To mention only the most recent of the many false “casus belli,” let us remember – as NATO General Fabio Mini writes in his great and forgotten pamphlet “Why are we so hypocritical about war?” – that the pretext of the Tonkin Incident, which started the ten-year intervention of the United States in Vietnam, was false, as revealed by the Pentagon Papers of 1964; just like the Racak Massacre of 1999 was false, which provided the pretext for the NATO war in Kosovo (the bodies found, touted as evidence of a “massacre,” were a collected group of UCK casualties who died in fighting over several days and in a very large area), and the Western military advisors did the rest. The pretext of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction that brought the United States into another war was also false; all in the middle of the Afghan war, which was itself started on false pretenses, whose real reason—revenge for September 11, 2001—was finally revealed by the White House only at the time of the disastrous withdrawal last year, after 20 years of bloody and useless occupation.
We make these remarks not so much to highlight some historical truths, but in the negative aftermath of the words used and misused by President Biden in his long and embarrassing press conference on Wednesday night at the White House, on the situation of the American crisis and Ukraine. What did Biden say that was so terrible?
It was this: that the U.S. was anticipating that Putin would “move in” to Ukraine, something NATO was on alert for, but that Biden doesn’t think he wants “a full-blown war”; however, if there were a “minor incursion,” the NATO countries would end up ”having a fight about what to do and not to do.” Putin would have to decide, while Biden emphasized that “it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine.”
After weeks of negotiations, this was the result. There was shock and surprise during the press conference, so much so that during the evening, spokeswoman Jen Psaki hastened to clarify that the president was making a difference between an attack and “aggression short of military action,” such as a cyberattack – a distinction Biden did not make – and that an invasion would be “met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our allies.”
The ambiguity of Biden’s stance reached the Ukrainian government – the one that wants to join NATO at all costs – which said that it categorically rejected any green light given to Putin for a “minor incursion.” On Friday, Blinken met with Lavrov, but the fog that heralds a storm is unlikely to clear.
In essence, what is the pretext, the most appropriate casus belli that the US and NATO are looking for? Because it seems clear that the climate of uncertainty, in this dangerous moment, is rife for precisely such a pretextual scenario—which, one might fear, would be very similar to what happened in Georgia in August 2008. When Prime Minister Saakashvili – who later became a Ukrainian minister and is now serving prison time in Georgia – launched an ill-thought-out attack against the Russian and pro-Russian rebels of Ossetia, on slapdash advice from NATO, within 24 hours hundreds of Russian tanks arrived, starting a war that was disastrous for Tbilisi.
This is the possibility: an accident, or rather a Ukrainian attack on the front of the Donbass – a civil war that has already caused 14,000 dead and two million refugees – which would be a provocation that would cause the immediate reaction of the Russian troops massed on the borders, as has been long denounced. While one should not forget that the Minsk Agreements, drawn up with a central role played by Angela Merkel, said that Russia was not considering the Donbass another Crimea, and accepted autonomy for the province within Ukraine.
We left out that the ambiguities in Biden’s conference were not only about Ukraine, but also about the internal crisis. In this regard, Biden recognized that his political program had reached a stall, bordering on defeat: six months ago he declared the defeat of the pandemic, while today it is rampant once again in the U.S. more than anywhere else; there is worrying economic data concerning inflation; he is unable to overcome the obstructionism of the Republicans; and there is no hope for the voting rights legislative package, which has faced opposition even in the Democratic house—all in a country that considers itself a “beacon of democracy.”
We belong to the school of thought that is against war, which should be shunned as a wicked instrument wielded in international crises, as per the principles of the Italian Constitution. We are against any militarism and military bloc, be it Western, Russian, Chinese or whichever. This conviction remains steadfast; the tragic evidence of the two years of pandemic only adds strength to it.
Is it really possible that, even with so many other priorities, Western governments want the enlargement of NATO to the East, with weapons systems, missiles, troops, naval and land bases of 28 allied countries surrounding Russia, with a “massing at the borders” that seems made on purpose to provoke a reaction? Is it possible that European governments are investing in further rearmaments, as does our “number one” Draghi, or Macron in the announcement of his platform? Is it possible to even think that behind all the empty talk about the “ecological transition” lies the lucrative revival of the military-industrial complex, which, among other harmful effects, also has that of pushing every country towards rearmament, starting from Russia and the real antagonist, China? And then, with the result of identifying the enemy and imposing new sanctions, which are now nothing more than a double-edged sword in the era of a lack of resources.
All this as the only reason left to be invoked for political legitimacy. Yet the fragility of the world economic system, faced with the shortage of energy and raw materials after two years of pandemic, says that it is no legitimacy at all. It is a systemic fragility that an “Afghan-style” hotbed of war, ignited in the middle of Europe, would definitively cause to explode.