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Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

lunes, 17 de marzo de 2014

La UE y la crisis ucraniana.

The European Union’s Bait-and-Switch in Ukraine

By Judah Grunstein, on March 17, 2014

As has become increasingly evident to observers of global politics over the past several years, we live in a Gramscian moment of systemic crisis, where in the interregnum between an old order on its deathbed and a new one not yet born, “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” The latest of these symptoms is on display in Ukraine, where Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea highlights the waning power of the post-Cold War liberal order, even as consensus over a rules-based global order to replace it remains elusive.

It would take a generous reading of the past decade to suggest that war had disappeared as a means of resolving political differences between states. Nevertheless, since the First Gulf War, the idea of armed territorial conquest had seemed increasingly anachronistic. And if Kosovo and the Iraq invasion revealed the degree to which America’s preponderance of power made the nonrecourse to force little more than a gentlemen’s agreement, it was one that nonetheless seemed more binding on lesser powers. The Russia-Georgia War was a more ominous foreshadowing of Moscow’s willingness to intervene in the post-Soviet space to regain leverage it had lost in its decade in the wilderness. But Georgia’s role in the disputed run-up to the hostilities, the quick containment of the conflict and the fact that Russia did not legally annex the separatist provinces allowed many to continue to indulge in the reassuring conviction that economic interconnectedness had made the prospect of war among the great powers unthinkable.

Though undeclared and unopposed, Russia’s invasion of Crimea has now reintroduced the specter of great power aggression and armed conflict in the heart of the Eurasian space. There is no compelling reason for the U.S. or its European allies to consider defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity with force. But the failure to consider the possibility of armed conflict in defense of other post-Soviet European allies would today amount to strategic malpractice. In pressing his tactical advantage in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin has thus simultaneously highlighted the receding limits of American hegemonic power undergirding the global order and the chimera of the rules-based global governance system that had been slated to replace it.

The immediate consequences of the Ukraine crisis, as in Georgia, might turn out to be manageable, and the Russian annexation of Crimea could conceivably end up doing great harm to Putin’s geopolitical ambitions. Nevertheless, the long-term implications, in Europe but also in Asia, are clear and worrisome. And in relegating Putin’s heavy-handed approach to “the wrong side of history,” President Barack Obama almost willfully ignores the fact that the history he is referring to has yet to be written.

That one of the principal actors in this unfolding drama is the European Union further reinforces the systemic nature of the current crisis. Having presented itself as the incarnation of this new post-political and post-historical model of international governance, the EU’s handling of the Ukraine crisis starkly exposes the limits of replacing power with persuasion. It also highlights the shortcomings of an approach to the post-Soviet space based almost exclusively on soft power attraction, while lacking any strategic vision or preparation for the very real geopolitical consequences of that attraction. By assuming that Russia would simply shrug off the definitive loss of Ukraine from its sphere of influence—and, even worse, by ruling out the possibility of Moscow resorting to an armed intervention to prevent such a loss—the EU substituted its own reading of history, both past and future, for reality.

The outcome of the Ukraine crisis could trace the high-water mark for the expansion of liberal democracy into the post-Soviet space. The irony, of course, is that the EU’s grand bargain with Ukraine, and the other Eastern Partnership countries, is based on a quid pro quo that is to a certain degree a bait-and-switch. In return for, among other things, a commitment to democracy and rule of law reforms, prospective partners are offered entry into what amounts to a nondemocratic free market, albeit one composed of democratic states. Ukraine is now poised to submit to the same kind of austerity programs and structural reforms already imposed on Greece, Portugal and Ireland by the so-called Troika composed of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. (Italy and Spain chose similar self-imposed measures to avoid the humiliation of the loss of sovereignty represented by the Troika bailouts.)

Here again, we have another Gramscian interregnum, whereby the global financial crisis and subsequent European debt crisis have revealed the degree to which the liberal democratic order—which after the fall of communism was supposed to represent the end of history—has failed to deliver on its ultimate promise, that of delivering both liberty and prosperity. In the liberal democratic approach to political economy, it seems, people can vote regularly but decide nothing. In times of plenty, the trade-off went largely unnoticed. Now the sharp bite of austerity has called into question the viability of the European project as currently configured.

What might replace it, however, is far from obvious, and the morbid symptoms have already emerged in the form of the populist and nationalist parties that continue to seduce electorates throughout Europe. Though nowhere strong enough to seriously threaten the established political parties, they are everywhere able to raise the domestic political costs of defending unpopular policies imposed by Brussels, let alone further European integration. The EU thus finds itself simultaneously fighting the same ideological adversary—which, broadly speaking, can be categorized as Putinism, even if it is found in a variety of national expressions—on both its periphery and the home front.

All of this might be less alarming had the liberal market-based order been able over the past three decades to follow through on the third pillar of the post-World War II welfare state’s social contract, that of reducing socio-economic inequalities. Instead, inequality within Western democracies has been rising steadily since the 1980s and is fast approaching levels not seen since the Gilded Age, even as technological advances disrupt an ever-widening array of industries and call into question the sustainability of many economic models. Again, the system in place seems less and less able to meet the needs it was designed for, even as no alternative has yet presented itself.

What is lacking is a convincing ideology that can make sense of the transformations overtaking societies the world over and mobilize a broad political consensus for how to act accordingly. It is possible that such an ideology is currently gestating and might soon emerge into full view. In the meantime, the risk is that the vacuum will be filled by brute force and cults of personality. The current morbid symptoms are not necessarily harbingers of the future, but neither should they be dismissed as relics of the past. They serve as reminders that utopian visions can never quite break free of the weight of history, and that in times of crisis the past and the future are often separated by an opening that is as perilous as it is full of opportunity.

Judah Grunstein is World Politics Review's editor-in-chief.

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