Why Europe needs to take a hard look at itself

Boaventura de Sousa Santos

The following article is reproduced from the Asia Times, March 15, 2022.[https://asiatimes.com/2022/03/why-europe-needs-to-take-a-hard-look-at-itself/]
By Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Coimbra (Portugal), and Distinguished Legal Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Europe’s leaders did not and do not have what it takes to deal with the Ukraine crisis.

Because it has proved to be incapable of dealing with the causes of the Ukraine crisis, Europe is now condemned to deal with its consequences. 

Although the dust of this tragedy has not even begun to settle, we are forced to conclude that Europe’s leaders did not and do not have what it takes to deal with the situation at hand. They will go down in history as Europe’s most mediocre leaders since the end of the Second World War.

They are now making sure that they do their best in terms of humanitarian assistance, and their efforts in that regard should not be questioned. But the reason they are doing it is to save face in the light of the biggest scandal of our time.

Over the last 70 years they have ruled over populations who have been at the forefront in terms of organizing themselves and demonstrating against war wherever it happens to be waged. But it turns out that they were not able to defend those same populations from a war that had been brewing at home since at least as early as 2014.

Europe’s leaders will go down in history as Europe’s most mediocre leaders since the end of the Second World War.

The European democracies have just shown that they have a government without the people. There are numerous reasons for coming to this conclusion.

Both Russia and the US have been preparing for this war for some time.

In the case of Russia, there had been clear indications in recent years that the country was accumulating huge gold reserves and giving priority to a strategic partnership with China. This was especially noticeable in the financial sphere, where a bank merger and the creation of a new international currency are the ultimate goal, and in the sphere of trade, with its Belt and Road Initiative and the tremendous possibilities for expansion that it will open up throughout Eurasia.

As regards relationships with its European partners, Russia has proved to be a credible partner, while making clear what its security concerns were. These were legitimate concerns, if we only stop to think that in the world of superpowers there is neither good nor bad, only strategic interests that need to be accommodated.

That was the case with the 1962 missile crisis, when the US drew a red line in respect of the installation of medium-range missiles 70 kilometers from its border. Let it not be thought that the Soviet Union was the only one to give in, because the US also removed its medium-range missiles from Turkey.

Trade-off, accommodation, lasting agreement. Why wasn’t it possible in the case of Ukraine?

Let us turn to the preparations on the US side.

Faced with the decline of the global dominance it has enjoyed since 1945, the US is trying at all costs to consolidate its zones of influence, so as to maintain its advantages in trade and access to raw materials for US companies. 

What is written below has been gleaned from official and think-tank documents.

The policy of regime change is not aimed at creating democracies, but rather at creating governments that are loyal to US interests. Not a single democratic state has emerged from the bloody interventions in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

The promotion of democracy was not what led the US to support coups that deposed democratically elected presidents in Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), Brazil (2016) and Bolivia (2019), not to mention the 2014 coup in Ukraine.

China has been the United States’ main rival for some time now. In the case of Europe, the US strategy rests on two pillars: to provoke Russia and to neutralize Europe (and Germany in particular).

In Europe the US strategy rests on two pillars: to provoke Russia and to neutralize Europe (and Germany in particular).

In 2019, the Rand Corporation, a well-known organization dedicated to strategic studies, published a report titled “Extending Russia,” produced at the request of the Pentagon. The report details how to provoke countries in ways that can be exploited by the US. It has this to say about Russia:

“We examine a range of non-violent measures that could exploit Russia’s actual vulnerabilities and anxieties as a way of stressing Russia’s military and economy and the regime’s political standing at home and abroad.

“The steps we examine would not have either defense or deterrence as their prime purpose, although they might contribute to both. Rather, these steps are conceived of as elements in a campaign designed to unbalance the adversary, leading Russia to compete in domains or regions where the United States has a competitive advantage, and causing Russia to overextend itself militarily or economically or causing the regime to lose domestic and/or international prestige and influence.”

Do we need to hear more in order to understand what is happening in Ukraine? Provoke Russia into expanding and then criticize it for doing so. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastward expansion – against what was agreed with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 – was key in triggering the provocation.

Another important step was the violation of the Minsk Accords.

It should be pointed out that when the Donetsk and Luhansk regions first claimed independence after the 2014 coup, Russia did not support their claims. It favored autonomy within Ukraine, as provided for in the Minsk Accords. It was Ukraine – with US support – that tore up the agreements, not Russia.

As for Europe, its No 1 concern is to consolidate its status as a minor partner that does not dare interfere with the zones-of-influence policy. Europe has to be a reliable partner, but it cannot expect reciprocal treatment.

That is why the European Union – to the clueless surprise of its leaders – found itself excluded from AUKUS, the security pact among the US, Australia and the UK for the Indo-Pacific region. The minor-partner strategy requires that Europe become more dependent, not only in military terms (something that NATO can always be relied on to ensure) but also with regard to the economy and the area of energy in particular. 

US foreign policy (and democracy) is dominated by three oligarchies (for oligarchs are not the monopoly of Russia and Ukraine): the military-industrial complex; the gas, oil and mining complex; and the banking and real estate complex.

These complexes yield fabulous profits thanks to so-called monopoly rents, that is, privileged market positions that allow them to inflate prices. Their goal consists in keeping the world at war and increasingly dependent on US arms supplies.

Europe’s energy dependence on Russia was thus something unacceptable. And yet, in Europe’s eyes, it was not a question of dependence, but rather of economic rationality and a diversification of partners.

With the invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions, everything fell into place as planned. The stocks of the three complexes rose immediately, and the champagne began to flow. A mediocre, ignorant Europe, totally lacking in strategic vision, falls helplessly in the hands of these complexes, which will soon let Europe know what prices it will have to pay. Europe will be impoverished and destabilized because its leaders failed to rise to the moment.

Worse than that, it can’t wait to arm Nazis. Nor does it seem to remember that, in December 2021, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution – proposed by Russia – aimed at “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” Two countries, the US and Ukraine, voted against it.

Ukrainian neo-nazis rally.

The current peace negotiations are misconceived. It makes no sense that negotiations should be solely between Russia and Ukraine. They should be between Russia and the US/NATO/EU.

The 1962 missile crisis was resolved between the USSR and the US. Did anyone think of inviting Fidel Castro to the negotiation table?

It is a cruel delusion to believe that there can be lasting peace in Europe without any concessions from the Western side. Ukraine, whose independence we all advocate, must not join NATO. 

Has Finland, Sweden, Switzerland or Austria ever needed NATO in order to feel safe and to get ahead? The truth is that NATO should have been dismantled as soon as the Warsaw Pact came to an end. Only then would the EU have been able to establish a defense policy and military defense capabilities suited to its own interests rather than those of the US.

What threats were there to Europe’s security to justify NATO’s interventions in Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2004) or Libya (2011)? Will it be possible, after all this, to go on calling NATO a defensive organization?