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Ukraine: three past anticipations to understand the present and future of our continent

As early as 2014, we warned of the extent of the danger that the Ukrainian issue represented for Europe and the world. With the outbreak of war, we went back into our archives to bring you a selection of our anticipations on the Ukrainian issue. We have chosen three. The oldest dates from 2017 and had the warning “avoid World War III now!” in the title itself. The other two were published in 2020 and 2021 and warned of a “Flashback to all European crises” and then saw “Europe at the epicentre of a world war (again)“.

This exercise is necessary to strengthen our method. The result presented here contains elements of potential developments that may be very useful to our readers in understanding the present and future situation. If a Russian intervention in Ukraine has always seemed to be the worst choice and as such unlikely in the short term, all the elements of the tragedy of history that are resurfacing today and seem to be here to stay, are found in our analyses.

2017: the point of no return is looming

As we always say, ” in a complex world, anticipation is crucial, because when the problems arrive on the table, there are only bad solutions left to solve them”.

The introduction to the first article in our selection perfectly shows the situation in which we now find ourselves. At this point, we identify that the conflict, still at the diplomatic stage, is not taking the path of a peaceful resolution and that the latter is dangerously distant:

Russia’s demonstrations of strength certainly aim to put pressure on the Europeans so that they move away from the American influence and regain their strategic independence. But the strengthening of NATO’s capabilities in Europe is now a reality that is also turning the clock on Russia: for the moment, in the event of a conflagration, Russia would have the strategic advantage (as a report of RAND clearly states[12]); but the quadrupling of the US military budget for the protection of Europe[13], the strengthening of human and technological capacities, etc., do not allow Russia to wait indefinitely for NATO to be capable to impose its law again. It is a real race against time that is played now, bringing in, at the end of this year, some very significant conflict risks.

Moreover, there is a risk that the re-establishment of the dialogue with Russia would not be enough to find solutions when so many tensions have accumulated over the last 15 years, which are perhaps irreversible since 2014. History does not serve the same dish up again…

2020: the boomerang begins its return march

In line with our most recent analyses, we describe the West’s “return to reality”, which promises to be painful because it will be punctuated by “second waves of disaster”, i.e. “a vast reminder of all the crises that Europe has suffered in recent years and even older ones that have only been partially solved”.

‘I favour my nascent alliance with Turkey over the chimerical pursuit of a dream of rapprochement with Europe’. Armenia is in fact both a common and conflictual point between Russia – to whose sphere of influence it belongs both geographically and historically – and Europe – which is seeking to integrate it into the unlikely NATO-EU[51] membership projects. The Karabakh crisis was therefore an opportunity for Russia to draw closer to Europe to save their common protégé. But that was before… when Russia was still trying to build cooperation with the EU. [52] On the one hand, the scenario of support for Armenia went against the principle of Russian foreign policy which consists in recognising the sovereignty of states (and of the United Nations, let’s not forget); [53] yet Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan even though it is populated by a majority of Armenians. And on the other hand, Russia in its recent geopolitics has resolutely chosen Turkey at the expense of Europe…

If one adds to this first indication of Europe’s isolation from the US (1), the impatience that one might suppose China gets at the sight of the gradual turnaround of European countries against it in the Huawei[54] affair (2) and the persistence of an anti-Chinese European press[55] (3), and you combine all this with the recent signing of the free trade area, RCEP, by the fifteen Asian states (4) and the anticipation by the Chinese that a Democratic America will end up taking Europe into a new surge of acute “transatlanticism” [56] (5), a scenario takes shape: Eur-Asia[57] will soon throw in the towel on Europe, leaving it to deal with its crises and its good friends the American, giving up on trying to integrate it to the momentum of prosperity that it’s been striving to offer in the past 10 years.

Here again, the EU believes it has the situation under control, whereas in reality its Eastern flank has now almost entirely passed into the US camp, notably through the constitution of this strange Alliance of the Three Seas (Adriatic, Baltic, Black) by the United States, [61] which has replaced the Soviet master by an American one in Central and Eastern Europe: Poland, Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, i.e. all the countries of the former bloc that joined the EU in 2004, with the exception of Austria.

The American strategy (we are surrounded by actors who have strategies while the EU still seems to lack any) is to divert the West European economic reactor not only from Russia but from China too by cutting off its Silk Road. The 3 Seas Corridor provides the Americans with access to West European, East European, West Eurasian (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova) and Balkan territories and markets, constituting an American “belt and road” through which its dollar, gas and oil, arms and troops, etc., will circulate.

2021: the spectre of global conflict

We have analysed the latest indications of rising tensions, which reveal Russia’s isolation and betray a potential violent reaction from the Kremlin. We recall that the real guarantees of peace for the countries of Eastern Europe are far from being met and finally invite our readers to turn their gaze from the US-China conflict, which dominated the news at the time, to the centre of the old continent.

NATO seems to have brought Turkey back into its camp, which is participating in the exercises in exchange, no doubt, for permission to exploit Black Sea oil (as opposed to that of the Eastern Mediterranean) … and also because it believes the Alliances are unbreakable.

In the centre of the Black Sea, the Crimean Peninsula and the jewel of the Russian defence system, Sevastopol… impossible for Russia to abandon. If the threat increases, the Russians will be forced to intervene, or Putin will be forced to give up power – but there is no guarantee that it will be for the better.

Admittedly, these allied manoeuvres could be intimidating. But on the one hand, experts note a difference in intensity and discretion that does not bode well. And we point out as an additional indication the closure of the independent newspaper (neither pro-Russian nor pro-government) KyivPost… not to mention the untimely resignations of government officials. When the independent press is silenced, ministers resign and armies are massed at the borders, there is cause for concern.

All these efforts to extend Western influence on the Russian sphere (Serbia, Ukraine, Crimea, Belarus) cross the red lines set by Moscow. As we have always stressed, Ukraine, Belarus and the Balkans can only find peace in the framework of cooperation between Europe and Russia. We are a long way from that.

While there is a lot of talk about the US-China conflict over Taiwan, let us be wary that World War III does not start again from Europe. For it is in this part of the world, at the crossroads of zombie empires, that the risks seem to be the highest.

 

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