The “largest war” in Europe after World War II, as described by the West led by the United States, seems to be continuing amid the constant flow of arms to Ukraine from Western countries, especially the US.
More people now realize the Russian-Ukraine conflict has been the inevitable product of the Western-dominated international order as well as the US’ anti-Russia maneuvers.
To begin with, from the perspective of the geographic regions, this is an internal war of Europe. No matter how one interprets European civilization, one thing is indisputable: Europe is a region within which wars broke out very frequently in the course of human history. Even after paying an immense price, the continent is yet to resolve the issue of war and peace.
From the view of civilization, it is an internal war of the white Christian world, rather than a war between different civilizations and races. From this viewpoint, the paradigm of a “clash of civilizations” — that was raised by American political scientist Samuel Huntington — is wrong.
What truly threatens world peace is not the conflict between and among different civilizations, but an internal war of the white Christian world.
The history of Christianity shows that it lacks tolerance, which is demonstrated not only through its atrocities against so-called heretics, but also through the infighting between and among the different sects within a religion.
The most serious religious war in Europe was between Protestantism and Catholicism. Lying behind today’s Russo-Ukrainian conflict is Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
Third, no matter how the Western civilization evolves, the contemporary world is still a jungle society that lacks justice. Even in the case of a powerful country like Russia, it has been repeatedly humiliated and suppressed by the West.
In its nature, the action launched by Russia counts as the reckoning of all the acts of the West after the Cold War.
The West attacks Russia by claiming that it has violated the UN Charter. Nonetheless, not long ago, the West just did everything that Russia has done. In just one example, it rushed to recognize the independence of breakaway republics which led to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.
It is just that the West has the means to speak louder. For example, in 2019, Ukraine introduced a law “on ensuring the functioning of Ukrainian as the state language”, which stipulates that all local self-governing bodies must use Ukrainian rather than Russian. If this kind of thing had happened in China, the label of “cultural extinction” would have been posted long ago. But the West has said nothing to Ukraine.
Fourth, under the current international system, a country’s security serves as its highest national interest and strategy, but pursuit of security by Western countries often is a zero-sum game. The eastward expansion of NATO maximizes its own interest, which resulted in Russia, for the sake of its own security, choosing to send troops to Ukraine.
Looking back at history, a world dominated by the West can neither eliminate wars, nor bring long-lasting peace. Instead, the East Asian order led by China can achieve sustainable peace.
The Chinese civilization lays stress on stability and harmony with diversity, which requires peace and order.
No doubt the lessons of Ukraine are thought-provoking.
First, it did not focus on economy and people’s livelihood. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine, then the second largest state in Europe, was filled with hopes for the future.
What none could have imagined, however, was that after its democratization, Ukraine’s economy had a disastrous performance, and its people’s living standards plummeted.
Second, the Ukrainian political elite has not been able to comprehend the West’s stand, and thought it can really join the European Union or NATO, failing to understand that Ukraine will hardly ever be able to meet the conditions — it is required to complete draconian reforms to adapt to more than 200 EU directives and nearly 150 rules.
In 2013, the Ukrainian parliament overruled some bills that were aimed to help meet the EU’s demands, due to their high economic costs. This triggered massive protests and the then government of former president Viktor Yanukovych was toppled, directly leading to the Crimea incident.
The West, led by the US, only uses Ukraine as a tool to deal with Russia, and it is in the interest of the West to let Russia consume its energy on Ukraine.
Third, there is the bitter price of “democratization”. Ukraine’s political system was established overnight by transplanting the so-called democratic system of the West.
From the point of view of geopolitics, Ukraine is sandwiched between Russia and the West. Each side fully penetrates through Ukraine’s system, supporting its own political forces that align with their wish. This is why after democratization Ukraine began to see continuous “color revolutions”.
Ukraine’s internal contradictions today appear indissoluble, and its external gaming is also a zero-sum game. Sadly, Western democracy has magnified these two factors to the maximum.
The author is a Chinese political scientist based in France and a researcher at the China Institute, Fudan University in Shanghai.