The tensions in Ukraine between the United States and some of its allies on the one hand and the Russian Federation on the other are developing within a very complex context, where several factors play an important role. There is the issue of the energy crisis and the importance of Russian gas for Europe, the division of Europe into East and West, the crisis in the Anglo-Saxon world – in England after Brexit and especially in the USA, where there is an air almost of civil war. But let’s look at what is perhaps the central point: the expansion of NATO.
Russia has declared that it has no intention of occupying Ukraine, but wants guarantees that NATO will not be enlarged, to which the United States has responded negatively. But let us see briefly how this situation came about.
On 4 April 1949, NATO was founded with the aim of defending the Western world from the threat posed by the Soviet Union and its satellite states. In response, the Warsaw Pact was established in 1955. In fact, during the Cold War years, no concrete military action was taken by the members of the Alliance.
In 1990, in order to overcome Soviet opposition to German reunification, German Chancellor Kohl assured Gorbachev that “NATO would not expand to include the current territory of East Germany”. Foreign Minister Genscher sent a message to Eduard Shevardnadze: ‘For us it is a fixed point that NATO will not expand to the east’. Similar assurances were also given verbally by US Secretary of State Baker. The American ambassador to Moscow at the time, Jack Matlock, confirmed that Moscow had received a ‘clear commitment’ on this point. Thus Germany was reunified and in July 1991 the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in Prague. But NATO did not, even though the historical enemy no longer existed. On the contrary, the first military interventions began, first in the former Yugoslavia and then later in Afghanistan, Libya and in 2015 with military exercises in Eastern Europe on the border with Russia.
A turning point came in 1999, when a new ‘strategic concept’ was defined at the Washington meeting, transforming the original defence pact into a broader military agreement, including preventative action. More importantly, in contravention of the 1990 agreements, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary joined NATO, and later other countries, incorporating almost all the former satellite states of the Soviet Union. Today, NATO has 30 member states, compared to 16 in 1998.
At this point, it is clear that the claim that Russia is pursuing an aggressive policy, that for expansionist reasons it is moving troops to the Ukrainian border, is just a narrative aimed at justifying a plan and an intention that the US has had in mind since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
On the other hand, if Russia were to establish a military alliance with most of the countries of South America and then wanted to extend it to Mexico, including setting up military bases with nuclear weapons, what would be the reaction of the United States? Perhaps a nuclear war would have already broken out. In this respect, Russia has in recent decades responded sensibly to numerous provocations and has avoided armed conflict in every way possible.
In this context, Europe is obstinately following US policy, going against its own interests. Russia is not only important for gas, it is also an essential market for Europe. True cooperation between Europe and Russia, within a Eurasian region, would represent prosperity and a great advance, not only economic. But this is precisely what the United States cannot allow, and so they continue to foster divisions in Europe, not only between East and West, but also within the Western countries themselves. They do not want to accept that the world has become multi-polar and that their world empire is now completely in decline.
If Europe wants to play an important role in progress and peace, it must have a common foreign policy that is independent of the anachronistic imperialist manias of the United States, as made clear in the Europe for Peace declaration.
Today, Europe must make every effort to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine: Russia must withdraw its troops from the border, but the non-expansion of NATO must be guaranteed. Are European politicians, lost in electoral polls and partisan interests, up to the task that history demands of them? Do they understand the catastrophic consequences of a war between nuclear powers? Do they realise that the future of humanity is at stake here?
Perhaps the diplomatic efforts of Italy, France and Germany will succeed today in temporarily avoiding an escalation of the conflict, but this will not change the catastrophic direction of events.
It is time for the peoples, the ordinary people, the Invisibles, those who do not participate in the negotiations and do not appear on the talk shows to make their voices heard against war and in favour of peace. It is time to take to the streets! But even a small gesture in this direction is important to give ourselves and our children a future, a human future where we will finally laugh at the misfortunes we are forced to live through today.