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Europe is at war again! Europe is at war again!
by Christos Mouzeviris
2022-03-20 08:12:06
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It is hard to believe that Europe is at war once more. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the situation has been escalated and it hangs by a thread, with every European hoping that it will end soon. However, we have to realize that it most likely won't, plus that it is not only Ukraine and Russia that are at war right now.

An economic and information war has also been waging for the past 20 days, starting with the sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia- all 4 rounds of them, which will obviously retaliate as these sanctions get worse; and everything indicated that they would from the beginning. Europe and the US are determined to support Ukraine, but the only way they can at the moment, is with arms and financial aid. They will not risk an open war with Russia, so we are all left watching as this tragedy unfolds in disbelief.

But the war does not stop on finances. Propaganda and counter propaganda has been circulating on social media and news channels from all sides.European universities hit by an apparent piece of Russian disinformation have had to quash rumours circulating online after the country’s human rights commissioner claimed Russian students are being expelled from campuses in Europe. Several organisations and institutions have had to clarify they are not expelling Russian students after claims by the Kremlin-supporting official circulated on social media.

ukreu0001_400That was most likely an exaggerated reaction to what European countries resolved to, in order to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only has Russia been stripped of two prestigious events – the Champions League men’s final and Formula One’s Russian Grand Prix –but an increasing number of performances by Russians are being cancelled worldwide. Concerts, dance recitals and exhibitions have been postponed indefinitely .

In Greece for example, Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni ordered the suspension of any current or upcoming activities and events held in Greece in collaboration with Russian cultural organisations, the ministry said. In addition, Greece’s biggest gaming firm OPAP on Monday halted betting on Russian sport events in solidarity with Ukraine where a Russian invasion continues. OPAP said it has stopped offering betting on any match related to Russian competitions, including football, basketball and volleyball, either online or through its outlets in Greece.

This indicates that European nations are determined not only to hit Russia hard, but to humiliate it for its actions against Ukraine. I wonder though if Vladimir Putin and his supporters are really bothered by all this, or is the West just acting bitterly for what it cannot control. Is cancelling Russian arts throughout the continent, which have been an integral part of our collective heritage, the way to solve the impasse? Western nations lost the chance to help Ukraine 8 years ago, when the civil war started; they should have pulled the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy aside, to try and mediate a solution between the two warring communities, before Putin decided to intervene himself. But is this what Western nations really sought as a solution after all in the first place.

Europe's hysteric Russophobia.

Four years ago, I had the unique privilege to work as an election observer in the last Russian presidential elections in the city of Kazan, which of course Putin won. The fear and hysteria that I received about my decision to accept the invitation was phenomenal. Some of my friends warned me to be careful of what the Russians offer me to drink, in case they poisoned and killed me. But why would Russian officials ask me over to their country to assassinate me, since they could easily do it while I was in Ireland. Or why would I become a target, as I never wrote anything in favor or against Vladimir Putin and his government.

All I ever insisted on saying for years, is that Europe should try and work on its relations with Russia, if they were ever in the mood for the same of course. After all, it is a country which shares borders with us and will never go away thus we should do so, not for their sake, but for ours. In various articles that I wrote for this blog and Europa United- which have been translated in french for the now banned in Europe, Sputnik channel, I presented a scenario where Europe achieves its own military and foreign policy, distances slightly itself from USA, while remaining in close cooperation with it, but approaching somewhat Russia, in order to achieve long lasting peace on the continent, putting aside our differences.

And by only writing sympathetically about EU-Russian relations, it was enough sometimes to put me in the same basket as many "Putinists", individuals that are rather on the payroll of Putin or his "usefull idiots", spreading propaganda and lies. For starters, the only article I ever got paid was the one I did for Euronews, plus I really wish someone had paid me a penny for the over 300 articles I wrote in my 12 year blogging experience.

