The ongoing Russian invasion of the Ukraine reiterates what we know from the past; namely, that the world is shaped by weapons, not peace, and that history repeats itself. Despite all efforts to establish international organizations and approve border demarcation treaties and country maps, wars and conflicts cannot be avoided.
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For instance, the border demarcation treaty between Iraq and Iran did not prevent Saddam Hussein from tearing it apart and crossing the Iranian border following the 1979 fall of the Shah in Tehran. Once again, international borders did not prevent the Iraqi dictator from occupying Kuwait, although it is a brotherly member state in the Arab League that had a non-aggression pact with Baghdad. Furthermore, the military presence of superpowers neither prevented the regime in Tehran from taking control of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, nor stopped wars from breaking out in Armenia, Ethiopia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and at last but never least the Ukraine.
Earlier in the last century, some thought that the First World War, nicknamed the Great War, was destined to be the last one due to the damage it inflicted on numerous countries. However, two decades later the Second World War was ignited, proving to have been bloodier and more destructive, as it resulted in the death of some 60 million humans, compared with 40 million in the first one.
The Europeans came to believe that September 2nd, 1945, was the last day of war on their territory, until Russia stormed the Ukraine on February 24th this year. This ongoing war means more than a conflict between two states to the Europeans, as the country with the largest area in their continent has devoured the country with the second largest area there. The most frequent comment on the events has been “this is hard to believe.” The European mindset behind such a comment is that it got used to seeing wars and conflicts erupt and countries invade each other elsewhere in the world, but not inside the European continent, at least for 76 years and 9 months. The conflicts that took place inside Ex-Yugoslavia between warring brothers should be excluded here, since they were internal dissensions among the seven former Yugoslav states.
It is probable that the current Ukrainian crisis will be concluded with a peaceful agreement, either keeping the country’s territorial integrity in full, or just part of it. However, there is no doubt that this war will bring about several changes to international relations and will enhance the concept of national and regional defense within the framework of preparedness for future wars.
Germany has been the European country most inclined to abandon the norms of the European Union’s conventions and those of the NATO regarding cooperation with the Russian and Chinese scarecrows. Following the invasion of the Ukraine, Berlin announced its new military expenditure, and changed its position towards Russia, suspending the latter’s strategic Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. This pipeline was regarded by Berlin, along with other European countries, as a guarantee for peace and cooperation with Moscow, although the US was warning them that it is a Russian weapon disguised in a gas pipeline. The invasion of the Ukraine has undoubtedly changed the former equilibrium, as it indicated that following Georgia, Crimea, and recently the Ukraine, other parts of Europe might fall next to Moscow’s greed. The Russians might have justifiable defense-oriented concerns regarding the NATO’s activities and how it seems to be beleaguering the Russian motherland, but the peaceful Europeans regarded the invasion of the Ukraine as a threat to their entirety.
The invasion of the Ukraine strengthened the NATO, not weakened it, and it brought the western European countries closer to the US administration, not contrariwise. Washington made use of the crisis to bolster its position in a manner never witnessed since the Cold War.
Meanwhile, for reasonable considerations, the NATO member states will not engage into a direct war in defense of the Ukraine, but the West has a superior position with its economic and financial capabilities, and through the sanctions and boycott it imposed on Moscow the latter will be tremendously weakened, eventually pushing it to either retreat or reach a reconciliation.
To sum up, the lesson we must draw from the current events is that we live in a jungle world where only the mighty, the powerful, and those who depend on themselves are respected. In the same vein, might and power are not only defined in terms of military capabilities, but rather through scientific, technical, and economic advance. For instance, the Soviet Union collapsed for economic reasons although it was the second military superpower on the globe.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
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