by Michalis Sophocles
With almost the same arguments of those who had mobilized Bulent Ecevit on July 20, 1974 to invade Cyprus, Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine on the morning of February 24. Awakening the ghost of wars between states, even a new World War. The Russian president's rhetoric and the direction of military operations suggest that Russia's immediate goals are to control southeastern Ukraine, from Donbas to Crimea, and to overthrow democracy and the government in Ukraine. Something he had tried before, with the great "kalponothia" of 2004, but which was resisted by the Orange Revolution.
In conditions of such intensity, you will either take a position with whom you support, or you will be a hermit. We know this because we paid dearly for it in 1974.
The cold reality for Ukraine is that it is being "depopulated". War operations will not last long. But the tragedy of the Ukrainian people, whose only "crime" was to seek progress and determine their own future, will be enormous and lasting. Russia will not withdraw from war-torn territories, nor will the West lift the sanctions it imposes today. What happened on February 24, however, is not just about Ukraine. We now live in a whole new world. The full effects of the Russian invasion will continue for decades. No one today can predict their final outcome. The largest war in Europe since 1945 brought tectonic changes to world geopolitics. With the first being the new Cold War that has already begun.
Russian revisionism is not limited to Ukraine. It envisions expanding a new supremacy throughout Eastern Europe, with the revival of a diversified "Warsaw Pact". One does not expect an invasion today of the Baltic and former Eastern countries that are members of the EU. and NATO. But we will have a hybrid war for destabilization and the emergence of Russian-controlled leaderships, while at the same time a NATO mobilization for the protection of these countries and their peoples, who in the vast majority tremble at the idea of a new "Soviet" type of influence. Keep in mind that the citizens of the former Eastern countries feel much more strongly about Russia than we do about Turkey.
The potential for destabilization to spread to other parts of the world is enormous. First in the Balkans, Kosovo, the former Yugoslavia. In Central Asia, the Pacific, South America. Mainly, what will happen if China does something similar in Taiwan. Because there the sirens of a new World War will ring. The big nightmare, after all, is to unite China's economic surface with Russia's military capability, in order to confront the West militarily.
The bell is ringing deafeningly for Europe and NATO. The temperate period after the great victory of liberalism, as sealed by the fall of the wall in Berlin, has been overthrown. Forces are once again at odds with democracy, the free market and globalized cooperation. NATO must be reorganized. Europe will be forced to set up, much earlier, an effective defense system, which will require much of the money currently being spent on the well-being of its citizens. "Neutrality", for everyone else, will become an unthinkable luxury. In conditions of such intensity, you will either take a position with whom you support, or you will be a hermit. We know this because we paid dearly for it in 1974.
The issue for Greece and Cyprus is how Turkey will react according to the development in Ukraine. Let us not forget that Putin and Erdogan have similar revisionism ideals, innumerable common authoritarian characteristics and similar problems. Mainly because, for the first time, they are facing a huge setback in their influence on the public opinion of their countries. In the military field, Turkey is not Russia. But when the big ones fight, everyone else has to take it very seriously. Much more us, with our national problem, which also changes dramatically after the Russian invasion.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are at a turning point in world history. Mr. Putin has caused it, but he is not the one who will determine the development. How the new era for humanity will end is a matter of leadership for each side. And the story will be relentless to those who seem inferior to the circumstances.
No one has the right to blame Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the Russian invasion. However, his inability to understand the danger and to assist the great efforts, mainly of France and Germany, for a diplomatic solution, was proverbial. Let me remind you that Mr. Zelensky was elected anti-systemic, without political experience, with only his great popularity as a weapon. In a world full of dangers, it's good for us to keep that in mind.
Mr. Michalis Sophocleous is the executive director of the Glafkos Clerides Institute.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]