The provoked war in Ukraine

The Russian-Ukrainian war did not begin on February 24, 2022, but has roots dating back at least thirty years.

The title of the agile booklet  by  Benjamin Abelow is already "compromising" in itself (1) . In fact, it is not said "if" the West provoked the war in Ukraine, but "how" did it.

The starting assumption is therefore taken for granted. However, it is not a dogmatic text, but an argumentative one, regarding an aspect of the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict that emerges very little from the pages of newspapers and more generally from the media of our part of the world (Europe, Canada, USA, Japan, Australia), which - it should be remembered - does not include the majority of the earth's population at all, but "only" the vast majority of global wealth.

The war has turned a year old. What persuaded me to return to the subject and to suggest reading Abelow's book, "very well done" (Noam Chomsky), "indispensable for understanding the real causes of the disaster in Ukraine" (Mearsheimer), was the observation (a wishful thinking for my part?) of an increase in public opinion - also in this case very badly represented in the political and government instances - of doubts about the Vulgate that war events are fed to us every day.

What Abelow essentially makes us think about?

1. – The Russian-Ukrainian war did not begin on February 24, 2022, but has roots dating back at least thirty years, from the fall of the alcoholic president Yeltsin and the subsequent rise to power of Vladimir Putin, much tougher than his predecessor in defending the Russian Federation (the fact that the cruelly autocratic government of “Tsar Vladimir” tripled Russia's per capita GDP in about twenty years is rarely highlighted) and much less willing to give a free hand to the anarcho-capitalism that arose by the de-Sovietization of his country's economy.

2. Zelensky came to power in a coup d'état, pursued and continues to pursue authoritarian policies (presence in the government of "four prominent figures that we can legitimately define as neo-fascists" according to Mearsheimer, erasure of Russian cultural identity in Ukraine, denial of self-government in Donbass, outlawing of adverse parties. The recent measures taken by the Ukrainian government against non-aligned journalists have had only very tepid reactions in our parts).

3. Putin, in invading Ukraine, fell into a trap and made a terrible mistake. Not because he is a bloodthirsty psychopath, but because he has not been able to continue to act politically and diplomatically in the encirclement, (see the latest agreement with Angela Merkel).

Very appropriately Abelow recalls the never forgotten "Monroe Doctrine", formulated in 1823 for the American continent and which was then extended to the entire western hemisphere. In this sense, NATO's (US creature) enlargement policy towards the east should be understood (remember the words of Pope Francis about a NATO that "barked" at the borders of Russia?). The rebirth of an economically powerful Russia, with immense reserves of precious raw materials and equipped with a fearsome nuclear weapon, represented a serious threat to US hegemony, already weakened in Asia by the Chinese giant.

Abelow insists on the dangers of nuclear war into which "the stupidity and blindness on the part of the American government and the European leaders" have dragged us and very appropriately recalls not so much the abused as silly parallel between Hitler and Putin, as the situation that preceded the outbreak of the First World War and the "automatic" mechanisms that were at the basis of it: dancing on the edge of the abyss you seriously risk falling.

However, the author seems to limit the interpretative perspective within the US borders, to the dialectical relationship between the Pentagon and the White House, to the senseless choices of a militarily aggressive policy (the deployment of medium-range missiles in Poland, Romania and the Baltic states), pursued by Democrats and Republicans well beyond the "containment policy" formulated in 1946 by George Kennan, who, moreover, Abelow himself significantly counts among the critics of NATO's eastward expansion policy.

The "Western" provocations against the Russian Federation, the threat of incorporating into NATO first Georgia and then Ukraine, which shares an approximately 2,000 km border with Russia, have not only had the aim of putting Moscow out of the game, weakening its economic and military system, but also and perhaps above all that of definitively eliminating from the world scene the prospect of a politically united and economically prosperous Europe, which could compete with the USA for hegemony in the "Western" field. “Fuck EU”, said US diplomat Victoria Nuland in a leaked video (The Guardian, 7th February 2014.

The Degaullian utopia of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals has always been the Black Beast of the United States. The "marriage" between cheap Russian raw materials and cutting-edge European technologies is not to be done. We can say that this is the first war that the United States has managed to win since the time of the Korean conflict. What’s more, without putting “boots on the ground” and without losing any soldiers – the Ukrainians are dying.

What is surprising is not so much the stammering of Brussels, by now increasingly a self-referential fictio iuris, which finds its plastic incarnation in the smallness of Ursula von der Leyen, but the political and strategic absence of two great powers such as France and the Germany.

The latter in particular, cut off from its "physiological" relations with Russia in terms of trade in technologies and raw materials, sees its quality exports waning (before the war it was the third world power for trade surplus). The cost of energy, in the absence of Russian gas and oil, which cannot be replaced with American LNG, will increase to such an extent as to jeopardize the entire current German production system. There are already the first German factories relocating to the USA due to unbearable energy costs.

If the war continues - and the United States obviously has every interest in making it continue - we Europeans will come out with broken bones.

The Ukrainian crisis was "foreseeable, expected and avoidable" (Sawka). It is therefore time to reconsider our policy as Europeans, whose interests, even if they do not collide with those of the United States, are certainly not the same. Going back to investigating the causes of the conflict, "without media brawls and puffs of intolerance" (Canfora), to formulate proposals acceptable to all parties involved should be an urgent task, especially in Europe that matters (Germany and France).

*How the West brought war to Ukraine. Understanding how U.S. and NATO policies led to crisis war and the risk of nuclear catastrophe, 2022, pp. 81

Claudio Salone

Professor of ancient literatures, Rome -