What is realpolitik?

What are some good examples of realpolitik?

Some have said it is evil. It’s not. It’s amoral, meaning it doesn’t make moral judgments. For example, those who espouse liberal democracy believe in a set of values which embody that ideological system. It puts ideals first, and then it tries to place these over the diplomatic situation. There are intrinsic goals which are sought. It is ideological.

A holistic view of the situation, strategic, seeking balance

For example, the values of liberal democracy include fundamental human rights such as the freedom of speech, the right to have elected representatives, etc. Further, neoliberal capitalism posits that human beings are rational, self-interested and self-maximizing actors who, when acting together via the market, improve the lives of everyone. To be clear, you can have a liberal democracy which does not have the excesses of neoliberal capitalism. But, since 1980, the two have often gone hand-in-hand. Liberal democracy enables neoliberal capitalism.

In America, we believe that everyone has the “right” to a government based on liberal democracy, so we are incentivized to bring freedom and democracy to others. The problem, however, is that you cannot force someone to be free. The inherent values of liberal democracy clash with some of the values inherent in a society which is more traditional and religious. For example, some countries have patriarchal systems which revolve around the family, and religious attendance. The religious community and the family are the focus. In Muslim countries, there isn’t as much of a focus on the individual, or an individual’s “rights,” because people think in terms of how the family, the people of one’s community, and the larger whole operates.

Realpolitik is the notion that it is impossible to use a prefabricated set of ideological frameworks and impose them on someone who doesn’t want them. Further, it amoral. The concentration is on what is happening in “real life,” in a non-judgmental way. It isn’t tied to any one ideological system, as it is focused on what works.

For example, the present conflict in Ukraine v Russia is illustrative here. In 2014, the U.S. government funded organizations which helped foment a right wing coup in Ukraine. Prior to this, the President, Yanukovych, was pressured by the IMF to impose austerity on the people. This is a typical neoliberal, Western type practice. Heating assistance for people was slashed, and health and education services were cut. The purpose? To prepare the country for neoliberal capitalism and liberal democracy.

The problem was that the people hated it, and pushed back. Apparently, people don’t like being cold in the winter. Yanukovych reversed direction, and tried to “Russify” the economy, reversing the neoliberal course. But the West didn’t like this, because it was foiling their attempt to make money. So John McCain and his contacts, via NGO’s, and with the assistance of the Azov Nazi brigades, fomented the arrest which caused President Yanukovych to flee during the Maidan Protests, which became violent.

A right wing, neoliberal, corrupt government was set up. Fast forward to 2019. The oligarchs picked a comedian named Zelensky to be the front for their government, in an attempt to shield them from the Nazi problem they were facing, because the Azov Nazi brigades are integrated into the military. The oligarchs themselves aren’t Nazis. And Zelensky isn’t a Nazi. The oligarchs are right wing. In fact, the U.S. faced pressure about this, as it was directly paying them. Congressman Ro Khanna worked in legislation in an appropriations bill to get this stopped. It passed. Now the payment is less direct, but still there. Zelensky was intimidated by the Nazis, who reminded him of what would happen if he didn’t go along with them doing whatever the hell they wanted.[1]

In the background, we have Russia. Russia under Putin is moving away from the West. This is due to political and economic realities. Russia is a semi-democratic, oligarchic state. Putin is also corrupt, as are the oligarchs. Kind of like the U.S., actually. Mentioning that, Biden is knee deep in this mess. So is his son, Hunter.

Neither side here are saints. But the balance of power around the planet has been disturbed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It became a unipolar world. And so the worst excesses of a system are revealed. The threat of socialism after WWII pressured Europe and America toward social democracy, which is a détente between labor and the oligarchs who actually own the nation. This enables a middle class.

The Soviet Union provided housing, education, guaranteed employment, universal healthcare, etc. These pressures helped the West also adopt some of these things. Social democracy was formally abandoned in 1980 in the U.S.. New advances in information technology began to make logistics more accurate. In time, multinational corporations would work to chase cheap labor markets around the globe, under the guise of “free trade.” Tell that to the Mexican farmers who had to compete with U.S. grain growers that are taxpayer subsidized. Mexican farmers lost their traditional way of life, and moved North after NAFTA was passed, causing the immigration problem.

The problems of unipolarity really heated up after 1991, under Bill Clinton. Russia was defeated. Under Yeltsin, the “Harvard Boys” from the West came to Moscow. Highly corrupt, Yeltsin went along with it, as the nation was subjected to “shock therapy,” or austerity. Social services were cut, the oligarchs swallowed up the means of production, and the people were left in utter desolation. Millions died. Millions of girls forced into prostitution, organized crime, and older people evicted from their homes, freezing in the winter. People would take a blanket and put all of their things on it, selling all their worldly goods, including their wedding rings, just for food.

In time, Yeltsin banned his opposition. He eventually died from the effects of years of alcoholism and age. Putin succeeded him. There was an oil boom. Putin managed to tame the oligarchs, and restored many of the lost social services. Things were looking up. People felt safe again, and they felt some national pride was restored.

During the time of Gorbachev, Russians were deceived. They were made to believe that they could keep the benefits of the Soviet system, such as guaranteed employment, free housing, universal healthcare, and free education, while also working and becoming rich like Americans on TV who work at coffee shops and live in New York City penthouses.

This is a description of why the Soviet Union collapsed and what happened after:

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Alexander Finnegan · Mar 29

Has Russia been able to fully pull away from communism?

