by Fabio Bozzo

The crisis in Ukraine is far from being over; rather we can say that a phase, more acute and more internationalized than usual, is drawing to a close. A phase that has kept half the world stuck to the internet and the news.

Let us therefore try to draw some lessons from this red-hot round. In short, the question is only one: who won and who lost? Geopolitics is nothing but the exercise of power by international actors, who aim to protect either their national interest or, more rarely, their ideological faith (be it secular or religious). Therefore, based on the preconditions of the protagonists and the stakes involved, let us try to answer the only really important question of all diplomatic games, namely who is winning and who is losing.

Ukraine

The Ukrainian state has not been able to rebuild its economy after the Soviet disasters and today contends with Moldova for the unenviable record of the poorest country in Europe. Its ruling class, apart from the strong political opposition between pro-Europeans and Russophiles, has proven to be essentially incapable, corrupt and too submissive to the post-Soviet economic oligarchs. These are none other than former public managers of the communist era who, with liberalization, used their advantage within the country-system to build personal empires. Neither more nor less than what happened in Russia itself, with the not insignificant difference that in Moscow, at a certain point, political power regained control of the oligarchic cliques and brought them back under state authority, while leaving their accumulated wealth intact. Ukraine, on the contrary, has not been able to exploit its potential: ideal territory for agriculture, vast coal reserves, old but developed industry and educated population. Certainly no one thinks that the post-Soviet reconstruction could have been easy, but thirty years after the collapse of the USSR, the faults of the leadership in Kiev are evident.

Russia

Unlike its "little" sister, Russia has managed to put together the pieces of the socio-economic disaster inherited from the Bolsheviks. Certainly it has been helped by the godsend of being able to export gas and oil, but in life, luck is also needed. In its obvious and understandable desire to rebuild the core of its old empire (an empire much older than communism) Moscow has not hesitated to exploit Kiev's mistakes and misfortunes. Putin, however, as a good chess player and icy ex-KGB agent, knows very well that a Ukrainian identity exists and is well rooted in the feelings of the majority of the population. Therefore, trying to swallow the huge bite in one go would have caused a real war, with thousands of deaths and inevitable intervention of the West. West that Russia economically and militarily has no possibility to face. Consequently, the Kremlin's lord has been implementing for years a progressive work of attrition against his Ukrainian adversaries.

Exploiting the Russian minority and the mistakes of the Kiev leadership, Putin has obtained: the substantial international acceptance of the Russian reconquest of Crimea, the probable annexation (in a few years and probably following a phase of autonomy from Ukraine) of part of the Donbass and Lugansk regions, the demonstration to the world that the (dis)European Union is diplomatically non-existent and that NATO, despite being militarily unbeatable, does not want to engage on the field. Result? Now the Ukrainians know that to ask for the help of the West there is a serious risk of ending up like the Afghans who had believed in us and now if they are lucky are in exile in the U.S. and Europe, otherwise they are meat for slaughter of the Taliban. Such awareness can only help the pro-Russian parties in Ukraine. As if that were not enough, let's say for good measure, with this crisis Putin has also taken a big step forward in the future re-annexation of Belarus, which will probably take place as soon as the dictator in Minsk retires or goes to the other world. If we consider that Russia's economic and military strength is just a sliver of that of the NATO countries we can only take our hat off to what has been achieved by the new but no longer young Tsar.

Finally, Moscow is cleverly playing the Chinese card. At the Kremlin they are perfectly aware that the only two real superpowers in the world are the US and China, with Russia at best aiming at the role of needle of the scales. To have pushed Moscow towards the embrace of Beijing has been one of the most serious American geopolitical mistakes of the last thirty years, but this doesn't take anything away from the terror the Russians have for China. Demographic terror, economic, since a few years also military and always ethnic. At the same time, the US knows very well who is the real enemy of this century and they know they share with the Russians the essence of a common European ethno-cultural matrix. These things are also clear to the Russians, who have been looking towards the West since the times of Peter the Great and who cannot wait to sell their alliance to Washington. What are they asking for in return? Needless to say: the reconstruction of their historical imperial core.

