The Europeanization of War in Ukraine

Image: Tuur Tisseghem


NATO has become, more than ever, an instrument of American policy

Italians, it is said, turn to a perspective on politics they call dietrism. “Behind” means “behind the cloth” and dietrism means a habitual conviction that what is seen is designed to hide what is actually articulated through powers operating behind a curtain. The curtain divides the world into a stage and a behind-the-stage, and this is where the real action takes place. Thus, the first is intentionally misrepresented to hide the second. When a dietician reads something or hears about it on the radio or TV, he, well trained in this "logic", asks himself, not so much about what is being said, but why it is being said and why now.

These days, after three years of Covid and a year of the Ukrainian war, it seems we've all become Italians as dietrism has now become as universal as pasta. When we read the “narratives” produced for our benefit by governments and their media, we no longer rely on what they say, but ask what they can mean: distorted images of reality that, however, seem to mean something, a bit like the shadows on the wall of Plato's cave.

See, for example, the semiofficial account of the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, published by the New York Times and delivered to the German weekly Time and patience: the alleged culprits were six people, still unknown. They, on a rented Polish yacht somewhere in East Germany, conveniently left traces on the boat's galley table of the high explosives they had taken to the scene of the crime. Aside from the true believers and, of course, the faithful makers of public consent, it didn't take much thought to see that the story had been invented to exclude the account given by Seymour Hersh, the immortal investigative reporter. This, as is known, showed and proved that the culprit was the CIA.

What is exciting to the dietitian mind is that the account comes across as so obviously ridiculous that it couldn't be the product of incompetence – not even the CIA. On the contrary, the thing turns out to be quite intentional, raising the question of why it was prepared. Perhaps, the political cynics suggested, the aim was to humiliate the German government and its Federal Prosecutor's Office, thereby breaking their will by making them publicly endorse this obvious nonsense as if it were a valuable lead to follow in their relentless effort to solve the mystery of the Nord Stream bombing.

Another intriguing feature of the story was that the alleged boat hirers perhaps had some connection with “pro-Ukrainian groups”. Although according to the report there were no indications that these were ties to the Ukrainian government or military; well, any connoisseur of Le Carré's books knows that, when the secret services are involved, any evidence can easily be discovered, if that is really necessary. Unsurprisingly, the report caused panic in Kiev, where it was read, probably rightly, as a sign from the United States that its patience with Ukraine and its current leadership was not limitless.

Indeed, at about the same time, there were mounting reports of corruption in Ukraine emanating from the United States, coinciding with and reinforcing growing resistance among Republicans in Congress against the ever-increasing amount of US dollars being siphoned out of the budget. of Ukrainian defense – as if corruption in Ukraine had not always been notoriously rampant.

As of January of this year, the The Washington Post and the New York Times published a series of articles about the outrages committed by Ukrainians, including the fact that army commanders used US dollars to buy cheap Russian diesel for Ukrainian tanks, thus pocketing the difference. Volodymyr Zelensky, shocked, immediately fired two or three top officials, promising to fire more when the need arose.

Why was this now reported as news, even though Ukraine has long been known to be among the most corrupt countries in the world? Adding to what, seen from Kiev, must have looked more and more like ominous writing on the wall: secret American documents leaked in the second half of April showed that the US military's confidence in Ukraine's ability to launch a successful counter-offensive success in the spring, let alone winning the war, as his government had promised its citizens and international sponsors, was at an all-time low.

For American opponents of the war, Republicans and Democrats alike, the documents confirmed that keeping the Ukrainian army in action could get unacceptably expensive. By the end of 2022, the United States is estimated to have spent something like $46,6 billion on military aid to Ukraine; much more is expected to be needed as the conflict drags on.

It is also known that both political parties in the United States have agreed that their country has to prepare itself to, sooner or later, fight a much bigger war, which is to say, facing the Chinese in the Pacific. For Ukrainians and their European supporters, therefore, it seemed difficult to avoid the conclusion that the United States might soon bid farewell to the battlefield, handing the unending European problem to the inhabitants of Europe itself.

Of course, compared to Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and the like, what the Americans are likely to abandon doesn't look all that disastrous. Working with the Baltic countries and Poland, the United States has in recent months managed to push Germany into something of a European leadership position, on condition that it assume responsibility for organizing and, most importantly, financing the European contribution to the war. . Step by step, over the past year, the European Union has simultaneously been transformed into an adjunct to NATO – responsible, among other things, for economic warfare – while NATO has become, more than ever, an instrument of American policy – ​​flagged, however, as “western”.

