OPINION

The unbearable weight of history

The unbearable weight of history

As days go by, and the uncertainty around Ukraine persists, certain things are becoming all the clearer. Moscow clearly wants to include Ukraine in the system of states around Russian territory, and which essentially create a cordon sanitaire around the country, without firing a single shot.

Western governments, particularly those in the Anglo-Saxon world, understand that this eventuality is growing by the day. That is why they would prefer to see Russian President Vladimir Putin make the mistake of invading Ukraine. A Russian military campaign would instantly trigger Western sanctions, similar to those imposed on Iran. Regardless of what happens in the end, Ukraine is bound to occupy relations between the West and Russia for years to come.

That said, many Western analysts seem to be making a serious mistake. Based on the fact that Russia’s GDP resembles that of a middle-sized economy like Spain, they proceed to a mechanistic, narrow perception of Russia as a supplier of natural gas and other minerals from its vast Eurasian territory. Thereby, however, they underestimate the dynamics propelled by the unbearable weight of history in countries like Russia. Western arrogance often undermines decision-making. Seen against the constituent elements of human behavior, political organization and history, the policy line in the West very often resembles a surreal leap toward some futurist utopia – a utopia which barely holds any water even within the states that make up the broader so-called Western system.

Realism does not necessarily mean cynicism, but it does help one decipher a world which is by no means an ideal one. And in the Western world, the debate around Ukraine at the moment rarely goes beyond wishful thinking. This generalized emotional and mental fatigue could be the main stumbling rock for Western policy. The real problem is neither demographic decline nor the economic rise of East Asia; rather it is our Western complacency in our own truth and the faith that any solutions will, sooner or later, match our multiple and varied convictions. We are no strangers to conflict. Standing on the EU doorstep, Ukraine might once again stimulate the capacity for original thinking. Meanwhile, the room for maneuver will keep shrinking.