11 Apr 2022

The Power of Democracy and Freedom


Reflecting on what is happening in Ukraine, Leo Tolstoy's opera, "War and Peace", comes to mind, in which through some historical figures, Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon Bonaparte, forced to leave the throne of power ingloriously, he wishes to disavow the romantic ideology of war and bring out the fragility and importance of human values. The author, among other things, in his memorable pages reveals an important aspect: "History is not made by the great leaders (Napoleon is described as a vein leader, a good strategist, who is guilty of believing to be the architect of his own destiny, like a child who on a carriage is believed to be the driver), but by groups of people of various backgrounds, warriors, nobles, humble, generous, rich, dreamers who together constitute a people".

In particular, in the novel Tolstoy, witness of the disastrous campaign of Sevastopol for the Russian Empire, strives to express the desire for historical and patriotic redemption of the mother country, bringing out the popular character of the struggle against Napoleon, after the humiliating defeat in the Crimea (conflict fought from October 4, 1853 to February 1, 1856 by the Empire tsarist, against an alliance composed of the Ottoman Empire, France, the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Sardinia).

The emblematic pages of the novel are linked in some respects to current events in Ukraine. The citizens of a sovereign state are undergoing a military invasion, ordered, outside any norm of international law, by a reckless, rancorous and humane leader, almost for a messianic duty to rewrite history for the benefit of his own country. With weapons he wants to cancel the decisions taken in Yalta (Crimea, 1945)) by the victors of the Second World War and in the treaties following the dissolution of the USSR, in December 1991. To justify the aggression in the heart of Europe, it is claimed that the West has encircled and threatens Russia's security by enlarging NATO and the EU to its borders. Some, even in Europe, support this thesis, following a media narrative that attributes the origin of every conflict, especially after the fall of the Berlin muro, to the USA, the EU, NATO (which is a political and military alliance for defensive purposes) and its allies. Although the intervention in Iraq by an international coalition, first to depose the dictator Saddam Hussein and now to fight ISIS, is questionable, the military operation in Ukraine is execrable as it aims to oust a leader, democratically elected (73% of the votes), in order to expand its empire to the detriment of a people who defend their land and freedom. The conflicts in Georgia, Chechnya and Afghanistan, the occupation of Donbas and the annexation of Crimea certainly cannot be blamed on the aggressive attitude of the West, which has probably made some mistakes in relations with Russia. For the sake of clarity, I believe it is necessary to retrace some fundamental steps in EU/NATO/International Organizations/Russia relations.