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The United States

Washington pays for a weak (and therefore hysterical) leadership, a serious confusion in foreign policy and an objective internal socio-political crisis. Biden, caught between the "pacifists" of the left and the isolationists of the right, had to make it clear immediately that he would not send troops to fight for Ukraine (understand Ukrainian friends?). At the same time, in order not to announce to the world the end of the American century, he had to make very tough speeches against the Kremlin's appetites. The only thing that partially saved the face of the White House was the enormous superiority of the US power over the Russian one: the economic threat was concrete and Putin is too clever to get into a war he knows he cannot win. Therefore, we can say that Biden has drawn, yes, but by fielding a team comparable to Real Madrid against one comparable to Lazio.

The Democratic president's foreign policy was overly conditioned by his domestic policy. The mid-term elections will almost certainly be a Republican triumph and a political resurrection of Trump (assuming he was dead): all this has put "Sleepy Joe" in performance anxiety. Finally, the domestic situation in the US is objectively problematic. The society is politically divided and ethnically sectorized as never before since the time of the War of Secession, to the point that the words of the great President Lincoln (the liberator of the slaves he dreamed of bringing back en masse to Africa) come to mind, who a few hours before being assassinated said of African Americans: "I wonder what we will do with them. The idea of a race war terrifies me." In light of Black Lives Matter and other US anti-white racial rants, it seems hard to fault the first Republican president in history.

Europe

The European Union, as usual, has shown that it does not exist. No common foreign policy, no community army and no community of interests and even less of intentions. The cosmic void. Therefore we can limit ourselves to analyze the policies of the most important EU countries and those most involved in the Ukrainian events.

The representatives of the hard line against Moscow have been Poland, the Baltic States, Romania and Bulgaria. The reason is simple: after fifty years of Soviet occupation and communist horrors they want to keep Russia as far away as possible from their borders. Of course Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, but humanly and psychologically it is difficult to blame them. In addition to the Eastern European countries, Great Britain should be added, which is not surprising. A nation genetically linked to the USA by the famous special relationship, the post-Brexit United Kingdom has wisely strengthened its already solid link with Washington.

Germany. Berlin, unlike the countries just mentioned, has been much cooler. Surrounded by allies and the very heart of the Old Continent's economy, Berlin can afford a foreign policy that thinks almost exclusively about business. Therefore, on the one hand it has sided with the Atlantic hemisphere, as it should have done, and on the other hand it has done everything possible to throw water on the fire. In the series: you can fight over Ukraine, but in the meantime let's open the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

France. Classic Parisian presenteeism has dovetailed perfectly with President Macron's need to bring home any result before an election whose outcome appears as certain as a draw at a charity draw. Unfortunately, the French leadership has forgotten (as usual) that there is no turning back from 1940. The result? Macron's activism appeared like that of a high school student visiting the university and raising his hand to ask a question, but only to show the more senior ones that he is there too.

Finally, Italy, the fourth largest European economy (higher than Russia itself), endowed with a military asset of all respect, has always been the darling of the U.S. by virtue of its geographical location and at the same time has excellent trade relations with Moscow. The result? Nothing. No official proposal of compromise. No attempt to repeat the diplomatic success of Pratica di Mare. Perhaps, however, there was one success: after having objectively made progress with the subjunctives, there is the possibility that our Foreign Minister, coming directly from the steps of the San Paolo Stadium, has also learned where Ukraine is on the map. Better than nothing...

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Graduated in History with modern and contemporary majors at the University of Genoa. Essayist, he is author of Ucraina in fiamme. Le radici di una crisi annunciata (2016), Dal Regno Unito alla Brexit (2017), Scosse d'assestamento. "Piccoli" conflitti dopo la Grande Guerra (2020) and Da Pontida a Roma. Storia della Lega (2020, with preface by Matteo Salvini)