The one in Ukraine has elements reminiscent of a civil war, and the introduction of this lens helps to understand what is happening. Although this is an armed conflict with little military information on either side, there are signs of Russian brutality (Bucha, Mariupol, etc.) reminiscent of some of the horrific events of the Yugoslav wars, or, as Pope Francis himself said, of what happened during time of the massacres in Rwanda.
Of course, the Russian leadership sees this as a civil war. There are letters and statements from Putin that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. In fact, in 2014, with the occupation of part of the Donbass, Russia began to use the language of the civil war, talking about “rebels” and things like that. Soon they will begin to accuse the attacked Ukrainian fighters of being “terrorists”, having previously called them “Nazis”, as Putin did in his May 9 defiant speech. “For Russia! For victory! Hooray!” he proclaimed.
The war of the plot for a Russian character or not for Ukraine is part of using history as a weapon (weaponry, say the Anglo-Saxons). Putin claimed Russian victory over the Nazis in the Great Patriotic War by manipulating history and ignoring the role of other nationalities of the then Soviet Union in Stalin.
Ukrainians naturally don’t see it that way, despite their close social and cultural ties to Russia: neither in viewing the current conflict as a civil war, nor in the historical justification of the Great Patriotic War. They live on attack, invasion and occupation of part of their territory by their powerful neighbor, with whom, however, they shared a lot. It is true that the Ukrainian national identity emerged relatively recently, but this does not detract from the idea of the birth of a nation reinforced by Russian aggression. It should be remembered that Vietnam was partly a civil war, and above all a national one, which the United States realized too late. Don’t be too quick to make comparisons, though. Russia is challenging not only Ukraine, but also the West and the whole world.
The attitude of the Western powers towards Ukraine and Russia is also much like a civil war approach, with the pretense that they are not fighting while weapons are being delivered to the Ukrainian side, in addition to the intelligence and finance without which the country is attacked. would have sunk long ago. The refugee crisis has much to do with the civil war, although its perception in the EU has drawn criticism in the Muslim world, comparing it to a reluctance to accept Syrians fleeing the civil war. And the fact is that we are also experiencing this war in Ukraine as a European civil war, if we consider – we must do this in the past, present and, above all, in the future – Russia as part of Europe, to which Ukraine belongs.
The Biden administration decided to add others and step up this type of military assistance to Ukraine (as other EU countries do, only to a greater extent). As IFRI researcher Lawrence Nardon points out, this is partly in line with the administration’s vision of what is happening within American society and the system itself, in what some are calling a new civil war, only without armies between them. Those in charge of this administration see the war in Ukraine as another stage in the struggle between populists and defenders of liberal democracy that has been waged in the United States since Trump was elected in 2016. And part of a larger conflict between democracies and autocracies… Although Biden’s attempt to present this war in this way runs into an important part of the Global South, including some democracies such as India or parts of Latin America. In this vision, we again face a conflict between great powers (former colonies or empires) for which both are responsible. In fact, the sanctions imposed against Russia are Western sanctions. Hardly any country in the Global South has followed suit. But the American policy towards Ukraine projects onto the world the internal civil conflict that the great American power is experiencing. And maybe partly European too.
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