I remember the debates we had with my other editors of the various online platforms I contributed, on how to present these articles, reporting from the Russian elections and explaining my position on why we could benefit from stable and somewhat "good relations" with our neighbours; without of course sounding like a Putin propaganda platform, or having to "neutralize" them with an contradicting opinion piece for balance afterwards. As if in a real democracy we must be apologetic for our opinion, principles or merits. If only one point of view is accepted, then we are not too different than the autocratic "regimes" we so much love to criticise.

It is evident that it is Europe and America that have a real problem with Russia and not just the other way around. European progressives, liberals and other intellectuals, usually see Russia as the "enemy", their ideological nemesis that they must constantly bash in order to validate their positions, whilst presenting the country as a threat, in order to convince Europeans to unite. That is something that I always disagreed with, since I do not think that a federal, united Europe should be forced or based upon fear, of Russia or anyone else, rather the realisation of a common set of values and future that we must all aspire to. America's problem of course is wanting to keep Russia out of Europe altogether, as they see our continent their own playground and "sphere of influence".

In addition, countries on the Eastern front of the continent, that sadly fell beyond the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, are understandably very suspicious and wary of Russia and its interests. But if the Russians wanted to claim their countries back, they would have made a move or staged a protest prior to 2004 and their mass entry in the EU. It is the military Western expansion they object to, especially when it comes to Ukraine and Caucasus. So any hysteria or fears that after Ukraine, others will follow must stop, unless the war escalates further into a NATO-Russia war. The only way for Eastern Europe to soothe its relations with Russia and build up trust again, is if the latter acknowledges and apologises for its mistakes during the Soviet era-in which Russians suffered too by the way, plus Eastern Europeans are willing to do so; no military alliance and build-up, or American influence and "protection" can achieve this, in fact the US military presence may be exactly what pours more oil to the flame.

Moreover, I always found it rather hypocrytical that Western nations have no problem collaborating with worse regimes than Russia, like Saudi Arabia for example. Have any of the Western expats in United Arab Emirates, dared to stage a campaign there about LGBT rights, democracy, gay pride etc.? How do we expect to change a country like Russia to fit our standards in order to do business with it, since we are unable to change EU member states like Hungary and Poland- hardly beacons of liberal democracies themselves, while they are integrated in our institutions? Besides, why must everyone in the world share our own values, in order to be worthy of our acceptance and praise? I am a proud European, thus a Westerner, but unlike some of my kind, I do not expect other nations to share my values in order to coexist, trade or interact with them.

The West had always varied rules for different nations too. Bashing Greece for its bail-out prgramme, while giving Ireland just a slap on the wrist for the same. Proceeding in quick sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine, but never acting as decisively for other ongoing conflicts like Yemen, Syria, Cyprus and the Palestine issue. Scolding Russia for its wars, but never USA for its failures in the Middle East that resulted in thousands trying to flee into Europe. Being so keen in receiving Ukrainian refugees, but making it as awkward in finding a solution for those from Syria. The latter have to stay in refugee camps, while the Ukrainians are being given visa free access to EU nations.

In a recent televised interview on the Irish national broadcaster RTE, TV presenter David McCullagh has gone viral after his "priceless" interview with the Russian Ambassador in the country. The journalist spoke to Ambassador Yury Filatov as Russian troops continued to invade Ukraine, whilst he maintained an agressive tone of voice, barely allowing his guest to speak or explain. The news anchor said the ambassador was giving the "Russian version of events" which are "misleading". It was slightly embarassing to watch, as if journalists are meant to be openly biased and "grill" plus embarass their guests, not try to get answers from them, thinking that we as viewers are stupid and cannot, or should not make our own minds, if what Mr Filatov was saying was true or nonsense.

