A sign that history is accelerating these days is given by the fact that the hierarchy of the greatest global threats is changing very fast. Gone are the days of the Cold War when, for almost half of a century, the main threat Western Europe was facing was considered Communism, embodied by the “Empire of Evil”, as USSR was defined by American President Reagan. This freeze in the hierarchy of threats during the Cold War, as well as the comfortable predictability it naturally created at various levels determine many nostalgic persons miss those difficult years on the edge of nuclear chaos, that were so easy to efficiently manage systemically.
Today, things have change. In the era of the Internet and of stunning technological evolution, the “freezing” of the hierarchy of systemic threats is impossible, as insecurity and the speed of systemic evolutions are the lead motivations for new global situations of security / insecurity. No earlier than in September 2014, during a speech at the UNO Tribune, American President Barack Obama was appreciating that the Ebola virus represented the most terrible threat of the world and that it needed a fast response, including military forces (more precisely, relocating forces that would fight against the spread of the epidemic). It was followed by the “Islamic Caliphate”, a terrorist entity that appeared out of the blue, a few months earlier, in the Mid-East and was already attacked by the American air forces. The third place went to the events occurring in Ukraine since February, as Russia supported the destabilization of Eastern Ukraine after having annexed Crimea illegally in March. Less than a quarter after Obama’s statements, by the end of January 2015, Thomas Friedman was writing the following in an article for the New York Times: “Ukraine matters — more than the war in Iraq against the Islamic State, a.k.a., ISIS. It is still not clear that most of our allies in the war against ISIS share our values. That conflict has a big tribal and sectarian element. It is unmistakably clear, though, that Ukraine’s reformers in its newly elected government and Parliament — who are struggling to get free of Russia’s orbit and become part of the European Union’s market and democratic community — do share our values.”.
Obviously, anyone would be interested to find out the motivation presented by Friedman regarding this change in the position of the second greatest global security threat included in the chart. It seems that, for the author, the lead evaluation scale is given by the values shared by the allies. Not all attendants to the coalition against ISIS are devoted to Occidental values, as it happens in Ukraine, presently fighting to regain freedom and escape Russian domination. Yet, gliding the Russian threat towards the top position in the chart is based on its systemic character, therefore on the fact that the aggression against Ukraine concerns not only the freedom of this country and nation but also the entire international order. An eventual Russian victory in Ukraine would mean that the system in its entirety would be damaged by the mere fact that one if its basic rules would be abandoned: the rule referring the indivisible equality and security of states and nations, big and small. If this rule is violated, the system loses its justification and regresses to the primary form of preponderance of force and arbitrariness, of absence of regulations codified in commonly agreed international documents Russia has played a major role in conceiving. As T. Friedman points out: if Russia “gets away with crushing Ukraine’s new democratic experiment and unilaterally redrawing the borders of Europe, every pro-Western country around Russia will be in danger.”
Things have strongly deteriorated in Ukraine during the last two weeks and all hope that the agreements in Minsk, signed in September 2014, might result in long-awaited peace, was lost. The blood-bathed confrontations at the Airport in Donetsk and, over all, the artillery bombing of the city Mariupol by the separatists on January 21 – 22, 2015, not to mention the establishment of permanent Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine mean the start of a new stage in the destabilization of Eastern Ukraine and the aggressive intervention of Russia on its neighbour’s territory. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko was surprised by the new Russian attack over Eastern Ukraine while he was in Davos and had to return to his country as fast as possible, to coordinate the resistance. He decided to launch a new national mobilisation and to quality the two self-proclaimed separatist entities in Eastern Ukraine as terrorist organizations and, nowadays, new Ukrainian troops are led to the battlefields. Yet, the Ukrainian defence troops miss modern military equipment and demands that it would be delivered from abroad multiplied. The US Congress finally approved a few days ago the delivery of annual military support, consisting of non-lethal weapons – radars to identify the locations of the adversary artillery batteries or antitank weapons, and the only thing missing is the President’s approval, so that this support could be delivered to Ukraine. Simultaneously, last Thursday, EU officials decided to maintain present sanctions against Russoa and warned that they might be increased if Russia is not willing to withdraw military troops from Ukraine and does not proceed to decrease military engagement. The Russian response to Western pressure was negative, nonetheless, and separatists launched an attack that anticipates the relaunch of an operation to extend controlled territories at the level of Novorossia, announced by Kremlin as a target last spring. In an article published recently in “The Guardian”, Timothy Garton Ash warns that “The time for diplomacy will come again, but it is not now: Ukraine urgently needs military support, and a counter to Russian propaganda”.
The appeal mentioned above is not a singular one. Two well-known personalities of international public opinion, George Soros and Bernard Henry-Levy, joined forces in writing an article for the New York Times, published on January 27, pleading for the salvation of new Ukraine. They debated that the “loss of Ukraine would be an enormous blow”, that this thing “would empower a Russian alternative to the European Union based on the rule of force rather than the rule of law”, that Putin must “eventually be forced to abandon his aggression”. On the other hand, on February 1, 2015, in Moscow Times, Pyotr Romanov , a Russian historian and journalist, writes that “The time to fight has come again to eastern Ukraine, and a great deal of blood will continue to spill there because neither the separatists nor the Ukrainian army can achieve a decisive victory yet. Thus, the fever of war — with its brief remissions and its sudden seizures — will long continue. It is deeply regrettable, but a fact.”, and pleads that diplomacy should step back in order to offer god Mars the privilege of a decision.
Where is Europe heading to? Given the context and time, it is a question that is difficult to answer in a comforting manner.