Living In a Decisive Moment

Dean Pagani
5 min readNov 3, 2022

The world is in a state of decisive flux. By that I mean, twenty-five years from now we might look back and say that’s when everything changed in a big way. That’s where and when the shift happened. 2022.

The conversation is rooted in the unfinished business of the last century. A conversation that has been taking place in various ways since World War I. A battle between superpowers that has been underway for decades on battlefields, in the business world, and in various power centers and left smaller, less powerful countries to react and choose sides.

The most dramatic current example of decisive change is taking place in Ukraine where a small country, trying to make its own way, was invaded by Russia in February of this year and has so far held off the far more powerful invading force. Ukraine has surprised even itself, but it has particularly surprised Russia and the rest of the world by up-ending conventional wisdom.

Though the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, it has been the general belief since then that the succeeding Russian Federation still possessed Soviet military might. The Ukrainian military, the country’s leadership, and its people have shown that is not the case. At the beginning of the conflict it was believed it would take Russia about a week to depose the Ukrainian government and sweep through the rest of the country. Nine months later the Russian military is being picked apart limb by limb in embarrassing ways.

Russian soldiers do not want to fight. They have been lied to by their leaders. The latest attempt to conscript 300,000 fighters from the population has led to an exodus from the country that may number far more than 300,000. Those Russian units that are trying to fight are being effectively targeted tank by tank, trench by trench and sent scurrying for the border, in many cases dropping their guns, leaving their vehicles on the side of the roads, trading their uniforms for civilian clothes and running for their lives.

The question left for everyone to consider is; what kind of country will Russia be when this war is over? Most military analysts see the Russian invasion as a complete failure. There is no longer any chance for Russia to achieve its stated goal of forcing Ukraine under its control. Its military is being depleted and needs to be rebuilt. Its most potent remaining power is its nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear weapons would isolate Russia even more than it is isolated today. The already weak Russian economy is being strained further. The leadership of the country and what comes after Putin is in question. It appears any dream of re-creating the old Soviet Union has been lost forever. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, but the last vestige of the world power that built it is dying in the east of Ukraine more than three decades later.

Russia’s long-term survival strategy may include moving closer to Europe and the west. The exact opposite result Vladimir Putin says his troops are fighting for. If Russia maintains its current path and withdraws from the world after its Ukrainian misadventure its population will have fading hope for a bright future.

We can only hope China is watching and learning the right lessons. For the superpowers of the world, the last 100 years should lead to one conclusion: Be grateful for what you have, which is more than everyone else, and seek cooperation rather than confrontation. Japan, Germany, the United States, the former Soviet Union, Iraq, Iran, and now Russia have all learned the folly of using force to extend their influence. There are very few instances of long-term success when force is used to acquire more territory or push a way of life on people who are satisfied with their own way of life. It may work temporarily, but at some point people will speak their mind and take back their power. The power which nature and nature’s God entitle them.

One revolution forced on an unwilling population will lead to another revolution as we are witnessing now in Iran. Another location where a new world order seems to be taking shape.

It is difficult to say whether the current unrest in Iran will lead to a change in the direction of the country or its leadership, but like the fate of Russia in Ukraine, the street protests that are being led mostly by Iranian women and girls signal a trend toward fundamental realignment. Such a realignment would lean away from religious laws and toward a more secular society. Something younger generations of Iranians have been longing for for several decades. A more open society in Iran, an Iran more interested in joining the family of nations, would lead to dramatic shifts throughout the region and therefore throughout the world.

Although the United States has used both hard and soft power to influence events in Ukraine, Iran, and other parts of the world, it would be smart to avoid taking unfair advantage over those regions in the wake of substantial change. It would be one thing to take advantage of new trade and economic opportunities, but it would be a mistake to use change as an opportunity to fill a power vacuum. The United States faces its own internal problems which must be tended.

The U.S. has been in a long period of political stalemate that has led to political turmoil. Between thirty and forty percent of the population, according to polls, is still not satisfied that the right president is in the White House. Other surveys suggest a growing number of Americans think it is acceptable, and maybe even necessary, to use violence to force their political views on others.

We are witnessing a sweeping lack of leadership, especially on the national level. As divisions grow, no one on the political right or left has sufficiently stepped up to point out the tensions and do something — insist on something — to eliminate those tensions. The partisan gaps only grow. They’ve grown to a point where the old left/right or Republican/Democrat labels don’t fit anymore. The divide is deeper than that.

On the world stage, as Americans, we may feel we are on the right side in Ukraine and Iran, but if our goals are accomplished we can’t be sure we will be in a position to benefit. Is our own house in order? It doesn’t appear so.

The new year is approaching and daily events on the world stage point in the direction of fundamental change. Twelve months from now it seems possible — maybe even likely — new chapters will open in Russia, Iran, and the United States. The chess board will be flipped and re-arranged. We are living through a period likely to be a decisive moment in world history.

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