “Policy unrooted in reality cannot address the challenges or crises of its time. Those who shape it, having no capacity to address such pressing circumstances, are on their march to folly,” i.e., “Welcome, to The Malarky Factory!”

    Patrick Lawrence, “What do you give it before the consequences of the West’s delusions — in Ukraine and in relations with Russia; in the Middle East — become evident? Five to eight years? Or three to five?

    …..…. Imo, “IF, things don’t start shakin’ out by July….” No doubt, the crises are Colossal! Universal!! Toxic! Lethal!!!

    And, Biden’s-Harris’ “Acts of Folly,” Wars, Bidenomics & the Imprisonment of Julian Assange, are literally, killing humans, plants & animal life! “There can be no illusions as to the degree of lying, provocation, and military violence that” Biden’s-Harris’ War Chiefs aka Board of Executioners are “prepared to carry out in pursuit of its geostrategic aims,” i.e., “Kill, first. Think, later.” It’s utter folly!!! Prepare for the worst. Ciao.

  2. James White
    February 21, 2024 at 20:45

    President Joe Biden has taken Millions in bribes through his son and brother from Russia and China, among others. Two countries he claims are our enemies. Biden has always taken Millions from the Military Industrial Congressional Complex. Now here is Biden starting wars with both countries at the same time. At the same time that the U.S. is seen as Israels enabler in the Gaza Genocide. Another cash cow for the MIC but how many wars can Biden lose in one term?
    Joe is indignant that House Speaker Mike Johnson won’t burn another 100 Billion on the national debt bonfire. How will his clients ever get paid? Come on Mike, Joe took good money from all of these people. And Johnson is making Joe look weak in front of all of them. So just toss another 100 Billion on the national credit card, Mike. You will do it if you know what’s good for you. This is how the Capitol runs baby.
    Incredibly, Johnson has held out so far.
    Biden has said he will meet and talk with Johnson now.
    That meeting can’t possibly go well.
    Johnson will continue to tell Biden that he needs to enforce the law on the border or he won’t get a dime from the House.
    Joe Biden has been giving it good and hard to the American people on immigration and wars for 3 years now.
    Johnson is giving it good and hard now to Biden.
    What goes around comes around.

  3. Guy St Hilaire
    February 21, 2024 at 12:18

    Detached from reality by fools and liars .

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    February 21, 2024 at 09:51

    And so the Anglo/Saxon hysteria continues unabated. It is almost as if they are actually HOPING for war. Be careful what you wish…

  5. Francis Lee
    February 21, 2024 at 07:18

    Interesting to note that according to the Guardian ‘Newspaper’ two years of conflict have now passed since the war in Ukraine and Russia. Wrong old chap. The war between Russia and Ukraine, actually began in Independence Square (Kiev) in 2013-14. This started with a neo-fascist coup which was egged on by the likes of Victoria Nuland – who else! – Geoffrey Pyatt, and Vitaly Klitschko ,which was decorated in Independence Square by a giant portrait of ONA leader Stefan Bandera – now defunct – which hung to the left of the stage at the Maidan. Before and nearly every speech the speaker would shout ”Glory to the Ukraine” and the crowd would shout back, ”Glory to the Heroes”. And so forth. Blah, blah, blah.

    The Ukrainian army and its irregular units – The Azov Battalion, the Svoboda, Right Sector, Neo -Nazis and C14 – were itching for some action: this was in late 2013. They finally got their wish. First up was when the Azov Battalion was let loose into the coastal town of Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine; they shot the place up and killed a few people. This is when the war started in earnest and has lasted for 5 years – so far.

    The war period of the war 2014 carried on until 2022 At this late stage Putin had had enough. He didn’t want the war but responded to the clamour in Russia and the Eastern Oblasts – particularly Lugansk and Donetsk (Donetsk has finally fallen to the Ukie Army (2024). The war goes on.

