Notes on the War in Ukraine

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By JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI*

Considerations on the effects of the conflict in Europe, Russia, the USA and China.

1.

The history of Russia begins in Kiev around 800 AD and in these long centuries the current territory of Ukraine belonged to Russia, and then to Poland, Lithuania, Austria and finally, again to Russia and the USSR in the 1917th century. Ukraine only became a Republic due to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1991, and became an autonomous national state in XNUMX, as part of the “punishment” imposed on Russia after the Soviet defeat in the Cold War.

At this moment, the Russians are questioning NATO's expansion into Ukraine, but above all they are proposing to modify the terms of this “peace agreement” that was imposed on it in the 1990s. it could even be said that the Ukrainian territory has a longer and closer relationship with the Russia of Ivan III and IV, and with the Empire of the Romanoffs, than the relationship of Taiwan with mainland China, which only became closer after the XNUMXth century .

Even so, I don't think Russia's current goal is to annex Ukraine, let alone expand beyond its current territory. There is no doubt, however, that Russia is now proposing, through arms, to do what it had proposed through diplomatic channels: militarily neutralize Ukraine, and revert part of its losses imposed by the defeat at the end of the last century.

2.

Once a war starts it is very difficult to predict how far it will go and when it will end unless there is a clear loser. In this case, much will depend on the immediate objective and speed of the Russian military operation. At the moment, a world war involving the great powers of the system seems unlikely, a kind of third world war. European countries and NATO itself do not have enough military capacity to face Russia. The US emerged very divided and weakened – internally and externally – from its recent military humiliation in Afghanistan, and from the policy of its “military interventions” with the aim of changing the governments or regimes of Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan itself. Not to mention the “inadequacy” of its economic sanctions against Iran, China and Russia itself.

3.

Europeans fear the military superiority of the Russians over all their national armies. From a strictly realistic point of view, Europeans know that they are today an atomic protectorate of the United States. In the case of Germany, it is a country still literally occupied by American troops and weapons. Furthermore, Europeans are highly dependent on Russian oil and gas for energy, which is the source of more than 40% of the gas consumed in Europe. Despite the resounding declarations of some European leaders, in particular the Germans, Europe cannot replace Russian energy in the short or medium term.

If the Europeans are forced by the North Americans to cut their “energy ties” with Russia, they will immediately have to face rationing, inflation, loss of competitiveness and very likely social revolts from a population that has already been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. Russia will have to respond to the sanctions of the western powers and the Europeans will be most immediately affected, if Russia suspends, for example, the export of food or minerals, affecting the European population and companies, not to mention the much greater capacity of the Russians carrying out cyberattacks on European companies and government institutions, if by chance Russia decides to respond to the economic and financial sanctions that are being announced without taking into account the response they will receive from the Russians. It is a very complicated and undefined picture for everyone, but certainly the weakest side is that of the Europeans, in the medium term.

4.

The German historian and philosopher, Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) announced the “decline of the West” shortly after the end of World War I, and several other authors hammered home this same point throughout the 70th century, including authors who discussed the “crisis of the West”. of American hegemony” in the 80s and XNUMXs of the last century. These historical processes, however, are slow and go through very winding paths. Sometimes they advance, sometimes they retreat.

In this case, there has been an acceleration of historical time in the last two decades, and, in particular, since the moment when Russia returned to the condition of the second largest military power in the world, while China decided to accelerate the modernization of its navy and its capacity ballistics, in addition to starting its great project of construction and incorporation of more than 60 countries around the world, in the program Belt and Road.

If one wants to simplify this more recent process, we could say that the great inflection happened when Russia intervened in the Georgian War, in 2008, putting an end to NATO expansion, and then intervened in the Syrian War, in 2015, on its own account and following its own command. These actions, with full military success, made it clear that another power was emerging in the world with the capacity to arbitrate, sanction and punish on its own account, even if it was – as in this case – in the name of values ​​and objectives also sought by the “Western powers”. , what it was like to defeat the so-called “Islamic State”.

This inflection accelerated even more when Xi Jinping's China put its strategic objectives for the coming decades on the table, and at the same time called on the West to respect the fact that there are now multiple cultures and civilizations within the same interstate system. . The “declaration” of Russia and China, of February 7, 2022, enshrines this convergence and announces the end of the unipolar world power and ethics imposed by the West in the last 300 years of the history of the world system. One thing that draws attention in this “letter to the peoples of the world” from Russia and China is the defense of what they call the values ​​of freedom, equality, peace and democracy, respecting the vision of each people with relation to each of these “values” that they also present as universal.

* Jose Luis Fiori Professor at the Graduate Program in International Political Economy at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Global power and the new geopolitics of nations (Boitempo).

Text established from an interview given to Rodrigo martins and published on the magazine's website capital letter [https://www.cartacapital.com.br/entrevistas/os-europeus-temem-a-superioridade-militar-dos-russos-e-uma-crise-energetica/].

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