Where is the war going ?

Exodus © PP

          Less than three weeks after the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine, which seems to us an eternity and has already upset the European continent, we do not see a reasonable way out in the short term, when threats from the invader are multiplying and even make us fear a headlong rush. However, efforts must be made to draw initial lessons which can be presented on two levels: the deep nature of Russian power; the great leap forward of Europe. 

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Even for those who were complacent in recent years – often against all odds – out of ignorance, misunderstanding, even complacency and bad miscalculation, the Russian power appears for what it really is. The last mask fell or was torn off.

The first large-scale war in Europe in the 21st century is adorned with the worst rags of the 20th century. We are not dealing with a great conqueror promoting a project of civilization, such as Alexander the Great facing Achaemenid Persia or, even if his campaign of Russia was his worst mistake, Napoleon supposed to still be the bearer of the ideas of the French Revolution against autocracy.

We see a simple predator, driven by a thirst for revenge and hatred, denying the existence of a nation obsessed with obscure historical conceptions, committing a kind of collective suicide in which he wants to lead us. When Putin talks about “genocide” and “neo-Nazis”, he paints a self-portrait.

The Soviet power had hesitated in Prague in 1968 and even more in Poland in 1981 when the Warsaw Pact finally entrusted General Jaruzelski with the dirty work. In his defence, the latter suggested, as the character of Robespierre in Andrzej Wajda’s film Danton, “For the sake of my country, I would be ready to commit any infamy”. The hallucinating Security Council meeting in Moscow would not even have been possible under Brezhnev. Repeated references to deterrence were never made at the worst moments of the Cold War.

From sources inside the First Circle, those who were trying to understand Putin’s «software», grasped sometimes that his obsession was to take revenge on the Americans. Failing to do so in a frontal manner, the lie that fed his own thought, his hateful hysteria and the lack of respect for international law which he long was advocating with his Minister of Foreign Affairs – now a pathetic and servile executing -, and in fact his cowardice, has led to attack a great nation both the ancient cradle of Russia’s history and an independent young country aspiring to freedom and progress.

From the point of view of Europeans anyway, and even if mistakes may have been made, there is no reason to give credit to the theory of deceit inflicted and humiliation suffered. Some, retired officers, ambiguous an careful diplomats, even an academician draped in his supposed science and even a former minister – after doctors who, during the pandemic, preferred media exposure to work in hospitals and laboratories -,   have also complacently echoed it.

They are totally wrong about the nature of the current Russian power from the outset and, in any case, it is not the time for this kind of dissertation. It is not even certain that the matter will be relevant tomorrow and that “we must preserve the future”, as they sometimes say, because the day after is sometimes Nuremberg, The Hague or the International Criminal Court.

The truth is that the Soviet Union lost a Cold War that it was not obliged to fight and the Russians were not treated, from its collapse, as Ernest von Salomon’s “Reprobates” (Die Geächteten) under the Weimar Republic. Europe has not plundered the wealth of Russia, it is the oligarchs who are doing that in a consanguinity relationship with the Kremlin. Therefore it is normal that they should be held accountable possibly and eventually before the Russian people itself.

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History in Europe remains tragic. It was not the European construction alone that brought peace to the continent, it was peace that had facilitated this great and noble project. This was possible because peace reigned between the former belligerents. Today, it is war that shapes Europe and can allow to make a great leap forward.

It is too shortsighted to immediately ask Europe, like Stalin about the Vatican: “The Pope, how many divisions?” , for it reveals its profound identity which is to be a pole of civilization for peaceful and free nations and benevolent people. The war in Ukraine is accompanied by flows of displaced populations, as the continent had not experienced since the rectification of borders at the end of the second world conflict.

To the six million Germans, who came mainly from Silesia and settled in the Federal Republic, we must add already two million Ukrainians rescued in Poland mainly (NB: nearly 1.5 M), but also in Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, even in the westernmost part of Europe in the geographical sense. It is good that this surge of generosity has overshadowed disputes over national policies pursued by some Member States, because such solidarity brings us back to the essential.

Europe can not only satisfy to heal wounds that its collective wealth allows it to do. Without getting involved in the conflict, it was able to mobilize very quickly to support a large emerging nation, including through military supplies for its self-defence according to Article 51 of the UN Charter. Its immediate and the durable obligation over several years will be to meet the energy challenge to which it is exposed. It will also have to completely reconsider its defence options with the objective of seeking greater strategic autonomy.

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After Afghanistan during the past summer, the Ukrainian crisis will profoundly affect the international system. It is not the time right now to talk about a visible American withdrawal. Ukraine is not in NATO and it is up to Europe to react first. It is good that the hysteria of the Russian power was echoed mezzo voce by a certain placidity in Washington. Some statements made by the White House could still should have spared us, the last one – after the famous «minor incident» – being the premature announcement of a lack of reaction, except possible additional sanctions, in case of the use of chemical means. Is not the ambiguity of speech in the event of a major crisis the best deterrent?

There is what changes and what remains. The paralysis of the UN, which had existed before the break-up of the Soviet Union, is still present in the Security Council. But we saw that Russia had little support. This was confirmed in the General Assembly, which was not only a recording chamber but was summoned by the Council, what is not frequent, turned into a real media’s tribunal. 141 countries demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops, whereas only four (Belarus, Syria, Eritrea and North Korea) sided with Moscow.

Finally, a word should be said about China. The great leap forward of Europe is not that of China and the Great Leap Forward of Mao Tse Toung before it was a great leap backwards. Today China, which keeps waking up to paraphrase in the opposite direction Alain Peyrefitte, has trump cards in hand. It is not sure that Beijing is eager to appear in a visible way as a mediator but its vital interest is that the war does not last. 

 

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