The end of the Cold War offered an historic opportunity for Europe to finally end centuries of conflict that had culminated in the devastation of WWII and to start building what President Mikhail Gorbachev called our “common European home”. Communist totalitarianism had quit the world stage, and it seemed there were no obstacles to realising Gorbachev’s vision.
Alas, those of us who naively believed that we would proceed in the direction towards which Gorbachev had pointed were in for a rude awakening. Instead of negotiating a proper post-war security architecture – one in which all powers were treated as equal (and smaller countries were given a say over matters vital to their interests) – Washington opted for confrontation with a democratizing Russia. Sweeping aside Moscow’s understandable and legitimate concerns, it shepherded its obedient flock of NATO allies to right under Moscow’s nose, claiming that Russia’s objections were tantamount to neo-imperialism. Such claims served as justification for extending NATO’s protection eastward.
Worse, after having burnt its fingers in Georgia (where the Russian army swiftly repulsed a treacherous and deadly attack but refrained from occupying the entire country – thus amply demonstrating Moscow’s aversion to neo-imperialism), Washington zeroed in on Ukraine. This time we, Europeans, have a simmering but bloody military confrontation at the heart of our “common home”. We are witness to terrorized Ukrainians massacring one another in their thousands in our immediate neighbourhood. And this is being allowed to happen not in the interests of us Europeans but of that self-proclaimed “exceptional” democratic power across the ocean. The truth is that, far from caring about us, the Great (self-appointed) Protector is interested first and foremost in pursuing its agenda of preventing Russia and the EU from developing closer ties and creating a stable and secure environment in Europe. The Great Protector is cynically playing with our lives and fates, risking a nuclear stand-off with potential unthinkable consequences.
But I don’t blame Washington. The US elites are simply doing what is in their nature – what they are doing, in fact, elsewhere around the globe. Which is to create chaos and mayhem in what may be the blinkered belief that they are doing so as part of a great democratic project. Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do (perhaps) . . .
No, I don’t blame Washington. The main guilty party is we, the European electorates. It is we who have put into office figures who are not worthy of the calling of leaders but who have huge responsibilities. It is we who passively watch overpaid Brussels bureaucrats as they collude with a dysfunctional, rampaging foreign superpower as it mercilessly pursues its agenda against European interests and, indeed, against Europeans. And in the east of the Continent, it is we, the confused chauvinistic public, who embrace the crude disinformation that it was Russia and Russians alone that ran the Communist regimes. This is a lie that absolves us of our own responsibility: we all participated; those regimes would not have been able to function had it not been for the passive and/or active support of the vast majority.
But it gets worse still. The campaign against a truly united and stable Europe would have no muscle were it not driven by a melange of dark forces of the kind that we believed, in the wake of WWII, had been forever banished to the margins of civilized society. We naively thought that the sacrifices made by our fathers and grandfathers in WWII were necessary to defeat such forces and we took it for granted that our leaders would ensure that Nazism remained once and for all in the cesspit that had spawned it. We adopted the faith that the common anti-Nazi struggle was underpinning a united Europe, giving substance to the Franco-German reconciliation on which the European Union was built.
Many are now debating whether Kiev’s new pro-European regime is neo-Nazi or just what it is exactly. Here I will say simply that the Ukrainian regime and its Western sponsors can give the lie to such debates by taking the following steps:
- Carry out a proper, open and scrupulous forensic investigation into who was behind the sniper shooting on the Maidan on 20 February;
- Carry out the same type of investigation into the tragic events in Odessa on 2 May;
- Investigate in the same way the causes of the MH17 tragedy on 17 July;
- Explain why the Ukrainian army needs to indiscriminately bombard cities such as Donetsk and Luhansk and why all fellow citizens opposed to the coup d’etat are dubbed “terrorists”
- And, finally, publish true and verifiable information on the number of casualties in the ranks of the Ukrainian army.
For me, whether Kiev and the West are prepared to take such steps is a litmus test for how they will uphold the noble European values in whose name they claim to be waging a campaign against Russia. Unfortunately, I am sure that neither the Kiev regime nor its Western sponsors will submit to that test. Instead, our democratic European values will continue to be trampled over.
Vladimir Sobell is the Professor, Political Economy New York University, Prague.