“But I am against war!”
The young sommelier, who does well in French, had several crushes. She engaged with these winegrowers in expert discussions on their fermentation method and – eternal debate among connoisseurs – whether or not to add a little sulphites to their wine. She ordered several boxes, paid cash and explained that she managed to get it to Moscow.
Only one reared up. A Burgundy winemaker.
I’m very glad you like my wine, he told her, but I’ll send it to you after the war is over.
I am against the war!, replied the young Russian.
That’s good, but I’m still going to wait for the end of the war.
But… I’m against war, repeated Svetlana, annoyed.
The exchange raises deep moral questions and would in itself be worth a dissertation. Is the winemaker justified in not wanting Muscovites to taste his wine at a time when their country is trying to crush another and their army is committing countless war crimes? Can Svetlana argue that life goes on despite everything, that Russians still have the right to celebrate weddings, birthdays, or just drink natural French wine with friends at her restaurant?
Will there still be fancy restaurants in Moscow?
And what does it mean to “be” against war in the absence of concrete action? A few thousand Russians were arrested for demonstrating their opposition to the war. Are the millions of others jointly responsible for the tragic course of events?
But there is another question, which seems to me even more important. It’s knowing what Russia will look like the day this Burgundian winemaker finally agrees to ship his wine to Svetlana. Will there still be fancy restaurants in Moscow? What will be the borders of the country then? Who will lead it? And in what direction?
Because for Ukraine, in truth, despite its immense current suffering and the reconstruction site which promises to be titanic, a relatively promising future is emerging. For those who still doubted it, it has proven its existence as a nation more strongly than ever during its tortuous history (listen to or watch Timothy Snyder’s Yale University lecture on this subject). Its state structures, which suffered from corruption, have held up and even become healthier since the invasion. Its democracy is flawed but vibrant, with remarkable civil society organizations and a quality free press. One way or another, the country will find an accommodation with the European Union, member or associate: Russian aggression has had the opposite effect of that expected: it detaches Ukraine from the ex-Soviet bloc to anchor it to the West.
A bloody stalemate
Russia is something else. It loses its soul in this colonial war, and colonial wars are lost in advance.
For Moscow, invading Ukraine in 2022, thirty years after its independence, is a little as if Paris had tried to take over Algeria in 1992, thirty years after the Evian agreements, considering that its authorities were military- fascists, therefore illegitimate, that the use of French was threatened by Arabization and that the population dreamed of being attached to France again.
After the 1998 Russian financial crisis and his accession to power, Vladimir Putin sought a path other than Western liberalism. But the one he chose is a bloody dead end.
“There is not much else to do but accept [nos] friendly proposals, Sergei Lavrov said on TuesdayRussian Foreign Minister. Otherwise, the Russian army will take care of the problem.” The proposals in question: demilitarize and denazify Ukraine. Translation: capitulate and install a puppet regime. The Kremlin considers the Ukrainian resistance “insane” and has only one thing in mind: to go all the way.
But the end could also be the end.
Putin can survive anything, it is said, except military defeat. Which does not seem impossible, despite the stabilization of the front in recent weeks, despite the Russian reinforcements expected in the Donbass and the volleys of missiles on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure as a Christmas present. A Russian victory, complete or partial, seems more unlikely.
And after? In the West, those who support Putin but no longer dare to say so openly argue that there are even more evil forces in Russia, including ultra-nationalists in a genocidal mood. And that to contain these extremes, it is perhaps better to preserve the current master of the Kremlin.
The argument is absurd, just like that consisting in saying that the United States, since it benefits from the monumental fault committed by the Kremlin on February 24, would have pushed it to commit it (the inversion of the causes and the consequences is a classic error of reasoning, sometimes voluntary for “experts” in bad faith).
Absurd, because it is Putin and he alone who coldly created the current situation, eradicating in passing any opposition whose major figures are either buried, like Boris Nemtsov, or in exile, like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or in prison, like Alexei Navalny . If they come out alive, will they have a say in the Russia of tomorrow? A profound change in power structures is a necessity, but who will be left to provide a constructive alternative? In the shorter term, what will be the consequences, in the Caucasus or in Central Asia, in the Middle East or even in Africa, of the considerable weakening that Russia is undergoing? And this country, where successive powers have always rewritten history for political ends, will it be able to face up to the atrocities committed by its army in Ukraine or Syria, do its duty to remember?
Europe’s last empire
Timothy Snyder says it well, all the European empires have lost their wars and disappeared. Austria is just a confetti compared to what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Same for Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. France looks like a miniature of the French empire and a long time ago the British empire dissolved, on which the sun never set. From the German Reich to Portugal, examples abound. Only Russia, during and after the Soviet parenthesis, maintained in a relationship of vassalage falsely independent neighboring countries, and claimed new territories. Will it one day be able to conceive of itself as something other than an empire, nourished by its colonies and its conquests?
That’s a lot of questions, which I don’t pretend to answer. But on this last day of a terrible year, I wanted to share with you my conviction: the real question posed by this war is that of the future of Russia, not Ukraine.
**Post Scriptum. I am not a specialist in either Russia or Ukraine, having only made about fifteen extended stays in these two countries for reports and investigations. But I am attached to this region by ties of family and friendship, I am devastated by this war and I have read everything I could this year, history books and novels, Russian press articles , Ukrainian and international.
What future for Russia? This is the real question posed by his war in Ukraine – Heidi.news