When, in mid-2023, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is rewarded for his current hard work with a well-deserved sinecure, the presidency of the Norwegian central bank, it is rumored that Ursula von der Leyen, current President of the European Commission , will be promoted to succeed him in that position. This would complete the subordination of the European Union to NATO – a much more powerful international organization based in Brussels which, unlike the European Union, is in fact dominated by the United States. In her former life, Ursula von der Leyen was, of course, German Defense Minister under Angela Merkel, though by all accounts one of the most incompetent ones.

If, in that capacity, she shared responsibility for the supposedly sober performance of the German armed forces at the start of the Ukrainian war. Now, she has apparently been forgiven because of her ardent Americanism-with-Europeanism or, as the case may be, Europeanism-with-Americanism. In any case, an enhanced cooperation agreement was signed by the European Union and NATO in January 2023, which was made possible notably by the end of neutrality between Finland and Sweden. The agreement establishes "in unequivocal terms the Alliance's priority with regard to the collective defense of Europe", thus enshrining the leadership role of the United States in European security policy, broadly defined.

The German government is now busy assembling battalions ready to enter the battlefield with tanks of different European constructions. American M1 Abrams tanks are known to arrive in a few months – exactly how many months is kept secret. In any case, their Ukrainian crews will be trained at German military bases. It will also supply and maintain in good repair the fighter planes that Germany, along with the United States, has so far refused to deliver to Ukraine (though not for much longer if experience is any guide).

Meanwhile, Rheinmetall has announced that it will build a tank factory in Ukraine with a capacity of 400 state-of-the-art main battle tanks per year. In addition, on the eve of the April 21 meeting of the Ramstein support group, Germany signed an agreement with Poland and Ukraine on a repair shop, located in Poland, so that damaged “leopards” on the Ukrainian front can enter in operation as early as the end of 2023 (under the obvious assumption that the war will not be over by then).

Add to this the promise, freely renewed by Ursula Von der Leyen on behalf of the European Union, that Ukraine will be rebuilt after the war at the expense of Europe, that is, Germany – not to mention, for that matter, a contribution from the oligarchs. Ukrainians, not many in number, but each rich enough to help. Indeed, an early April visit to Kiev by German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, along with a delegation of CEOs from major German companies, provided an opportunity to explore future business opportunities in rebuilding Ukraine once the war is over.

However, that might not happen anytime soon. Recently leaked US documents and semi-official commentary pronouncements indicate that a “endsieg” Ukrainian [final victory] is not expected soon, if it is expected at all. Western deliveries of military equipment appear to be adjusted to allow the Ukrainian army to hold its ground; when the Russians gain territory, Ukraine will be given as much artillery, ammunition, tanks and fighter planes as it needs to push them back. A Ukrainian victory, however, declared essential for the survival of the Ukrainian people by its ruling party, no longer appears to be on the American priority list.

Looking at the delivery schedules for Abrams tanks and fighter-bombers, as far as they can be gleaned from official announcements, the expectation is something like a protracted trench war with a lot of bloodshed on both sides. It is interesting in this context that, in an apparently looser moment, during one of his daily televised speeches, Volodymyr Zelensky, demanding as usual more Western military support, argued that Ukraine must win the war before the end of 2023 because the Ukrainian people he may not be willing to bear his burden much longer.

As the United States moves towards the Europeanization of the war, it will be up to Germany not only to organize Western support for Ukraine, but also to convince the Ukrainian government that, in the end, such support may not be enough for the kind of victory that Ukrainian nationalists claim the Ukrainian nation needs. As the US franchisee for taking the war forward, Germany will be first in line to take the blame if its outcome falls short of public expectations in Eastern Europe, the United States, among German pro-Ukrainian militants, and certainly in Ukraine itself. . This prospect must be even more uncomfortable for the German government, as it seems increasingly unlikely that the end of the war will be decided in Europe.

An important and possibly decisive player in the background will be China, with its longstanding policies to oppose any use of nuclear weapons and to refrain from delivering weapons to countries at war, including Russia. After a short visit to Beijing, Olaf Scholz claimed that these were concessions to Germany, even though they originated much further back. Indeed, the apparent American reluctance to allow Ukraine to pursue an outright victory, leaving post-operational rehabilitation to Germany, may be motivated by a desire to allow China to stick to its policy – ​​which it might not have been able to do. if Russia and its regime were, at some point, pushed against the wall. If this wasn't just an unspoken understanding but rather some kind of negotiated agreement, it certainly wouldn't be made public at a time when the Biden administration is preparing to go to war with China.

