A nother view
in the Past and in the Future
by Dr. sc of sociology Spomenka Hribar – Slovenia
From a legal, political, social and ethical point of view, the Russian at-tack on Ukraine is a reprehensible, immoral, absurd act, worthy of condemnation from all these points of view or levels. Since history is not a oneway road leading straight into the future, there are likely to be many reasons for an action, yet there is always someone – the last in the chain of decision-makers – responsible, co-responsible or guilty for an event. Because until the last one, there is the possibi-lity of a different decision. In the case of the current Ukrainian war, the Russians are co-res-ponsible, and Putin is personally to blame.
The second question, on the level of reflection, is what were the glo-bal, historical, ideological causes and triggers that led to a certain phenomenon, an event?
It might therefore be a good idea to look at the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and also the US + EU: Russian Federation conflict, from another angle: how Europe has always behaved towards Russia – including in the case of the “prelude” to today’s Russia-Ukraine conflict and this war.
Let me describe this phenomenon in the words of Dostoyevsky, one of the greatest spirits of mankind:
“When we drove Napoleon out in 1812, we did not make peace with him, as some few clairvoyant Russians advised and wished at the time, but we set out with all our might to save Europe from its conquerors and to make it happy.”
And what did they get in return? As a grateful return? Less than not-hing!”
All these nations which we had liberated immediately, before they had even touched Napoleon, began to look upon us with the utmost disfa-vour and the most wicked suspicion. At the congresses they immedia-tely united against us and took everything, but not only did they lea-ve us nothing, but they also imposed obligations on us, voluntary indeed, but harmful to us, as it turned out later. And then, whatever the lesson we have learned, what did we do for the rest of the centu-ry and what are we doing now? Have we not been the ones who have helped to strengthen the German States, have we not created their strength so that they are now perhaps even stronger than we are. (…)
Europe is ready to praise us, to pat us on the head, but it will not recognise us as its own, it despises us, tacitly and openly, as a people and as a race, it considers us inferior to itself (…). “It has ended up that everyone in Europe now holds a stone in his hand and is ready to throw it at us at the first opportunity. What have we gained by serving Europe so much? Only its hatred… The Turks and Semites are closer to them in spirit than we Aryans.” (The Writer’s Diary II, Beletrina, Ljubljana 2007, p. 285 287)
Nowadays, Dostoyevsky would probably have added: “Closer than us Europeans and Christians”.
For the contemptuous attitude of the self-proclaimed only “true” Europe towards Russia did not end, but
was repeated in the case of Russia’s liberation not only of its own, but also of other European territories from Nazi occupation in World War II. Objective historians and analysts admit that Russia’s part in defeating Nazi fascism was decisive. The Soviet Union lost around twenty million people in the war against it.
Perhaps the hypothesis that the Russians tried to ‘correct’ their ‘historical mistake’ in defeating Napoleon with the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact is correct? (There were other motives for it, of course.) Which was, of course, naive, and above all wrong!
Perhaps the fundamental question today is the EU-Russian Federation relationship, which knotted up at the announce-ment of Ukraine’s admission to the EU and NATO’s eastwa-rd expansion, the question of why the US and “Europe” did not keep their promise not to expand NATO eastward after the dissolution of the Soviet empire? If they had kept this agreement, it could have marked the beginning of a new era of cooperation between ‘Europe’ (the EU) and the Russian Federation! So that the Russians would no longer have to worry about their security vis-à-vis the West. But, as in the case of the victory over Napoleon, when the Russian Bolshevik Empire collapsed, the Russians did not demand that the promises made be written down and ratified … And the first thing that American hubris, together with its faithful servant “Europe”, did was to put missiles in Poland, aimed at Russia! Which undoubtedly had an impact on domestic politics in the Russian Federation – the sense of threat is the humus for the establishment and maintenance of an authoritarian, system. Especially when it is exploited, manipulated by a totalitarian power. Like Putin.
This EU decision was short-sighted, even blind. Russia, like much of Eurasia, is a treasure trove of minerals and goods of all kinds (wheat, oil, gas, etc.) and a veritable reservoir of intelligence, all of which would benefit from normal cooperation between “Europe” and the Russian Federation! Working together, the EU and the Russian Federation would constitute a third world power, nestled between the two super-powers, the USA and China. In this sense, this “third power” could be an “interface”, a mediator between the two superpowers, which may compete with each other to the point of absurdity. But the link between the EU and the Russian Federation should be nurtured, watched over like a mote in its own eye! The Nord Stream pipeline was a tremendous opportunity to start such a mutually beneficial link, but nothing came of it! But we could have started a new cooperation, a new hour of “European truth”! If we draw conclusions – in reverse – about the problem of Europe’s gas supply, which will now be solved by the US, we can see who is best served by such a “result”. For the US, the Nord Stream gas pipeline was unacceptable, as many European political scientists have written about.
