December 3, 2022

Preparing for the good times to be over

The hopes of the defenders may turn out to be premature, particularly on the political battlefields and if one looks beyond Ukraine. The EU and its central financial power Germany have not yet totally comprehended that this conflict is not restricted to the battlegrounds of Ukraine, and that they have actually been attacked.

Austrias fake memories

Considering that then, the dispute on the war has actually stalled. The chancellor is usually keeping a low profile and providing reassuring declarations assuaging German angst that Nato may be drawn into the war.

The fact that a high share of Ukrainian soldiers and battalions liberated Austria in 1945 which Austrian soldiers serving in the Wehrmacht played their part in ravaging Ukraine during World War II is still forgotten.

A defense of Ukraine was to be gotten out of the notoriously putinophile FPÖ, however it is shocking how the SPÖ still holds on to old leftist narratives that Austria was liberated by Russians, restored its statehood from Russia (which is continuously conflated with the Soviet Union) and for that reason needs to be permanently grateful.

The German government is plainly not up to the current difficulties either. Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave an assertive speech on the third day of the war versus Ukraine stating a turnaround in German foreign policy that consisted of stopping the North Stream 2 pipeline– which must never have been developed anyhow after the first Russian attack on Ukraine in 2014. He also announced full involvement in economic sanctions, and providing weapons to the Ukrainian army.

The Austrian reaction is a lot more embarrassing. Here the Social Democratic Party and the conservative populist Freedom Party refused to invite Zelensky to provide a speech, arguing that this would endanger Austrian neutrality.

Meanwhile, the payments for Russian energy have actually risen practically threefold compared to February 2021 and keep on oiling Putins war equipment with 700 million United States dollars a day. Putin has even taken the initiative versus Western sanctions by demanding one month after the start of the war that Russian oil and gas should be spent for in rubles. This would resurrect the full convertibility of the Russian currency and partially balance out the Russian Federations exemption from the global payment system Swift.

German hesitancy

Losing moral management

The reluctant German reactions to this relocation expose that the financial superpower has actually not yet comprehended that by attacking Ukraine Putin has also stated war on the EU and NATO. Furthermore, this shrewd relocation enables Putin to check how vulnerable the EU and especially Germany are to blackmail.

It was the right decision by the Polish, Czech, and Slovenian prime ministers not to bother asking a prominent member of the German government to accompany them on their train trip to Kyiv, although that would have greatly increased the political impact of that courageous journey. Germany is no longer admired as an anchor of stability in East Central Europe, but viewed as a saturated, self-indulgent, and even corrupt weakling.

This is how Jean Paul Sarte depicted French society and politics in his novel Le sursis (there is an excellent English translation titled The Reprieve) on the eve of the fateful Munich Agreement in 1938, when the western powers of that time betrayed Czechoslovakia (Poland joined them soon afterwards by annexing the Czech part of Cieszyn/T ěšín).

Those hard European winters

Obviously, western politicians have actually alerted that the sanctions versus Russia will come at a cost, but that announcement was geared towards the future. Now the cost may undoubtedly have to be paid, and that will set off conflicts in between and within nations.

If hes the one who stops the supply of gas and oil, it will have a various influence on the European house fronts than if the EU governments honestly interact that Putin has declared a war on us too, which rigorous countermeasures are needed in support of Ukraine, however for the sake of the EU.

The West looks more united at the minute, and it is definitely more powerful than the group of anti-fascist countries on the eve of World War II. However it stays to be seen how strong that unity will be if Putin makes the delivery of Russian energy next fall and winter conditional on offering up obvious political and hidden military support for Ukraine.

When it comes to sanctions, it is likewise essential to switch point of views. It may make sense to keep NATO out of Ukraine in order to prevent a Third World War, and for that reason to avoid stating a no-fly zone as in Bosnia in 1993 or a humanitarian mission by the alliance. Yet, in Russian eyes, the Western sanctions are but a various form of warfare. By taking part in the sanctions, not even Austria is neutral any longer.

General Winter or General Frost is the mythical personification of the tough Russian winter seasons that broke the backs of lots of conquerors. European leaders now fear their own winters, and how their electorate will cope without Russian energy imports. A retouched variation of a 1916 graphic from the French Le Petit Journal. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Immobilizing the house front

Obligatory thankfulness

This carry on their part even verifies the conservative populist position that every nation can decide for itself which refugees and other migrants it accepts or rejects. The primary argument for that has actually been a claim to preserve national sovereignty; it remains to be seen how active the sovranisti in Italy, Austria and in other places will become if the EU faces a severe energy crisis in the fall.

