The War Against Ukraine and the Advancement of Federalism

Lucio Levi
Member of WFM Council and UEF Federal Committee, Former President of UEF Italy

In his opening address pronounced at the UN General Assembly last 20 September, the Secretary General António Guterres asserted that “the world is in peril and paralyzed …

...The international community is not ready or willing to tackle the big dramatic challenges of our age”, and added: “No cooperation. No dialogue. No collective problem solving”. This is the grim assessment of current and future harms of a world which is close to an irreversible tipping point and concluded that the time has come to revive the fundamental values on which the UN is based. The invasion of Ukraine is the latest example of the disorder that rages in the world.

And yet the war is continuing. To hide the difficulties Russia is facing on the ground, Putin decided to hold referendums in four occupied regions of Ukraine (Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia) in order to achieve their annexation. This move would allow Russia to denounce the Ukrainian advance and declare it a violation of Russian sovereignty, to trigger off military mobilization and wave the ghost of the use of nuclear weapons.  The escalation towards nuclear war would be the desperate act of a man who is on the edge of the abyss. Let us remind what Gorbachev wrote in his Perestrojka: “Nuclear war is senseless. … There would be neither winners nor losers. … World civilization would inevitably perish”.

Also the war against Ukraine cannot end with a winner and a loser. Russia’s status as a great nuclear power makes defeat, in a traditional military sense, impossible. It will be necessary to find a compromise solution. This is the meaning of Macron’s warning that Russia must not be humiliated. The first step to take on the way towards the construction of world peace is to reach a ceasefire with immediate effect, taking into account that the supply of arms to Ukraine and sanctions to Russia have been so far insufficient to stop the war. Europe’s dependence on Russia for gas supply has been a colossal strategic mistake, which has tied the hands of most European countries, notably Germany and Italy. The EU strategy to pursue energy independence aims at reducing energy consumption, accelerating the transition towards renewable energy and diversifying supply sources through the increase of gas import from Norway, Egypt, Israel, Azerbaijan and Algeria.

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The war is not simply a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It is a war waged by Russia against the EU and what it represents for the world: i.e.

  • a model of international democracy which extends its range of action beyond national borders without resorting to weapons and shows its capability to unite the European peoples under the flag of the great political values of freedom, democracy and human rights;
  • an international order based on the rule of law and defence of human rights instead of strength relations among sovereign states;
  • the engine of the formation process of a multipolar world order replacing the violent clash between hostile forces through international cooperation and multilateralism.                                                                                                                                                     

The future features of the EU architecture will depend on the outcome of the war, that is to say whether the EU will succeed in building a common defence and an Energy Union, which are the great missing links in the process leading to the European Federation.

Ukraine’s current counteroffensive has been favored by the military, economic and humanitarian assistance of the Western alliance. Among the goals which are still to be pursued there are a common energy network linking regions and Member States through a modern and efficient infrastructure, a centralized gas purchase to obtain a better price and to guarantee supply to all countries, a common gas storage system to cope with temporary supply reduction and the gas price cap to reduce the final price of the electricity bills.

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The big issue the war has brought to the forefront is EU’s dependence on Russia’s fossil fuels and the need for Europe to get rid of it. The total embargo by the EU on oil and gas imports from Russia, in line with the position taken by the United States and suggested by the European Parliament, would have deprived Russia of the resources to finance the war. Of course, there is to take into account the different strategic position of the EU in comparison with the US, whose security benefits from its distance from the frontline. But the embargo in the early days of the war would have bent quickly Russian resistance. Unfortunately, the EU wasted this unique opportunity. Now the initiative is in the hands of Russia and we have to expect that sooner or later Russia will close the gas tap. It is to be reminded that Russian winter defeated Napoleon and Hitler. Therefore, Putin hopes that frost will push the European countries to remove sanctions. After the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic sea, Russia has become a totally unreliable gas supplier. It is reasonable to think that negotiations will start when the balance of forces in the field will have persuaded Russia that it cannot prevail.

At the same time, the EU should accelerate the transition towards the production of renewable energy, i.e. the replacement of fossil fuels with carbon-free energy sources, that is the only way to ensure energy independence. To win this challenge, the EU should create an Energy Union, that would represent the greatest transfer of sovereignty at the European level after the monetary union. There is no doubt that the promotion of the energy transition is the greatest contribution Europe can give to shape the world of tomorrow, the main way to fight against the deadly threat humankind is facing, represented by climate change.

As long as the war continues, there will be no chance for an advancement of world federalism. This is the reason why now the top priority of federalist strategy is the ceasefire. But we should be aware that, under current circumstances, conditions favorable to the spread of federalism manifest themselves in the great regions of the world. First of all in the EU, that is the laboratory of international democracy, but also in the African Union and in Central and Southern America.

CESI
Centro Studi sul Federalismo

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