“For Russia and the US, what they are and claim to be as nations is at stake: for the one, its “historical future as a nation”, its status as a great power and respected subject in the world of states; for the other, its “unrivalled power”, its unrestricted world domination. Their positions are irreconcilable. They do not tolerate any relativisation, because that would be tantamount to abandoning their posited standpoint.
For both sides, the assertion of their own position, therefore, has the quality of an existential question that must be brought to a decision, a “matter of life and death” and or a matter of the highest principles – “prosperity and security” – respectively.
And so they go at each other. They both use deterrence and threats to impress the other side into accepting their demands and escalate the use of their means of destruction when this fails. They know full well what destruction the other side can bring to the battlefield, and how widely it can define this battlefield. They both insist on their dominance of escalation, their ability to up the ante in response to an escalation of the other side. For now, Russia made the transition to an all out war against Ukraine and kills people in that country to preserve its status as a great power. The superior American side, for now, does not want to get directly involved with its military – indeed it seems increasingly frustrated that it has to take attention away from its rising (economic and thus future military) rival China. For now, America is content with letting Ukrainians fight and die – for their fatherland and the rule-based order that the US implemented after the Second World War. But America’s restraint is nothing but the decision to postpone an escalation to the point when it feels its status as the one superpower in the world is sufficiently threatened.
Only an idiot would support either of these programmes.”