He also asked "why does our government entertain your presence here when you're acting as an apologist for slaughter?".Mr Filatov responded: "It is a good question. You might ask your government. It's up to them. I can leave any time." This has become viral on the internet, especially in the US where they happily made a laughing stock of Mr Filatov. Such incident of course would never happen to a US Ambassador, or any other Western diplomat in Ireland, since the country relies heavily on US investments and companies to accumulate its wealth. Ireland would never "grill" any US official like this, questioning him for example about their involvement in Afghanistan and their failure to secure a victory in the country after of 20 years of presence, which resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis, only a few months ago.

The only good thing that came out of this, is that Ireland is finally abandoning the taboo of "neutrality" and for the first time in the 18 years that I live in this country, I viewed a debate on national television about this long cherished policy. It was finally admitted that Ireland is neutral "only militarily" and not politically, and that we as a country have chosen sides long ago. Finland is having the same debate and I believe also Sweden. Because if these countries feel they belong into a "block", then they should start exploring ways to contribute more to its security. Until now, Finland had a rather high military spending to protect itself from Russia (allegedly), while Ireland like Austria and Switzerland, enjoyed the so called necessary "protection and stability" that NATO offers to Europe, rather for free.

Don't get me wrong, I also hate militarization. In this age and time I feel it is disgraceful that we all have to resolve in high military spending to protect one from the other, while we fail to solve issues with diplomacy. It is shameful that instead of hospitals and schools, we must make bombs to kill other peoples, because they have different views than us. I am a staunch pacifist. But if we have to keep NATO for "protection", then all countries of Europe that are for US military presence and investments in the continent and have chosen "sides", should contribute to its budget. Why must countries like Poland and Greece for example, be the spear heads against any "Russian threat" after all?

Europe is at war!

However all the above is about to change. Ireland recently published a Commission on the Defence Forces report, which recommended that the Government work towards three levels of "ambition" on military reform and upgrade. Level one is maintaining the current status quo, while level two would mean plugging gaps in the current security apparatus by acquiring capabilities such a military radar system and modern aircraftcost, for an extra €500 million a year. Level three would see Ireland upgrading the Defence Forces to the level of other countries of similar size, which would bring the defence budget to about €3 billion a year.The commission recommended that the Government work towards level two, for now.

So you see what that the consequences of Russia's invasion- because it is an invasion, no matter how the Russians try to call it or mask it, are far reaching and not only Ukraine is affected. Europe is at war. On the 13th of March, the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin whilst on a diplomatic trip to London on the UK's response to the refugee crisis, stated that Ireland is heading into a war economy, further pressure on food and fuel over the coming weeks. We are all in this together and there is no going back now.

Sadly, all of this could have been avoided, if America, Europe and Russia found a way to soothe out their differences, but I doubt if any party was really keen. In a 2019 Forbes article, the view was that here’s no real reason to sanction Russia anymore, other than just hating Russia because it’s run by Vladimir Putin. This opinion came after the Special Counsel investigation was over and the only thing that the US Senator Robert Mueller could find involving Russians that was worth punishing with an actual crime, were these 13 “troll farms” that had no impact on the US election outcome, according to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And whose participants will never see a U.S. court or prison, sanctioning bonds was "passé". Russia, for Wall Street anyway, has been exonerated. The Mueller testimony was a total face plant for the Democrats and anyone looking to link Trump to a villainous Russia.

So why did the Russophobia and hysteria in Europe continued? In the same article, they described that Russia was until 2019 the hottest-performing emerging market. The VanEck ETF was up 26% while No. 2 Brazil was up 18.9% and the MSCI Emerging Markets benchmark was up 9.3%. Since the summer of 2014, Russian oil and gas firms and Russian banks have been sanctioned by the U.S. and to some extent Europe, though Europe did not sanction oil and gas entities. The sanctions were all due to Russian involvement in a separatist movement in East Ukraine. “The conclusion of the Mueller investigation reduces the urgency for the U.S. Congress to impose additional sanctions on Russia,” stated Federico Kaune, head of emerging-markets fixed income at UBS Asset Management.

