12 months of conflict



The present contention between Ukraine and Russia is not a conventional war, nor a war between Ukraine and Russia.

Today, the most recent phase of the long dispute between Ukraine and Russia is one year old. On February 24, 2022, President Vladimir Putin announced that he would launch a counteroffensive operation against Ukraine, which was on the verge of joining Western institutions, notably NATO, the European Union and the Atlantic alliance with the United States.

It is not the case of resuming all the arguments from part to part. But it is important to emphasize that NATO should have ceased to exist after 1989-1991. Consequently, it should not have continued to expand into Russia's vital space of influence. World War.

Stated more emphatically, the present dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not a conventional war, nor is it a war between Ukraine and Russia. It is part of a worldwide dispute for the hegemony of the international system and has strong indications of turning into a third world war – in fact, for some, like the French demographer Emmanuel Todd, this “third world war has already begun”.

In any case, anyone who followed the movements of the conflict in the last 12 months from Paris, London, Rome, New York or Canberra had common reflections of solidarity against the “enemy-invader-Russian”. Anyone who saw it all from a distant balcony from São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Ankara, Shanghai or Bamako had less assertive, more dispersed and often even indifferent impressions. Reality for the inhabitants of these worlds has become too real to be contained in right versus wrong, good versus bad, good versus bad.

While Russian tanks sailed through Ukrainian territory to take Kiev and other strategic points in the country, countries opposing Moscow's actions accelerated sanctions and embargoes against Russia. Clearly illegal and immoral sanctions and embargoes. Sanctions and embargoes approved in the margins of International Law and of the agreements and treaties enshrined between the permanent member countries of the United Nations Security Council. Sanctions and embargoes that led analysts, economists and political scientists to predict the merciless debacle of the economy, power and the arrogance of Leo Tolstoy's heirs.

On the eve of the first anniversary of this tension, the World Economic Outlook of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), a report that presents the world projections of economic growth for the biennium 2023-2024. In these, Russia figures with an estimated growth of 2,1%, the Euro Zone, 1,6%, and the United States, 1%. How to explain? In the same vein, the Armageddon heralds were anticipating negative 8% to 10% growth in the Russian economy. The real drop, also accounted for by the IMF, was -2,2%. In the same sense, a stifling of the production and commercialization of the main Russian export product, which is oil, was foreseen. When comparing the numbers, it is noted that the Russians sold, in 2022, around US$ 24 billion in oil, which means a return similar to the “peacetimes”, prior to February 24, 2022. How to understand ?

Since the withdrawal of the United States from the Bretton Woods accords, as a result of its humiliation and discouragement in Vietnam, what is understood as the West has crept towards irrelevance. The 30 glorious years of European growth and prosperity after 1945 disappeared, never to return to the levels of social welfare and happiness once projected. The implosion of the Soviet world, years later, in 1989-1991, promoted, on the one hand, “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” and, on the other hand, the greatest void of references in human history since the beginning of the modern era. .

The “end of history”, proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama, observed retrospectively, was a cry of despair in the face of the intransigent march of history that tended to crush the integrality of the meaning and existence of the West. The “Western parenthesis” of four to five centuries of domination – mental, moral, intellectual, economic and rational of the world – was about to end.

The acceleration of globalization and the globalization of spirits and the immanence of life after the end of the East-West conflict between the liberal world led by the West versus the socialist, communist and Soviet space led by the USSR fragmented the dynamics of decision, power and achievement . The multilateralism anchored in the United Nations Organizations had to, almost suddenly, incorporate, even if virtually, the pressures of the world multipolarity. It was realized, very quickly and bitterly, that Paris, London, New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Washington were not alone nor were they the only would-be majorities in the world.

The first extremely striking example of this expressive revenge in history came with the attacks of September 11, 2001. Faced with the spectacle of the collision of airliners in the symbolic Twin Towers, enthusiasts of western culture meaning had to recognize that Turkey, Syria, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Oman also existed, exist and also aspired and aspired for a place in the sun.

The 2008 financial crisis revealed something even more blunt. Projections by the financial firm Goldman Sachs indicated that the economy of emerging countries, led by the nations that make up the BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China; South Africa would join later – they would add up to 50% of world GDP around 2020. Given the concreteness of this projection backed by expectations of the future market, what was seen as the ghostly illusions of obscure thinkers to the plate heralds of clashes of civilizations turned into a desperate battle for maintaining the physical and moral integrity of the West in an environment where its respectability across borders no longer existed.

When President Barack Obama signaled that the United States would not allow the use of chemical or biological weapons in the conflict in Syria and that the eventual use would be the readline for a devastating international intervention in the country presided over by Bashar al-Assad, the inhabitants of non-western countries, notably Africans and Asians, simply smiled. North Americans and Europeans no longer frightened or embarrassed anyone. Even less those, formerly, banished and despised from Earth.

Anyone who serenely followed the US irresponsibility in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the international inconsequentiality in the harassment of the Arab Spring in 2010-2011, sealed in the pursuit and slaughter of Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya in October 2011, would never got rid of the conviction that Westerners have lost their way and plumb. When the hated government of Benghazi was dismantled, the Europeans – Italians, French, Germans and English – were, yes, forced to, morally, accept “all the misery in the world”, plastically symbolized in the waterfalls of refugees from failed states, which they themselves, Europeans and North Americans, helped to produce in Africa and the Middle East.

No one can have doubts for a second that this true pandemonium mixed with world apathy has thrown water into the mill of unimaginable phenomena in normal times that were and are the Brexit, Operation Lava Jato, the emergence of the authoritarian temptation of extremist leaders such as Marine Le Pen, in France, Heinz-Cristian Strache, in Austria, Geert Wilders, in Holland, Matteo Salvinni and Giorgia Meloni, in Italy, as well as the unappealable acceptance of irremediable puppets like Donald J. Trump, in the United States, Viktor Orbán, in Hungary, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, in Brazil, and Volodymyr Zelensky, in Ukraine – Zelensky being a comic puppet also by profession.

All of this moves the turmoil of immoderate relegation of everything that was once understood by european dream, American way of life or western lifestyle as models of perfection, dignity and rationality. No one who follows Bollywood misses the films produced in the US state of Florida.

With the covid-19 pandemic, in the 2020-2021 biennium, the weight of the anvil of world reality became even more evident. How can we respect countries as economically and technologically advanced as the Western countries that anticipated nothing, announced nothing and contained nothing from the true hecatomb caused by the virus?

When these champions of the West mobilized all their strength to destabilize Russia by inserting Ukraine into their spectrum of influence and then by accelerating sanctions and embargoes, they believed that the codes of international gladiators of the Westphalian century would, today, the same valence. Precisely today in the century of assertive and active multipolarity.

When they tried to devalue the ruble throughout 2022, the Russians found mechanisms to maintain the parity of their currency at stable levels while maintaining the credibility of their companies. When they threatened to stop buying Russian products like oil, Russia started selling its surpluses to India, Turkey and China at better prices and on longer contracts. When they tried to scalp Russia's morale and brand it as a ruthless aggressor of the "poor" of Ukrainians, three to four-fifths of United Nations member states simply shrugged their shoulders and went about their business.

These 12 months of skirmishes leave several lessons. But perhaps most important is the intermittency of the illusion of Europeans and North Americans in believing that they continue with a world monopoly on the heart, soul and reason. The message given to them by the world is clear: no; not even; no more.

*Daniel Afonso da Silva Professor of History at the Federal University of Grande Dourados. author of Far beyond Blue Eyes and other writings on contemporary international relations (APGIQ).

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