In the past few days, the curve of war escalation has been steepening, but this is beginning to produce some cracks in the war front. That’s because the words of the NATO secretary-general basically announcing the start of war against Russia have begun to arouse some fear and even some irritation towards the great American ally that commands the Atlantic Alliance: the war will be waged in Europe, not across the ocean, where some people continue to think that it can be taken lightly because others are fighting it, by proxy or remotely.
And yet, despite some beginnings of self-critical reflection, European governments, and those in the United States who fervently support them, are still marching toward possible catastrophe on Biden’s orders.
Although Stoltenberg could not have been clearer – as accurately reported by the German newspaper Die Welt, among the few that reported his words without attempting to downplay their significance – when he said: “Ukraine must win this war because it defends its country. NATO members will never agree to the illegal annexation of Crimea.”
This was immediately after Zelensky, for the first time, had hinted at possible negotiations, accepting that the Donbass would be the object of discussions for the time being, refraining from putting the far more difficult issue of Crimea on the table.
Without holding NATO to account for practically declaring the start of World War III without consulting anyone, at the meeting in Ramstein, a U.S. military base in Germany, the more than 40 or so Western allies, some of whom had been initially cautious, did not bat an eye this time. Likewise for the “Big 7.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reinforced Stoltenberg’s threat, saying that with the modern offensive weapons from the U.S., Ukraine “can win” against Russia, and that it could be defeated with a further push.
How will that happen? It’s one possible outcome of a worldwide military confrontation – which has already started, moreover, since the most influential American newspapers (which ended up reprimanded by the White House for it) and then the U.S. secret services have informed us of the direct role being played by the United States in the Ukrainian war that is already underway.
I do not know if everyone realizes what all this means, as it is clear that it will be very difficult to defeat Russia militarily, at least certainly not in the short term, but after a devastation of European lands likely prolonged for many years. This means that the horrors that are happening in Ukraine right now – dead young soldiers, civilians, women and children lying in the streets, destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, cars, which we are seeing every night on TV – could end up happening right on our doorstep.
Unfortunately, I fear there is a dangerous underestimation of the gravity of the future that awaits us if we fail to impose another direction, that of negotiations right away that would leave Crimea aside for now and aim to find a solution for the southern regions just as has been found in Europe for so many other territories where two different communities are coexisting.
Fortunately, some realize the dangers and have made moves in this direction.
First, newly reelected French President Macron, who, in his long speech on Monday, explicitly addressing Stoltenberg’s words, stressed that “We are not at war with Russia” and that “The goal of the discussion and the negotiation will be set by Ukraine and Russia. But it will not be done in denial, nor in exclusion of each other, and also not in humiliation.”
And among the experts questioned on daily Italian TV shows, some took the courage to say things might not be going in the right direction. Giampiero Gramaglia, from IAI, did so quite clearly, pointing out that there is by no means a united world front behind the West; India and China alone account for 40% of the world’s population. Similar views were echoed by another expert, from ISPI.
With the prudence obligatory for a diplomat, doubts were also expressed by the Italian ambassador to Kiev, Zazo, who said that Ukraine – for which a 50% drop in GDP has already been predicted – needs peace as soon as possible, and thus negotiations. He added: “We have an ethical duty to contribute to a solution.”
German Chancellor Scholz was more vacillating, as he is being pressed by his Green deputy, who, although coming from a pacifist tradition, is now among the warmongers. He first said that it’s not true that the German Constitution prohibits war altogether (like the Italian), but only if the country goes to war alone, not if it does so together with the EU and NATO. Nonetheless, he added that Berlin would never do in Ukraine what the pro-war camp would like.
Most significant of all was Thomas Friedman’s article in the New York Times on Friday: “We are no longer in an indirect war with Russia but rather are edging toward a direct war — and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that.”
What about Draghi – who will go to Washington to receive an international leadership award, together with (interestingly enough) ENI CEO De Scalzi – what will he tell Biden? That the Italian people are prepared for a worldwide clash?
Perhaps we will never know clearly, just as we don’t know what the commitments made towards NATO are – neither we nor our Parliament, where there are still a few who are demanding to be informed in what capacity NATO is also speaking on behalf of Italy: the Italian Left, the diverse little group called Manifesta, a few Five Star deputies, and, thankfully, Conte, who, on behalf of his large party group (although part of the government coalition), is asking that Parliament should be informed before going to war with Russia.
For now, the sole consolation is the large mobilization of the feminist movement against the war, under the slogan: “Feminism is about the defense of humans, not states.” Meanwhile, Russia celebrated its Victory Day with a large military parade (as is customary for them), but with a speech by Putin that was less threatening than usual, if not downright defensive: there was no declaration of war on Ukraine, as many had confidently predicted.
I must confess that I find this traditional parade very moving, when I see the veterans marching, those who survived the sacrifice of 25 million Russians to save their country but also all of us.
On the other hand, I get very angry when Putin insists that the whole West is Nazi. It’s true that the West is arrogant, and its actions in the world have been a mixed bag, and it’s equally true that our democracy is seriously deteriorated. But it’s still certainly better than the regime Putin has imposed on Russia – and above all, the notion that we are all Nazis doesn’t reflect reality.