For a self-criticism of Europe

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By BOAVENTURA DE SOUSA SANTOS*

European democracies have just proved that they govern without the people

Because it did not know how to deal with the causes of the crisis in Ukraine, Europe is condemned to deal with its consequences. The dust of the tragedy is far from having settled, but even so, we are forced to conclude that European leaders were not and are not equal to the situation we are experiencing. They will go down in history as the most mediocre leaders that Europe has had since the end of the Second World War.

They are now embracing humanitarian aid, and the merit of the effort cannot be questioned. But they do it to save face in the face of the biggest scandal of our time. They govern peoples who in the last seventy years have organized and demonstrated against war in any part of the world where it occurred. And they were not able to defend them from the war that, at least since 2014, was brewing at home. European democracies have just proved that they govern without the people. There are many reasons that lead us to this conclusion.

This war was being prepared for a long time by both Russia and the US. In the case of Russia, the accumulation of immense gold reserves in recent years is notorious and the priority given to the strategic partnership with China, namely in the financial field, with a view to the bank merger and the creation of a new international currency, and in the of commercial exchanges where the possibilities of expansion with the Belt and Road Initiative are enormous throughout Eurasia.

In relations with European partners, Russia proved to be a credible partner, while at the same time making its security concerns clear. Legitimate concerns, if for a moment we think that in the world of superpowers there are no good or bad, there are strategic interests that must be accommodated. It was like this in the missile crisis of 1962 with the red line put by the US not wanting medium-range missiles installed 70 km from its border. Don't think that it was just the Soviet Union that gave in. The US also gave up the medium-range missiles it had in Turkey. Reciprocal concession, accommodation, lasting agreement. Why was the same not possible in the case of Ukraine? Let's look at the preparation on the US side.

 

The US Strategy

Faced with the decline in global dominance that it has had since 1945, the US seeks to consolidate zones of influence at all costs, which guarantee trade facilities for its companies and access to raw materials. What I write below can be read in official documents and think tanks so conspiracy theories are dismissed. The policy of regime change it does not aim to create democracies, only governments faithful to US interests.

It was not democratic states that emerged from the bloody interventions in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya. It was not to promote democracy that they encouraged coups that deposed democratically elected presidents in Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), Brazil (2016), Bolivia (2019), not to mention the 2014 coup in Ukraine. For some time now, the main rival has been China.

In the case of Europe, the US strategy has two pillars: provoking Russia and neutralizing Europe (mainly Germany). A Rand Corporation, a well-known organization for strategic studies, published in 2019 a report prepared at the request of the Pentagon, entitled “ExtendingRussia”. It looks at how to provoke countries so that provocation can be exploited by the US. As far as Russia is concerned, it reads: “We analyzed a series of non-violent measures capable of exploiting Russia's real vulnerabilities and anxieties as a means of putting pressure on Russia's army and economy and the regime's political status at home and abroad. The steps we analyzed would not have defense or deterrence as their main objective, although they could contribute to both. Rather, such steps are thought of as elements of a campaign designed to destabilize the adversary, by forcing Russia to compete in fields or regions where the United States has a competitive advantage, by pushing Russia to expand militarily or economically, or by pushing the regime to lose prestige and influence nationally and/or internationally”.

Do you need to know more to understand what is happening in Ukraine? Russia provoked to expand only to be criticized for doing so. NATO's eastward expansion, against what had been agreed with Gorbachev in 1990, was the initial key to the provocation. Violation of the Minsk agreements was another piece. It should be noted that Russia initially did not support Donetsk and Lugansk's claim to independence after the 2014 coup. It preferred strong autonomy within Ukraine, as established in the Minsk agreements. These deals were torn up by Ukraine with US support, not Russia.

As for Europe, the principle is to consolidate the status of a minor partner that does not venture to disturb the policy of the zones of influence. Europe has to be a reliable partner, but it cannot expect reciprocity. That's why the EU, to the ignorant surprise of its leaders, was excluded from the AUKUS, the security treaty for the Indian and Pacific region between the US, Australia and England. The smaller partner strategy requires European dependence to deepen, not only on the military level (already guaranteed by NATO) but also on the economic level, namely in terms of energy.

US foreign policy (and democracy) is dominated by three oligarchies (there are not only oligarchs in Russia and Ukraine): the military-industrial complex; the gas, oil and mining complex; and the banking-real estate complex. These complexes make fabulous profits thanks to the so-called monopoly rents, privileged market situations that allow them to inflate prices. The goals of these complexes are to keep the world at war and create greater dependence on US arms supplies.

Europe's energy dependency on Russia was unacceptable. From Europe's point of view, it was not about dependency, it was about economic rationality and diversity of partners. With the invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions, everything went as planned, and the immediate appreciation of the share prices of the three complexes had the champagne waiting for you. A mediocre, ignorant Europe without a strategic vision falls helplessly into the hands of these complexes, who will now tell you about the prices to be charged. Europe is impoverished and destabilized for not having leaders who are up to the task. On top of that, he rushes to arm Nazis. Nor does he remember that, in December 2021, the UN General Assembly approved, on a Russian proposal, a resolution against the “glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that promote racism, xenophobia and intolerance”. Two countries voted against, USA and Ukraine!

 

In search of peace

The ongoing peace talks are a mistake. It makes no sense to be between Russia and Ukraine. They should be between Russia and US/NATO/EU. The 1962 missile crisis was resolved between the USSR and the USA. Did anyone remember to call Fidel Castro to the negotiations? It is a cruel illusion to think that there will be lasting peace in Europe without compromise on the western side. Ukraine, whose independence we all want, must not join NATO. Has NATO been necessary so far for Finland, Sweden, Switzerland or Austria to feel secure and develop?

In fact, NATO should have been dismantled as soon as the Warsaw Pact ended. Only in this way could the European Union have created a policy and a military defense force that responded to its interests, and not those of the USA. What threat was there to Europe's security that would justify NATO interventions in Serbia in 1999, in Afghanistan in 2001, in Iraq in 2004, in Libya in 2011? After all this, is it possible to continue to consider NATO a defensive organization?

*Boaventura de Sousa Santos is full professor at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Coimbra. Author, among other books, of The end of the cognitive empire (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper Public.

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