The Idyll Is Over, War Has Begun
July 30, 2014 By Tomasz Wróblewski
What will the world do to Putin? The list of sanctions is ready. No reason to procrastinate any longer. The barrier is in the minds of politicians. They're too busy overcoming the recession to take a risk again.
The United States and Britain talked for weeks about intensifying sanctions and sending the government in Kiev military aid. But every statement immediately met with irritation from Paris, Berlin, Rome, Amsterdam, with accusations of unnecessary hysteria. The sanctions proposed the day before the tragedy of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 changed nothing because they weren't supposed to change anything. Business was to continue as usual. All that the leaders had agreed to were empty gestures. Today the same people are pinning responsibility on Putin. But some of the responsibility also falls on them, on European governments and the media that quickly came to terms with the annexation of Crimea and ignored the war creeping into eastern Ukraine, happily accepting Putin's worthless peace declarations.
History isn't the best of teachers but can be an excellent point of reference. A hundred years ago, a month before World War I broke out, no serious German, French or British paper noticed any threat or necessity to start arming. Front pages abounded in society gossip and magnificently growing fortunes. Wars were only supposed to affect distant lands. Just like now they were supposed to unfold somewhere in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. Today they can be a tab on a website but there's no way they can kill our nearest and dearest. Europe believes, truly wants to believe, that the crisis is behind it. It rejects sanctions that could harm the reviving economy. It doesn't want to arm and support its allies in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. Why provoke Moscow?
The Dutch, who lost the most citizens in the Russian attack, had protested the loudest against sanctions. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte argued that business and big money would soothe the savage beast and that nobody would find it worthwhile waging an open war in Ukraine. It's like reading newspapers from 100 years ago. I recommend Norman Angell's book The Great Illusion, about how the wise men of those times failed to notice that the rules of the game had changed; how nationalism turned out to be more powerful than money; how European countries made light of German preparations until the last minute. And again, the sum of gains and losses was meant to be the strongest argument - that the richest people wouldn't allow a war it because it could ruin them.
The assassination in Sarajevo was supposed to blow over. The world's reactions to the murder of 300 people in Donetsk don't depend on a commission's discoveries, the United Nations, overheard conversations or satellite photos. They depend on how Western politicians view the situation: on their state of mind. Has it gotten through to them yet that the idyll is over and that war has begun?