Europe: The Lost Peace

Europe. The Russia-Ukraine war has forever changed perceptions of security in Europe. The last 8 weeks have been the most serious shock to European security since 1945. And although the war continues, some key moments of the confrontation can be talks about today.

No more “love”.

The Russia-Ukraine war has become the biggest armed conflict in Europe since the World War II. However, the Kremlin failed to “reconstruct” the Wehrmacht takeover of Poland or the defeat of France in 1940. The Kremlin blitzkrieg failed. Losses incurred by the aggressor are enormous, in some respects exceeding the figures of armaments of leading European countries.  There is another important point: the victim of an attack by Russia, which has a nuclear arsenal, was a country that voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal in the first half of the 1990s. Actions of Russia undermine the existing world security system and make us think about reforming it now.

I should note that the Russia-Ukraine war has become a confrontation between the two former republics of the USSR. Ukraine’s success (political, economic, in integrating into existing alliances or creating its own geopolitical projects) is a huge challenge for Russia, as evidenced by the behavior of the Russian occupiers in the suburbs of Kiev. For a long time now, the world has not faced such concentrated hatred on the part of the representatives of one nation to another. Let me remind you that Vladimir Putin recently stopped calling the representatives of Ukraine a “brotherly nation for Russia”; today in Russia they talk about “denazification”.

Let me remind you that Russia competes with Ukraine on the world grain market, so a Russia-Ukraine war could provoke a significant food crisis in the Middle East and Africa. The Kremlin’s desire to drive Ukrainian grain out of its traditional markets is clear, and it needs to counter it with asymmetric measures, in particular the creation of a dry port in cooperation with Poland. No food shortages are foreseen in Ukraine (the stock is sufficient but exports have dropped to zero), and the importance of our country for the food security of the world will become clear to many.  Our country exports more than half of the world’s sunflower oil, and it is also a significant factor in the food security of the planet.

Surprises with a continuation

Contrary to the Kremlin’s calculations and the predictions of numerous Western analysts, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have not collapsed under the aggressor’s blows, but have managed to organize an active defense, successfully containing the superior forces of Russia. The aggressor has already lost at least 150 planes and helicopters, and the number of armored vehicles and cars destroyed and captured as trophies are hundreds. Military experts note the high tactical experience of Ukrainian defenders, noting the successful interaction of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with territorial defense units, border guards and police officers.

Despite the assurances of the Russian fifth column, the political class of Ukraine has not been torn to pieces by strife. President Volodymyr Zelensky has become a recognized symbol of Ukraine’s resistance, who is carefully listened in Ukraine and abroad. Volodymyr Zelensky’s intense schedule of communication with fellow citizens and foreign partners suggests that his group of speechwriters has been reinforced by representatives from the US or the UK. The public activity of the head of state is based on consensus within the country, which is reflected in the adequate position of the most popular politicians. The ban by the National Security and Defense Council on pro-Russian OPZZH projects and the Sharia party, one of the left-wing parties, seems a logical, though not a flawless, legal step. At the same time, a number of questions arose about the principles of forming a television pool of the UArazom information marathon, which did not include a group of pro-Ukrainian TV channels. Their broadcasting is limited.

The Ukrainian economy is suffering heavy losses, with GDP falling by at least 35 per cent in 2022, but a number of measures are keeping the situation under control. They include freezing of the exchange rate of the hryvnia by the National Bank, the introduction of state guarantees for individual deposits in banks, international aid to cover current needs of the economy, simplification of taxation and the de facto opening of customs for the rapid passage of humanitarian aid. Ukraine has also benefited from the lessons of the Revolution of Dignity and the controversial experience of a coronavirus-induced lockdown. It allowed forming an algorithm for remote interaction between different individuals and communities. Great respect is due to the work of Ukrainian energy, communications and transport workers and the organization of efforts to evacuate significant number of people. Ukrzaliznytsia has managed to evacuate millions of people from dangerous locations. The recent strike by a Russian Tochka-U missile at the Kramatorsk railway station, which killed more than 50 people, looks even more barbaric.

Since the outbreak of hostilities, some 5 million citizens, mostly women and children, have been forced to leave Ukraine. To prevent the migration crisis from turning into a demographic catastrophe, there is, however, a ray of hope: one million Ukrainian citizens have crossed the state border to their homeland. This does not, however, negate the need for a state programme to rehabilitate jobs and bring temporary migrants back home.

Peculiarities of aggression

One of the peculiarities of the confrontation compared to 2014 is that Russian propaganda works mainly for the domestic consumer, who has almost no access to Facebook or Instagram. The goal of the information policy of the Kremlin – to create a monolithic society – has generally been achieved, with ¾ of Russians supporting the war in Ukraine. Let me remind you that one of the first decisions of the European Commission after the start of the Russian aggression was the recommendation to limit broadcasting of Russia Today TV channel and the functioning of Sputnik Media news agency on the territory of the European Union.

Inside Russia, the information space is virtually monolithic. Immediately after the start of the “special operation” in Ukraine (let me remind you that the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 was called “peace enforcement”) Ekho Moskvy radio station and the internet publication Znak stopped their activities in Russia. After them Novaya Gazeta stopped its operation as well. Information space of Russia has become surprisingly monolithic, but this impression is misleading: Telegram is gaining considerable popularity there, allowing it to circumvent bans on “spreading fake news about the Russian army”. As you know, at the end of February 2022, the Russian parliament passed a law in just one day’s time that provides for penalties of up to 15 years in prison “for attempts to discredit the Russian army”. Another telling fact is the decriminalization of punishment for marauding in Russia.