  6. bill
    February 21, 2024 at 06:09

    Theres another possibility beyond that these leaders are simply deluded which is most are such weak characters they will just go along knowingly with huge lies coming direct from Washington which themselves are not delusions as such but deliberate perversions being employed to uphold US imperialism.Germany for example isnt deluded that the US blew up Nordstream 2 but its leadership is too facile to abandon NATO so simply allow this demonisation of Putin/Russia to stand. Others like Stoltenburg certainly a US watercarrier and a jobworth are blind ideologues which is why the US chose him in the first place as its watercarrier.Whilst their security meetings are of course fantasy seeking too huge profits for arms companies they are also marketing and manipulation of electorates many of which are wising up and will one hopes remove Biden Scholz,Macron ,and Sunak next time but in the UK i can safely ask the question but for what change as many oppositions are merely the other side of the same coin? US Neocons havent at all abandoned their aim of the balkanisation of Russia( and will have other plans) caring not a fig for Ukrainian blood and the destruction of that land and now seeking to buy up cheap W Ukraine even further leaving Putin with a headache danger of NATO repetition of its same stupidity because he certainly has never had designs to occupy it having restored the most lucrative parts and by referendum of Russian regions.He knows the denazification isnt yet complete and that the only lasting answer has to be political so he has to take Kiev and call new elections with widespread arrests and trials going right through to Lvov the epicentre of Banderism.We need to remember that the bloodsoaked Zelensky who is rolling in our money has made negotiation with Russia in any event a criminal offence;that he has deliberately burnt his own boats

  7. Andrew Thomas
    February 21, 2024 at 00:26

    As some demented turd, reputed to be Karl Rove told someone long ago, “we’re an empire now; we make our own reality.” They really believe it. In advertising and public relations, perception=reality. Advertising and public relations, managed by propaganda, is all that matters. Ergo, perception=reality in all areas of human activity. So, as long as perception is controlled, the US is NOT detached from reality. It decides what it is. How the rest of NATO, the EU, and the Five Eyes countries (some overlap) have jumped on board this ship of fools it is at this time impossible to know. However, the U.S. military cannot account for $30 trillion + of its ‘expenditures’ over the last couple of decades. The otherwise inexplicable and universal adherence to the U.S. line in all of the political classes in those countries certainly invites investigation into the possibility of massive bribery, given the lack of any other reasonable explanation. Just a suggestion.

  8. wildthange
    February 20, 2024 at 20:53

    The biggest delusion of all is particular god granting Earth to the whims of western civilization which includes what appears to be an old Roman weaponized religion that called our an imaginary treason based on a fictional supper. That has grown to commit it’s own a history of genocides. Included is invasion of Russia and 2 years of multi-national attempt to control their revolution at inception. Then call them out for a threat to god as well. Now perhaps just for stealing god for their own orthodoxy to compete with the one the Romans stole..
    Mankind has had considerable trouble from delusional rites granted by the gods they have created for it. Human civilization is at grave risk from the profits from their prophets.

  9. February 20, 2024 at 20:01

    I have the highest regard and admiration for Mr. Lawrence’s analyses and writings.

    He joins others I deeply respect, including Jeffery Sachs, John Mearsheimer, Norman Finkelstein, Alistair Crooke, Chris Hedges, Ilan Pape, Juan Cole and several others.

    Thank you Consortium News for printing their works!!!!

  10. firstpersoninfinite
    February 20, 2024 at 18:09

    Is it still possible that the nations of NATO don’t realize that they are merely vassal states of the US? When we blew up the means by which NATO countries had access to cheaper natural gas and replaced the loss of it with our own, more expensive natural gas, thereby sending many NATO national economies into recession, how do they still wonder from which direction the threat is coming from? When Victoria Nuland shouted “Fuck the EU!” could they not hear it? The US no longer desires hegemony over the entire globe – it only needs to have hegemony over weaker states that it can plunder and control. The Imperium’s crimes will not be televised, and certainly not discussed.

