The views expressed in opinion pieces are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial staff.
Posted on December 29, 2022
A recent survey ofFIFG published by the JDD shows that 70% of French people are in favor of negotiations on the Ukrainian conflict. This does not mean that they are in favor of an immediate cessation of arms supplies to Ukraine, but that they prefer a negotiated solution to the continuation of the war until the Russian defeat.
The cleavage according to political sensitivities appears clearly. The negotiation option is desired by 69% of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s voters in the last presidential election, 77% of those of Marine Le Pen and 88% of those of Éric Zemmour. In the other political horizons, only a minority favors negotiation.
Why a quick and negotiated peace?
These voters of the right and of the radical left would therefore not hesitate to negotiate with the man who razed Mariupol, murdered tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and deported to Russia thousands of children taken from their families. Two hypotheses can then be made: these voters have not understood that this war is the fight for freedom against servitude or else they consider that the world being what it is, it is inevitable to negotiate with the worst criminals. The first hypothesis refers to a certain idealism, to a belief in freedom as a value. The second comes from the famous realpolitik.
Neither of the two hypotheses should be rejected because they exist concomitantly in these radical electorates. A predominantly popular electorate includes a large number of people who are uninformed about geopolitical issues. For them, the reasoning is simple: peace is better than war and the sooner peace reigns, the better off we will be. Especially since these people have understood the impact on their standard of living of the war in Ukraine, in particular through the rise in the price of energy.
But there are also individuals in these radical electorates who do not favor freedom. This is the very definition of political extremism, whether left or right: quick fixes, state power, authoritarianism. Putin’s image is not that of a criminal without faith or law for all French people. Yet that is what it is.
But the West must prevail against autocracies
The position of the French highlighted by this survey is therefore not a scoop. We suspected a little… When the accumulation of the votes of Le Pen, Zemmour and Mélenchon reached 52% of the votes cast, these dissatisfied voters weighed heavily in opinion polls. However, it is likely that they are seriously mistaken.
To understand this, we must address some geopolitical generalities.
The United StatesI’European Union and the UK have a common basic position: it is up to the Ukrainians to decide when to negotiate with Russia. But ending an armed conflict through negotiation presupposes that there is neither a winner nor a loser. Negotiation is precisely about finding a compromise leading to a peaceful modus vivendi.
Do Western governments want such a solution? It is impossible to answer because everything will depend on the resistance capacity of the Russians. But the Russian defeat is the most probable hypothesis. On the Western side, we clearly see leaders evoking negotiation (Emmanuel Macron) and others not talking about it (Joe Biden). These are just minor differences in political communication.
In practice, Western states are gradually increasing the power and effectiveness of the weapons delivered to the Ukrainians. What they refused to deliver in the spring of 2022 will be delivered in the spring of 2023, for example the Patriot surface-to-air missiles. We remain mainly with the provision of means of defence. It lacks the materials allowing a ground offensive of magnitude, in particular the modern tanks of the Americans, the French and the Germans. It could come in the indefinite future.
Russia continues to weaken, the ridiculous media rantings of its leaders being the surest sign. Besides, how could a small country like Russia cope? Large in territory, Russia is an economic dwarf and it is always worth bearing in mind a few simple figures (year 2021, World Bank):
- GDP of Russia: 1778 billion dollars
- US GDP: $23.315 billion
- European Union GDP: $17.2 trillion
Russia’s GDP is only 4.3% of the combined GDP of the United States and the European Union. The increase in Russian military spending cannot therefore go very far, while that of the West can still grow considerably. The United States plays very smartly on the progressive weakening of Russia, which could lead to the downfall of Putin. By allowing the Ukrainian army to resist and even carry out limited offensives victoriously, the West is acting with caution and diligence. They stimulate the ardor and the courage of the Ukrainians, discourage the Russian soldiers and sow doubt in the population of the aggressor.
This strategy of the long war is the only one which today corresponds both to the wishes of the Ukrainian people and to the interests of the democracies. The Ukrainians no longer want to remain under the Russian domination that they have suffered for centuries. Western democracies have an urgent need to show the whole world that freedom is also a strength and that power is not on the side of autocrats. Islamist terrorism, the return to the Middle AgesAfghanistanthe iranian murderous theocracythe Communism late Chinese, the absurd and ferocious tyranny of Kim Jong-un in North Korea impose an example of virtuous success on democracies.
The good side must show the evil side that it is the one that determines the future through its values of freedom and its creative dynamism, guarantees of economic success and military power.
What about Russian nuclear weapons?
As for the 6,000 Russian nuclear warheads, a Soviet legacy, that’s a whole other problem. If the small cohort of the Kremlin supporting Putin dared to use it, NATO’s response would be dazzling. Russia would disappear with all Western democracies. However, the current issue is no longer even Russian domination over Ukraine, which will never take place. It is only a question of attaching or not the Crimea, the Donbass and perhaps Zaporijjia to Russia.
Kill billions of human beings and commit suicide as a nation for a few regions of eastern Ukraine? Who can believe it? If the Russian leaders systematically use the theme of Western aggressiveness to circumvent their population, a usual method of autocrats, they know that democracies have no territorial aim on Russia but only the wish that one day the Russian people can also know freedom.
Latent war between autocracies and democracies
A majority of French people do not seem to share the previous analysis. Public opinion is moving in the same direction in the United States. One recent survey for the think tank Chicago Council on Global Affairs indicates that more than half of respondents want a quick peace deal with Russia, with Republicans significantly less supportive than Democrats of continued aid to Ukraine.
This propensity to wish for a quick peace is largely the result of a lack of analysis. The population of the wealthy Western democracies, the most privileged on the planet, spontaneously understands that peace is a prerequisite for maintaining their standard of living. But it does not perceive the mortal danger posed by the retreat of democracies in the face of dictatorships in a world where the cold war between the communist East and the liberal West has been replaced by a latent war between autocracies and democracies.
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Objective: the defeat of Russia
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