As the first salvos of Russian missiles hit peaceful Ukrainian cities on Feb. 24, 2022, the old world crumbled, and it was time to seek new relationships between nations.
Even now, one can try to turn a blind eye to it, ignore the facts, wait for everything to return to a peaceful course, attempt to "appease" the aggressors, or advocate for “diplomatic” conflict resolution paths. None of this will change anything.
Thanks to the international security rules established post-World War II, and later with the dissolution of the USSR, the world enjoyed an era of relative calm, comfort, and stability. In the last 30 years, there have been numerous localized wars, quickly extinguished. The US and NATO acted as the global police, and everyone understood that it was better not to break the rules.
In 2003, just a hint that there might be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a threat to global security from Saddam Hussein's regime led to a U.S. military operation and the downfall of the dictatorship. For the next 15 years, no dictator dared to test the strength of the US or the international security system.
This explains the decrease in defense spending in Western countries and the associated economic boom, trade growth, and globalization of the world economy. The citizens of Western nations, including politicians, believed this renaissance to be permanent. The arms race ceased, and no one stockpiled bombs and missiles. The slogan "Goodbye, Weapons" took hold in the public consciousness and it seemed that the era of peace and comfort was a given and not subject to threats.
The main proponent of this erroneous idea was Francis Fukuyama with his 1992 book “The End of History.” But liberal democracies did not triumph worldwide; they just believed in their victory and are still stuck in their comfort zones.
Trying to test the global rules of peaceful coexistence in 2014 in Ukraine, the “Russian Empire” did not receive from Western democracies so much as a “toothache” – simply words of “deep concern.” So, in 2022, the Russians decided that there were no guarantees of global security, and that a “monkey with a grenade” could pursue its geopolitical “desires” through armed means. Russia made war the primary tool of its expansion and the achievement of foreign policy and economic goals, opening Pandora's box.
Other pariah states began to watch with deep interest to see if Russia would succeed.
It is very much like a street fight where a hooligan starts using brass knuckles to immediately gain an advantage over others. It is then only a matter of time until others start using theirs. The First World War began as countries one after the other initiated mobilization processes, which at the time seemed like a crucial step to gaining an advantage against the enemy.
Now, the advantage is a race of military threats mixed with blackmail, direct involvement in armed conflicts, and hybrid terrorist acts. This compels all other countries to start using similar tools of resistance, or else the risk of losing significantly increases. We are on the brink of a new arms race, where attempts to address complex issues not through diplomatic means, but through armed aggression, will prevail.
Stopping this process is nearly impossible. According to the genre's laws, all parties must be involved in this military “game” until they exhaust their capabilities to wage war; alternatively, until the enemy is completely defeated and all other countries come to new established rules of peace and coexistence.
The world has already experienced this form of radicalism with the First and Second World Wars. Today, countries that attempt to live by the old rules (pre-2022) will be on the losing side, because such radicalism – including attempts to resolve complex issues with simple armed methods – will prevail over all other ways of resolving global confrontation.
It is not just international politics that has been radicalized. Societal relationships are staring at the same fate. This will become a new reality. If people want to survive in this reality, they must accept radicalism as the norm. There will be no other world in the near future. Tolerant views no longer matter. Games of “humanism” will lead to defeat. Radicalism rising on both sides of the Atlantic can only be “cured” by the same approach. It's either us or them.
It's hard to say how long these dark times will last. In the past, such periods have lasted five to 10 years. Most likely, it will be the same this time – five years of everyone against everyone. The Third World War, which democratic regimes have tried to postpone as much as possible, is already underway: Ukraine, Israel, Islamist uprisings in Europe and the USA. Western countries are direct participants in this war, even though they currently try to ignore the fact.
The US could have launched a preemptive strike against Iran to cut off support for Islamic terrorists, as they did in Iraq 20 years ago. The world would have received a clear signal that the rules still cannot be broken, and the punishment for doing so is inevitable. Yes, there would have been casualties. But in a world of radicalism, there are inevitably far more.
The example of Israel shows the cost of hesitation. Saving the life of a soldier now may cost thousands of civilian lives in ten years’ time. Terrorists who were released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal killed women and children in Israel.
We need to be prepared for such a turn in history. It's Winston Churchill's time, not Neville Chamberlain's. If a country chooses shame over war, it will get both war and shame. The rules of the new world will be dictated by the victors. This is what the new "Fukuyama" will proclaim.
So, hello, weapons.
Oleh Dunda is Member of Parliament in Ukraine.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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