At the minute, Poland has gotten the most refugees from Ukraine. The motives for the Polish open door policy are historically rooted in the motto za wolność naszą i waszą ( for our and your liberty), one that was developed in 1830/31 to universalize the battle versus Russia. It did assist the Polish insurgents to win European public opinion, like Zelensky does today, but it did not prevent the military collapse after around half a year.

The war is now moving closer to the EU anyhow, in the form of the arrival of 3.5 million refugees. Seeing presently beleaguered cities such as Mariupol, one has to take into account Russian military action in Syria, and the course of the war in Bosnia in 1992/93, where half of the population was displaced.

The donations in the German Confederation assisted the Poles reach their French exile, but the cash came too late to purchase weapons and provide them to the insurgents. The PiS government, much like Hungary, is keeping its borders open also as a form of damage control, to repair the political losses done by their rejection to provide any assistance during the refugee crisis in 2015/16 (a term currently overemphasized, as I argued at the time in my history of refugees in modern Europe).

The minimum goal requires to be that Ukraine can not lose this war, otherwise democracy will have lost versus dictatorship. The EU too can not lose this war due to the fact that there is still Putins need that NATO should retreat from Eastern Europe.

It is even more immediate to concentrate on energy policy decisions on the European level, and not to repeat the fatal error with North Stream 2.

Moreover, humanitarian support and politics can not replace serious financial and political choices that require to be made on our European home fronts. One ought to mainly compare patriarchal solidarity (such as contributing worn clothing, furnishings, and small amounts of money to charities), for which the recipients need to stay grateful and for that reason in an inferior status, and active solidarity that is all set to make sacrifices and pursue clear political objectives in cooperation with the receivers. This sort of solidarity might hurt for some months and maybe years, however if it is not supplied, the long-lasting losses to our flexibility and welfare are likely to be higher.

The solidarity with the refugees from Ukraine up until now has been astounding. Is does not compensate for the absence of clear political support for Ukraine on other levels? Assisting people in need is a terrific property, yet the public support for refugees is most likely to wane as more Ukrainians require and come to be housed, fed, and admitted to the labour market.

The great times are over

Are we up for the challenge? History will relate.

So far, no European leader has actually attempted to give a postmodern version of Churchills Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech of May 1940, three days after the German army had actually begun its offensive against France. The situation is extremely different now, and expert historians ought to refrain from creating false or pallid historical analogies.

If an ostensibly neutral nation like Austria refrains from supplying military assistance, it needs to compensate with more activities in other fields, such as providing medical items to Ukraine. A historians quick glance at the map of Eastern Europe (and individual experience of travelling Ukraine by train and by roadway in the previous 25 years) make it extremely clear how tough it will be to supply Ukraine with the food, medical products, energy, and weapons for a war that may drag out as long as the one in Bosnia.

At the moment, it looks unlikely that the Russian army can dominate Ukraine and set up a puppet federal government, but Russia may get large territories, and lay waste to the rest of the country.

I extremely much hope that this active uniformity is being offered behind the scenes, something into which a historian blogging about the present has little insight. I hope that military aid and defensive weapons that avoid Kharkiv and other Ukrainian cities from suffering the fate of Mariupol are getting here in Ukraine.

Who will be next, as soon as Putin has reached his objectives in Ukraine, at least partly? Or Poland, which a Russian leader certainly dislikes as much as Ukraine, legitimizing this sentiment with a blend of older stalinist and royal tropes?

The hopes of the protectors may turn out to be premature, specifically on the political battlegrounds and if one looks beyond Ukraine. The EU and its main economic power Germany have not yet completely understood that this conflict is not limited to the battlegrounds of Ukraine, and that they have actually been assaulted. Chancellor Olaf Scholz offered an assertive speech on the third day of the war against Ukraine declaring a turnaround in German foreign policy that consisted of stopping the North Stream 2 pipeline– which ought to never have actually been developed anyway after the first Russian attack on Ukraine in 2014. It may make sense to keep NATO out of Ukraine in order to prevent a Third World War, and therefore to refrain from stating a no-fly zone as in Bosnia in 1993 or a humanitarian objective by the alliance. Or Poland, which a Russian leader definitely despises as much as Ukraine, legitimizing this sentiment with a blend of older stalinist and royal tropes?

Yet I think the population needs to be told once again and once again that this is a war on Europe (British media do that more than German or let alone Austrian media), which long-lasting and active uniformity are required now. That solidarity might start at the gas station, by denying the heat at house, by preparing for the fall and winter rather of pretending that our lives can practically go on like they did before February 24. At the very start of the war, the message should have been that the great times are over for us now as well.