On perpetual peace, by Rafael Jorba

If it is difficult to explain the present, it is even more difficult to predict the future. Sometimes, as in the ukrainian war, we must begin by rereading the past. Those who believed that October Revolution of 1917 had opened a path of no return for Russia and its republics realized seven decades later – the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the collapse of the USSR (1991) – that ‘the final struggle’ had only been an episode – tragic, yes – of the history of the 20th century. Those who thought that the ‘new man’ had been born were confronted with the resurgence of the ‘old man’, with all its atavistic burdens.

In the years of ‘perestroika’ I underlined in a book a lucid description of that historical process: “Mikhail Gorbachev ‘the Reformer’ is on the path of the arbitrators who invented plans to remedy the endemic evils of the country, from Peter ‘the Great’, fascinated by Europeanization, and Alexander II, who abolished slavery, to Vladimir Lenin, who partially restored capitalism through a new economic policy (NEP) with the itch to take ‘a step back in order to take two leaps forward’. The subsequent jumps were Stalinism and its horrors & rdquor ;.

This succinct and exemplary synthesis of modern Russian history was written in 1988 by veteran journalist Matthew Madridejos in his book ‘The smile of perestroika. Gorbachev and the Soviet empire, between decadence and reform’. That modernizing project began to falter with Boris Yeltsin and, three decades later, it has completely collapsed with Vladimir Putin. His model of ‘authoritarian democracy’ – quite an oxymoron – has ended up showing its true face: a national-populist regime in which imperial daydreams, the Cold War schemes of the Soviet era and the techniques of repression and lies are mixed. from his years as a KGB spy.

The error of the West is to have forgotten those ‘endemic evils’ of Russia and to have framed the collapse of the USSR in Francis Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’. Not everyone saw it that way. In the first half of the 1990s, when I was a correspondent in Paris, I attended a history class at the Elysée. François Mitterrand, then president, gave a press conference with Boris Yeltsin. The answers of the Russian president, touched by the alcoholic euphoria, raised the laughter of the journalists. Mitterrand cut them short: “Do not forget that Russia has been, is and will continue to be a great nationand we cannot humiliate her & rdquor ;.

From this point of view, Putin has taken care, behind closed doors, to overcome this stage of ‘humiliation’ in Russia and return the ‘pride’ to his compatriots and, from outside doors, to try restore hegemony – cultural, political and military – in its area of ​​influence. The invasion of Ukraine is the climax of this logic. Now the victims are the Ukrainian citizens, but previously the victims have been the Russian citizens themselves who, once again, have seen crumbling hopes of democratization and modernization of Russiahand in hand with Putin and his ‘nomenklatura’ of oligarchs.

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Yes, Russia’s ‘endemic evils’ have resurfaced in version 2.0. In the second half of the 90s, during Javier Solana’s time as Secretary General of NATOI attended a closed-door briefing with a civilian adviser. He showed the same skepticism as Madridejos about the fate of the process initiated with ‘perestroika’ and confessed his fears about the political future of Russia: “I am considering two hypotheses, the pessimistic and the optimistic. The pessimist: take out an icon in procession and ask for divine mediation. The optimist: hope that the Russian people themselves fix it & rdquor ;.

Meanwhile, with a war on the EU’s borders, the time has come for European leaders to face the cost of solidarity with the Ukrainian people and mentalize your public opinion before the good and equidistant speeches that place Putin’s war and the defensive missions in the allied countries in the area on the same plane. Immanuel Kant, in his essay ‘On Perpetual Peace’, advised: “Seek first of all to approach the ideal of practical reason and its justice; the end that you propose to yourself – perpetual peace – will be given to you in addition & rdquor ;. It is time to remember another simple axiom: pacifism as a postulate cannot be confused with peace as an objective.

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