It is an unwritten law that a re-action is always worse than the action it is countered. And now we are witnessing a brutal attack on Ukraine by the Russian Federation! Nothing more unacceptable can be imagined! That Putin cannot win seems self-evident to me. A nation that wants freedom cannot be permanently subdued, all totalitarian systems and all occupiers have experienced this. But how much human suffering there is and will be, and all the consequences of the sectarian US-European policy, is yet to be seen. Instead of striving ( after the collapse of the USSR) for cooperation – erecting barriers! Let us also look at the other side: which country would have looked on calmly at what NATO was doing, when for years it placed offensive missile systems around Russia wherever it could?
Now sanctions are supposed to bring Russia to its senses? They will affect the population anyway, first and foremost, the Ukrainian, the Russian and also the European popula-tion.
I was initially prompted to write this by the speech of the seemingly mild-mannered Mrs Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission: I cannot forget her hostile enumeration of all that ‘we will do’ to punish the Russians for attacking Ukraine, and if that does not help, we will do this … I was irritated by this arrogance, ‘forgetting’ that the Germans destroyed all the settlements, all the fields, killed every living thing: two and a half million Russians and Jewish inhabitants were slaughtered just on the road to Stalingrad! What punishment did the Allies inflict on the German population after the war for this? Thank God they did not, it was bad enough for the people during the war itself! Now the Germans have woken up again, the Commission President’s position has been made even stronger, the German Prime Minister has announced the radical militarisation of Germany, and two days after him the Japanese President!
The criteria for dealing with different countries and different alliances should be the same for everyone. There are different estimates and figures for wars and military conflicts since the end of the Second World War. According to one variant, between 1945 and 2001 there were 245 wars and military conflicts, coups d’état in the world, of which 201 were started by the US (including Iraq and Afghanistan), and only 44 were not started by the US. Among the countries attacked were independent, sovereign states, or the US provoked coups, beheaded them and installed governments of its own choosing, etc. – and there were no sanctions from anyone for the aggressor US! Putin has also attacked independent states before (Chechnya, etc.) and therefore deserved to be tried by an international war crimes tribunal!
But if someone were to suggest that US Presidents who have started wars against other countries should be tried, we would laugh at them – it would be so unbelievable!
As I see it, there is something very wrong with the EU behaving in a hostile way towards the Russian Federation on the one hand, and in a helpful and servile way towards the unscrupulous USA on the other. From now on, after the Russian attack on Ukraine and the severing of all EU ties with the Russian Federation, Europe as a relevant subject in world politics and world history will be no more! Or not for a very long time.
The fact that our Prime Minister (along with the Slovak and Polish Prime Ministers) is going to Ukraine is, above all, an act in function of his pre-election struggle. His manipulation of people’s emotions in the face of the Ukrainian tragedy is blasphemous and concerns our internal situation, but in the light of the EU’s internal situation, their behaviour is controversial; it is the policy of the European right, which is not content with a ‘domestic’, internal division, but is spreading it externally.
Why did the EU not intervene when a right-wing, nationalist policy was winning in Ukraine, which, as a state, did not seek the coexistence of all its citizens; why did it not adhere to the Minsk Agreement (2015) by recognising the provincial autonomy of the Donetsk and Lugansk provinces within Ukraine? Its attitude towards Russians within its own country has been one of rejection throughout. This is understandable to some extent, given Ukraine’s terrible experience of Bolshevism (Gladom!). But Russians also have memories of Ukraine’s Nazi collaboration with the German invaders during World War II. But modern democratic politics seeks the coexistence of its citizens – not sectarianism based on ethnicity! And now it is being “scandalised” by Putin’s demand for the denazification of Ukrainian policy towards Russian citizens in Ukraine!? If Ukraine’s official policy is tolerant of the Jews in its midst, but not of the Russians, there is no looping around its nationalist exclusivism. Which is the case even in the EU: why does the EU not “hear” the will of the Catalans to create their own state?
