We speak for us who are writing these lines, for us who are publishing them, but also – I am deeply convinced – for the great majority of the Italian people. We are on the side of the victims: the victims of aggression against their own land, of violence, of torture, of rape, of forced conscription, of censorship, no matter by whom and against whom it is perpetrated.
Is it a pacifist position that is merely ethical or based on abstract principles, which ignores politics entirely? Not at all, I would say. It’s enough to point out who are those we stand against, as concretely as possible. They are those who have committed such crimes, but also those who are favoring or allowing their continuation. Putin’s Russia, which has attacked and continues to attack Ukraine, but also President Biden, who, by calling his Russian counterpart a butcher, calling for him to be deposed and given over to international courts, is in effect perpetuating his power and prolonging the war.
We take the side of the victims, the victims of all wars – including, and especially, the just-as-illegal ones that our own government has waged or for which it has supplied weapons to others: in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, in Yemen. We’re realizing it now because this time, the victims are right before our eyes, they are Europeans like us, defending a land that we recognize as ours; one that we don’t want to abandon to the mercies of two declining powers which, although in conflict with each other, are both consolidating their manipulative power over the European home that is also ours.
As a consequence, we have some clearly defined duties, in the name of which we must urge – and, if necessary, fight against – the Draghi government to stop the ongoing massacre. At this particular point in time, which doesn’t seem to offer any hope even for a temporary suspension of hostilities, our guiding line is to oppose all measures that make the prospect of a ceasefire more remote – such as, for example, the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the country. On the other hand, it is necessary to support and extend the sanctions that make the continuation of the war more costly for the aggressor. This war, in effect, fulfills Biden’s not-so-secret dream: that of another Afghanistan, this time at the expense of his counterpart in the Kremlin.
Most importantly, as Norma Rangeri has rightly argued (il manifesto, April 5), we cannot leave aside the only sanction that would have immediate and major effectiveness against Russia: banning the purchase of its gas and oil. While that particular sanction would involve significant sacrifice – due to our energy dependence, and especially that of Germany – which translates into an economic gift to our ally in Washington, it cannot be substituted by more and more arms shipments, which will prolong the war instead.
First of all, we need to set up a European plan for sharing the burden of this political choice, similar to the choice (which is just as necessary) of welcoming immigrants fleeing from this war and any other, regardless of the color of their skin and their nationality.
Second, we need to activate all the instruments available to the United Nations, which are in any case essential to put an end to the state of war. President Zelensky’s request for Russia to be excluded from the Security Council is a provocative one, and understandably so, but it’s also counterproductive for the cessation of hostilities; and the otherwise just fight for the elimination of the veto right of the five permanent members will only succeed on an unforeseeable timeline and with unpredictable consequences. Instead, the General Assembly passing the “Uniting for peace” resolution would be a much-needed prompt for the Security Council to come to the fore, which – if China and India play a more active role – could, in consequence, become a forum for the negotiation and subsequent approval and implementation of an agreement between the nations in conflict.
As for the recourse to war crimes tribunals, invoked by both the United States and Russia, at the present moment this amounts to mere rhetoric aimed at prolonging the war. The European states – first of all Italy – which have played a decisive role in the creation of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, could respond with an invitation to both Russia and the United States to finally agree to join it. Paradoxically, it’s not difficult to outline the elements of a peace agreement, which can sometimes be heard both in Zelensky’s statements and in the less saber-rattling version of Russia’s war aims: a neutral Ukraine, free to equip itself with an adequate level of defense, on the Finnish or Austrian model, a full member of the European Union but not of NATO, and willing to recognize the principle of self-determination for the population of the Donbas.
An explicit position taken by the European Council in this sense, following the example of the European Parliament – especially as regards the decision that falls within its direct competence: the prompt admission of Ukraine as a member state – would be an important step towards a diplomatic solution of the conflict, in the interest of its victims.
Unfortunately, an unsparing analysis of the interests in play leaves little room for such a prospect, at least without the accumulation of more and more tragedies. For now, Putin is enjoying a high level of support in Russia thanks to the war. In the immediate future, the new Afghanistan will allow Biden to revive the influence of NATO – no matter how obsolete otherwise – over Europe, to bleed Russia dry, and, in the long term, to cash in on the bonus of expensive energy sales. Only the European Union has an interest, as well as a duty, to end the ongoing conflict. But will its leaders realize this and find the courage to act accordingly?