War, democracy and sovereignty

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By LEONARDO AVRITZER*

It is possible to be right-wing and anti-imperialist: an analysis of Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine

I begin this article by saying that Ukraine has the right to be sovereign and that the ongoing war there will be one of the great historical tragedies of this century, which is already showing itself to be a century of anti-democracy. There is now a strong risk of this characteristic expanding in the direction of anti-sovereignty and the denial of peoples' rights of self-determination.

All of that is at stake as Russia invades Ukraine. However, it is worth remembering that there are no saints in this story. If Putin is the biggest villain in declaring total war on Ukraine and attacking its biggest cities, the West had no reason to break with all the stability built from the Yalta treaty, in which both Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to a division of areas of influence that generated post-war stability. Action by what is called the West – artificially, as Edward Said reminds us – with the aim of isolating Russia in the far east of Europe is generating a disaster without precedent since the end of World War II.

I see in the field of the left a relatively broad group of intellectuals making the identification that being anti-Western is equivalent to being of the left. Nothing more false. And Vladimir Putin seems to be the best proof of that. A few years ago, the American historian Timothy Snyder wrote an excellent book with almost no repercussions in Brazil. The book, called The Road to Unfreedom, begins with the description of the trajectory of an unknown Russian intellectual of the XNUMXth century named Ivan Ilyin.

Perhaps unlucky enough to have been born in the wrong century, Ilyin, who wrote a book in the 1920s on Russia's conservative role in the international order, proposed a political regime that celebrated three elements: the prevalence of violence over the idea of ​​law; the prevalence of a strong leader with a mythical relationship with his people and, not least, the idea that globalization is a conspiracy (Snyder, 2018: 16). Ilyin could be just another obscure author whose ideas occasionally coincide with specific circumstances, but, as Snyder shows us, Putin was keen to rehabilitate him. Ilyin died in Switzerland in the 1950s and Putin arranged for the body to be transferred and buried in Moscow in 2005.

In 2006, the Russian leader quoted Ilyin in his speech to the Parliamentary Assembly, and in 2010, when explaining why Russia should challenge the European Union, Putin quoted him again. Thus, we have the question that matters to analyze the current crisis: Putin wants to challenge the European Union and the United States using a Russian tradition of the extreme right for this task.

It is also worth mentioning here the strange process of transformation of NATO by the mainstream media into an institution for the defense of rights and democracy. If it is in the least doubtful that there is a complete correspondence between the West and democracy, it is not doubtful that NATO's eastward expansion had any democratic effect. On the contrary, it seems clear that Hungary and Poland are in a frank process of de-democratization with strong violations of minority rights and even open questioning of the idea of ​​human rights, as recently occurred in a decision by the Polish Supreme Court (https://www.ibanet.org/Rule-of-law-Polands-highest-court-challenges-primacy-of-EU-law).

Thus, we actually have a territorial hegemony dispute between NATO and Russia, in which the Ukrainian people are being subjected to a massacre, led by a president who thinks that the impact of his speeches on social networks is more important than it is. happening to his people in the bombed cities.

Meanwhile, the role of NATO and the Pentagon seems to have definitely changed: what we see are some old generals commenting on social networks about a war that they were not willing to face. Thus, the collapse of central elements of the alliance of neoliberal globalization is evident: social networks and the great press seem to think that the war is being waged in its own field, while Russia advances in the conquest of Ukrainian cities using classic patterns of the war of the century XX.

This pathetic figure is completed by the blocking of access by Russian banks to operations via Swift. The same states that deregulated financial operations under the control of Central Banks believe that blocking these operations will change the landscape, in the world of cryptocurrencies in which three out of the six largest banks are Chinese.

In the end, the only effective punishment the Russians will suffer for this war must be the loss of control of some European football teams. The rest is limited to the field of feedback between social networks and self-referential media.

All of this points to the question of the end of US hegemony and how it will come about. We live in a moment of the end of the American empire and probably of the Anglo-Saxon global hegemony that began in 1815. On the one hand, in the last twenty years we have lived through two processes that mark this end. The American military defeats in the wars that the United States fought in the Middle East point to the exhaustion of the concept of an Army with technological superiority allowing a low engagement of personnel. On both occasions, despite the quick defeat of the enemy, something that the Pentagon old men on duty on social media demand of Putin, the subsequent organization of the defeated was what determined the result. Everything indicates that the armies of Russia and China do not operate in this logic.

Second, the destruction of its industrial base and its replacement by the unregulated financialization of high technology companies contributes to the loss of US hegemony. It is this new complex, the result of consensus in Washington and California, which seems to be leading the reaction to the invasion of Ukraine. The question that will have to be answered throughout the Ukraine war is how China, much more cautious than Russia, will understand the outcome of this war.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).

 

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