Ghassan Charbel
Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The September 30 Attacks

Some dates instantly go down in history because of their nature, danger and number of victims. They go down in history because they forever alter the world. This is what happened. It is an end of an era in Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the world.

It was an unprecedented scene indeed. Four barons from Ukraine delivered the results of the referendum. They threw the regions in the hands of the Russian tzar. His country has been stoking the embers of other Ukrainian regions ever since the feast in Crimea.

With great ceremony, the master of the Kremlin took out his pen and signed. The lost regions were joined to “Great Russia”, assuring its people that they will reside there “forever”.

He did not neglect to inform the world that his country will defend these people with everything it has and through all possible means. Russia does not rule out resorting to nuclear arms if the fate of “Holy Russia” is threatened.

It was an unprecedented scene indeed. The tzar almost broke out into dance. He could not contain his emotions even though the KGB empire had taught him to conceal them. The speech he delivered to the Russians and the world was frank and decisive.

He laid out all of his cards. The war in Ukraine is part of a great war - part of a massive revolt against the unipolar world, the world of colonization, exploitation and hegemony.

He presented himself as a leader of a new world that is hostile to the West, its example, values and colored revolutions. It was as if he were unveiling a new Iron Curtain and drawing a red line, with his nuclear arsenal as his backup.

He did not use the words “tyrant” or “infidels” that were uttered by the al-Qaeda leader or the term “Great Satan” that was launched by Khomeini’s revolution. But he was still more violent because his speech delivered a series of attacks: against the United States, Europe, and treasonous former Soviet republics that joined NATO.

He turned the war in Ukraine into a holy war. He turned it into an existential war where there can be no stopping to weigh the costs. He has already forged so far ahead and there can be no turning back.

His army’s recent setbacks will only intensify his desire to escalate. It is now his problem and the world’s problem with him.

The day was September 30. It is a date that the world will not forget.

September used to be a month associated with sweet scenes, of children reluctantly saying goodbye to summer and returning to school. September witnesses the changing of the seasons as fall arrives and trees shed their leaves. Birds would seek shelter from the coming rain and storms.

It was a simpler time. The “global village” was not yet born. There were no smartphones that brought the world to your pocket and social media that unleased wonders and spewed poison.

We would soon memorize other dates in September.

On the last day of the month in 1938, Britain and France yielded to Hitler and Mussolini and signed the Munich Agreement, only to further whet the appetite of the two men.

In September 1970, planes were hijacked from the “revolution airstrip” in Jordan, sparking clashes between the Jordanian army and Palestinian factions that led to the formation of the Black September Organization. In September 1972, the organization would attack the Israeli team at the Muich Olympic Games.

It is a month that is weighed down by significant dates.

That same month, Nikita Khrushchev would ruin the United Nations General Assembly with his angry outburst. The war between Iraq and Iran erupted in September. The Camp David Accords were signed in September. The wreck of the Titanic was discovered that same month. Lest we forget that World War II erupted in the beginning of September and Moammar al-Gaddafi's rule over Libya would also begin in September some years later.

In 2001, the September 11 attacks would change the world. Hostility towards the West, its might and hegemony would be the driving force behind Osama bin Laden’s actions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and bin Laden come from two different worlds and it’s not right to compare them even though five years separate them in age. Two men from different planets and backgrounds, but they both harbor a hostility to the West and a desire to seek revenge and settle scores.

It’s not right to compare between the leader of a terrorist organization and the president of a major country even if they both chose September to deal heavy blows. Bin Laden dreamed of luring the US into the Afghanistan trap, hoping to deal it a defeat that the country dealt to the Soviet Union. Now, Putin is seeking to humiliate the US by luring it into the Ukraine trap.

The September 30 speech left the world in crisis. The one changing maps also controls gas pipelines. Who knows, Putin may be banking on autumn and winter. He won’t be moved by the dimmed lights at France’s Arc de Triomphe, Germans shivering from the cold, or British families huddled around candlelight.

The most dangerous aspect of the speech was that it left the West with no room to appease Putin at an acceptable price. It became evident that his agenda is greater than Ukraine and more dangerous. It is evident that he chooses his dates wisely. He chose that day because it coincided with the day he secretly celebrated the deployment of his troops in Syria in 2015.

Who knows, he may have chosen October to test the will of the West the same way Khrushchev did 60 years ago during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The September 30 attacks imply that the tzar loves the fall. But the question is: Whose fall is it? Ukraine’s, Russia’s, Europe’s or the world’s?