There is much about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s fantasies of a reconstituted Soviet empire that remain an impenetrable mystery to us Westerns. Some of this is due to distance — cultural, geopolitical and physical.

But we have also been blindsided. The post-Cold War world has been easy on us, and even the warnings of Western intelligence agencies did not prepare us for what now ranks as the largest military attack in Europe since WWII.

Arguably, the ease we have enjoyed these last decades helped create conditions Putin saw good to exploit. As the famed proverb puts it, good times create weak men. Or in modern parlance, good times create woke men — and woke militaries.

Consider how Western militaries have spent their time while Russia was modernising and mobilising its army against Ukraine.

In recent years and at breakneck speed, the US military has adopted the goal of gender neutrality, integrating both sexes in all branches and roles of its armed forces. Once focused on deterring and winning war, America’s military has instead pursued the same inane diversity, equity and inclusion agenda of the corporate, education and political world.

Blowing the whistle on the wokeification of the military last year, Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier was sacked for criticising the adoption of critical race theory by his US Space Force unit. While civilians may debate CRT for sport, Lohmeier’s case is a reminder that woke ideology can pose serious national security risks in a military context.

Service members take an oath to defend the US Constitution, but when that same Constitution is portrayed as the legal foundation for white supremacy in America, what happens to the unity and cohesion of the US military? What happens when those who have sworn to defend America no longer believe in America or its values?

Don’t forget that climate change is now a national security priority for the Pentagon, with Biden’s Defense Secretary last year vowing to “prioritise climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments”.

Or take Britain, where soldiers are now calling for vegan uniforms to be made available. Worse, the Daily Mail reported just this week that MI5 and MI6 officers are being urged to consider their “white privilege”, declare their pronouns, and avoid words like grip, strong and manpower.

Not to be left out, the Australian Defence Force was last year reprimanded by Defence Minister Peter Dutton after its leadership called on all staff to wear rainbow clothing in support of the “International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia”.

At the risk of giving airtime to Russian propaganda, the contrast between ads by the Russian and US militaries reveals much about our civilisations’ two trajectories.

Indeed, Putin gave a scathing assessment of wokeness in the West in a speech last year. He railed against our erasure of our own history, the deconstruction of the traditional family, and the intolerance of dissenting opinions.

Given Putin’s own murderous dogmatism on display this week, it was a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. Nevertheless, he correctly identified many Western weaknesses, and this week met as little tangible resistance from Western nations as he apparently expected.

To finish the proverb we started, woke men create hard times. Let’s hope those hard times create strong men without the need for World War III.

Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate...