NEW YORK—The custom-designed Oculus headset that a masked monk delivered to my door appears to have malfunctioned. The château at the Place de Vosges reappeared in the Metaverse but in black and white instead of bright cartoonish colours, with less furniture and fewer pieces of art, with drab walls unadorned with the paintings I admired at our last meeting.
A bit unsure of my feet, I wandered around the virtual reality residence until I almost found, or rather walked, the ghost of Cardinal Richelieu, the evil genius of 17The tenth France century and strategist of the Thirty Years’ War.
“Please accept my pardon for my extenuating circumstances,” said the Cardinal, after we exchanged the usual pleasantries. The budget has been under pressure since Meta’s stock price crash.
This did not bother me. In truth, I favored the moist skeleton of the Carthusian monks, at countless levels beneath the sewers of Paris, where I first incarnated the soul of the Cardinal with the help of Magnum Château Petrus and a spittoon. Virtual reality gave me a headache.
I offered your time as always with gratitude, Eminence. I quickly added, “And since your time is limited,” “please tell me what will happen in Ukraine, and then what will happen elsewhere as a result.”
This is a completely stupid question, because everything that could happen to this miserable country has already happened. Didn’t I tell you in last meeting That Putin’s goal was not to do this or that with Ukraine, to rule Ukraine or force Ukraine to adopt one policy or another, but to do with Ukraine once and for all – to completely destroy it, depopulate it and eliminate the possibility of Ukraine becoming a theater for Western weapons directed to Russia?
One hears from self-deluded Western critics that Putin wants to be a new czar presiding over a new Russian empire, and that his attack on Ukraine has been motivated by national pride and regional ambition. If this is true , my friendHe will not burn the earth and expel people! The damage to the Ukrainian infrastructure alone exceeds a trillion dollars, in a country whose national product did not reach 160 billion dollars a year before the outbreak of war! Simply reforming the country requires six times the country’s national product, which is of course impossible.
Even if the money is found, who will do the repairs? Before the war, Ukraine had 45 million people on paper, but there were only 33 million in the country, because half of the adult population had left to work elsewhere. At least 14 million of these have been displaced from their homes, and most will not return. After all, the Poles, Hungarians and Germans are so lacking in people and will gladly accept immigrants from Ukraine instead of from the Middle East or Africa.
“But what about the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men who returned to the country to fight the Russians?” objected.
They will discover that it is inappropriate to fight the Russians, as their ancestors did during World War II. A few tens of thousands of them will be killed, others will rot for some time in Russian concentration camps while the Russians besiege and exterminate the main body of the Ukrainian army in the Donbass. Then they will join their families in Poland or Germany.”
I protested, “But surely the Americans wouldn’t support this!”
“About the Americans don’t worry too much. They are used to the humiliation. Does anyone remember their inappropriate departure from Afghanistan last year? They thought they were smart in cultivating Ukraine as a de facto member of NATO, perhaps by using anti-missile systems that could be converted into short-range missiles with nuclear warheads.” If the need arises.
Putin believed he had an agreement with the Europeans under Minsk II to keep Ukraine neutral and to ensure the autonomy of the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine in the east, and he believed – with some justification – that Washington had spoiled this agreement. So he attacked.”
Richelieu Beretta square hoodie It started blinking and I thought for a moment I saw a straw boat instead. It occurred to me that he was about to break into the song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”.
I objected: “But Your Eminence, the Americans must have known that the Russian army might destroy Ukraine!”
The Cardinal sneered, his Metaverse mustache trembling violently, as he answered:
Americans! They are as stupid as the Spaniards you destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War! In fact, Mazarin destroyed them, but I sewed it earlier.
The Americans thought that Putin’s economy would collapse! you did not. They thought that the Russian people would revolt! they did not. They believed that their expensive games, Javelins, Switchblades and Stingers, would stop the Russian army. they did not. They simply killed a lot of Russians. But as Hitler’s best general von Manstein said about the Russians, just when you think you’ve killed them all, another group of them comes up the hill.
Americans don’t understand anything about Russians. The Russians grab, get drunk and follow orders. They don’t need high-tech American toys. They simply send drones to explore the enemy’s position, feed coordinates and fire large numbers of artillery and rockets. They are unimaginative, solid and relentless. If you want to know about Russians, I will introduce von Manstein, Charles XII, and Napoleon. But the ghost you must conjure is Bismarck. He said: ‘Kämpfe nicht mit Russen. List of Auf jede reagieren sie mit einer unvoraussehbarer Dummheit”.
I translated “Do not fight with the Russians”. “At every stunt of war they act with some unpredictable brutality.”
“Bingo!” Cardinal said.
“What would happen if the Russians succeeded?” I’m a student.
He was prepared for this question and immediately answered:
Every country in the world will remember Kissinger’s country bon die It is dangerous to be an enemy of the United States – but to be a friend of it is fatal. America is generous with the blood of others: the Hungarians in 1956, the Czechs in 1968, the Kurds in Syria and today the Ukrainians. US critics say that from Ukraine, Taiwan should draw the lesson that it must prepare to defend itself now, like a porcupine. But it’s an entirely different lesson the Taiwanese have learned – that he doesn’t pay to fight as an American agent.
The Germans would have a choice to rearm, in particular to restore conscription, or to absorb Putin. What do you think they will do? Hungarians will congratulate themselves for their refusal to join the sanctions imposed on Moscow. The French will remember that Marine Le Pen came in for a cannon shot to defeat Macron in the last election by proposing to remove France from the NATO leadership, and Macron will carefully distance himself from Washington. The Poles will make terrible noises, but in vain; The difference between Hungarians and Poles is that Hungarians do not make the mistake of thinking that they are important. India will continue to buy Russian oil and sell consumer goods to the Russian market.
“And China, Your Eminence? What will China do?” I asked.
“China will eat watermelons, to use their terminology; they will stand on the sidelines and watch and do absolutely nothing except enjoy the misery of the United States. They will offer instruments of torture to Taiwan in the hope that their actual application will not be necessary. They will build more hypersonic weapons and other It is a bad device that makes the US Navy unwelcome in their part of the world.They will quietly tell the countries that matter to them that the United States has failed again in Ukraine as it has failed in Afghanistan, and that China must be considered a new pole of global power.
“But surely, there is something Washington can do to avoid sliding down this slippery slope!”
Richelieu’s face settled into a horrified smile. Of course, there is something Washington can do! If I had led a country with the power of the United States, instead of just France, I would…”
Sparks came from my Oculus headset, and I tried to remove them, but they seemed to stick to my face. The Cardinal’s avatar began to disintegrate into random pixels and the three dimensions of the Palace at the Place des Vosges collapsed to a flat plane. Nothing was visible to Richelieu except for his moustache, which vibrated like dragonfly wings, sending a terrifying bat that drowned out his voice.
I woke up next to an empty bottle of standard Russian vodka and a rolled-up half-eaten blini in the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal.