1/2022

The first issue of 2022 devotes its attention to the aggression of Vladimir Putin's Russi to Ukraine.
On the cover, a surreal image of the portrait of the Russian despot.
Space, at CesMar, the Navy study center with which the magazine's publisher began a collaboration that will bear its first fruits in 2022 with the book "Hostage for Ever" by the former Vice President of Peru Luis Giampietri who will be the protagonist of the day of formation of the order of journalists in Venice on May 27 to be presented in preview to the public at 4.30 pm in the Venetian office of the Italian Office of the Council of Europe.
To the attention of the reader, one of the articles in the book Letters on the World, edited by the Circolo di Studi Diplomatici, by Ambascaiatore Morabito.
Unmissable pieces by Eleonora Lorusso and Domenico Letizia.
Presentation of the International Festival of European Geopolitics in its second edition Jesolo 5-7 May 2022.

Editorial

THERE IS NO PEACE WITHOUT FREEDOM

 

We were not thrilled to throw ourselves into the fray of those who spoke about the war - let’s call it by its real name - unleashed by Putin’s Russia towards Ukrainian sovereignty. We were not, for fear of taking advantage of a humanitarian tragedy to put us in the center of attention (we too...). A sort of confidentiality and modesty has taken place, given the historical ties of our magazine with our Ukrainian friends. Ties witnessed by the many collaborations, for example, with the General Embassy of Rome and by the friendship (with relative fear for their fate) of some diplomats. 

However, now is the time for some considerations.

The first, "the conflict concerns the whole of Europe and neutrality does not mean indifference". These are the words of the Swiss government, which has taken a clear position.

It is a war that has strengthened and completed the process of European unity.

It is a war that accelerates the common European defence, while affirming and confirming the necessity of NATO.

It is a war that confirms the desirability of Western energy policies at least coordinated and united.

It is a war that places the emphasis on the use of innovative defensive tools in terms of intelligence and cybersecurity, since it is now confirmed that we are fighting not only on the ground but also on screens and on social networks.

But it is also a war that is played on the domestic national fronts: one Italian in five, in the polls, opens to the reasons of Russia. This 20 percent goes from the vetero-communist left to the national-populist right, bound by the common Hegelian matrix.

The same marches for peace take on the sign of ambiguity. It is therefore urgent to recall some basic concepts of the philosophy of law and politics. For example, that of insufficient peace. 

"To consider peace as an insufficient good means that peace alone cannot guarantee a perfect social life (…). Peace is usually considered as one of the conditions for the realization of other values, considered superior, such as justice, freedom, well-being.  We can say of peace, as of law, because it is the social technique directed to the realization of peace, that it avoids the maximum of evils (violent death) but does not pursue the maximum of goods. The good that peace pursues is the good of life. But is life the greatest of goods? Apart from the fact that there is no absolute maximum of goods, life is continually compared with other goods, such as freedom, personal and group honor, the well-being of the community and in confrontation does not always prevail. Where in comparison with another good, such as freedom, it is considered superior to life (remember the ¿s better dead than red' with which it was responded to the provocation of Bertrand Russell ¿s reds rather than dead') peace is no longer a supreme value and can be transformed, in some circumstances, even in a disvalue". (Norberto Bobbio) 

 

 

 

DIPLOMACY AND GEOPOLITICS

 

 WHAT LESSON CAN YOU LEARN FROM THE UKRAINIAN CRISIS?

 

The evolution of the Ukrainian crisis, with the Russian invasion that many did not expect - at least in these proportions - poses two kinds of problems. The first is how to get out of it, respecting international law, preventing the situation from getting out of hand and allowing everyone to save face; the second is to start a reflection on what has brought us up to this point. This Letter intends to formulate some preliminary observations on this second aspect. A reflection must be made, to try to understand how such dramatic crises can be prevented in the future and how to neutralize - as far as is still possible - the effects of the current one. Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations between Moscow and Kiev, sooner or later a stable dialogue with Russia will have to resume (perhaps starting from a neutral state like Switzerland or through the good offices of the Holy See). If diplomacy is the art of predicting crises and critical situations, it has obviously failed dramatically here. If it is also the art of resolving conflicts, it is time for it to get back to work. You cannot dialogue only when you are sure that your interests (and not those of others) will be safeguarded. The door to dialogue must always be left open because talking to each other is always better than war, and if the war is on, not talking to each other can only make things worse. As we know it is very easy to reach points of no return and this must absolutely be avoided.

The war in Ukraine is by far the most serious confrontation between Western countries and Russia since the dissolution of the USSR. We got there because in the last fifteen years there has been a lack of communication between the West and Russia. I do not think I am being naïve if I say that this crisis, once it has been resolved, should be the pretext for us to turn the page and overcome the climate of permanent brawl that has characterized in recent times.

years of relations between the West, the European Union and the United States on the one hand, Putin's Russia on the other. A climate that has brought us to where we are now. History is full of examples of wars that broke out without anyone really wanting it or of incidents that led to unwanted conflicts. We all know the mechanism that led to the First World War: a chain of general mobilizations that resulted in a war that everyone thought would end before Christmas and instead four Christmases were spent at the front. Today, rejecting the inevitability of war and working for peace must be even more explicit: with the abolition of compulsory conscription, wars have become easier to do; easier, but no less lethal, especially due to the high number of civilians involved and the enormous destruction it entails. Of course, the point we have reached makes everything more complicated also because, if it is true that an “escalation” that is difficult to control must be avoided, it is equally true that to be credible we must be united.

1. I am not able to say whether at the time of the reunification of Germany there was a verbal agreement with Gorbachev according to which the Western countries - the United States in the first place - would have undertaken not to enlarge the perimeter of NATO, avoiding include both former European satellites of the Soviet Union and states that had been part of the Soviet Union prior to its dissolution. However, things went differently and today, of thirty NATO member states, almost half (14) are former members of the Communist bloc. Outside the sphere of NATO and at or near the borders of the European Union remained Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and precisely Ukraine.

Even if we are not sure of a commitment not to enlarge NATO to reach the borders of Russia, it is still a plausible commitment. We all remember that at that time many, starting with France, feared a united Germany. A fear well summarized by Andreotti's famous joke (which moreover paraphrased a phrase said years earlier by the French Mauriac): “I love Germany so much that I preferred two”. While there was no political decision to that effect, this was in the logic of things, not to say in the interest of the West. On the other hand, there was a strong hope that the collapse of the USSR could initiate an unprecedented phase of collaboration with Russia to build a world of peace and free from the threat of nuclear war that had characterized the years following the end of the Second World War. The invitation to President Yeltsin to participate in the G7 in Naples (1994) and the NATO Summit in Pratica di Mare with the signing of the Rome Declaration (2002) were part of this logic and gave good hope, also because not having dissolved NATO, something had to be done. Someone wondered: why did NATO not dissolve, given that its raison d'etre had failed with the end of the Warsaw Pact? In reality, history teaches us that International Organizations tend to perpetuate themselves and do not disappear unless there is a dramatic event, such as a world war. On the other hand, new security threats were looming and the NATO instrument appeared suitable to face the security risks of a world that was no longer bipolar. Finally, a hypothetical dissolution of NATO would have risked breaking that transatlantic link which has become a fundamental element of the foreign policy of most European countries.

Something got stuck in what was to be the new era of relations with Moscow. On the one hand, Russia, having passed the initial stupor following the collapse of the USSR, has tried to regain a role of great power on the world chessboard; on the other, Western countries, first and foremost the

United States, they wanted to overwhelm (courses and appeals of history: think of the Peace of Versailles) or wanted to give the impression of overwhelming, which does not change much. In fact, a policy has been implemented that tends to ignore and marginalize Russia, relegated to the rank of "regional power", to use the unfortunate expression of the American President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama (certain things can be thought of, but why tell her?). Emblematic in this regard is the position taken by Europe and the United States at the outbreak of the Balkan crises. Of course there was a weak Russia, but the choice was made to ignore it despite the historical relations it had in the region, in particular with Serbia.

2. From the lack of involvement of Russia, we have moved on to a policy of opposition that is risking to lead us to a situation of no return, also due to Putin's sudden decision to invade Ukraine (which is different from Crimea). Historians will have the opportunity to evaluate how this point has been reached. It matters little to see whose fault (or greater fault) of this situation is. Instead, what matters is to save the peace and set up mechanisms and practices that do not bring us closer to a war with Russia, or in any case to a war in Europe. Perhaps by examining, dossier by dossier (and there are many!), All the issues that separate us from Russia. More complex than one might think is also the adoption of sanctions, which are taken when one does not want to go to war. Sanctions have often proved to be an ineffective instrument, they mainly affect the less favored social classes and damage the countries that promote them and some more than others (in this case, the United States much less than the European countries and the latter not in the same measure). The problem is that the point at which the sanctions have reached, at least immediately, appear to be the only real realistic response to Russia, pending the opening of negotiations.

Regardless of Ukraine, it is worth asking about the consequences of years of misunderstanding and confrontation between Russia and the West. I will limit myself here to mentioning two. One is Moscow's rapprochement with Beijing. Relations between Russia and China have had ups and downs in history, but the two great countries, when they wanted to, always managed to find an agreement, as happened with the Treaties of Nercinsk (1689) and of Kiachta (1727). ) that defined the borders between the two countries and introduced free trade, something that was still to come in Europe. It was Kissinger's genius who broke what was a real nightmare for Westerners during the Cold War, the alliance between two great Communist countries, one armed to the teeth, the other the most populous country on earth, by forging relationships diplomatic relations with Beijing. Instead, today we did Russia and China a favor by helping them out of their respective isolation. The United States, which after the collapse of the USSR had managed to avoid the emergence of a new Eurasian power, now finds itself having to fight (for the moment only in a metaphorical sense) on two fronts: the European and the Pacific one. A second consequence is Russia's growing assertiveness in foreign policy. Moscow, having bad relations with the West, plays across the board, feeling freer to move independently on the international stage and choosing its partners from time to time. Relations between Russia and Turkey deserve a separate consideration, a country that is often a rival of Russia, but in relation to which Moscow has managed to establish a sort of modus vivendi with at least an apparent mutual advantage. The commitment of Russia and Turkey in Libya and Syria are eloquent in this regard.

3. Mario Giro, to paraphrase Pope Francis, wrote: "The clamor of war shifts the order of global priorities". Beyond the grief and damage that a conflict entails, albeit limited, and the psychological consequences that it generates and that are perpetuated for years after the conflict is over, the risk is that a war puts everything in the background, exactly the opposite of what today's world needs. The pandemic should have taught us that we can no longer do everything alone and that they must be relaunched

dialogue, multilateralism (provided it is serious and effective) and international cooperation. The great international challenges - climate change, the fight against inequalities, health, migration - require us to collaborate rather than distract ourselves with unnecessary conflicts.

It is all too evident that the opening of an all-out dialogue and negotiations with Russia in the future, starting with the reduction of arms that seems to have ended up in oblivion, will start, to say the least, uphill. However, we have no other choice. Where to start? The first thing to do will be to abandon the cold war language that has characterized our relations with Moscow for too many years: democratic states on the one hand, authoritarian states on the other. We must not forget that among the twelve founding states of NATO was the Portugal of the dictator Salazar (while Spain, despite being in fact part of the Western bloc, joined NATO in 1982). Among the authoritarian states, apart from Russia and Turkey (which is a member of NATO), today we include China which, more than an authoritarian state, is a real dictatorship governed by a single party. They are members of the European Union, states, such as Poland and Hungary, which to define a model of democracy would be a bit too much. It could go on indefinitely. What matters is not seeing who is right and who is wrong, but giving a voice to diplomacy and listening less to those who propose military options. On the other hand, in foreign policy there are no good and bad, there are conflicting interests that must be composed with patient and tiring negotiations. However, we need a foreign policy supported by strong internal consensus and a "credible deterrence". Better still a deterrence accompanied by a "soft power", based on an openness to the world, as opposed to the closure in which we let ourselves be imprisoned by the pandemic, and characterized by a more generous and far-sighted commitment towards the less favored states (starting debt reduction and the fight against climate change). In this way, the European Union itself will increasingly become an indispensable interlocutor in the international field.

Finally, we need discreet, not "shouted" diplomacy. The latter is the worst because it aims to meet the mood of public opinion by distracting it from domestic political problems, as well as being generally lacking in strategies for the future. Public opinion must be involved, but not as Trump did to please the workers of the "rust belt", but by explaining them well and motivating why we all gain from international collaboration.

We often hear talk of "great questions of principle" that must be safeguarded at all costs: I believe that the most important question of principle is that of avoiding new wars. Even if we are convinced that our model of society is superior (but what is our model, the so-called "Rhine" or the North American one?), We should shy away from the temptation - or from giving the impression - to impose it; the really important thing is that they don't impose on us models of society that we don't like.

4. Without even remotely claiming to be exhaustive, regardless of the Ukrainian crisis, the advantages of a dialogue with Russia are manifold. First, there is the Chinese question. China today is not Mao's poor and self-contained China. It is a country that competes with the United States in the high-tech sectors and that appears destined to become the first world economic power and from a military perspective in a few years. Above all, China competes successfully in sectors that are fundamental for the development of the industry of the future, starting with renewable energy, digitalization, artificial intelligence, electric cars. In this context, a solid Sino - Russian understanding could be a serious problem. We need to focus on the renewal of our industrial apparatus, achieve strategic autonomy in sectors that we deem essential for our economy and our security, and not be unprepared for major challenges such as the energy transition which in turn have geopolitical implications. (just think of the availability of rare earths).

Secondly, the policy of opposition to Russia, if it seems to have compacted NATO and the Europeans, could in the long run bring out those divisions that the worsening of the Ukrainian crisis has pushed into the background. The transatlantic relations that returned to vogue after the Trumpian eclipse would be affected. So far the anti-Russian front has remained solid, but that is not necessarily the case in the future. Already today in Italy the "pro-Putin" or "pro-Russians", if you prefer, who disappeared at the beginning of the crisis, are slowly beginning to emerge, setting distinctions. We cannot forget that Germany and Italy need safe energy sources more than others and Russia is a primary supplier of gas, an indispensable hydrocarbon in the transition phase to renewable energy (gas emits less CO2 than oil which in turn emits less. coal).

Thirdly, the lack of dialogue with Moscow has left Russia free to pursue foreign policy actions which in turn are proving to be a driver of regional destabilization. Wherever a space opens up, Moscow tends to fill it. France has abandoned the Barkhane operation in Mali, necessary to counter terrorism and illegal immigration - issues that concern European public opinion in the first place - leaving the field to the Russian mercenaries of Wagner. The same thing happened in Libya, and their non-European supporting actors joined the Russians and Turks.

Fourthly, what is the interest of the European Union? And that of NATO? The European Union certainly cannot go back in the enlargement process, but does it really have an interest in enlarging to include Ukraine? Do we have an interest in joining countries that end up undermining the process of European integration and costing us a lot of money? If we wish, we could always help them with ad hoc cooperation agreements. The same goes for NATO: any inclusion of Ukraine would make us import insecurity, while the contribution of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to our security would be minimal. These are issues that no longer appear on the agenda, but which hovered until the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, creating a climate of uncertainty over international relations. Conversely, the Ukrainian crisis offers the European Union the opportunity to demonstrate that not only has it been able to avoid war between its members since 1945, but that it is a continent that exports peace, as well as being a point of reference for the values ​​it embodies: social market economy, respect for fundamental freedoms, rejection of the death penalty.

It is by no means certain that in the future, Ukraine's interest is to be closely linked to the EU and NATO, but it could be, for example, to replicate the Finland model in vogue during the Cold War. Kiev would have everything to gain from peaceful relations with its great neighbor once the dispute between the Russian-speaking regions is resolved. Certainly Putin's move calls everything into question. The Minsk agreements, in addition to not having been implemented, were imperfect. A South Tyrol model was thought of for the Donbass. However, these are financially expensive operations and in the Ukrainian case the population that could have been involved, that of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, is actually large (while the South Tyroleans are less than 1% of the Italian population). But thinking of models that protect the rights, starting with the economic, cultural and linguistic rights of minorities, could be useful in other geographical contexts before situations such as the one we experienced with Ukraine arise.

Russia would certainly gain from a resumption of dialogue. You have a strong army, it is rich in raw materials that the world badly needs, but you have an economy that has not managed to renew itself as it should have and a declining population. The same high numbers of deaths from covid are indicative of a health system with many flaws. So Russia also needs to normalize relations with the West and certainly cannot count on China alone, which in the long run risks swallowing it up. Furthermore, China has no interest, just as Mao Zedong did not have to flatten himself on the positions of Moscow, among other things risking to jeopardize his ambitious plans for economic and commercial penetration on a world level. It has been written that Russia needs to export gas more than Europe needs to import it. True or not, one of the problems of the failure to modernize the Russian economy lies precisely in the excessive dependence on exports of raw materials. The privatizations implemented in Russia have not helped to develop a modern industry and attract substantial Western investments as the former satellites of Eastern Europe have managed to do (albeit heavily aided by the European structural funds). Russia needs Europe and the United States, unless it wants to return to the logic of the East-West confrontation, which ended as it ended, and above all it started from ideological bases different from the current ones (the consolidation of "socialism in one country "as a prerequisite for its export to the rest of the world).

