Monday, April 18, 2022


Ukraine was always a hybrid, a cultural Juggernaut in the long history of Slav ambiguities. Europe too is paved with murky intentions and half-baked sympathies.

One fact regarding Ukraine is clear. There is an aggressor, and there is a victim, guilty of nothing else other than to be both legitimate and innocent. 

A lot has been said about far-away conflicts, when Europe turned a blind eye. True, but proximity comes with an urgent responsibility. If the house of a neighbor is on fire, one will try to come to rescue out of both selfish and altruistic motives. If a house burns in another part of town it might end up in the miscellaneous.

The Ukraine problem is Cartesian. There is no need to look for circumstantial evidence or for tribal (Ruanda, Myanmar) or simmering ambiguities that exist in the post-Balfour Middle East for instance. Here the facts are clear cut and Mr. Putin's sorrows are the more irrelevant that in case his Sehnsucht were to be emulated, Europe will end up as a crème brulée.

Here there appears to be a difficult choice between Realpolitik and standing with the injured party. The West plays until now the part of an ersatz Hamlet. Obviously the choice is neither easy, nor does it come without risk. One must realize nevertheless that doing too little will further undermine the leftovers of post-World War II's ambitious design. Already the support of Ukraine in the UN is matched almost by the abstentions. Countries look in disbelief at the EU's pathetic commiseration or at NATO's laissez faire.

Russia, or better Putin & Co., will pay a price for their assumption (Muscovi + Ukraine = Russia). Europe plays its remnant of relevance here. The United States will become more isolationist (exception made for China...for now). Since Macron will be the next French president, he might dare another move. It is hard to believe that Putin will swallow a sugar-coated compromise.

Therefore all options have to be considered. The scandal of the Russian actions cannot remain unanswered or deprived of sanction. One has to reconsider the Bosnian conflict which came to some form of peaceful arrangement, thanks to Ambassador Holbrooke's muscled approach. Russia then was different of course, but the inflated projection of the Eurasian ambition in Moscow rests on too many fractures to be believable now. The question remains how to come to terms with "brutalism".

The West has far more sophisticated weaponry. It is however bound for now by its own ruling and stands clear of any form of direct intervention, which would need a NATO consensus by the way. Weapons delivery is important but unconvincing if war planes are not included. Visits by various EU representatives have a symbolic value but at the end of the day, they just come and go, returning President Zelensky to the devastation.

How long can this go on without major punishment? Nobody suggests attacking Russia. What is on the table is the reality of foreign troops invading an independent country, killing civilians, destroying anything that stands in the way and leaving landmines as a thank you note. The recourse to appropriate retaliation by one NATO member should be on the table.

Sartre wrote Les mains sales...recommended reading.


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