Carthago delenda est (Carthage must be destroyed), this was the slogan proclaimed in every speech to the Roman Senate by Cato nicknamed the Elder or the Censor in the 2nd century B.C. This obsession covered the search for a total victory over an unarmed city whose misfortune was its insolent prosperity. Indeed, the third Punic war ended in the destruction of the city.
Nowhere where Russia has settled in its “near abroad” has there been a boom and blossom after the ravages of war and occupation. People lived better in Donbas still under the control of Kyiv than in the self-proclaimed entities of Donetsk or Luhansk. The same is true of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia beyond the Ingouri River, which is the dividing line with Georgia. It is possible to collect shells of ammunition with your hands, in a mined environment, but the desolation has settled there, as in the sidereal vacuum of a film by the brilliant Andrei Tarkovski.
Russia is not there to build. Only Grozny, where a “clean slate of the past” was made, was rebuilt on the ashes, in a flashy and modern way, intended to make it a showcase and the affirmation of a subject.
The Romans had asked the priests, a century after the “Hiroshima of the ancient world” to lift the curse to build a new Carthage after the annihilation of a nation and a culture. But there has never been a Ukrainian Hannibal who has crossed not the Alps but the Dnieper, whom should be avenged and who would justify aggression and barbarism. The contemporary Carthaginian is no longer a fighter but his name is freedom and independence. That’s us.
Caton the Elder, hysterical, closed to the world of the time like the Hellenistic civilization, with an apparently sickly austerity in its confinement, gathers in fact the figures of all the assailants. He is also the Hannibal who destroyed the Roman army at Cannes in the bloodiest battle in history.
Moreover, Hannibal never succeeded in taking over Rome, which was within his reach after the battle of Lake Trasimeno in 217 B.C., notably because of the lack of “siege machines” and also because his project was falsely conceived (NB: «I did not come to confront populations but to fight in their name against Rome») and out of reach (NB: destroy Rome not only as a city but as a political entity).
In the desperate defence of the Roman Republic, the figure of Fabius Cunctator (Fabius “the timer”) was imposed in Trasimeno, according to which frontal battles had to be avoided. Fabius or Flaminius for a classic attack? This was the dilemma for a long time until the strategy of circumvention and bogging down to the “delights of Capua” did finally bear fruit.
This historical parallelism can make vertigo until the War of the Mercenaries in Carthage, imagined by Gustave Flaubert in Salammbô that make us think of Spetsnaz, Wagner Legion and attack dogs of the sinister Kadyrov.
Anyway, we can’t live hands free to Caton/Hannibal. In his recent speech on the State of the Union, the President of the United States strongly emphasized that “not an inch” of NATO territory would not be left exposed to the aggressor but this martial assertion was accompanied by a deafening silence on Ukraine, beyond taking declaratory positions. Europe is therefore alone in her destiny. It is important for her to know if she really wants to preserve one.