The supernationalists in Kiev, however, can already smell it. Shortly after the last meeting of the Ramstein group, Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk, representative of classical fascism, originally from Stepan Bandera, in the Ukrainian government, expressed his country's gratitude for the promised arms deliveries. At the same time, he made it clear that they were woefully insufficient to secure a Ukrainian victory in 2023; for that, Andriy Melnyk insisted, no less than ten times as many tanks, planes, howitzers and the like would be needed.

Again applying dietristic hermeneutics, Harvard graduate Andriy Melnyk must have known that this was bound to irritate his American patrons. The fact that he doesn't seem to care implies that he and his comrades-in-arms deem Washington's “pivot to Asia” already underway. It also signals both the despair of the ruling Ukrainian clique over the war's prospects and their willingness to fight to the bitter end, fueled by the radical-nationalist belief that real nations grow on the battlefield, watered with the blood of their best. .

The approach of Ukrainian ultranationalism signals the emergence of a new global order, whose contours, including the place of Europe and the European Union, can only be discerned by bringing China into the picture. So the United States now directs its main attention to the Pacific, as it aims to build a global alliance to encircle China and to prevent Beijing from contesting American control of the Pacific.

Now, this geopolitical change would initially replace the unipolar world of American neoconservatism – embodied in the “Project for a New American Century” –, which failed, with the project of a bipolar world: globalization and, in fact, hyper-globalization, it would thus have two centres, much like the old Cold War. Thus, there would be the First New World Order. However, a remote perspective of a return to unipolarity would remain, perhaps after another hot war, thus consummating a Second New World Order.

Capitalism, we must remember, transformed and reformed itself more fundamentally and effectively than ever before in the aftermath of the two Great Wars of the 1918th century, in 1945 and XNUMX, ensuring its survival in a new form; surely there must be some memory in the centers of capitalist grand strategy of the rejuvenating effects of war.

China's geostrategic project, by contrast, appears to be a multipolar world. For reasons of geography and military capability, the goal of Chinese foreign and security policy cannot really be a bipolar order, with China fighting the United States for global dominance, nor a unipolar world with itself at the center.

As a land power that borders many potentially hostile nations, it needs, first of all, something like a cordon sanitaire, by which its neighboring countries would link up with China through shared physical infrastructure, free credit and a commitment. to stay out of alliances with potentially hostile outside powers – as opposed to the American desire to subject the world as a whole to a globalized Monroe Doctrine.

It should be noted that the United States has only two neighbors, Canada and Mexico, which are unlikely to become Chinese allies. Furthermore, China actively encourages the formation of something like a league of non-aligned regional powers, including Brazil, South Africa, India and others: a new Third World that would keep out of a Sino-American confrontation and, what is importantly, it would refuse to adhere to US economic sanctions against China and its new client state, Russia.

Indeed, indications are that China would prefer to be seen as a neutral power among others rather than as one of the two combatants for world domination, at least as long as it cannot be sure that it will not lose a war against the United States. The desire to avoid a new bipolarism along the lines of the first Cold War would explain China's refusal to supply Russia with arms, even though Ukraine is being armed to the teeth by the United States.

See that China can afford it because Russia has no choice but to align with it. China may or may not arm its ally, no matter what price Russia has to pay for Chinese protection. In this context, the hour-long phone conversation between Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Zelensky on April 26, mentioned only in passing by most of the European press, may have been something of a tipping point.

Apparently, Xi Jinping has offered to mediate in the Russian-Ukrainian war, based on a twelve-point Chinese peace plan that had been deemed trivial and useless by Western leaders, if they even knew about it. Surprisingly, Zelensky called the conversation "meaningful", elaborating that "special attention was paid to possible ways of cooperation to establish a just and sustainable peace for Ukraine". If successful, Chinese intervention could have formative significance for the emerging global order after the end of the end of history.

In recent months, the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, has been crisscrossing the world with the mission of bringing as many countries as possible into the American camp of renewed bipolarity, appealing to liberal – “western” values, offering diplomatic support , economic and military and threatening economic sanctions. As a roving US ambassador, Annalena Baerbock's credibility demands that her own country strictly toe the US line, including cutting China out of the global economy.

This, however, is in fundamental conflict with the interests of German industry and, by extension, of Germany as a country, forcing Annalena Baerbock to tread an awkward, often outright contradictory, line towards China. For example, although he framed his recent visit to Beijing in aggressive and even hostile rhetoric both before his arrival and after his departure – so much so that his Chinese counterpart felt the need to explain to him at a joint press conference that the last thing What China needed was lectures from the West – also apparently indicated that German sanctions might be selective rather than comprehensive, such that trade relations in various industrial sectors will continue more or less unabated.