Thus, if only three years ago relations between the West and Russia seemed to be normalizing, what happened since then that tipped the scales and drove Vladimir Putin so "mad", that he decided to invade Ukraine? Could it be the change of American leadership? There has been a video being circulated on social media, of current US President Joe Biden, "predicting" that if NATO ever expands to the Baltics, there will be war in Europe.

So why didn't he follow his own"predictions"? Many others foresaw that Nato expansion would lead to war. It has long been clear that it would lead to tragedy. "We are now paying the price for the US’s arrogance", as we read in a Guardian article. Bill Clinton’s administration had made the decision to push for including some former Warsaw Pact countries into the alliance. The administration would soon propose inviting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to become members, and the US Senate approved adding those countries to the North Atlantic Treaty in 1998. Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state during the Clinton administration, described then the Russian reaction; “Many Russians see Nato as a vestige of the cold war, inherently directed against their country. They point out that they have disbanded the Warsaw Pact, their military alliance, and ask why the West should not do the same.” It was an excellent question, and neither the Clinton administration nor its successors provided even a remotely convincing answer.

And the same sentiment is what I got when I was working as and election observer in Russia. Many of the country's youth were supporting Vladimir Putin, something that we in the West cannot understand. Young people in our countries are usually backing progressive parties that push for liberal reforms, however in Russia they seem to stand behind Putin, who we see as an "oligarch and authoritarian dictator". And that is because not only we do not understand Russia and its society, but rather we push them towards people like Putin.

Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 1990s came amid the tumultuous years of low-living standards, corruption and unbridled capitalism that benefited a small sector of society following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; the so called "Oligarchs", that the West so much loaths but is pleased to receive their money. When Putin became Russia’s president in the year 2000 many Russians were happy to see a leader come to power who promised to reconstruct the country economically and politically. Since that first presidential election Putin has certainly overseen Russia’s restoration to the international stage and a sense of national pride among many Russians. He went after many of the "oligarchs", making enemies while trying to reform Russia, the way he thought best.

So any wave of sanctions that endangers what Putin has built all these years, do not necessarily "work" on the Russian public opinion, the way we expect them to do. Harming the Russian economy to spite Putin, often helps achieve the opposite. Many of these "Putin's youths" that I spoke with during my stay in Moscow and Kazan in 2018, expressed not only the love for their country, their support for Putin's "reforms", but also a fear, perhaps unfounded, that their country will be again humiliated and mistreated by the West, forced to shrink and become impoverished once more. They are bitter of the way the West is treating their country, when in their words "27 million of their soldiers died suring WW2 to save Europe from fascism.

As I wrote in my 2018 articles, Russia is not a homogenous society, but is rather comprised by many ethnic and religious groups, living in a vast area spanning two continents; Europe and Asia. Thus perhaps, the Western liberal democratic model cannot work for them, since they are so keen to hold their country together and not lose any more territory. Something similar to the Greek paranoic mentality of losing more islands to a NATO ally of theirs, Turkey. A Western model, with all the freedoms that it offers, perhaps is not appropriate at this stage, when the Russian society is transitioning still into a capitalist one, but in a different pace in its regions. So any financial sanctions that the West imposes, could be triggering an even more conservative reflex among its population. But that does not seem to bother Western liberals. In their mind, everyone must abide by Western values, even if they are not suitable for them, or face ridicule and economic sanctions, for daring to challenge the Western economic hegemony.

Because ultimatelly, this is what is all about. Financial interests and poor Ukraine is caught in the middle and pays the ultimate price. Americans do not want a prosperous Russia, nor any other country that they see as a threat. Ideally they want them out of Europe, which they see as their sphere of influence. So how dare the Russians seek closer relations and trade, or to become members of NATO and contribute to the North Atlantic Alliance's security? If in 2019 the Trump administration decided to end sanctions against Russia, but now Biden forced Putin to invade Ukraine- a bad decision and a huge mistake by all means that it may be, but clearly indicates a war between the West and Russia, hidden under the facade of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

