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Some Noble European Proposals for the Times on War

Some Noble European Proposals for the Times on War

Wednesday, 16 March, 2022 - 13:00

If war is tragic, it is also an opportunity for change. That is why the history of wars, especially European wars- from the Napoleonic ones to World War Two- is seen as a history of transitions from one world to another, one set of social, cultural, and artistic norms to another. Only in despotic, stagnant societies are such norms unaltered, limiting wars in them to being a purely military action.

Today, there is a lot of talk in Europe about a transformation whose groundwork must be laid as a result of the war on Ukraine, which, some warn, could morph into a third world war. This transformation, as its most genuine proponents present it, amounts to creating a new European identity founded in opposition to tyranny and dictatorship, an identity tied to principles that favor the weak and persecuted, one that is the least influenced by ethnic, religious, and national differences.

It is not impossible, but it is easier said than done.

This column presents ideas and suggestions by admirable proponents who want this Europe to emerge; but, they are equally insistent on pointing to some of the prerequisites for that emergence. While the assessments and proposed solutions below apply better to Britain than anywhere else, they concern Europe in general, albeit in uneven degrees.

Regarding the economy and organization, opening the doors wide to the Russian oligarchs and then seizing their money after the outbreak of the war presents the following problem: this money, which was used to purchase critical positions and shares in the economy (real estate, factories, sports clubs...) provided a tool that allowed for limiting Britain’s trade deficit, which at 323 billion pounds, represents around 15 percent of its GDP. Despite the growth of the service sector, it no longer suffices to compensate for the difference between imports and exports which amount to 140 billion pounds. That is because the deficit, which began in the early eighties, sprang from a way of life without having its requisites, allowing for betting on Russian money investing in this consumerist lifestyle. Thus the disposal of this money became part of a broader task of transitioning from a neoliberal economy to a liberal economy with social sensitivities. However, ending dependence on Russian oil and gas creates a historic opportunity to make strides in the development of alternative energy technologies, which, in addition to fortifying the economic security of European countries, is a critical environmental issue itself. In this sense, resorting to Maduro’s Venezuela, as suggested by the United States, or perhaps Khamenei’s Iran, if the nuclear agreement were to be reinstated, does not seem a viable solution in the longer term, and it is certainly not consistent with the nature of the battle against a regime like the one in Russia.

On the other hand, wars heighten people’s sense of sacrifice and solidarity, which is reflected in their relations with the Ukrainian refugees and the need to open doors to them; indeed, it also has implications for solidarity within these societies themselves. With several countries raising their military spending, and others demanding the same, this money should be generated from increased taxes on the rich before reducing aid to the less fortunate. Indeed it would be absurd, especially at a time of war, to continue to strangle institutions like the BBC, Britain’s loudest global voice.

The Russian bribes handed out to politicians in some Western countries have threatened democracy and its mechanisms themselves. However, the battle for democracy is also a battle of models. That is what makes it vital to undertake several processes of distinguishing and uniting. We have, first of all, distinguishing, when possible during a war, between Putin and his oligarchical regime on the one hand and the Russian people, who are its victims, in their lives, interests, cultures, and what they represent. Second, there is the need to emphasize the “unity of civilizations” as opposed to the “clash of civilizations,” the popularity of which exploded after the crime of 9/11.

Moving in this direction would curb the racist and discriminatory actions against those “with different colored hair and skin,” which have been on display over the past few days. Finally, the “war on terror” must be reconsidered. This concept has led to partial alliances with Putin and other, smaller, dictators being formed, obscuring the actual struggles in our world today and leaving Russian, Syrian and other countries’ transgressions in many regions of the world overlooked.

There remains, for Britain in particular, the need to walk about on the path crowned by Brexit in 2016. The Brits have discovered that they share their fates, when the going gets tough, in defense as well as the economy, with Europe. This humanist and progressive Europe, with its NATO dimension, is the strongest response against Putinism.

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