another iron curtain

Russia has never been a great economic power. Neither was it when it headed the communist bloc, nor is it now, at the head of a populist international, with a GDP half that of France and a per capita income three times less than that of Spain. But it is a nuclear power that has recovered with Putin, forged in the Stalinist KGB, the pride of the old tsarist empire and the distrust of the West that leads it to seek safety zones through active expansionism. This defiant and dictatorial attitude is strengthened thanks to the exports of gas and oil (the main source of financing for the country and the State) as well as the forging of a powerful club of oligarchs, enriched by the discretionary favor of the autocrat.

This is not the time to reflect on the responsibility that falls on the elevation of Putinto a West that proclaimed its victory after the fall of the Berlin Wall (the end of history) and tried to impose a strong liberal therapy and hasty integration into the EU or NATO on the former communist countries, from an arrogant attitude ( the book of Krastev and Holmes, The light that goes out. How the West won the cold war and lost the peace, gives enough clues). And this is not the time because nothing justifies the current invasion of Ukraine and the suffering of millions of civilians who see their lives destroyed.

the war of Putin It shouldn’t have caught us by surprise, as it seems it has. Now we know (we, but the intelligence services should know beforehand) that he was preparing it since, at least, the coup that in 2014 expelled the dictator he had imposed on Ukraine (a country that, to Putindoes not exist since it was an “invention” of Lenin) which led to two premonitory movements of what is now: invading and annexing Crimea, at the same time that the pro-Russians of the Ukrainian regions of Donetskj and Lugansk declared independence in 30% of the territory they control. With this, it generated an unstable situation that, seen now, only had two possible evolutions: the return to Ukraine of an anti-European government and addicted to Putinor the invasion, with the idea of ​​annexing it to Russia.

Undoubtedly, the courageous reaction of the Ukrainian people and the harsh response of the West, aware of how much we have at stake in this stake (China is watching closely, with Taiwan on the radar) is changing, perhaps for the first time in recent years. , the plans of the autocratic egomaniac accustomed to getting away with it and without any type of counterweight that, from what can be seen, can stop him.

Excluded and isolated

The set of sanctions launched very quickly by the US and the European Union represents the lifting of a new iron curtain. Russia has been excluded from the world economic system and, as the rest of the measures on gas imports, airspace, the internet, withdrawal of Western firms from the Russian market, the media, athletes, etc. advance. it will be cut off from the West, in a situation reminiscent of the cold war. Three quarters of the countries present at the UN General Assembly have condemned the invasion, which has only been supported by four dictatorships, while China and India abstained.

Although Russia depends on the rest of the world more than we do on it, the disconnection effected will have a negative economic impact, also among the sanctioners. Depending, of course, on its duration, although everything indicates that we must prepare ourselves for a long-term scenario in which we will have to look for geographical alternatives to some important products that today come from there. Above all: gas, feed grain and sunflower oil, in addition to one and a half million high-net-worth tourists.

During this year, we already know of two clear impacts: on inflation, aggravating a problem that has been going on for months, and on growth, slowing down the pace of a post-pandemic recovery that had already been slowing down. For Spain, the problems will be much more microeconomic than macroeconomic, although to the most affected companies and sectors, but, above all, favoring an income pact that prevents both inflation and inequality from being replenished.

What is at stake

We are, however, facing a political conflict, where what is at stake is much more than the income statement. And, from this point of view, there are already two conclusions that we can draw from this war: firstly, it puts an end to the ideology that has animated these last decades of globalization according to which, generalizing free exchanges and interrelationships between countries and areas was an effective instrument to generalize well-being by suppressing the incentives for new warlike confrontations. This ideological perspective of globalization, which (almost) all of us have shared, had already been strongly eroded with the angry response of those who suffered from relocation and which explains the rise of populism and the victory of Trump.

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The second conclusion is that politics, with all its emotional charge, has once again been imposed on private economic interests, no matter how rational they appear. The new iron curtain that is rising to isolate Russia clearly outlines the difference between democratic values ​​and populist dictatorships that many have tried to mask under the supposed greater efficiency of the latter (China, for example). This time, if the West suffers a little more inflation or a little less growth, it will be in defense of freedom. That same freedom that Ukrainians are fighting for, as President Zelensky in his intervention by videoconference before the European Parliament.

One last thought. Ukraine wants to join the European Union. That same union that with too much frivolity, we criticize those of us who already belong to it or from which the extreme right-wing parties want to get us out. Now it is our turn to be proud: in a few days, we have taken a leap forward of great magnitude. Of unity and speed of response, as well as the assumption of the age of majority in defense matters (the change in Germany has been definitive in this regard). We have to strengthen our strategic alliance with the US. But we cannot continue entrusting them to take care of defending our values ​​and well-being, when some Putin, internal or external, threatens him by force. Immediately, turn to helping the Ukrainians. But being aware that we have before us the opportunity, as in any crisis, to build a better world. Amen.

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