In the shadow of Ukraine –

“Ruins of Empires”, “Continent of Darkness”, “Blood Lands” (1) : this is how historians describe the borders of the former Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, which faced brutality during and after the two world wars. The mass violence that occurred in these regions in 1910-1920 was inseparable from what was observed in the Ottoman Empire, which was the scene of the Armenian genocide in 1915-1916. The bloody “special military operation” launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin (since 2012) on February 24, 2022 against Ukraine is part of the logic of continuity with the destruction observed in the Middle East: Aleppo served as a “model” for the destruction of Mariupol.

The war in Ukraine marks the end of a long historical period that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. It also sheds new light on the conflicting temporalities of the workplace in Russia between 2000 and 2010. Democratic expectations, which can only be different among the youth, intellectuals and large sections of the population of the big cities, and post-Soviet National-Bolshevism, which insists on the need to preserve integrity. Threatened by the corrupt and depraved “Western civilization”, the Russian civilization is to fulfill the imperial mission imposed on the Russian nation by “history” as well as “geography”, and to impose its rule in its “space” through war and war. sacrificial spirit.

It is too early to call Vladimir Putin’s new war a suicide act of Eurasianism and national-Bolshevism of ideologues like Alexander Dugin and Timofey Sergeyitsev. However, one thing seems certain: it confirms that arrogance, a sense of power unbalanced by nomos, moderation as much as law, can only bring forth the enemy, the wrath and vengeance of the gods.

American blindness

The war also exposes the historical blindness of democracies, starting with the self-styled “empire” of the United States in the post-Cold War decades. In the sweetness of the Bill Clinton years (1993-2001), the euphoria of the “end of history” (2), in other words, the fulfillment of their reason for being chosen by History and the Creator prevented the United States from imagining itself as a simple actor in an ever-changing world. With the attacks of September 11, 2001, their illusions of eternal happiness without significant conflict gave way to a dual war in Afghanistan and Iraq, but did not allow them to form a historical consciousness.

From a military point of view, Washington did not lose the war either in Iraq (2003-2011), which it officially left in December 2011, keeping a certain number of soldiers, or in Afghanistan, which it handed over to the Taliban in 2001-2021. August 2021. Contrary to what is often repeated, the economic cost of these conflicts (about 6,500 billion dollars over two decades), the Pentagon budget (750 billion per year) and the human losses (about 7,000 men and women soldiers) with Vietnam (between 1955 and 1975 over 58,000 deaths) are not comparable. But the White House did not understand that only forces coming from the outside and possessing the resources of the “Khaldun”—that is, a distinct yet egalitarian internal solidarity, a primitive but holy cause, and a spirit of self-sacrifice—could resist this violence. edges (3). He learned late and at his expense that the dialectic of “empire and terror” and “bourgeois and barbarian” is impossible. (4) it could wear him out only in the areas he was attached to, which he would never master. Thus, Barack Obama (2009-2017), before Donald Trump (2017-2021), chose to retreat behind the documents of empire while engaging in economic and influence struggles, but not militarily, with an adversary. height: China.

The nascent history that democracies stubbornly kept out of their horizons for these three decades, however, continued to be written elsewhere, notably exclusively in relation to the Middle East. Thus, in 2013, when Barack Obama reneged on his promise to intervene in Syria after the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, Vladimir Putin became convinced that Westerners no longer had “manhood” or “honor”. to challenge him. The annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the de facto occupation of part of Donbas in the winter of 2013-2014 were direct consequences of America’s inaction in Syria. Far from destabilizing his regime or weakening it on the international stage, several sanctions later adopted by democracies comforted him in the credibility of his reading: “The West is in decline, slow but inevitable”; “As the Western system continues its moral, political and economic degradation, non-Western powers will inevitably see their positions strengthened.” (5).

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