The sanctions imposed on the Russian economy have indeed become unprecedented, but it is naive to expect that they will immediately throw millions of Russians from the illusion of the middle class into the abyss of impoverishment. Both the size of the Russian Federation and the volume of its foreign currency reserves are too big. By the way, those who believe that the seizure of about $300 billion of Russian reserves in the West will necessarily entail their transfer to Ukraine should get rid of their illusions. Such a move is possible only through a court ruling, and there is no talk of creating one yet.

The Russian authorities immediately accused Meta of extremism and restricted its citizens’ access to Facebook and Instagram.  In effect, a kind of information fortress is being created within the besieged Russian Federation, the operation of which has already led to a significant level of support for the actions of the Russian Forces in Ukraine.

While Russian military officials regularly report on the success of Ukraine’s demilitarization, the situation with “denazification” looks different. It is difficult to denazify a country whose president is Jewish by nationality. Russian ideological constructs should encompass the consistent destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Ukraine, the aim of which is to slow down the country’s development as much as possible.

The liberation of settlements in Kyiv, Sumy and Chernihiv regions from the Russian invaders made it possible to uncover the truth about war crimes committed by the occupiers. Unfortunately, the dehumanization of Ukrainians, which began systematically in 2014, had its terrible consequences. Murder, torture, rape and kidnapping have become components of the occupation policy of Russia. With particular cynicism, after the revelation of the massacre in Bucha by the Russian military, political analyst Timofey Serhiytsev and Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev engaged in a public debate about the need for “dehumanization”.

Mariupol with half a million of population, has been under siege almost from the first days of the war. Pope Francis rightly called it a “martyr city” in which the Russian occupiers are trying a monstrous experiment. The bombing of a children’s hospital and a drama theatre in the centre of the Azov region caused a shock. Today there are about 100 thousand civilians left in Mariupol, quite a few evacuated from the city have been taken to Russia. But Mariupol continues to fight, although in the militarily area it has long since completed the task of deterring the Russian forces.

Apart from the crimes against civilians, which shocked the entire civilized world, it is worth paying attention to a number of tactical peculiarities of the actions of the invading forces.  From the first days of the Russia-Ukraine war, the targets of missile attacks were civilian infrastructure, among which TV towers attracted the particular attention of the Russian attackers. The occupiers also began destroying oil depots in an attempt to deprive the Ukrainian Armed Forces of fuel, but were unsuccessful. Another trend is the consistent infliction of maximum damage to Ukraine by Russian troops, often not due to military needs..

I would like to point out a few indicative propaganda messages used by the Russian authorities. The local media promotes the thesis of contradictions between the Armed Forces and “nationalist battalions”. The state media of Russia is trying to react to the destruction of the Russian equipment and servicemen spread online by Ukrainian defenders with the help of officious video footage. News from the so-called DPR and LPR have become a separate direction, as Vladimir Putin announced “a special military operation to protect Donbas” back in early April in a conversation with President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The anonymous telegram channels that came to Ukraine in 2019 are very active in promoting the Kremlin’s information agenda.

The preparation of sanctions against Russia in the event of aggression against Ukraine in Washington, London and Brussels was discussed on the eve of the invasion, so restrictions on economic relations with the Kremlin were not delayed. Hundreds of Western companies have stopped operating in Russia, unwilling to support Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions by their taxes. Among them are the owners of world-famous brands (however, some TNCs are trying to cheat in this matter), the auditing companies of the “big four”, Visa / Mastercard and others. However, today the Russian budget receives about a billion Euros a day from the EU for oil and gas, and this makes the war against Ukraine almost endless.

The United States and the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, Poland and the Baltic States have provided and continue to provide Ukraine with various forms of aid – financial, military and humanitarian. I should like to point out that this circle began to widen after the truth about the tragedy in Bucha was discovered. Western countries are ready to provide financial resources on a scale that might impress the average person, but Ukraine is serving the current needs, dosed with arms and military equipment to help in the hosting of Ukrainian refugees on the territory of the EU. As for accession of Ukraine to the family of NATO and the European Union, the North Atlantic Alliance seems a less realistic goal than the EU. Obviously, due to its own political and-military nature. In early March Ukraine applied for EU membership, and as early as mid-April President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen handed Vladymyr Zelensky the questionnaire in Kiev that must be completed in order to be considered for the membership in the European Union.

An open final word

After the end of the Russia-Ukraine war, the European mode of interaction will have to be formed anew, as a broken cup cannot be put back together so that the liquid does not escape from it. Of course, the basis of Ukraine’s positioning, should not be the desire to find conditions for peace with Russia at any cost, but the understanding of the feasibility of European and Euro-Atlantic integration as a process of acquiring new opportunities.

In Europe, it is not only the issue of ending the war in Ukraine that remains relevant, as the frozen conflicts remain a sore spot for the Kremlin to press on. The position of the Georgian and Moldovan authorities, who did not support the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the European Union, but followed Ukraine on its way to the EU, is surprising. The position of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s position is not surprising – he became Vladimir Putin’s ally and will bear political responsibility for it, but the question of integration of Belarus into the European security system after the Russian-Ukrainian war has not lost its relevance.

The war continues. It is hardly possible to say when it can end. Ukraine has managed to defend its sovereignty, and this conclusion is obvious to everyone, even Russia. But this will make the aggressor even number. Therefore, the citizens of Ukraine have to quickly get rid of illusions: only they need a strong Ukraine in the world. Although the world has recently become more Ukraine-centric, this will not always be the case. Ukraine has managed to defend its sovereignty, and this conclusion is obvious to everyone, even Russia. Therefore, the citizens of Ukraine have to quickly get rid of illusions: only they need a strong Ukraine in the world. Although the world has recently become more Ukraine-centric, this will not always be the case.

Yevgen MAGDA



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