Europe descending to war

Jan Urban

Jan Urban

Historik a publicista

Vladimir Putin identified himself and his own image as that of Russia. Such often happens with leaders of major countries. One of the biggest American psychologists, Robert J. Lifton, calls it a “superpower syndrome”. This includes a narrative, whether a real or fictional collective trauma, nuclear weapons, and that which professor Lifton calls an “Armageddon mentality”. It can’t be treated.

Democracy fortunately knows how to cure such psychologically harmed individuals with time. George W. Bush and his father in the United States, or Charles de Gaulle in France, could recount. Non-democratic systems certainly do not even have sufficient self-preservation, or institutional mechanisms for the peaceful exchange of leaders. They live, or rather survive, only for each day, for one motif and one leader, without at any moment being willing to recognize that the identification of an individual in the fate of the Great Powers in history always only existed in connection with violence.

An irrationally minded and noncritical leader is namely- in his own eyes- permitted to do everything. In this respect there does not exist a difference between the trivial, intellectually constructed ‘Thousand-year Reich’ of the Nazi regime in Germany, Bush’s ‘New world order’ immediately after the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989, and ‘Third Jerusalem’ of the post-Soviet Russian nationalists like Putin. The difference is again between experiencing the delusion of such democracy and non-democracy. Democracy has a brake, namely a corrective to elections, the opposition, and consistently still being able to have uncontrolled media, which sooner or later politicians can displace from power. Non-democracy is without brakes and is therefore subject to spontaneous fundamentalism. Hereby Stalinism developed from the Communist Manifesto and Hitlerism from discussions about eugenics. At the inevitable end, it is valid that if in the leader’s final battle Good did not triumph in an all-out manner over Evil and over all enemies, destruction of everyone and everything is only fair payback for the imperfection of the world and misunderstanding of the leader’s genius. Adolf Hitler ultimately destroyed Germany only just a little more than Josef Stalin devastated the Soviet Union. Democratic Germany was able to learn from that. Non-democratic Russia, unfortunately not.

Russia, and we along with it, are again in the situation of the year of 1905, when internal problems were discussed relatively easily but the war with Japan was lost quickly. Vladimir Putin is not Russia, but he shares such suicidal tendencies. Even he is trying to bring people to the edge of war, so that in the name of Russia’s holy things he can unite the nation. And if by chance there was a real war, he will be happy because his word will hold truth and he will certainly say that he was forced into war. Fears of possible losses are not allowed. You can be certain that the vast majority of ‘the people’ will want war because Russia’s citizens and their lives cease to be important. The whole world will pay for it.

Russia, despite its rich opportunity for culture and ethos, has since the Enlightenment been unfortunately and traditionally one of the most bribed and corrupt countries in the world. Never in its history did it have an influence towards its neighbors, Europe, and the world, which would support democracy. Its cultural-lacking, power-holding believers of this country understand again, as they have several times before in the last century, that they lost the opportunity to modernize the country and lead her towards the improvement of civilization and towards a material standard of her people. Again, as several times before, Russian power is not capable of giving its citizens a positive sense of homeland, culture, and law. Moreover, it yet again cannot exist without foes. Russia cannot be defined without expansion, conflict, and aggression. Even today’s narrow, powerful oligarchy needs violent conflict to maintain its legitimacy because it is no longer capable of a peaceful, slow, and laborious development within the frame of a democratic institution subject to the law. This country which has enormous intellectual, cultural, and scientific capacity is twenty years after the fall of communism still vitally dependent on exports of raw materials and weapons. Its civilian export of industrial products is on the level of almost four hundred times smaller than Denmark.

Fascination with the success of Western consumer capitalism, however illusory in the long term context of the historic Judeo-Christian culture, is from the trauma of Russian power (not culture) from the nineteenth century. The era of ideological fanaticism of Communism only deepened this complex into irrationality on the level of messianic ecstasy and geopolitical delirium. Vladimir Putin is, in this sense, paranoid and crazy at a level unseen since the days of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. If Europe and the United States do not realize this and Putin’s aggressions will continue to subside for a number of months, we can easily slip into a war which aside from Putin and his generals, no one wants.

The question is not about the restoration of the Soviet Union, although its flags are increasingly appearing in the pro-regime demonstrations, and Putin himself discusses it often. It is about restoring the imperial power, which everyone will be afraid of because of its unpredictability and military strength. Czarist symbols, imperial arrogance, and imperial aggression in the name of “holy things” will surface.

Speculations about the objectives of Russian expansion are unnecessary. For now, imperial Russia does not have a fear of confrontation with the United States or with China. It has always been possible to come to an agreement with them about their interests. On the contrary, imperial Moscow is dreading and panicking from European integration. Imperial Moscow is considered, along with Islamic fundamentalism, the greatest long-term threat to security. If in fact- after seventy years of peace between Western powers- Moscow further deepened and institutionalized not only its economic and fiscal policy but even its political arrangement to some form of European federalization, the traditional Russian superpower narrative will lose the sense and need of a single superior Russian nation.

The aggressive Ukraine campaign is therefore necessary to understand primarily as an anti-European campaign. And in the end, whether it happens quickly or with a gradual destabilization of the Ukrainian government and economy, you cannot exclude the following dark thought: usurpation of the entire Ukrainian Black Sea coast which would be in conjunction with the fourteenth Russian army and the annexation of Transnistria. The poor agricultural inland of the remaining western part of the Ukraine would be left to crumble on its own, leaving it in the hands of Europe. The economic and political costs for the rescue of such a ‘cuckoo’s egg’ would mean, in the present state of its institutions and negotiating mechanisms, an almost unsolvable problem. What will Europe do in the case that the conflict sets in motion a mass of a million refugees from the Ukraine?

Russia destroyed sixty years of the international community’s policy attempts to impose controls on the production and testing of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine. There does not exist an example of a similar insolent and treacherous violation of international contractual obligation to protect the territorial integrity of some country in exchange for giving up its nuclear arsenal. That is exactly what Russia ratified in respect to the Ukraine in 1994- and today Russia occupies and destabilizes what is left of the Ukraine. North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel-this is only a partial list of countries that during the past several decades after such treachery done by a great power, never had to excessively sit at the negotiating table and negotiate the reduction of the quantity of nuclear arms. We can expect the same certainty of Russia’s efforts to intensify the West’s relations with Iran- only because of the creation of pressure to increase prices of oil and natural gas. We can really expect anything, including chance outbreaks of clashes.

The global community has a number of options, from which by no means the worst would be to appease the aggressor. That would mean, in the words of Winston Churchill after Munich, only descent into nothingness and war. Under all circumstances it will be necessary to maintain a uniform, common approach against Russia’s policy of aggression and territorial expansion. It is necessary to prepare even for the difficult and openly confrontational scenarios. One example-a discussion should be incurred on the floor of the UN about the revision of the Montreux Convention of 1936, which would prevent the Russian military fleet from setting sail from the Black Sea. The large part of the military fleet would be taken and according to international maritime law it would be possible to confiscate such vessels as compensation for damages. An arms embargo and the implementation that all Russian citizens should be responsible to have visas should be the only obvious and immediate first step. The simpleton world of alleged post-communism ended. And it will cost all of us a lot. Pray to God, wakeful over Europe, that it will cost us only in money.

P.S. About the “Czech Question” in this crisis next time

Translated by Anna Stransky

published: 26. 7. 2014