In 1991, 15 independent republics emerged from the dissolution of the USSR, including Ukraine, before NATO and the EU began their enlargement to the east. In 1997 the G7 was transformed into the G8 to include Russia in the assembly of the most industrialized countries in the world. Only in 1999 Poland joined NATO, while the Baltics and Romania followed in 2004. In 1994 NATO began the "Partnership for Peace (PfP)" program to bring many former Soviet republics closer to the Alliance; in particular, among these entered the PfP Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The improvement of relations between the various Partners allowed, in 2002, in the Italian military base of Pratica di Mare to conclude a historic agreement between Russia and NATO, in order to strengthen the mutual collaboration in the field of security and the fight against terrorism. At the Rome summit of the same year, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) was established, which was to meet once/twice a year, at the level of Foreign Ministers, to strengthen mutual cooperation in the field of security, arms control, including those nuclear. In short, it was believed that in the 21st century the period of the "cold war" was really over. However in the Munich conference, in 2007, the Russian leader changed his attitude: he accused Washington of wanting to impose its military standards on other nations, to threaten Russia by installing missile shields. In 2008, after accusing the US of wanting to fuel global conflicts through the unilateral use of force, the Kremlin authorized the invasion of Georgia and, in 2014, the annexation of Crimea and military support for the Independence from Ukraine of the Donbas Republics. In fact, this annexation occurred as a result of the "orange revolution" of Maidan Square in Kiev (January 2014) which led to the fall, out of the people, of the pro-Russian Ukrainian President Yanukovych. Faced with these unilateral decisions, taken outside international law and the balances established in previous agreements , the Western world reacted with economic sanctions and changing the framework of cooperation with Russia. But how is it changed so radically Moscow’s relations with the Western world and with Ukraine to determine its invasion? It was certainly not the aggression shown by NATO and Europe against Russia, as the regime's propaganda would suggest. Russia's leader felt the threat of external conspiracies when he learned that he was losing support within his power system and that he was not able to achieve the goals he had set. In fact, he has failed to modernize his country, despite a major military build-up that has allowed him to achieve foreign policy successes, through the use of his soldiers in major conflicts, from the Middle East to Africa. He has consolidated the Russian economy in an autarkic way, in the face of widespread globalization, preparing for years to resist any sanctions deriving from the international community for his military adventures. The latter, however, were possible because of the weakness of the Western world, divided between the United States and Europe, also favored by some political parties sympathetic to the Kremlin and by the alternation of leadership not very incisive in the main countries. For example, it should be pointed out that European energy policies have not taken into account the possibility of blackmail and the dependence that could result from relying mainly on Russia's energy sources. There also remains the doubt that, ignoring history, the West has believed for years that Russia, born from the dissolution of the USSR, could become a democratic country, erasing its tsarist aspiration, aimed at dominating the old continent and to enlarge its empire and its sphere of influence. Ukraine, on the other hand, having become independent, tried to shake off its communist past, imposed by the Soviet regime of the thirties (three million dead) and to free itself from Moscow's attempts to impose its protectorate. Therefore, this country has recently tried to get closer to the Western world by establishing within it a government as democratic as possible, helped by the flows of money from its emigrants who in the other countries of Europe have found hospitality and work, savoring the value of the freedom. This attempt to free oneself from the past, highly contagious to the peoples of "greater Russia" is considered intolerable by the dominant Russian oligarchy, as it can shake its entire system of power. The master of the Kremlin, obsessed with maintaining his functions (a recent amendment to the Constitution allows him to hold the office of President until 2036), did not even take into account the lessons deriving from the “great patriotic war” and of the new elements that Gorbachev had introduced with glasnost (transparency of communication) and perestroika (establishment of the rule of law). Currently, unfortunately, the Russian people are subjected to disinformation, to the strict and autarkic laws of the regime in order not to be contaminated by the Western system of life. But as Tolstoy teaches, the wind of modernity, freedom and democracy cannot be stopped by a tsar, who sooner or later is destined to cede power in the apotheosis of his ego, overwhelmed by the demands of his people who wish to live peacefully as in the rest of the free world.

10 Nov 2021

Crisis in Afghanistan

 Crisis in Afghanistan: decline of the West?

by Renzo Pegoraro

The withdrawal of military contingents from Afghanistan, after twenty years of mission, has affected world public opinion, many Western citizens and observers. The modalities and times in which the retreat took place took on the characteristics of a military defeat, a fatal blow to the credibility of the West, to which the Afghan people had clung to to see the light of a better future on the road to democracy and of modernity. Of course, the long period of Western military and civilian presence has fueled many expectations of change, in particular in the young Afghan generation that was born in this period and in the female universe that now sees the fundamental freedoms provided for by the universal declaration of human rights precluded. (UN, Paris, 1948).

But the disengagement of the US and NATO is not just about Afghanistan, it is a process that disrupts all the balances of the world order. This is a very complex problem that cannot be examined in this short article, but from which it is possible to draw some immediate reflections. First of all, it is necessary to highlight the objectives that the military intervention promised itself; that is, effectively countering international terrorism, after the attack on the twin towers (11 September 2001), by hitting the springs and the principals in the places where they operated. The Taliban had established an autocratic regime in Afghanistan which, according to international intelligence services, represented "the breeding ground" of Islamic terrorism linked to Al Qaeda, a declared enemy of the West.

The military intervention initially succeeded in expelling the Taliban from the country, but, retreating to the borders of Pakistan, in the impervious valleys and in the Afghan mountains, they continued to mark their presence with attacks and bloody massacres that took them by surprise Western soldiers, causing numerous losses (fallen: 53 Italian soldiers, 500 British, 2500 Americans, etc.). However, this situation has increased the importance of another important objective of the mission: to bring peace and prosperity to the Afghan people, through the control of the territory with the military presence of NATO and other multinational contingents, to provide aid and skills aimed at social development. and economic of the country. Meanwhile, international support was to favor the reconstruction and modernization of local institutions on the Western model, counting that time was "gentleman" and, in the long run, the new Afghan authorities would be able to govern their country autonomously. However, in recent years, for many and varied reasons, the initial drive for change has been fading, also due to the inability of the new rulers to make use of Western support, without resorting to clientelism, corruption, illicit trafficking, etc. .. At the same time, the illusion has arisen that the problems of internal security, support for the economy, infrastructural and cultural development of Afghanistan could remain a prerogative of the new "liberators". The sandcastle upon which the new, shaky institutions, including an army of 250,000 men, rested, melted as the Westerners announced that they would vacate the field. At this point, all roads reopened to the Taliban, including the possibility of taking possession, without any resistance, of the means, weapons and materials, even of the latest generation, donated to the country by the West, in particular by the United States. 

