Is Europe Facing Its First Change In Fifty Years? – OpEd
By Ambassador Kazi Anwarul Masud
ORIGIN OF TREATY OF WESTPHALIA
Perhaps for the first time in European history then major powers fatigued from long thirty years war rested their sabre in The Treaty of Westphalia. (1618-1648). The war was a religious war. It started when Austrian Habsburgs tried to impose Roman Catholicism on their Protestant subjects in Bohemia.
It pitted Protestant against Catholic, the Holy Roman Empire against France, the German princes and princelings against the emperor and each other, and France against the Habsburgs of Spain. The Swedes, the Danes, the Poles, the Russians, the Dutch and the Swiss were all dragged in or dived in. The wars, participate by the big and small powers, dragged on for thirty years ushering in poverty for the already poor and rapacity to the unpaid soldiers and women of bad repute who lost their livelihood due to loss of customers.
RESULTS OF THE TREATY
The treaty gave the Swiss independence of Austria and the Netherlands independence of Spain. The German principalities secured their autonomy. Sweden gained territory and a payment in cash, Brandenburg and Bavaria made gains too, and France acquired most of Alsace-Lorraine. The prospect of a Roman Catholic reconquest of Europe vanished forever. Protestantism was in the world to stay. (Richard Cavendish | History Today Volume 48 Issue 10 October 1998).
The Treaty of Westphalia did not end the hunger of war among the people of the world who on different pretexts continue till today their quest for power. From Grecian time luminaries like Plato and Aristotle had given thoughts on how nations were to be formed and hoe people should be organized and made to behave. M. A. Habib of Rutgers University in one of his articles wrote “ in assessing precisely what modern European thought owes to its classical heritage, we need to confront the stubborn fact that Plato and Aristotle stood opposed to both the major philosophical and political tendencies of modern liberalism (empiricism, materialism, pragmatism, utilitarianism and the various forms of individualism) and the more recent theoretical attempts (such as deconstruction, Marxism and Feminism) to undermine those liberal dogmas.
PLATO AND ARISTOTLE’ CRITICISM OF DEMOCRACY
The positions of Plato and Aristotle on nearly of these issues are concentrated in their respective critiques of democracy”. Habib added “ In the Republic Plato suggests that there five basic forms of government. His own ideal constitution can be conceived as either royalty or aristocracy, where sovereignty lies with the carefully trained guardians. The other four forms represent a progressive degeneration away from this model: timocracy. (where the pursuit of honour is paramount), oligarchy, democracy and tyranny.
Plato also describes five basic kinds of individual characters or souls, corresponding to the respective forms of government”. In Plato’s thinking oligarchy was prominent and the city was divided into two sections-rich and the poor. Aristotle also agreed with Plato that democracy was not the ideal form of government. Democracy, he thought, can lead to excessive greed for power effectively transforming the greed into oligarchy and consequent rule by a plutocracy.
UNCERTAIN RESULTS OF RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE
Today the world is gripped by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and an unclear path where the invasion will lead the mankind. Russia has already threatened use of nuclear weapons. But then it is not clear what type of nuclear weapons is to be used. Then there is the distinct possibility of a China-Russia alliance to demonstrate to the poor and the hungry, in particular, that authoritarian system which provides goods to the hungry is better than the democratic system suggested by the Western block.
One is inclined to support Vladimir Putin who long time back had proposed to the US to sign an agreement that Ukraine would not join either the NATO or any Russian alliance that would threaten Russian security. A CBC news dated April 2021 reported Russian President Vladimir Putin sternly warned the West against encroaching further on Russia’s security interests, saying Moscow’s response will be “quick and tough” and make the wrongdoers feel bitterly sorry for their actions.
VLADIMIR PUTIN’S RED LINE
The warning came during Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address amid a massive Russian military buildup near Ukraine, where cease-fire violations in the seven-year conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have escalated in recent past. The United States and its allies have urged the Kremlin to pull the troops back. “I hope that no one dares to cross the red line in respect to Russia, and we will determine where it is in each specific case,” Putin said. “Those who organize any provocations threatening our core security interests will regret their deeds more than they regretted anything for a long time.”
Moscow has rejected Ukrainian and Western concerns about the troop buildup, saying it doesn’t threaten anyone and Russia is free to deploy its forces on its territory. But the Kremlin also has warned Ukraine against trying to use force to retake control of the rebel-held east, saying Russia could be forced to intervene to protect civilians in the region. “We really don’t want to burn the bridges,” Putin said. “But if some mistake our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intend to burn or even blow up those bridges themselves, Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, quick and tough.”
WESTERN RESPONSE TO PUTIN’S RED LINE
Western response has been has been Ukranian President’s invitation to address the US both Houses of Parliament, meting with President Joe Biden, Western supply of armaments to Ukraine etc. A defiant Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenshiy has announced that Ukraine is officially applying for membership of NATO, hours after Vladimir Putin said in a Kremlin ceremony that he was annexing four Ukrainian provinces.
Zelenskiy said he was taking this “decisive step” in order to protect “the entire community” of Ukrainians. He promised the application would happen in an “expedited manner”. “De facto, we have already made our way to NATO . De facto, we have already proven compatibility with alliance standards. They are real for Ukraine – real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction,” he said. “We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other. This is the alliance. De facto. Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure.” ( 30-09-2022-The Guardan). The very fact that Putin has announced his ‘red line” is an indication that Russia would be willing to come to a settlement with Ukraine but not if the settlement appears to be a victory for Ukraine. It would be advisable for the Western countries, in particular, the US to advise Ukraine to settle with Russia. US also ,has to be on guard over China-Russia alliance particularly when President Joe Biden has already declared China as the main enemy of the US. (An analysis by Andrew Scobell and Nichlas Swanson 15-12-2023).
The Ukrainian crisis gives a picture of Russo-China alliance. Russian move is more direct vis-à-vis the US while the Chinese though firmly in the Russian camp prefers to walk softly except in the case of Taiwan. Some have argued that Russo-China axis constitute a full-blown military alliance. But months into the invasion of Ukraine China has not sent any military equipment to Russia. But there remains a question whether Russia has asked for or needs military help from China. China supports Russia economically. Intra-alliance economic relations have strengthened. Chinese shipment to Russia have increased more than 26% compared to the year before and imports have increased more than 60% during the same period.
On the Ukraine invasion China has not criticized Russia. On the other hand Xi-Jinping has reportedly told President Joe Biden at the G-20 summit meeting in Indonesia that China was highly concerned over the invasion and would like peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. Xi-Jinping suggested that US, NATO AND EU should conduct comprehensive dialogue with Russia. It thought that rock solid solidarity among NATO members have helped the invasion of Ukraine from spreading to other countries. Besides Sweden and Finland, strongly non-aligned so long, to rethink that their security would be better ensured by joining the bloc. Finally one would hope that the tension that has gripped the world till today would throw ray of light in the minds of the leaders for humanity to survive without volcanic convulsions.