The founding fathers of the Munich Security Conference, said John McCain, would be "be alarmed by the turning away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism."
McCain was followed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who called for a "post-West world order." Russia has "immense potential" for that said Lavrov, "we're open for that inasmuch as the U.S. is open."
Now McCain is not wrong. Nationalism is an idea whose time has come again. Those "old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism" do seem everywhere ascendant. But that is a reality we must recognize and deal with. Deploring it will not make it go away.
But what are these "universal values" McCain is talking about?
Democracy? The free elections in India gave power to Hindu nationalists. In Palestine, Hamas. In Lebanon, Hezbollah. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, then overthrown in a military coup welcomed by the world's oldest and greatest democracy. Have we forgotten it was a democratically elected government we helped to overthrow in Kiev?
Democracy is a bus you get off when it reaches your stop, says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, autocrat of Ankara, a NATO ally.
Is freedom of religion a "universal value"?
Preach or proselytize for Christianity in much of the Islamic world and you are a candidate for martyrdom. Practice freedom of speech in Xi Jinping's China and you can wind up in a cell.
As for the Western belief in the equality of all voluntary sexual relations, in some African and Muslim countries, homosexuals are beheaded and adulterers stoned to death.
In Nuristan Province in U.S.-liberated Afghanistan this month, an armed mob of 300 besieged a jail, shot three cops and dragged out an 18-year-old woman who had eloped with her lover to escape an arranged marriage. Beaten by relatives, the girl was shot by an older brother with a hunting rifle and by a younger brother with his AK-47.
Afghan family values.
Her lover was turned over to the husband. An "honor killing," and, like suicide bombings, not uncommon in a world where many see such actions as commendable in the sight of Allah.
McCain calls himself an "unapologetic believer in the West" who refuses "to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries."
Lavrov seemed to be saying this:
Reality requires us here in Munich to recognize that, in the new struggle for the world, Russia and the U.S. are natural allies not natural enemies. Though we may quarrel over Crimea and the Donbass, we are in the same boat. Either we sail together, or sink together.
Does the foreign minister not have a point?
Unlike the Cold War, Moscow does not command a world empire. Though a nuclear superpower still, she is a nation whose GDP is that of Spain and whose population of fewer than 150 million is shrinking. And Russia threatens no U.S. vital interest.
Where America is besieged by millions of illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico, Russia faces to her south 1.3 billion Chinese looking hungrily at resource-rich Siberia and Russia's Far East.
The China that is pushing America and its allies out of the East and South China Seas is also building a new Silk Road through former Russian and Soviet provinces in Central Asia. With an estimated 16 million Muslims, Russia is threatened by the same terrorists, and is far closer to the Middle East, the source of Sunni terror.
Is Putin's Russia an enemy, as McCain seems to believe?
Before we can answer that question, we need to know what the new world struggle is about, who the antagonists are, and what the threats are to us.
If we believe the struggle is for "global democracy" and "human rights," then that may put Putin on the other side. But how then can we be allies of President el-Sissi of Egypt and Erdogan of Turkey, and the kings, emirs and sultans of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman?
But if the new world struggle is about defending ourselves and our civilization, Russia would appear to be not only a natural ally, but a more critical and powerful one than that crowd in Kiev.
In August 1914, Europe plunged into a 50-month bloodbath over an assassinated archduke. In 1939, Britain and France declared war to keep Poland from having to give up a Prussian port, Danzig, taken from Germany under the duress of a starvation blockade in 1919 and in clear violation of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and the Danzigers' right of self-determination. In the two wars, 50 million to 100 million died.
Today, the United States is confronting Russia, a huge and natural ally, over a peninsula that had belonged to her since the 18th century and is 5,000 miles from the United States.
"We have immense potential that has yet to be tapped into," volunteered Lavrov. But to deal, we must have "mutual respect."
Hopefully, President Trump will sound out the Russians, and tune out the Beltway hawks.