Grandstand. Among the reactions of all kinds that it can arouse, the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s Russia is astounding by its anachronism. This brutal and totally unjustified aggression against a sovereign and peaceful State in the very heart of Europe, in flagrant violation of international law and the law of armed conflict, by conventional means against a background of nuclear threat, indeed sends us back, with its millions of refugees, in the dark hours of Hitlerian or Soviet military expansionism.
Product of a nostalgic hypernationalism, it realizes the fantasy long dreaded by Westerners, and even more so by the old “people’s democracies” since the end of the cold war, of a return of the Russian threat on the European continent. All this in a world profoundly transformed by the positive developments of the second half of the 20th century.and century: European construction, advances in international law, democracy and the rule of law, the end of the bipolar world, globalisation, the digital revolution.
An anachronistic event, strong reactions, often unexpected and sometimes unprecedented. Let us cite here the vigor of the Ukrainian resistance and the revelation of Zelensky as a warlord and master of strategic communication; Western political unity (European, transatlantic and bipartisan in the United States) rediscovered; the most extensive and rigorous program of economic and financial sanctions ever implemented against a State; US and European non-NATO military and logistical assistance; the proliferation of appeals to international justice, or even, in the era of social networks and corporate social responsibility, the voluntary withdrawal of most large Western companies operating in Russia, under pressure from international public opinion .
The weakening of the West for twenty years
But beyond these happy reactions, this war from another time will paradoxically have long-term geopolitical repercussions, which will mark the century. In this regard, reference has sometimes been made to a “paradigm shift” and the end of the post-Cold War era, albeit with a twenty-year delay, because the post-Cold War parenthesis actually came to an abrupt end on 11 September 2001.
Since the blow to American power that day, the last twenty years have been marked by the return of power politics in international relations, the geopoliticization of globalization, the (re)rise in power of the major emerging countries (China, India, Russia, Turkey…) and the correlative weakening of the West, followed by the increasingly direct contestation of the principles and values of liberal democracy by these authoritarian regimes.
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