The Limits of an Entire and Free Europe

PARIS – For the prime minister of Lithuania – and Lithuania knows something about life in Moscow’s orders – President Vladimir V. Putin’s dismissal of Ukraine’s state power, is used to justify sending in the army. Russia into the eastern part of that state, “putting Kafka and Orwell to shame.”

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonyte spoke of Putin’s threatening explanation on Tuesday of his decision to recognize Ukraine’s two breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk. But if the speech revived the doubled voice of the Soviet Union, more than 30 years after its disintegration, would it rekindle the threat posed by the Soviet Union and the Cold War that came with it?

On many levels, the challenge that Putin’s restorationist Russia poses to the West is different. This Russia makes no pretense of a global ideology. The Cold War depended on closed systems; Computer technology put an end to that. No Soviet tank was ready to roll across the plains of Prussia and absorb all of Europe in a dictatorial empire. Nuclear Armageddon is not on the table.

Perhaps because of the way he prepared the ground for all-out war, however, saying that Russia has “every right to take retaliatory measures” against a fictional nation led by usurpers, the who will be responsible for the bloodshed, Putin’s decision looks like a breaking point beyond his annexation of Crimea in 2014. It has cast the specter of Europe’s darkest days. He set a milestone, establishing the outer limit of all Europe and freedom in 1989.

Instead, divisions and confrontations have emerged in a world marked by what Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called “President Putin’s blatant disrespect for international law and norms economic”. The White House called the Russian move “the beginning of an invasion”.

China, straddling the line between support for Putin and support for the territorial integrity of sovereign states, has refused to criticize Russia, saying those standards must be met. be maintained. However, in a month as Russia and China fortify their “unlimited” friendship, Putin’s order to deploy troops to Ukraine shows Russia’s military might as well as its economic and ideological might. of China can form a powerful anti-democratic front.

President Biden often refers to the “inflection point” between liberal democracy and the autocratic system. Currently, that point appears to be in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of a country whose name means border region.

It is not yet clear how far Mr Putin is prepared to go. A senior French official during the presidency, who insisted anonymity was in line with government practice, described the Russian leader’s immediate speech as “rigid and I would say paranoia.”

He suggests that this is consistent with the man Mr Macron found at the end of a 20-foot table in the Kremlin earlier this month, and later described by journalists on board as tough, isolated. and more ideologically unstable than they are. previous meeting in 2019.

However, as Polonius said in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Although this is madness, there is method in it.”

Mr. Putin, for all his fanciful fantasies of Ukraine as the “forward springboard” for some US pre-emptive strikes against Russia, has relentlessly built his case against openness. NATO’s extension to Russia’s borders and against Western democracies since Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. An estimated 190,000 Russian troops and separatists are on the Ukrainian border and in the breakaway regions of the country. This is just the latest manifestation of this obsession.

The open question is whether Mr. Putin has become weaker or stronger as a result of this effect.

In a way, he achieved the opposite of his intentions. American officials argue that he has strengthened and united a NATO alliance that is creating a communication trend. He has decisively redirected Ukrainian public opinion against Russia and towards NATO and Western encroachment. He has damaged an already vulnerable, undiversified economy, with Germany’s blocking of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline on Tuesday being just the latest blow.

A poll this month in Ukraine by Ratings Group showed support for NATO membership at a record high of 62%, up from 55% in December.

“He turned Ukraine against Russia,” said Jacques Rupnik, a French political scientist with a focus on Central European countries. “That’s quite an achievement.”

At the same time, however, Mr. Putin has proved effective in a number of ways. The humiliated Russia of the immediate post-Cold War years is once again on the global stage, winning the final game in Syria, working effectively through its paramilitary representatives in Africa. strengthen ties with China.

The Russian president has suspended Georgia and Ukraine in strategic limbo through the frozen conflicts he has created there. Georgia’s membership in NATO is not much talked about anymore. Ukraine’s membership seems so remote, almost unthinkable, even for its closest Western allies.

In 2013, President Barack Obama decided not to bomb Syria after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the US “red line” against the use of chemical weapons. Since then, Russia has moved strongly in the clear belief that no provocation outside NATO countries will bring about armed retaliation by the United States.

Putin’s decision on Monday to recognize two breakaway regions is the latest example of this poll. Mr. Biden has made it clear that no US troops will be sent to die for Ukraine.

NATO’s expansion to the east after the fall of the Berlin Wall was designed to secure and protect the freedoms of the 100 million Central Europeans who had escaped the Soviet stalemate. It worked. One thing Mr. Putin hasn’t done is threaten the Poles or the Romanians with new Russian submission.

Its cost, however, is the growing alienation of Russia, which claims it has been betrayed by NATO at its borders. This anger was multiplied in 2008 when NATO leaders issued a summit statement in Bucharest saying that Ukraine and Georgia, once part of the Soviet Union, “will become members of NATO”. They don’t say how or when because they don’t know – leaving the commitment floating in a sea of ​​dangerous ambiguity.

“It was a completely disastrous decision,” Mr. Rupnik said. “Either you say you will take over Ukraine by a certain date if certain conditions are met, or you say that Ukraine is not in NATO and we will devise an alternative strategic framework. for the vicinity between NATO and Russia. This is the worst of both worlds. “

Now how bad is clear. Russia’s demand for NATO to commit to never admitting Ukraine has been met by the West’s insistence that NATO’s door will remain open, even if no one is willing to say how Ukraine will overcome it. through that door.

The West has also complicated its position in other ways. As Marko Milanovic, a professor of international law at the University of Nottingham, points out in the European Journal of European International Law Blog: “No matter how illusory some of Russia’s claims may be, credibility is not. Western allies’ response to Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty remains deeply undermined, in law and truth, by their own previous misdeeds, including the invasion of Ukraine. Iraq Strategy 2003″.

In the end, Mr. Putin did what he did because he thought he could get away with it in a world unchecked by growing great power competition, where American power is not It is also a decisive factor and the Russia-China link is very strong. But arrogance has always been a danger to an isolated leader like Mr. Putin today.

The most difficult thing for a communist, it has been observed, is to predict the past. History must be molded according to the dictates of the present. That’s what Mr. Putin, a former KGB agent, was trying to do. The coming weeks will tell whether Ukrainian anger, NATO unity has been rediscovered, and American resolve can thwart his attempt to reverse the fallout of Soviet unraveling. or not. The Limits of an Entire and Free Europe

Fry Electronics Team

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