S for solidarity

Putin aims to provoke permanent world`s vulnerability and reshape what he calls “the spheres of Russian influence”. To achieve this goal he needs to fragment the West and undermine Western unity

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It seems Europe is becoming tired of the war in Ukraine. Bombardments of peaceful cities, hospitals and maternity houses still look cruel, but after more than 90 days it`s perceived as a routine rather than a breaking news. Massacres in Bucha revealed in the beginning of April after the Russian army retreat were shocking, but it was almost two months ago and no one can keep their mind shocked all the time. The evidences of raped children reported by Ukrainian ombudswoman Lyudmila Denysova sounds terrible – actually too terrible even to think about it.

Yes, the EU did a lot for Ukraine. The hospitality towards more than 6 million Ukrainian refugees is incredible. The diplomatic and financial support to Ukraine is vast. The sanctions against Russia are unprecedented. Meanwhile it’s not enough to bring peace back to Europe. Because peace does not mean to deal with consequences, but to eliminate reasons. Not to pacify Putin and allow him to save face, but to make continuing Russian aggression impossible.

This is quite naïve to think that Putin attacks Ukraine only. Yes, subjugated Ukraine is important in the imperialistic Russian World doctrine, but Putin`s mind goes far beyond this quasi-geopolitical concept. Global instability is his No1 aim to redistribute what he calls “the spheres of Russian influence”

Actually, we should interpret his words as an inversion. When he was saying that Ukraine had been prepared to attack Russia, it meant Russia had already got ready for the invasion. When he says that Ukrainian troops hold civilians hostage, it means that the Russian army has already committed more atrocities on the occupied territories. When he argues that the West and NATO are waging war against Russia, it means that Russia itself is striking the West and western values.

Therefore, the fatigue of Europe is a fertile soil for Vladimir Putin to continue his assault. Kremlin methods have changed very little since the period of the Soviet Union. Divide et impera still is the best way for the fragmentation of what is called “the collective West” to gain control over continental policy.

As every authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin does not believe in democracy. For us democracy is precious, this is what the West was built around. For him it is a weakness. Putin would like to have a single person to talk about reshaping the world, like his role model Stalin did with Hitler. But there is no single person in democracy he might address. Every decision is a solidarity.

That is why European solidarity is a main target for Vladimir Putin. The long-lasting debates about oil sanctions in the EU were a vivid example. Everyone knew the fossil money pumps the Russian budget. Everyone understood this money fuels the war. But when it came to a solidary solution a bargaining started. What if we make an exception for Hungary to preserve their low gasoline prices? What if we make an exception for Greece, allowing its huge tanker fleet to work? Exceptions had been aggregating, as far as members generally agreed to follow a common line, but did not want to lose benefits that some others got instead.

The decision about the oil embargo that has been expected since the beginning of May remained stuck till the end of the month. 

Putin is looking for a gap in the West to put his leg in and then to clear the way with shoulder. In the case of oil sanctions Hungary has become the gap. The unity was challenging, democracy was slowing down. Russia got an additional billion for its war purposes.

Vladimir Putin’s strategy is based on replacing premises and conclusions. Russia blocks Ukrainian Black Sea ports stealing grain and agricultural machinery. Ukraine is the breadbasket of the world, therefore food prices are soaring. Putin weaponizes food in the same way he has weaponized gas and oil earlier. About 400 million people in Asia and Africa, who are main consumers of Ukrainian grain, start suffering. The ghost of famine is arising, bringing instability and a new migrant crisis in perspective. There is a clear solution for the problem: the war should be stopped. But a war isn’t  a one-way deal. Wars not just simply stop, there are always ones who win and those who lose.

Logic tells us what the West has to do to finish the war faster: to impose more severe sanctions on Russia on the one hand and to arm Ukraine by providing heavy weapons, including howitzers, multiple launch rocket systems and military jets on the other. As soon as Ukrainians push the Russian army back to its borders the war ends.

And here we should remember about inversion and keep an eye on Putin’s leg. The Kremlin accuses the West of the global food crisis by imposing sanctions against Russia. To stop the war is a good idea, Putin goes ahead, so let’s ease sanctions, do not support Ukraine with weapons and allow Russia to steal not only grain but also territories. Vladimir Putin needs just a single voice in Europe to sustain his view, his ”Orban” to make one more crack in European unity.

It should be clear: the whole world is facing problems due to Russian actions. And this is extremely wrong to try solving the problems that Russia created by pressing on Ukraine to retreat.

Is it normal to allow Russia to grab the territory of Ukraine? No, it isn`t. Imagine the allies in World War II decided not to liberate Alsace and Lorraine – just to preserve the lives of our guys and allow Hitler to save his face. Or if they left the Netherlands over Nazi control for the same reasons. Why not, while German and Dutch languages sound so similar? Maybe they are just one divided nation, as Russia says about Ukraine – at least they may try to live together, stop the war and not produce inconvenience for the rest of the continent. May they?

It looks impossible because if allies used this approach it meant they applied double standards towards evil which the Nazi definitely were. The evil which threatens global security cannot be calmed down and treated locally. This is what solidarity is needed for: to stand together for common victory despite the temptation to solve individual issues in a faster way by sacrificing others.

Unfortunately, Vladimir Putin couldn`t be pacified. This evil tends to be global. The conflict he unleashed in 2014 in Crimea and Donbass has remained not solved but frozen for 8 years. The efforts to pacify him locally undertaken by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel were fruitless. And then it has turned into a large-scale invasion. What will happen if Putin absorbs Ukraine, its resources? Who in Europe will be the next? 

The term “pacify” is not applicable for dictators. Democracies can coexist peacefully, but dictatorships can`t. After democratic European states joined into the European Union there were no wars among them. An unbelievable achievement for the continent that spent all its history in conflicts.

A war always has a name of the person who started it. In 20 century it was called Kaiser Wilhelm, or Stalin, or Hitler, or Milosevic. In 21 century it is called Putin. In democracies there is no single person to start a war, in the same way as there is no such a person to talk about remaking the “spheres of influence”. 

It is hard to push democratic societies to fight. A leader who wants to do this has to go through a parliament discussion, public opinion and a long procedure. He should use other options to solve a problem, before sending troops to a battle. Democratic societies need solidarity to wage a war, while dictatorships need only a command.

The demand for solidarity makes the decision-making process harder, but more sustainable. Therefore, as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Davos, global cooperation is the antidote to Russia`s blackmail.

If the Russian fleet is blockading Ukrainian ships full of grain, the “solidarity channels” should be open via land Ukraine-EU connections – or a joint Western fleet should deblock the Black Sea. If import of Russian fossils is fueling the war, it should be banned to diminish Russia`s capability for aggression. If Europe needs peace, it also needs strong and well-armed Ukraine on its Eastern flank.

Bargaining with Putin about Ukraine would mean for him that democracy is really weak. And it would become a pretty good signal for other dictatorships around the globe encouraging them to assault democracies and violate international law. Civilized world that allowes Russia to eliminate Ukrainians just because might is right, would mean that every nation who does not possess a nuclear bomb is not safe. Very quickly we will face a new arms race and spread of nuclear technologies among countries who want to protect themselves while the global security system is not able to do this. Very quickly we will come to  broad instability, to a less safe world and a more volatile future. In that burning world soaring food and energy prices will be viewed as a minor problem. But it will be too late.

It may seem that solidarity is too complicated, that it needs so much effort. Yes, it is and it needs. But the benefits are also high.

And one of the undisputable benefits is the name of modern Europe. The European Union, not the Third Reich.

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