From Ukraine to Taiwan: defending realpolitik to save Europe
After the war in Ukraine, the repercussions of which have shaken the entire planet, in political, economic, social, energy and food terms, another foreseeable crisis is looming on the horizon between the United States and China around the Taiwan issue. Will we be able to save everyone?
Sébastien Boussois is a doctor in political science, teacher in international relations, collaborator, researcher in Euro-Arab relations/terrorism and radicalization, associated with the CECID (Free University of Brussels), at UQAM (OMAN- University of Montreal) and for SAVE BELGIUM (Society Against Violent Extremism).
Europe, like the world, has been experiencing systemic crises since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and is showing real resilience. But until when ?
Putin unfortunately has some of the keys in hand by endangering not only the West, but also Africa, the Arab world and Asia on the brink of the food abyss. Without knowing whether basically, we are accelerating the end of the conflict or whether we are prolonging its duration indefinitely, especially since ten years ago we refused to arm countries at war. We must now decide with a pragmatism of clear realpolitik.
A real question has arisen since we decided, tooth and nail, in the name of laudable European values and ideals, to engage in spite of ourselves in the Ukrainian conflict, by imposing sieve sanctions on Russia and by supplying endless weapons in Kyiv.
Have the means to fulfill your ambitions
Warning: the argument that could be opposed to us is that we could not let Ukraine be crushed and that to say such things would be to commit to giving up on what the European Union has defended since its creation: dialogue, multilateralism, peace and prosperity. This is not our point and we condemn the Russian aggression against kyiv but can we continue like this? Do we simply have the means?
It is clear that since our involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, things have gone from bad to worse. The invasion of Vladimir Putin since last February 24 goes, of course, against all the international rules justly enacted since the end of the Second World War in 1945 and the emergence of an “international community”. But is it necessary, because multilateralism has failed to avoid the outbreak of conflict, to engage in a conflict that does not totally concern us?
After having condemned the Kremlin’s policy against Ukraine to the point of its absurd denial, should we provide arms and funding which today puts us all in danger within the Union and the West? Some will say that faced with this conflict of civilisations, we had to line up behind Ukraine, a country which, whatever people say, is totally foreign to us.
If it is still inaudible to criticize the attacked Ukraine, Europe must not be fooled either and deny, after its military security, since we relied completely on NATO, its economic and energy security. The demonstration by A plus B of our commitment to this conflict is that we will come out of it weaker or even largely weakened.
The conflict is beyond us, but Europe’s choice to fund a crisis galore for a country that is not part of any entity that concerns it (whether the Union, the Schengen area or NATO) will have , over time, not only less and less sense, but also less and less support for bloodless and perhaps soon exasperated opinions.
We all believed, Vladimir Putin the first, in a “blitzkrieg”, which would bring down Ukraine. This is not the case and European weapons also have a lot to do with it. But we are now at more than five months of conflict and will gradually switch to a stalemate which will close like a trap on us.
Can we then give up, in order to preserve our meager stocks, to supply Ukraine with arms and funds? This will be badly perceived and will only have reinforced the idea according to which – Volodymir Zelensky has not failed for months to say mass and brandish the fear of abandonment – we will end up letting go of Ukraine in the name of our own survival.
The role of political leaders is the one defended by realpolitik by relegating “human rights” to the background: protecting their own populations, at all levels, and renouncing battles that are beyond them and which may seem far from the interests of own of them.
Failing this, the Ukrainians are in great danger of being seen as the scapegoats for all the ills of Europeans, caught between super-inflation, recession and austerity policies. The backlash could be terrible against our angelic view of Ukraine.
If Russia has imposed this new agenda of global threats on us, European choices should now be made more rationally and projected into the future. But Europe must get out of the idealism which makes us sanction Russia but throw ourselves into the arms of Saudi Arabia which has been bombarding the Yemenis for five years. And the “right of man” ultimately leads us to war whether we like it or not.
In the name of all this, a meta-narrative was built little by little to pass the pill and make the support unconditional: Ukraine would be only a first stage of the colonial expansion planned by Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainians are the good guys and the Russians are the bad guys, the Ukrainians are Europeans, Ukraine has what it takes to join the EU, and so on.
Ukraine in the EU against all membership rules
We are selling dreams that will cost us dearly, as Kyiv is far from the membership criteria: according to Transparency International, it is ranked 122nd in the world in terms of the fight against corruption, ahead of Russia by only three ranks, but well behind Belarus. It thus counts a total of 32 points out of 100 according to the organization, just ahead of Russia which garners 29 points.. Moreover, what about Zelensky, still untouchable, who had been cited in the Pandora Papers in 2021, for stories of offshore companies, links with his oligarchs and money laundering? Once again: either we are already lying to the Ukrainians, or we have gone mad.
Finally, the very evolution of the political structure of Ukraine, which adapts to the war, sees soldiers joining the executive in place. These generals, at the end of the war, will be, victory or defeat, crowned with a glory which could dissuade them from leaving power. The argument of war being of course unanswerable.
There is therefore a risk of ending up with a power that will settle far from the criteria of European democratization. The whole thing, sitting on an armed fortress, some of the equipment paid for by Europe, could be, as in the 1990s, diverted to other lands of conflict.
We have also in history supported, or even fought, against Robin Hoods, who later turned against us, or our values. Ukraine, after the war, faced with the permanent threat, could find it very difficult to return to this process of openness and liberalization, once we have made a flat and calm list of everything that is not going to join the EU in a jiffy.
Taiwan, land of Europe
The Taiwan crisis is a new parameter that will confront us with our past and present choices: we have known for years that if there is a Third World War, the Pacific and the China Sea could be the focus.
We will have to face our contradictions, and position ourselves, of course, against China. But there, the champions of “human rights” will no longer be able to influence public opinion and politicians under pressure, by saying that a new war will arise on our continent, or worse: that the Taiwanese are Europeans. Moreover, these are generally the only two arguments of those who only have sanctions as their current vision and strategy in the face of war.
One of two things: either we push to allow the United Nations to modernize, to reform, to settle the question of vetoes (Russian and Chinese in this case), which block upstream any constraint or brake on with regard to their policy, and this is the essential thing to be encouraged, particularly for Europe; or we stop, in the name of our own survival, from embarking on ideological conflicts that will put us in a political, and above all economic, situation that is increasingly untenable. And this, without us having the means to really weigh on them. It is time to drop the mask of idealism.
In the world, there are no longer the good guys and the bad guys, but in the face of ¾ of humanity who today support rather strong and predatory regimes, realpolitik must be defended at all costs to protect us, first.
Only in this way will we resolve this Cornelian dilemma: to make the historic choice of the United States to get involved everywhere until recently by weakening the country and its economy, or, alas, to bury our heads in the sand – a policy as cruel as it is – to save us from this world which risks running into chaos.
Realpolitik also means acquiring the means to wage war. However, today, we are waging war by proxy, fighting for our values, down to the last Ukrainian. It is a choice of civilization faced with a new clash of civilizations.
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