  11. Drew Hunkins
    February 20, 2024 at 16:02

    Anyone who’s of the view that the Kremlin has any desire to “invade” or encroach on Europe is a brainwashed imbecile. Russia’s overwhelming position for centuries has been its own security, period. Any honest and sane observer can see that it’s NATO harassment that’s brought about the current extremely perilous situation.

    The American public must get its head out of its ass and start using just a bit of critical thinking skills.

    Stop listening to our politicians, officials, scribes, and talking heads in New York and Washington. Even some of them who happen to be good on some things — they weren’t Covid hysterics, they acknowledge Israel’s committing an heinous ethnic cleansing — are often terrible when it comes to Russia, parroting the same disgusting and dangerous talking points that would make Pentagon and State Dept Russophobes proud.

  12. michael888
    February 20, 2024 at 15:41

    Cholera will likely kill most of the Palestinians in Gaza; surely Biden and Netanyahu are counting on this. So the question is whether the Zionist atrocities will fade into forgotten history , like the planned famines of the British Empire (particularly in India and Persia/Iran), or will rise up like the Holocaust, becoming stronger many decades after the fact (and the NAZIs did not murder Ann Frank, at least directly; she died of typhus in a concentration camp.)
    The deranged Biden is hell bent on keeping his War in Ukraine going (win-win, killing a few Russians while devastating the Ukrainian population including all those landowners’ sons on the richest farmland in Europe, soon to be foreign-owned, and $60 billion more to go *poof* into the Black Hole of Ukrainian Corruption). Biden and NATO are pushing Navalny’s death as a propaganda coup, as if the death of one CIA asset failure is the lynchpin of history, rallying insane war mongers (whose children and grandchildren never enter the fray).

    If Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death, is Joe Biden responsible for many of the 4000 to 6000 Americans who die in jails each year?
    Biden was instrumental as Senator in doubling the US incarcerated from one million to two million (mostly non-violent drug offenders.) He used to brag “we do everything but hang people for jaywalking.”

    Does Biden take pleasure in slaughtering, maiming and uprooting Yemeni, ethnic Russian Ukrainians, and Palestinians? Trump’s a narcistic idiot; Biden is pure EVIL.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    February 20, 2024 at 15:39

    Ah, my favorite historian. She was right about a great many things in her books. If she were alive today, I’m confident that she would say that in Putin the US found a leader who wasn’t afraid of us and who had devised a strategy to defeat us. Much like the Japanese found a commander in Stilwell who wasn’t afraid of them and devised a strategy to defeat them.

  14. Will Durant
    February 20, 2024 at 15:32

    The March of Folly: one of my favorite books. Had Barbara Tuchman lived she would have had enough material— over the last 30 years alone—for a multi-volume set, and at least three entire volumes would be a description of Amerika’s disastrous foreign and domestic policy and the endless train of fools that compose our political class.

  15. Susan Siens
    February 20, 2024 at 14:54

    Another excellent and spot-on column by Patrick Lawrence. Now take the same delusional folly he describes on the international stage and bring it home. I have loved the state of Maine since I was a child and the Democrats have managed to make it grotesque in a few short years. Our roads are not patrolled so every day we have traffic fatalities especially on the interstate. The mass murder in Lewiston could have been prevented except that men in uniforms are permitted to act as gangs and give passes to other men who wear uniforms. Our beautiful land is being covered with “solar farms,” a euphemism for industrial wastelands. Our governor is in league with Bill Gates to turn southern Maine into a mini-silicon valley, and who in their right mind would want to live there? I’m sure other commenters have similar stories to share about the states they live in.

  16. Valerie
    February 20, 2024 at 13:06

    “What do you give it before the consequences of the West’s delusions — in Ukraine and in relations with Russia; in the Middle East — become evident? Five to eight years? Or three to five?”

    If it’s left up to the Finns, it’ll be next month:


    “It is inhuman to continue a war which could easily be ended”
    Friedrich Durrenmatt

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