Only a shared objective will be capable of ensuring the cohesion of democracies and of arousing a constructive and mobilizing spirit.
The recent political, military, economic or environmental events are likely to exacerbate the existing high level of anxiety pervading the population; people feel intuitively that the declaration of President Macron, announcing “the end of the period of plenty“, marks a decisive turning point in the apprehension of our common future.
The greatest risk would be to allow fear and withdrawal to dominate our attitude to the challenges ahead because, far from providing an answer, such postures would only aggravate and accelerate the self-fulfilling nature of these anticipations. The only force capable of facing up to these difficulties is unity, whether of the Western world in general or of the European Union in particular.
Thus, if democratic debate is a force where contradictory opinions must be able to be expressed (unlike the ideological framework imposed by autocracies), it must not be a pretext for inaction and immobility; on the contrary, it must lead to a consensus, around a constructive response that enjoys the support of all of the active forces adhering to democratic principles, and allows for the emergence of a clear hierarchy of priorities.
This is why the debate on the Ukrainian conflict must not be diverted by secondary considerations that would attenuate the global issues it has raised. Indeed, Ukrainians are not only fighting with their blood for their right to exist but, in so doing, are defending the values of our own civilization which are being severely challenged. To date Ukraine has assumed the brunt of the suffering and destruction resulting from the conflict; to a lesser extent poorer populations around the world are exposed to famine; nevertheless, however significant the West’s provision of material support may be, its cost cannot be weighed against the hardships of the war that Ukrainians are fighting also in our name.
In particular, the debate on sanctions against Russia must not be polluted by arguments relating to the more or less painful consequences they may have for those who apply them. Indeed, in order to consider lifting them, one must first anticipate the answers to a series of interrelated questions, including the following:
– What would be the point of lifting the sanctions? Would it lead to a return to the status quo ex-ante? This seems unthinkable insofar as any “sovereign” nation will want to free itself from excessive dependence on its suppliers, whoever they may be.
– The diversification of supply sources and the search for autonomy as well as the effectiveness of sanctions can only be envisaged on the scale of the EU; this implies its urgent reinforcement rather than its break-up; a Russian victory would be the emblematic and probably irreversible announcement of the EU’s demise.
– It follows that it is imperative that the sanctions regime be decided by qualified majority and that there be no exemptions. The counterpart of this uniformity of application must be the reinforcement of the internal solidarity of the Union, to evacuate the polemics, which are already surfacing in the media, concerning the possible reciprocal support to be provided by Member States.
– In assessing the effectiveness and consequences of sanctions, a distinction must be made between the part that is due to the mechanism itself and the part resulting from other causes that would not disappear with their lifting. For example, sanctions have a direct impact on energy prices but are only one of the many factors affecting, for example, “inflation” and therefore “purchasing power” endured by the population.
Another debate, closely linked to that of sanctions, concerns the end of the war and the conditions for a permanent cessation of hostilities. If peace is to be the priority objective, it must take into account the causes and responsibilities of the conflict, the reality of the situation on the ground (occupation), the balance of forces involved, the damages caused, but also the morale of the troops and the civilian population, the political situation in the belligerent countries and in that of their external supporters.
The fundamental irreconcilable differences and imbalances between the parties involved make any hope of a negotiated peace that goes beyond a temporary suspension of hostilities uncertain (the preservation of human lives remaining always a noble and desirable objective). First, Putin’s challenge to Ukraine’s right to exist (despite the USSR’s insistence on Ukraine’s full membership of the UN in 1945 and the recognition of its independence in 1991), makes any negotiation prima facie impossible. Secondly, the military balance is distorted by an opposition between two conventional forces which neutralize each other (thanks to the logistical support of the West to the Ukrainians) but where only the Russian side has a plethoric nuclear arsenal giving it a weapon of blackmail, sowing fear at the global level.
In this configuration, the unwavering support of Ukraine by the West (which has a similar nuclear arsenal) is the only bulwark against Russia achieving its primary goal of annihilating Ukraine. Any compromise would ultimately result in the break-up of the democratic world and in particular the EU, Putin’s second stated objective. This would render immediately ineffective (rather than obsolete) the commitment of the 3 nuclear powers (USA, France, Great Britain) to preserve the integrity of the 27 so-called new “sovereign” countries and other members of NATO; it would open the way, through progressive subversion rather than military subjugation, to the imposition of Moscow’s hegemonic imperium in Europe.
The understandable dismay of the world population, created by the repeated threats of Putin’s use of nuclear weapons, has been considerably aggravated recently by the emergence of the risks tied to civilian nuclear installations (Zaporijjia) which have become the subject of a dangerous and condemnable militarization. The world must realize that a solution limited to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict alone is no longer sufficient to bring about real peace in the world: new multilateral agreements must be negotiated as a matter of urgency to secure this most fundamental of all rights: the “right to live“.
The same imperative of securing new agreements is needed when we consider the way in which all the current crises are intertwined and interacting: Thus the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the energy crisis (gas supplies…) which itself has an impact on the climate (use of coal…) leading to shortages (water, agricultural products…); this has a further impact on purchasing power and inflation the ravages of which spread throughout the economy via the financial markets (rise in interest rates – impact on real estate…) and especially the foreign exchange markets (artificial manipulation of the Ruble, growing imbalances between Eurozone members threatening the stability of the €…); the climate will also impact migratory flows, health, the level of the ocean, etc. , which in turn will be sources of conflict and so on.
In the face of these alarming facts, a coordinated reaction is needed in which the common good must prevail over particular interests. Two very imperfect systems of governance are confronting each other and, whichever one wins, will have to undergo profound changes in order to meet the conditions necessary for the survival of humanity.
The autocratic model embodied by China, Russia, etc., and representing a significant majority of the world’s population, does not seem to have the capacity to respond to the political, economic, cultural and philosophical challenges that together contribute to life in society. Indeed, these regimes seek above all to maintain themselves by favoring the minority in power to the detriment of the majority whose freedoms are progressively restricted.
The social-democratic model represented by the industrial west and other developed countries is far from providing solutions that would avoid considerable transformations in their own current governance. There is a need to accept the introduction of a culture of “sobriety” to limit the harmful effects of unbridled consumption and unlimited accumulation of wealth. However, it is precisely on the foundation of the West’s values, prosperity and innovation capabilities that the reforms necessary for the transformation of the world can be built if Man wishes to escape the inevitable destruction of his own species.
Pragmatically, the West must first rally firmly under the protection and leadership of the United States, whose exemplary support for the Ukraine, victim of unprovoked imperialistic aggression, should reassure its partners, despite previous debacles in Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and the internal threats to American democracy that we should oppose together.
In the pursuit of these objectives, the West must not hesitate to deploy all its assets, notably its wealth, its military power, the hegemony exercised by the dollar and its undeniable domination of the financial markets. Far from being passive, the EU (and each of its Members) must rapidly accelerate its contribution to this collective effort to balance the excessive weight currently exerted by the United States and eventually play the leading role it deserves in the shared conduct of world affairs.
At no time, however, can the West lose sight of the fact that it too must evolve in order to establish a world that is more united, fairer and quite simply more livable!