In this brief examination the inconceivable way in which armies of professionals have faced a retreat, in an uncoordinated way and without a programmed exit strategy. This sudden departure underlined above all the insufficient knowledge of the local situation, the improvisation in organizing the transfer of asylum seekers, the distance between the objectives of the military contingents and those of the Afghan population. The autocratic regime of the Taliban scored a first victory, probably not decisive. They will have to demonstrate that they are able to build institutions capable of governing 38 million citizens and giving them a future, possibly not of hunger, terror, abuse and tyranny.

Many commentators on the Afghan question have seen the defeat of the United States, as the world power promoting the intervention, neglecting the co-responsibility of the other participating countries. In fact, the US and Europe are closely linked to each other, particularly in the Western defense system (NATO), but also in the UN and the OSCE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which represents 57 countries. It should be remembered that the "out of area" missions, over time improperly called "peace" missions, were decided with the adoption of the new strategic concept of NATO, approved in Washington in 1999, before the intervention in Kosovo. The most evident paradox, after the twenty years of Afghanistan, is to note that the fight against terrorism has been assimilated to this type of mission, establishing similar rules of engagement for combat in the operational theater. Peacekeeping missions generally do not have a well-defined enemy, but are interposed between two or more warring factions (Kosovo). After all, it is known that terrorism acts by surprise, in the least expected places and times and therefore it is an invisible, devious and deadly enemy in concluding its actions. For its contrast the reactivity of the forces is rewarded, but above all a valid and efficient intelligence service . The failure in Afghanistan, therefore, calls into question both the new NATO, which while remaining a defensive alliance has been used in an offensive way against terrorism, and the use of substantial military forces to promote the pacification of the scattered Afghan tribes on the territory, with the ambition to build a new democratic state; that is, a radical change in Afghan society that requires at least the continuous involvement of several generations.

From the geopolitical point of view, the withdrawal from Afghanistan is undoubtedly the release of the great American power from Asia, now fought over by other emerging powers such as Iran, Russia, China and Turkey. This separation, however, had already been predicted by presidents Obama and Trump; the latter, in fact, had characterized his entire tenure with the "slogan America first ". It should also take note of the new US policy, which seems to give up his messianic role aimed at disseminating the planet ideals of the free world. Now is starting a new Cold War, no longer based on the values of the West and the Soviet Union, but for the economic dominance of the United States and China. This contention is needed more and more the voice of Europe, politically united and strong even at the level defense.

Europe in Afghanistan was conspicuous by its absence and the lack of a foreign policy and defense, long overdue, but never realized for the individualism of its 27 members. However, among the many difficulties in this regard it is necessary to consider that the majority of European citizens, according to a recent survey (reported by "Corriere della Sera"), has no interest in a European defense system, need instead to rely more on the scene World and ensure peace.

11 Oct 2020

Hope for the future

 At the beginning of 1990, a book published by the unknown teacher of Arzano (NA), Marcello D'Orta, caused a great deal of attention, in which he collected some themes, written with the peculiar and authentic language of his students, in which the poor social reality of the place. These children, although resigned and sad in their condition of indigence, told with ungrammatical, distorted and hilarious what the teacher explained, hiding between the lines a strong desire for redemption, the desire to soon reach a more gratifying future than the reality in which one they found. In this period of pandemic, surely we too, at times, have gathered courage by repeating the most significant phrase of that book, "I hope that I will get along", confirming the wisdom manifested unconsciously by those children in their themes, the meaning of which explicit is embodied in the hope of a better fate in the future.