However, Russia will need to feel reassured and not surrounded by NATO or by potentially hostile countries or countries deemed such. She will not go isolated. She will need to feel that she still matters in the world, that she gets involved in big decisions and that her voice is heard. Two invasions from the West, Napoleon and Hitler, have left their mark. The syndrome of encirclement, right or wrong, has lasted since the time of the Tsars. Anything is possible, but it is difficult to predict that Putin, with his nostalgia for a Russia, then the Soviet Union, which weighed in the world almost on a par with the United States, will want to resume the expansionist policy that belonged to Lenin and that Stalin continued and made with the infamous Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. Moreover, a permanent occupation of Ukraine in addition to having devastating and completely unpredictable effects on the international level, would be too costly in terms of losses for the Russians, who do not forget that it was precisely among the Ukrainians that the German invasion troops found support that could have been much greater without Hitler's scorched earth policy (likewise the Russians have not forgotten that they had to leave Afghanistan also because of the high and no longer bearable losses among their troops).

Russia should reflect on the consequences of a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, not only from an economic and financial point of view (collapse of the ruble and the Moscow stock exchange, risks for Russian investments in the world and a brake on foreign investments in the Russian economy, etc.). International public opinion reacted unexpectedly to the war: demonstrations all over the world with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Berlin alone, while the Community of Sant'Egidio for its part has organized prayer vigils and demonstrations where it is present with the own communities (even in Africa: Burundi, Mali, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, etc.); the sanctions in addition to having an impact on the wallets of those affected also have a symbolic impact, in terms of a negative image for the Russians; then there are sanctions that we could define as "informal", which arise from spontaneous reactions of civil society: for example, the Teatro la Scala which refuses to welcome the orchestra from Moscow; the Champions League final which is moved from St. Petersburg to Paris; Sotheby's who no longer wants to work with the Russians, etc. All factors that impact on a Russia that is not North Korea (and not even the Soviet Union) and that has an informed public opinion accustomed to travel (the Italian cities of art, such as Rome and Florence, are penalized above all by disappearance of rich Russian clients ...). The Russian home front itself, including the leadership, is showing some cracks (here we should perhaps already ask ourselves the question of the unknown factor of a destabilization of the Russian regime: perhaps the devil is better known ...). The anti-war protests that have taken place in Russia, even in Novosibirisk, are eloquent in this regard.

Looking at the Europeans, the immediate consequences of the Ukrainian crisis could

be: an acceleration of the diversification of energy supply sources (USA, Qatar) and in Italy a reduction of the biblical times for authorizations to build wind and photovoltaic plants (we hope!); a renewed interest in a European defense policy, starting with the standardization of armaments (which presupposes an industrial policy that would have the double advantage of affecting high-tech sectors and could have positive repercussions on the modernization of European industry); a policy of greater attention to China, not monopolized, however, by economic issues; a strengthening of the ties between France, Germany and Italy. This last point is not a trivial matter, also because from a renewed understanding between these countries - after Brexit and in the light of the Quirinale Treaty - the push that we have been waiting for for a long time to relaunch the European integration process that takes seriously I count more than the past on the needs and expectations of a public opinion made vulnerable by uncontrolled globalization.

Italian diplomacy, within the alliances to which it is part, will have its cards to play as a country traditionally dedicated to dialogue and attentive to listening. It helps, as we said, a public opinion traditionally adverse to war (it was also in June 1940, but unfortunately things went differently). Civil society, regardless of the Russian-Ukrainian question, is sensitive to the issue of peace. A meeting of the Mayors and Bishops of the Mediterranean took place in Florence in recent days. The focus was on the Mediterranean, another region battered by the winds of war, but what is interesting to note is that this event was held along the lines of the Mediterranean Colloquia that Giorgio La Pira launched at the end of the 1950s. La Pira was considered a visionary, almost a madman, but he did not let himself be discouraged and his example of him, talking with those we hate, could help us today.

DIPLOMATIC LETTER

n. 1328 - Year MMXXII Rome, 1 March 2022

Giuseppe Morabito

 

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