The “dogs of war” are off their leash, and now this is no longer just a figure of speech, but a description of fact. The incident in Kerch may herald a far more serious situation in Europe than during the Cold War. The Russian Navy fired on and captured Ukrainian warships sailing in Russian waters. Yet even the EU warned Kiev on Monday to “respect international law.” Ukraine declared martial law and went on the offensive in the Donbass, and the neo-Nazis of the Azov Battalion occupied Maidan square.
The precipice that leads to all-out war is right before our eyes. Beyond the endless attempts by all parties to place the blame on the other, this is a situation that all the European governments are complicit in because they have set up the conditions for this scenario that has now degenerated into armed confrontation.
Of course, the main problem is not the common European home that Gorbachev wanted after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but rather NATO’s strategy of enlargement toward the east. As a result of this strategy, all the countries behind the former Iron Curtain (except Russia) had joined NATO by 2004. Despite the fact the Warsaw Pact had been dissolved in 1995, they entered an Atlantic alliance aimed at mounting a powerful siege against the former Soviet Union, which no longer existed.
NATO’s eastward expansion—which even US defense ministers and many advisers to American presidents have been against, all sadly unheeded—has already resulted in open warfare in the summer of 2008, when Georgian Prime Minister Saakashvili, encouraged by NATO, mounted a military offensive against the Abkhazian territories, parts of Georgia which had proclaimed their independence along with Ossetia. Russia had an immediate and unforgiving reaction, and it ended up a disaster for Georgia and its leader, who, from that moment on, was practically driven out of his own country, only to pop up again later as a minister in Ukraine, later ending up arrested by the current Ukrainian President Poroshenko himself.
The current supersized version of NATO is constructing dozens and dozens of military bases, now scattered throughout Eastern Europe and around the Black Sea—the site of the recent incident—on the Romanian and Bulgarian coasts. It is deploying an anti-missile shield system in Poland and Romania. NATO controls the defense budgets of all these countries, which are also some of the very ones that have bristled against a democratic, supranational and welcoming European Union. And the Alliance is conducting myriad military maneuvers. It is doing all these things close to the Russian borders.
The untruth NATO gives as the motivation for this expansion is the defense of democracy, with explicit reference to the crisis in Ukraine. However, in the Baltics, particularly in Estonia, there are formally democratic regimes where—according to the UN and the Council of Europe—the human rights of minorities are being violated, particularly those of the Russian minority. At the same time, while in the case of the rebellious Donbass regions Russia remains open to negotiations aimed at giving them autonomous status within Ukraine, Western partisan narratives are being pushed ever louder on the Crimea issue, the same ones that have been used for a long time to justify economic sanctions against Moscow.
The Western narratives overlook, among other things, the way in which this manifest state of constant siege by the Atlantic Pact against Russia is counterproductive, to say the least, and is a substantial help to Putin, enabling him to keep a firm grip on power. Furthermore, what Russia did with Crimea—a historically Russian region given over by the Kremlin to Kiev in 1954, all within the group that was the Soviet Union—is a far less serious crime compared to what NATO has done in Kosovo, betraying the Kumanovo peace agreement which ended the 78-day “humanitarian war” of air raids by authorizing a unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 that is still a divisive issue among the EU countries as well as at the UN.
Kosovo remains an open wound—one which opened up, not coincidentally, around the American military base at Camp Bondsteel. In Crimea, a referendum was held with a turnout of more than 90 percent, while in Pristina only 43 percent of eligible voters went to the polls; however, Kosovo’s independence—that of a state that everyone defines as essentially a “criminal” one—was sponsored and immediately recognized by the US and by crucial NATO countries, such as Germany and France.
How much longer will we have to wait for the plot of this drama—that Italy is itself a bit player in—to become clear to everyone? It is only worsening the ongoing disaster in Europe. It’s clear that what is threatening the necessary and valuable supranationalism of the European Union is not only the nefarious national sovereignisms fueled by insurgent xenophobic populism, which delude themselves waiting for another Commission after the European elections of 2019, while it is quite clear by now that what will be left after the elections will be a Europe without a future and without a real Union, and instead chock-full of national sovereignisms pointing their weapons at each other.
What is now plainly evident is that among the enemies of European supranationalism is also NATO’s military supranationalism—one which is far from being democratic, as by its very statutes it is directed from elsewhere, i.e. by the US military command, and which undermines the democratic processes (from whole territories reduced to military servitude to the re-deployment of hundreds of atomic bombs in Europe and Italy, and including the defense budgets that Trump wants increased). This is what the current armed crisis in the Black Sea is telling us.
Let’s stop the unproductive criticism of the EU, which has kept the peace in recent years and which has never started wars in southeastern Europe or in the Caucasus, or supported armed revolts as in Ukraine. Let’s try instead to listen for the echoes of the chasm that we are about to unwittingly fall in.