With an eye on what might be going on behind the scenes, one might speculate whether Olaf Scholz could have gotten the United States to give Germany some rope in its dealings with its most important export market, as a reward for executing the European war effort in Germany. Ukraine according to American requirements.

On the other hand, German producers seem to have recently lost market share in China, dramatically in automobiles, where Chinese customers are rejecting new electric vehicles from Germany in favor of domestic ones. While this may be because German models are considered less attractive, German anti-Chinese rhetoric may have played a role in a country with strong nationalist and anti-Western sentiment. If so, it suggests that the problem of German industry's overly reliance on China may be about to change.

The German policy towards China, following the US bipolar world political project, causes not only internal conflicts, but also international conflicts, above all with France, where it threatens to further tear the European Union apart. French aspirations of “strategic autonomy” for “Europe” (and “strategic sovereignty” for France) only stand a chance in a multipolar world populated by a good number of politically significant non-aligned countries, quite similar to what the Chinese seem to want . To what extent this implies some kind of equidistance from the United States and China is an open question, probably deliberately, by Emmanuel Macron.

Sometimes the French ruler seems to want equidistance, sometimes he denies that he wants it. In any case, this prospect is anathematized by pro-Western German militants, above all by the Greens, who now control German foreign policy. Among them loom the suspicions of Emmanuel Macron's occasional protestations that "strategic autonomy" is compatible with transatlantic loyalty, at a time of growing confrontation between the "West" and East Asia's new "Empire of Evil". As a result, France is more isolated than ever in the European Union.

Emmanuel Macron, like previous French presidents, always knew that to dominate the European Union, France needs Germany on its side, or more precisely, in Brussels parlance: taking the backseat of a Franco-German duo with the Germany in the front seat. His problem is that Germany has already taken the bike apart and done it once and for all.

Under the leadership of the Greens, Germany dreams, together with Poland and the Baltic countries in particular, of handing Vladimir Putin over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which demands that Ukrainian-German tanks enter Moscow, just as Soviet tanks entered Berlin. . Emmanuel Macron, instead, wants to allow Putin to “save face” and hopes to offer Russia a resumption of economic relations, after a ceasefire brokered, if not by France, then perhaps by a coalition of non-aligned countries of the “ Global South”, or even by China.

A Twilight of the gods [i.e., the twilight of the gods] of the Franco-German rule of the European Union, and the transformation of its ruins into an anti-Russian economic and military infrastructure managed by Eastern European countries on behalf of the American ocean liner, has never been more visible than than in Emmanuel Macron's trip to China on April 6th, after Olaf Scholz (November 4th) and before Annalena Baerbock (April 13th).

Strangely, Emmanuel Macron allowed Von der Leyen to accompany him, according to some as a German ruler tasked with preventing him from embracing Xi Jinping too passionately, according to others to demonstrate to the Chinese that the president of the European Union was not a real president, but a subordinate to the President of France, ruling not only his own country but the entire European Union with him.

The Chinese, who may or may not have understood Emmanuel Macron's signals, treated him with special deference, although they were undoubtedly aware of his domestic problems. Ursula Von der Leyen, known as a hard-line Atlanticist, got the cold shoulder. As he flew back on the presidential plane – Ursula Von der Leyen was no longer traveling with him – Emmanuel Macron explained to the press that accompanied him that American allies are not American vassals.

Now, this last observation was widely understood as saying that Europe's position should be one of equal distance from China and the United States. The German government, and first and foremost its foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, was shocked. And she made it clear, with no strings attached. The German media dutifully and unanimously followed her example.

A few days later, on April 11, Annalena Baerbook attended the meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Japan. There, she got her colleagues, including France's, to pledge as much loyalty as humanly possible to the American flag, so that the world would remain undivided, with freedom and justice for all.

By this time, Macron, noting that his rhetorical battle with French vassalage had gone unnoticed by opponents of his pension reform, had backtracked and, again, professed undying loyalty to NATO and the United States. There is no reason, however, to believe that this will change the Turning point [i.e., the turning point] of the European Union regarding the Ukraine war: the split between France and Germany and the rise of Eastern European member states to European dominance following the return of the United States to Europe under Joe Biden. Everything seems to be preparing a global confrontation with the Land of Xi in the relentless American effort to make the world safe for democracy.

Wolfgang streeck, a sociologist, is director of the Institut Max-Planck. Author, among other books, of Bought time: the postponed crisis of democratic capitalism (boitempo).

Translation: Eleutério FS Prado.

Originally published on the website of New Left Review.

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