From Nezavisimaya gazeta, May 26, 2022, p. 3. Condensed text:)
This week has brought the failure of yet another NATO plan for a “peace settlement” in Ukraine. On May 19, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio handed over a four-stage peace plan to UN Secretary General António Guterres. However, on May 24, Russian Security Council deputy chair Dmitry Medvedev criticized the plan, commenting that the Italian plan for resolving the situation in Ukraine was drawn up without relying on the realities of the conflict.
But any military conflict, including the current events in Ukraine, ends in peace sooner or later. It is not yet possible to predict the conditions for it; they will depend on many components. Something else is more important. A major military conflict changes (though not necessarily destroys) both the world order and the legitimacy of political systems. These will also be changed by the special military operation in Ukraine.
First, mass consciousness will no longer perceive World War II as the last major war in history. Between it and our world there will be a new major conflict in Europe, with its own history, its own heroes, its own victories and failures (for all parties). Of course, there have been plenty of military actions before – just remember the US and British actions in the Persian Gulf, NATO operations in the Balkans or the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. But the scale of the conflict in Ukraine surpasses every one of them: For the first time since World War II, Europe has seen fighting between relatively large and comparable armies with the real intervention of great powers. Schoolchildren and college students will read in textbooks that there was at least one more major military conflict in Europe after World War II, which creates a different way of thinking.
Second, many clichés of liberal ideology will become a thing of the past. Over the past 40 years, not only journalists, but also many political scientists have written that hard power is being replaced by soft power, and that wars are giving way to economic rivalry. The Ukrainian experience nixes these ideas, making them intellectual history.
Third, the system of social relations will change. World War II will become even more distant from our society. The concepts of “veteran,” “war hero,” “combat officer,” even “unknown soldier” and “lieutenant prose” will take on different meaning. Books will be written, films and TV shows will be made, and museums will be created about the new conflict (starting from 2014, by the way) as the few remaining participants in the last war finally disappear from active life. The attitude toward World War II will more and more resemble the attitude toward the Patriotic War of 1812: great, glorious, but already history.
In other countries, this attitude will be felt no less acutely than in Russia. In Ukraine (if it survives in some capacity), the events of 2022 will probably become a national myth, from which generations will grow up hating Russia and dreaming of a war of revenge. In the EU countries, under the pretext of the anti-Russian campaign, World War II monuments are being destroyed. Germany, step by step, is using this newly opened window of opportunity as much as it can to “close the book” on its guilt for that war, rehabilitate its history and recreate its Armed Forces along the way. It follows the logic of “People don’t remember Napoleon when they think of France.” This is not just a step against Russia: It is the desire of Western societies to prove that the results of that war have sunk into history, and the field for rebuilding the world has been reopened.
A fourth aspect that will change is our understanding of the theory of nuclear deterrence, one of the foundations of the modern world. It was, again, based on two principles. First, that there can be no wars between nuclear powers. Second, that any war based on conventional weapons will definitely develop into a nuclear one. Ukraine has given us a different example: The parties can conduct indirect military actions, providing diplomatic and military support to one of the parties. This means that a new military theory will proceed from the high probability of a nonnuclear war between great powers that draws in the military-economic systems of various countries. In a sense, we will find ourselves in the world of the late 19th century: The layman lives a peaceful life, but the general staffs plan battles between the great powers, and high school students learn to accept them as inevitable.
Finally, the modern international legal system is based on the outcomes of World War II, which legitimizes all [international] institutions, from the charter and structure of the UN (including the special rights of permanent members of the Security Council as the victorious powers) to international economic organizations – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. At the same time, World War II still determines our moral and ethical values and ideas. The conflict in Ukraine, of course, will not destroy all this. But in a world where there has been another major military conflict after World War II involving Russia and NATO, these things will all be far from self-evident. . . .