Hope (combined with faith and charity) is one of the cornerstones of Christian theology and, as we know, it is the last feeling to die. Therefore, it cannot be assimilated to generic formulas such as: "everything will be fine", aimed at exorcising an unexpected and unwelcome present, but represents a challenging and courageous awareness of a reality yet to be built through the experience of the past and based on the current situation. This is what our society needs in these uncertain times. Instead, we are invaded by a phony concreteness of unstable numbers and predictions, especially on the fight against the virus that has changed our existence. The vaccine that will save lives is rightly targeted: some say it is ready in Russia, but others fear that this is not sufficiently tested. It is therefore considered safer to wait for the one being tested in England, which could be distributed at the end of the year, or rather, in a year or perhaps two. Young people, always cited as full of high hopes, do not care about the pandemic, they prefer to have fun today, then we'll see tomorrow. Adults who manage this eternal present, without a clear vision of the future, are careful not to invoke hope so as not to be considered cowardly. The older ones are the only ones attached to hope, to try to survive. Hope cannot arise from uncertainty, it stands on solid foundations previously built.

"Society cannot accept a world without hope", said Mario Draghi, at the opening of the C.L. meeting and, in the continuation, underlined that "participation in the society of the future will require, from today's young people, even greater capacities of discernment and of adaptation ". In conclusion, it seems appropriate, first of all, a precise and public investigation into the reasons for what is happening today, as these, once defined, will make us look at the future differently. But, in particular, it is necessary to support cultural enrichment, a more accurate preparation of the younger generations, aimed at filling the gaps of a hedonistic society, of profit and consumption, to respond to its needs for structural change, in order to grasp those opportunities to be utilize for the future.

17 Apr 2020

NATO: 71 years after

The Alliance was founded on 4 April 1949, as a system of collective defense concerning the metropolitan territory of the Member States, on the basis of the criterion of mutual aid: in the case of an armed assault outside one or more members all the others are committed to intervene to ensure the safety of the attacked mNATO oggiembers. The answer is not automatic but must be preceded by political consultations. In 1969, NATO took on unlimited duration (with the power of withdrawal by members).In 1991 he established a Partnership for Peace with Russia and began a process of enlargement to the East, including all the countries of  the Ex War Pact, the three Baltic countries and some countries of the former Yugoslavia. At the same time, cooperation agreements have been initiated with Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Mongolia. In addition, starting in 1999, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, for the first time it intervened militarily outside its area of competence, against Serbia and against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Today, NATO continues to be the world's leading collective security system, with the highest degree of standardization of its national forces and carrying out functions to contain Russian military and political influence in Western Europe (small NATO contingents have been deployed in Iceland, Poland and the Baltics). However, the Alliance also presents internal contradictions: Turkey's uncertain political position, following Ankara's veiled accusations towards NATO that it supported the failed 2017 coup and the purchase of missiles from Russia; Trump's call with Europe for more contributions to the common budget and finally, the start of other systems of cooperation between European countries, such as the Trimarium,a pact established in 2018, essentially of an economic nature, between the countries of the old Habsburg Empire. This groupes twelve countries, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, touching the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Adriatic. 

26 Mar 2020

COVID-19 in Africa and Russia

Even in the event of a pandemic, it is normal for some geographical areas to be reached more slowly by the wave of infections. However, Russia and Africa are no less linked to China than other countries (such as Japan, South Korea and the United States) that are now grappling with high levels of EU transmission of the new coronavirus. What are the reasons why limited COVID-19 cases are occurring in those regions?
The first reason that comes to mind - and also the most dangerous - is the lack of testing of suspicious cases, or the lack of transparency in reporting them. In many countries, only citizens with a history of travel in the worst affected areas, or those with already severe symptoms, are subjected to tampons. This leads to an underestimation  of the cases of contagion intended to prolong the time of the fight against the pandemic.
In some countries, there is a lack of resources to tackle large-scale testing campaigns; others fear the economic repercussions associated with reporting cases (such as the contraction of tourism) or do not want to draw the world's attention to health systems unprepared for the impact of COVID-19. This lack of transparency risks creating other areas where the new coronavirus will continue to proliferate even when we have left the most critical phase.
A second reason could be the geographical factor. Most cases are recorded today above the Tropic of Cancer. Only 1.29% of global cases are concentrated in tropical or southern hemisphere countries. This may be a reflection of more poor ties with China, or rather of the type of climate, but it is also possible that other infections spread in these geographical areas will mask COVID-19 infections, mistaken for other diseases.
If the cause were limited contacts with China (which does not seem plausible), then even in these areas the cases should increase in the next two weeks, brought by Europe. If it depends on the climate, we should see a change in the situation with summer (ours) and southern winter; if, finally, other infections (or drugs already taken to stem them) have to do with them, the number of new cases should remain small.

