Reflections on the thesis of the inevitability of the war in Ukraine

The person who now occupies the top of the world's greatest power Joe Biden, should feel the responsibility to represent not only the interests of its (potential) constituents, but the future of the inhabitants of the planet.

The price imposed on Germany and the other defeated nations at the end of the First World War with the Treaty of Versailles, was very heavy. This decision, pursued mainly by Great Britain and France, according to subsequent historical reconstructions, was a mistake. At the basis of this judgment was the evaluation that it had weighed in determining the crisis, in the social and political fields, of the Weimar Republic. Crisis on which the seizure of power by the National Socialists had leveraged.

No one has ever refused this evaluation asserting that it could be a way to mitigate, or even justify, the horrors of Nazism. Rather, it was taken as a lesson to be drawn from history, at the fall of Nazi-fascism, when the accounts were closed with the nations that had made themselves responsible for the horrors we know.

Germany has been divided and has suffered a limitation of sovereignty, a price that in another form and with different developments also Italy and Japan have paid. However, there can be no doubt that such treatment is not comparable to that reserved to Germany itself, Austria and Hungary in 1918. The birth of the UN and the launch of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights marked a very different idea of ​​world order compared to the previous postwar period.

Today many scholars of contemporary history and geopolitical dynamics converge on a critical judgment about the way the relationship with the states of the former Soviet Union – and especially with Russia – was set up at the end of the Cold War. At the heart of the critical analyzes are the choices of the administrations that have succeeded one another at the helm of the USA, given their aspiration to play a hegemonic role. Their firm belief was that the world was moving towards a unipolar order, in which they could boast an undisputed supremacy in both economic and military field. The relationship with Russia has occupied a principal place in this vision, not so much for its economic dimension as for being the only power that had a nuclear arsenal comparable to that of the US.

Unlike the previous assessments I mentioned, these ones were not received as a warning and had no influence on the choices made by the political powers. And now that we are faced with the Ukrainian tragedy and the horrors dotting it, having Russia invaded a neighboring sovereign state, those who dare to pronounce that kind of judgements are accused of condescension, if not complicity, towards those criminal acts.

One explanation only is officially admitted for the ongoing events. The fact that the war was decided and waged by Putin means that it was his intention to do it anyway. The fact that the war is underway means that now there is only one prospect for it not to end with a surrender of those who suffer the invasion: that the invader is defeated. If things are evolving in this narrow space, in which the freedom of choice between alternatives is excluded, what’s the use of going back to the history of thirty or more years ago? It only serves the interests of the criminal butcher.

A large part of the world, although not supporting the invasion, does not accept this assumption. Which, in the so-called Western world, is shared by all governments. They are united in their action, moved by adherence to the automatisms derived from the postulate without alternatives that I just summarized: more sanctions to weaken the aggressor, more weapons to increase the reaction capacity of the attacked, no qualms for escalating if the attacker raises the level of the offensive. How will it end? We do not know, but nothing else can be done.

Even in the Western world, however, the peoples, men and women who witness these events – and suffer the consequences – are not very convinced of the postulancy: a large area reacts by asking for a change of direction and working for peace. But how?

The person who now occupies the top of the world's greatest power (or at least of the nation that aspires or presumes to be), Joe Biden, the (global) "village elder", should feel the responsibility to represent not only the interests of its (potential) constituents, but the future of the inhabitants of the planet. If it really were so, he should spend all his time wriggling over the answer to this question.

Perhaps it is too much to expect that he has the qualities, now rare to see, of the far-sighted vision of another "village elder" like Bergoglio, who stigmatizes the ongoing war as madness, having neither armored divisions to convert to peacekeeping nor nuclear warheads to be dismantled. However, one should expect from him, supported by the circle of consultants who surround him, at least the ambition to prove that he is truly a global leader, rather than the passive guardian and tutor of destructive interests.

Among other things, if he pricked up his ears to hear the voices, perhaps too little stentorian, of the choir, perhaps still too sparse, of those who pursue peace as the only right objective that truly has no alternatives, he could find some ideas of a solution of a certain substance. However, he should look up to a farther and higher horizon. Even retracing the list of reasons for which some recent Nobel Peace Prize was awarded, perhaps, could be enough.

Try to imagine the President of the US pronouncing one morning a speech to his nation and the entire world saying he is willing to open a negotiation, once Putin arrested his armies, not only to ensure an internationally guaranteed status of neutrality of the Ukraine. And not only its territorial integrity and the self-determination of its people.

Try to imagine that he declares his firm willing to work for a profound revision of the UN statute in the direction of its effective interdiction and sanctioning power. And – hear, hear! – on the contextual dismantling, under the control of the UN, of all nuclear arsenals. And on the endowment of all laboratories working on bacteriological researches under the WHO.

A range of perspectives that - it goes without saying - would make any military alliance superfluous, indeed alternative and incompatible with the role of the UN. That means to imagine that he does it spontaneously, as first-mover, without waiting for other global players’ moves, challenging all of them, starting with Putin, to give a demanding answer.  

I do not know if I am wrong, but I have the impression that a chorus of comments, of people who count, of followers of the postulate with no alternatives, would brand this idea as pure utopia, as a childish illusion.

At a closer look, however, one could realize the error that lies in this widespread belief. What we are imagining is an autonomous gesture, not subject to any external condition, which could place any other interlocutor in the condition of having to accept the challenge or, otherwise, go against the feeling of the great masses. If that were the case, the meaning of considering pure utopia that the “king of the world” makes a step like this would give some reasons for serious reflections.

On the other hand, maybe, would be such that the boy of the naked king's fable would grasp it easily and clearly. It could mean that we are in the hands of kings, starting with that of the most powerful nation, who do not even wear a rag: not the shred of an idea on how to guarantee an acceptable future for the humanity they are guiding.

And that this would be the reason why they are not even bearers of any other idea, on how to put an end to the current massacre of a people by stopping who is responsible for it, except its continuation, and probable extension, until the victory of one of the contenders. Without any possibility of predicting neither its duration nor its consequences.Yet, those who are not capable to look at tomorrow are respected and rewarded as realists, while those who see far away are considered as visionaries.

Giovanni Principe

Past senior researcher at ISAE (Istituto di Studi e Analisi Economiche) and Director General at ISFOL (Istituto Studi Formazione Orientamento Lavoratori) - From 1984 to 2002 member of the National Board of Direction in CGIL.