It’s war, war, war!


By TP Saran

The online publication Rediff News purports to see ‘Europe differently.’ It is instructive to take a look at its headlines of a few days ago:

Ukrainian servicemen cry near the coffin of their comrade Andrii Trachuk during his funeral service on Independence square in Kyiv, Ukraine. Pic – AP

NATO has launched its second major exercise this year in the vicinity of Ukraine, this time focusing on the Black Sea and the Danube Delta region; Romania set to build the largest NATO base in Europe; Romania must prepare for war with Russia, says country’s chief of defense; Romanian parliament approves record $6.5 billion purchase of US F-35 combat aircraft; Ukrainian F-16 pilots to be trained by private US firm in Romania; British Challenger tanks seen near the Ukraine front line in Zaporizhzhya; Hungary calls for calm after missiles hit Poland and oil supply through key pipeline was suspended; Romanian defense minister resigns after calling for peace talks with Russia.

This second major exercise is a joint operation, Sea Shield 24, runs until April 21, and ‘brings together more than 2,200 troops from Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, the UK, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, the United States, Georgia, and Moldova. The forces will include 27 river and naval warships, 17 aircraft, and 91 land-based military vehicles.’

This is in contrast to the exercise launched in January by NATO, “Steadfast Defender 2024,” which is about ‘rehearsing the alliance’s response to a hypothetical aggression against a member state. All 32 NATO member states participated, with some 90,000 personnel, including the largest single contingent of 20,000 from the United Kingdom.’

In the last century, Europe involved the whole world in two World Wars. Several European countries had fought with each other, bringing troops from their colonies to fight alongside European soldiers. After the Second World War, many of these countries lay devastated as a result of their mutual destruction, with millions of people killed and their civilian infrastructure in ruins. Besides, the war had left these countries financially and economically impoverished.

It is also said that ‘Communists aided by the Soviet Union were threatening elected governments across Europe. The example given is that ‘in February 1948, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with covert backing from the Soviet Union, overthrew the democratically elected government in that country. Then, in reaction to the democratic consolidation of West Germany, the Soviets blockaded Allied-controlled West Berlin in a bid to consolidate their hold on the German capital.’

As a result, America stepped in. With its European Allies, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was founded ‘to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.’(italics added). Additionally, the US provided aid through the Marshall Plan for the economic recovery and rebuilding of Europe. However, ‘European states still needed confidence in their security, before they would begin talking and trading with each other. Military cooperation, and the security it would bring, would have to develop in parallel with economic and political progress.’ Hence NATO.

In the 1990s, alongside nationalist militarism, a religious dimension was incorporated, catalyzing the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the birth of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following the war, the influx of immigrants brought hopes for multiculturalism, yet the once religious dimension has now evolved into a potent fundamentalism. With shifting demographics and the looming spectre of permanent civil strife, the threat of conflict persists. Witness the regular eruptions of street protests and violence, accompanied more often than not with attacks against the forces of law and order, that take place involving these newer immigrants.

Against this backdrop, nationalist militarism in Europe has made a comeback in the form of the Ukraine war now in its third year that is generating a thriving arms industry – as the headlines of Rediff News show. Russia’s patience was severely tested by what it deemed a red line being crossed, particularly with the perceived likelihood of NATO edging closer to its borders courtesy the Ukrainian regime of Zelensky that had been installed.

So, Europe is warring again. This time round there are no troops from former colonies to be roped in, except for some mercenaries. There is already a shortage of soldiers, and also shortfalls in the supply of war equipment and ammunition. NATO is reluctant to put boots on the ground, and a proposal by French President Macron to this effect has not been taken favourably by all the NATO country members, especially Germany. Even the civilian population has begun to become war weary, but unfortunately that does not mean that the war will end soon. In fact, it would seem that it’s going to drag on because dialogue is not on the cards.

On the other hand, pressures to involve non-European countries have been without effect, because the era of colonialism is over. Sovereign countries are pursuing their own path with greater awareness and understanding of the complex dynamics that govern international relations and are acting more smartly on the basis of enlightened self-interest.

With the other hot spot in the Middle-East – the Hamas Israeli war — that is now in its sixth month and has regionalised, there is no prospect of resolution on the horizon any time soon. And peace seems to be as elusive as ever.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 12 April 2024

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