Europe’s Autumn

Autumn has arrived early in Europe this year, and its withered yellow leaves fell in a scene that aligns nature with the destructive effect of the Ukraine war on European economy. It also coincides with the pessimistic expectations of an economic depression accompanied by political failures, strikes, and protests that would not spare any country in the world. Even China is facing an economic slowdown worse than during Covid and lockdowns. Severe political earthquakes are expected, not least of which is Taiwan’s annexation to China or border skirmishes that would pave the way for invasion of South Korea.

These would also include the fall of governments, and the right wing taking hold of power in some European countries. There would be no consolation for hard-working ordinary citizens who would pay the price of their amateur leaders’ adventures, who came to power thanks to social media that is making heroes of people who could not withstand their first crisis. The Ukraine war is undoubtedly the best evidence. After two decades of relative world peace, the war erupted in Ukraine, though it could have been averted if the world were able to read Putin’s messages.

Being a veteran KPG officer who was brought up in the era of Soviet glory, Putin saw his country degraded after the Cold War. In February 2007, he went to the Munich Conference on European Security with the sole intention of kicking off the Second Cold War, banging on the podium and warning against breaking the West's promises to Russia during Germany's unification not to expand to the east.

However, NATO admitted Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia during Russia's most difficult times, prior to the appearance of the young Czar of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who used his foreign policy as a deadly weapon for internal cohesion and building a Great Russia on the ruins of the collapsed Russia, and he declared his motto: “Whoever does not mourn Russia's loss is heartless, and whoever wishes to restore it as it was is brainless; it is more appropriate to build a new great Russia.”

He also halted the unipolar world's expansion to the east, and he did not wait long when NATO flirted with Georgia. Putin produced a creative chaos that ended with Russian tanks entering the Georgian capital Tbilisi, and exposed the separatist allies in the West who turned the Georgia issue into a frozen conflict just as Ukraine, while highlighting America's contempt for international law by its invading Iraq and Afghanistan and acting unilaterally in international problems thereby threatening global stability.

Because Putin is a pragmatist and opportunist, he took advantage of the revolution against the Russian leaders in Kyiv, annexed Crimea, and returned the port of Sevastopol to Russia's arms, reinstating it as its access to warm water.

To commemorate the occasion, Putin rode into Crimea on a motorcycle, surrounded by a team of young bikers resembling military militias during the era of Hitler and Mussolini.  It was an unmistakable hallmark of the Russian hawk Putin, who succeeded in dealing with five American presidents and is steadfast in building a new Russia based on foreign policy.  He was the sole major player in Syria, thereby exposing Obama's hesitation.  Putin was also a primary power broker when war broke out between Azerbaijan, which was backed by its ally Turkey, on the one hand, and Armenia, which was abandoned by Russia for regional reasons and in consideration of its potential allies, Turkey and Iran, on the other.

But the war ended with peace talks conducted solely by the Kremlin's master, to the exclusion of Turkey and Iran, and the reintroduction of the Russian army into the Caucasus, this time under the guise of preserving the fragile peace between the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples.

The Czar was not satisfied with that so he turned his gaze to the brown continent, particularly the Central African Republic, which had rejected French influence. Russia was singing slogans of human rights and democracy in order to reach the country’s mines, only to have Russia come in and occupy them as well. However, there was something akin to development and cooperation and appreciation of the lessons in human rights that France had not taken into account in any of its former colonies. This is regarded as an unprecedented success for Russian foreign policy, whose influence is also growing in Venezuela and Libya, preparing the return of the Cold War.

As the mechanisms of destruction became more fierce and the lines of confrontation lengthened more than they should, the jewel in the crown of Russian foreign policy was the seizure of the Hamim and Tartus bases in Syria, so that Russia overlooked Turkey's shooting down of a Russian Sukhoi aircraft for a purpose known only to the Czar, who is no longer hidden after the annexation of Crimea and parts of Ukraine, declaring that Russia has returned to the international arena again and with force.

The West was content to impose sanctions with limited impact on a smaller country like Iran, but it hastened the formation of a tripartite alliance between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the results of which can be seen in the Russian missile deal to Turkey, the grain exit agreement from Ukraine, and the suicide drones raining down on Kyiv, an unprecedented success for Russia in its decades as an international empire.

The Ukrainian war was a logical result of Ukraine’s attempt to join NATO and threaten Russia’s vital space.  Russian tanks were loaded under the guise of annual border manoeuvres, but they did not return to their bases.  The West did not understand or hear Kissinger's advice, the last survivor of the cold war foxes, who advised NATO to stay away from Ukraine, but no one understood or heard. Rather, on the eve of the Russian invasion, the British Foreign Secretary behaved arrogantly in Moscow, and instead of defusing the crisis, she acted as if she were a Victorian Foreign Secretary, when the policy of battleships always won. The Russian Foreign Minister ignored her and the carriers lowered their tanks on the outskirts of Kyiv, while the real goal was to bite off eastern Ukraine and some of its southern regions in order to make Zelenskyy appeal to the West. This did not and will not save his country from the Russian bear, who returned with unprecedented force and brutality to make Europeans suffer from the cruelty of autumn, waiting for unforeseen disasters, not the least of which was the British Prime Minister changing twice in less than eight weeks.

This is a small portion of the fire that lies beneath the ashes of the Ukrainian war. After more than four decades in the United Kingdom, I can almost guarantee that Europeans will not tolerate the deprivation of their fragrant teas accompanied by their favorite biscuits, because when there is a shortage of goods, as happened in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, people forget about order and manners, and battles break out in food stores.

As a result of the increase in popular sympathy for Russia outside the European continent, not love, admiration, or appreciation for Putin, but rather a feeling of anger at the West's contradictory behavior and policies around the world, and its addiction to the selective opportunistic behavior in other international problems, it is expected that several European governments will fall and the majority will return to the Republican Party in the US Congress.

In the end, I believe the West will have to negotiate with Russia, and the Ukrainians will realize that they bet on the wrong horse, and it would have been better for them to negotiate with their neighbor, the Russian bear, who is good at the game of scorched earth, and employs the freezing weather to keep the world suffering from Europe's autumn.