31 Jan 2020

Status of relations between PRISTINA and BELGRADE

In 1999, NATO intervened to stop the conflict between the two countries,  after claiming more than 10,000 lives and leaving more than 1 million people homeless. Kosovo's independence, declared in 2008, has not been recognized by Belgrade, Russia, and five EU nations. The United States and more than 110 other countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence. Brussels started mediation in 2011 amid strained relations between Pristina and Belgrade.
During his first visit to Kosovo on January 30, in 2020,  Borrell, the European Union's chief diplomat, continued the EU's policy of mediation, which has sought to bring the two countries back to the negotiation table after talks broke down in November 2018 when Pristina imposed a 100-percent tax on Serbian goods over Belgrade’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Josep Borrell, has emphasized the need for bilateral dialogue to resume between Serbia and Kosovo, saying it was the most effective way for them to mend ties. "My duty, my task, my endeavor, my objective, is to accompany, facilitate the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo," Borrell said, after meeting with Kosovar President Hashim Thaci. "Because the problem can only be solved by Serbia and Kosovo…and the result can only come from an agreement between the two of them". "There is no other solution." Borrell said.

Deterrence and nuclear proliferation

On 7 September, the UN General Assembly in New York, with 122 votes in favour (out of 192), one against and one abstaining, approved the "Treaty of The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons", making atomic weapons illegal, in the same way as other weapons of nuclear weapons. mass destruction. The Netherlands, the only NATO nation present at the summit, voted against it. The five nations recognized by the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the US, Russia, France, Britain and China and the four unofficial ones: India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea did not participate in the work in New York, as well as their allies, including Italy and other European countries. The Treaty mentioned above is a compromise aimed at limiting the construction of new devices and easing existing arsenals, while allowing member countries to withdraw if 'extraordinary events related to the subject of the Treaty have compromised them' interest,( art 12)'. This last clause, and the non-participation of NATO countries and those in possession of the weapons in question, make much of its effectiveness lost even before the Treaty was ratified.

12 Apr 2019

A new cold war is upon us in the Arctic?

In August 2007, a pair of Russian submarines dropped to 14,000 feet at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean and planted a titanium flag at the North Pole. The fact, transmitted by the media throughout the world, obtained an immediate and strong condemnation in the West despite it had no legal weight. But 12 years later the Russian move is easier to understand. The 2007 was one of the hottest year and the summer artic ice pack was reduced to the lowest levels ever recorded. The frozen polar sea seemed to melt and Russia, in this move, was claiming whatever lay beneath the mud.
In the decade following that shock event, the Arctic underwent a major transformation, due to rising temperatures and attracted international attention. The countries with the Arctic territory and some nations without polar boundaries, have worked hard to take advantage of the last frontier of the Earth, through access to the rich deposits of the region of fish, gas, oil and other mineral resources.
Now the race for the conquest of the new world is underway. The Russian fleet with about 61 ships and another 10 under construction with icebreakers is the largest in the world. The Norwegian fleet has increased its capacity from 5 to 11 ships. South Korean shipyards are engaged in the construction of ice-breaking merchant ships and China has invested billions in Russia's liquid natural gas network.
Other Arctic nations, including the United States, Canada and Denmark, pay much less attention to their northern territories
The imbalance in the approaches to Arctic resources worries some observers who describe the polar cap as a cold theater in which nations will confront each other in the next Cold War.
In August 2018, NATO conducted an exercise in Norway, called Trident Juncture, with the participation of 50,000 soldiers from 31 nations. The huge operation provided a scenario in which northern Norway was invaded by enemy forces, prompting the Allies to run in its defense. Although the enemy has never been named, Norway shares the Arctic and maritime borders with Russia and tensions between the two nations have increased in recent years. Some observers fear that future disputes between neighbors about fishing or mineral rights could bring NATO into a conflict for which it is unprepared.