Of course, at the moment, the weight of responsibility and blame for the war in Ukraine is on Putin! All Slovenian, European, American and other media are writing and reporting about this. I myself have only written about another possible view of the conflict itself. In fact, I wanted to draw attention to the nature of European politics. How, for example, does it manifest itself concretely today in relation to refugees in general?
It is most accurately expressed in the Government’s tweet:
‘Ukrainian refugees come from an environment that is culturally, religiously and historically quite different from the environment from which refugees come from Afghanistan.‘
What does this statement tell us? Ukrainian refugees are ‘ours’, because they are something completely different from (non-native) refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, etc., and that is why we accept Ukrainian refugees and not those others. Ukrainian refugees are Europeans, in the European cultural, religious and historical sense. Refugees from Afghanistan, Syria … are non-European in cultural, religious and historical terms. The label is silent: in the racial sense. It is right that European countries should make an effort to take in Ukrainian refugees!
But we have to think about the basis on which all countries (including Germany, having realised that there are already enough of them for its future workforce) are afraid of refugees from Afghanistan , Syria …. Wire fences, police, army, tracking dogs… Now the doors of European countries are wide open! Not only out of compassion for the suffering, but out of racial difference between one and the other. Slovenia, for example, is taking in unfortunate Ukrainian refugees – that’s right! But it has also hesitated and even returned families to Croatia, even mothers with children … In a country where our racist warmongers have great friends, a girl from Zimbabwe who was studying aerospace engineering in Ukraine was pushed away by border guards and forced to give up her place to the Ukrainians. She and her friends were ‘treated like animals’; because they are of a different race. “Why do Europeans”, asks Zorana Baković (Delo, 5.3.2022, p. 16), “slip so easily into racism?”
Thus, “Europe” has placed racial sectarianism at the level of a principle of European politics. And this – alongside the horrors of the war in Ukraine – is the terrible thing that will now, I fear, become apparent in the character of the EU and all its countries! As long as sectarianism on a cultural-racial basis remains a fundamental principle of European politics – despite the understandable sympathy and solidarity with the Ukrainians – there will be a real danger of war on its soil! The signs are there: European countries are accelerating their rearmament. Germany too!
The Russian attack on Ukraine, together with the reaction of European countries to it, means the end of the “European idea”!
And a conclusion to this “second look”: Slovenians should strive for coexistence between the EU and the Russian Federation – and also for its admission to the EU on the same terms as other countries! But the EU has been sending Ukraine hints or even promises (in the form of arms exports) that it belongs in the EU or even in NATO, that it stands by it…
But now it has turned its back on it. Of course, it cannot risk a conflict with the Russians! But the deception – either out of a mistaken certainty that the “Russian bear” will not react or out of omniscience for the fate of the other – has happened. The trusting Ukrainians are now on their own. Well, the EU and America will already be exporting arms to Ukraine…
The historical mistrust and the lofty attitude of “Europe” towards the Slavs was even raised as a racial issue by Hitler’s Nazism, except that (there were) too many Slavs for him to undertake their genocidal slaughter like Jews and Roma; the Slovenes were “only” subjected to cultucide. Such a suspicious, haughty attitude towards the Slavs remains in fact (perhaps unconsciously) even today. We should also not forget the millennia-old interests of the Germans (which ring out from time to time in a speech!) and should therefore ensure that all Slavic peoples or nations are brought closer together, instead of just agreeing to split them up. Only in this way, under the assumption of a peaceful, new Slavism, would we secure a position of balanced Europeanness, knowing that part of the identity of Slovenes/Slovene women will sooner or later remain Slavic. And aware of the danger that threatens us (all of Europe!) from the Far East, which Zorana Baković reports in her article Great ideals have already hit the wall (Delo, 26.02.2022, p. 20): how, in a conversation with one of the Chinese leaders, the latter pointed out that China “will have to open up the issue of the territories that were taken from us in the past by Tsarist Russia, and then by the communist Soviet Union.” This is the same as the one in which Zorana Baković reports that “in the past, the territories of the Slavs were taken from us by Tsarist Russia, and then by the communist Soviet Union. In order to weaken and punish Putin/Russia, will the EU simply hand Siberia over to China? Or to be divided between China and America (which, like Trump’s desire to buy Greenland, bought Alaska from Russia in the 19th century)?
And what will the EU do if Putin loses his nerve and the Russ-ians themselves depose him? Will it come to its senses and perhaps then realise that it, along with Russia, badly needs Siberia? And peace!
But that is almost a pipe dream after this catastrophe in Ukraine!
We Slovenians are also partly responsible for this!