The guns are still being fired in Ukraine, and they will continue to do so for many months.
Every day that passes and people die, several conclusions are becoming evident for the future of Europe and concomitantly of the United States. First and foremost, there will never be an “alliance” or even an understanding with Russia on European security matters. The major and long-lasting damage in this regard will be the rupture in German-Russian relations after several decades of attempts by German politicians, most notably former Chancellor Angela Merkel, to enlarge the benefits of the Ostpolitik initiated by the fourth chancellor Willy Brandt. Russia benefited from that political strategy far more than Germany.
The Germans just got the gas.
And now that Russia has made it impossible for the Germans to expand economic relations, the decision of the new Socialist Chancellor Olaf Scholz to commit to helping Ukraine survive the Russian onslaught and to shutting the door to any dialogue with Moscow has created a new kind of iron curtain, where the two blocs are separated not just by a strategic border but by a huge wall that encompasses economic, social, and art activities, sports and all kind of human endeavors that had sprung from a European continent at peace. The recently opened art museum in Moscow is utterly empty: no European artist will contribute any work. Russian teams are cut off from competition of all sports in Europe and the world at large. Universities and scientific institutions no longer talk to each other.
There is a not insignificant group of political observers and writers in Europe who point a finger at what they call the European self-destruction of its values.
For some of them, if Putin has decided to launch a war of aggression, against the West and not just Ukraine, it is because he is convinced that the decadence of the West makes it impossible for those nations to react. A writer for Corriere della Sera in Italy, clearly not a friend of the U.S., goes so far as to state that the dominating ideology of America “compels us to self-flagellate starting with the acritical alignment to the politically correct” that prevails in American universities, corporations and institutions. Go tell this absurd conviction to the Ukrainians suffering the raining missiles and ferocious bombardment by the butchers of Bucha.
The self-serving manufacturing of such manipulations of present history is worth noting for the simple fact that the West has made plenty of mistakes in its relations with Russia, admittedly by forcing the expansion of NATO’s borders without thinking it through, but mostly in the realm of strategic relations, both geopolitical and economic. There is no question that by far the biggest mistake was made by Germany who put all its eggs in the energy basket of Russia. It created a strategic dependence that is going to be very hard to break. Even now, when the West is scrambling to procure gas from Africa and even oil from countries judged for quite some time as inimical, unions and corporate leaders in Germany are opposing a clean break from Russian gas and oil. In addition, they are paying through the nose for the gas that keeps coming from Russia, generating a profit that keeps Vladimir bombing. The West may feel a little cold next winter and pay a little more for heating. The Ukrainians have a bigger problem, surviving the indiscriminate bombing and salvaging their territorial integrity. Only one thing matters: that the U.S. and its NATO allies succeed in stanching the hemorrhaging of freedom, lives and aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
At this moment, it is touch and go. Rooting for Ukraine is not enough. President Zelensky is right. Bigger guns are needed.