With Western companies exiting Russia and talks of Russia of nationalizing them, economic sanctions, trade wars, rise of oil and gas prices due to the halt of imports from Russia, the situation is a fully fledged conflict already. And it has been brewing for years and both sides were preparing for it. While I was visiting Kazan, I was taken to see the "Russian Silicon Valley", a newly built small town complete with apartments and shops at the outskirts of the Tatarstan capital, aimed to act as an alternative to the American hegemony and dominance of the internet; at least in Russia. Or maybe perhaps, prepare the country for a pull-out from the world wide web; sounds familiar? Only a few months before the war in Ukraine, Greece approved new US military bases around the port city of Alexandroupolis in the northern region of Thrace. Propaganda and information wars were already in full swing in both Russian and Western media, for a considerable amount of time, prior to the Russian invasion.

The issue is, why Putin now decided to cut off ties with the West, exit the Council of Europe, turn his country into a pariah and isolated from most of the rest of the world? Did he get pissed off by the Biden administration and decided, "the hell with it, this will never work, I am out"! However this is nothing to celebrate in Europe. A poor, unstable, humiliated and hostile Russia right to our doorstep, is far worse and more dangerous that what we already had. Plus, Ukraine may be sadly partitioned in the aftermath for good and any further EU/NATO expansion eastwards and to the Caucasus, could be permanently put on ice, if a rogue, hostile and desperate Russia wants revenge.

Many Western "analysts" who are so keen comparing the "dictator" Putin to Hitler and how he built up his propaganda prior his invasion of Poland and Czechoslovakia, conveniently forget how the Allied obsession of humilating Germany after WW1, encouraged the Germans to bring someone like Hitler in power. This is also something to learn from, but Westerners prefer only to see the links between Hitler and Putin, not what actually drove their victory and establishment in their countries and so we repeat the same mistakes.

With scores of anti-war Russians leaving Russia to escape to Finland and the Caucasus countries, any hope for maintaining a West-friendly movement within Russia, fades. So how can we expect to have any allies within the country, in order to reconcile sometime in the future? In addition, since some in the West desire to make Putin answer for his "crimes" in the International Criminal Court, they will need a Western friendly movement within Russia to achieve this. We are not dealing with Serbia, which was easier to subdue by war back in the '90s, in order as a condition to their surrender to demand the hand-over of any of their officials to be trialed. Russia has nukes and is better prepared for a conflict with the West. Thus, maintaining some relations with Russia could prove wise in the future.

It is very sad and regretful that Vladimir Putin chose war, in which thousands will die, so that he can make a stand against Western selfishness. His nation will suffer, as well as us Europeans and there is no turning back now. It will take decades for our relations to go back to what they were before, if ever. Europe is determined now to stop its reliance on Russian oil and gas. Who wins from all that? NATO and USA, something that is not good for either Europe or Russia. The first comes totally under America's "umbrella" and influence, is getting militarized and faces years of financial difficulties, in order to transition from relying on Russian energy for too long; only to replace this reliance with one to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, themselves often described as authoritarian "regimes". How hypocritical. On the other hand, the US government has pledged to ramp up liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, to help cut Europe's reliance on Russian gas. However, progress is slow due to concerns about the impact on climate change.. Seriously?

Russia consequently, becomes isolated and cut off from the West and much of the world that is allied to it. NATO wins members and sees its budget increased, while America and its oil, gas and arms industries are saying "BINGO"..!! They are going to gain big time out of this. Russia is finally out, Nord Stream 2 most likely will be scrapped, Europe will rely on USA for energy, protection and everything really so yes, this is great, thanks Mr Putin! This has been a bad decision, which we are all going to pay with our taxes for decades to come. I plead to all our leaders, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Emmanuel Macron and all the governments of Europe and EU officials, please think this again and stop this war while there is still time! There can be no winners from this and how would you like to be remembered in the future; as the ones who plundged the world into despair and poverty?


      
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