1. Under Stalin incompetent and ideologically opposed leaders were removed from office. This ended after his death. People stayed in the Politburo forever. They became uninterested in expanding the economy away from primarily the military and heavy industry. Consumer goods are more complicated to plan…


Gorbachev was led to believe by Thatcher and Reagan that if he turned the system to social democracy, the West would also give him loans and watch his back if he faced opposition. These were all lies. A fool, he went ahead and rapidly tried to enact change, from a planned economy to a social democracy. His planners warned him it would cause a cataclysmic systemic crash. He ignored them. Over a short span of a few years, he wrecked the economy. This led to increased nationalism in the republics. Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika were failures.

The people weren’t ready to hear pro-capitalist propaganda, nor hear about the “horrors of Joseph Stalin and Lenin,” which was disseminated by U.S. paid propagandists. Everyone was promised the Promised Land, and ended up in Hell. The reason? The U.S. will never let Russia enter NATO, because the U.S. military-industrial complex needs a rotating “bad guy” to justify its overinflated budgets. With no Soviet Union, China and Russia will do. Russia serves the important role of scapegoat. For example, Hillary Clinton’s disastrous Presidential campaign in 2016 against Trump needed a scapegoat. Could it be her campaign? Oh no. Russia. Russia, Russia, Russia. That’s who.

Fast forward to the present. In the West, we have those who favor liberal democracy. They argue that Ukraine is sovereign, and that it can join NATO if it wants, and nobody has a say in it but them.

On the other hand, we have the Sun Tzu modelThis is the realpolitik model. It analyzes this situation and sees the as a larger power, Russia is facing encirclement. It is similar to the way the U.S. deals with the Monroe Doctrine. It posits that there is a balance of power that keeps the equilibrium between the West and Russia.

The 2014 coup destabilized the region. War is the result, as it restores equilibrium. From this perspective, the “rights” of the Ukrainians, when exercised, will mean the Russians will begin a war, because for them, this is their red line.[2] This is their security. And Putin and Medvedev have been saying for years that if NATO expands into Ukraine, there will be war. And, if necessary, nukes will be used. For them, this is the hill they—and we—will die on.

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Alexander Finnegan · Mar 9

If Putin is indeed the real aggressor in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict, wouldn’t it be just another imperialist war, indifferent from the US (aggressor’s) war on Iraq or Vietnam?

This is a long piece. So strap yourself in. The TLDR answer is: No. Long Answer: Russia is said to be an imperialist world power, one in conflict with the imperialist superpower, the U.S. Russia has been characterized in this manner both during the period of the Soviet Union, and after the Soviet Union…


This answer deals with the issues of imperialism and Marxism-Leninism regarding this situation. Also, it is more detailed than this answer.

Using the realpolitik model, the answer is to implement the terms of the Minsk Agreements, or something along those lines, which have been ignored for years, because the U.S. disrupted the balance of power by also making Zelensky believe they would pay and fight the Russians for him. The U.S. even made this promise after the Ukrainiane surrendered its nuclear weapons. However, there was also a promise made after the fall of the Soviet Union not to expand NATO, which as been done 4x. So the U.S. breaks its promises.

If I were Biden, using a realpolitik model, I would tell Zelensky to order Ukraine to surrender, using peace talks to try and get as many concessions as possible. The problem, however, is that because he waited so long, his leverage is used up. From the perspective of Putin, he might as well keep going until he gets terms of absolute surrender with no preconditions. As we speak, the Russians have surrounded the Nazis in Mariupol, who are using Grandma and the kids as human shields. This is also why arming the public was a terrible idea, because now they are considered legitimate targets.

It makes sense for Putin to starve out the Nazis holding hostages until they surrender. I would setup a puppet government, one that is neutral and pro-Moscow. Joining NATO would be permanently off the table. The breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk would be recognized and militarily protected by the Russian military. Ukraine would not be annexed.

The problem is holding it. The U.S. will fund resistance, dragging this on for years. The U.S. wants Russia to be weak. So prolonging this, causing a bloody civil war, is what the U.S. will do. Of course, it will all be blamed on Putin.

If we followed the liberal democracy model, we would fund the Ukrainian insurgents after Russia conquered Ukraine. As much blood and guts as possible, just like Syria. Putin will be forced to play hardball with the insurgents like he did in Syria. Again, more conflict. The West wants to wear down the Russians so much that they give up, with economic and political pressure mounting at home.

Russia must be clubbed into submission, just like Vietnam was, for daring to go its own way. Further, this improves Biden’s polling numbers, which the Democrats need for the upcoming Congressional elections.

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Alexander Finnegan · 1y

What is the meaning of neoliberal capitalism?

It is best described by this chart: Neoliberalism began in 1980 with the Reagan and Thatcher administrations. It is also called the Washington Consensus. The results have been an increase in radical inequality, wage stagnation for low earners, a collapse of the middle class, the deindustrialization o…


Liberal democracy model: “The Ukrainians have the right to have a completely sovereign government, elected representatives of their own choosing, independent judiciary, separation of powers, and to have a military and make military alliances at will. Any infringement of this is intolerable. Human rights are being violated.”

You can see where this is going. If the U.S. didn’t get involved, the insurgency would be far less effective. This would provide time for the Russians to dialogue with the Ukrainians and try to win hearts and minds. To build bridges. This is important. But fighting insurgents will create more insurgents.

I just want peace. I want this to be over with. The public pays the price of these conflicts. Kids, older people, and others just trying to live their lives. History is the story of psychopaths playing chess. It is tragic.

And, judging by the lizard brain type reactions we are seeing—tribalism, xenophobia, Russophobia, binary thinking, “us” vs. “them, etc., war will never end.

We must be able to see our enemies and listen to them as human beings. We must take seriously their grievances. We have no right to impose morality on our enemies. Unless you have bigger and more guns, you aren’t in a position to be making demands.

We must see our “enemies” and the situation as they are, not as how we demand they be. That is realpolitik.


[1] How A Jewish President Was Forced To Support Nazis

[2] What Putin Really Wants in Ukraine

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