It is a bitter fact that neighbours cannot be changed and altering geographical contiguity is next to impossible. That said, throughout history neighbouring states have continued to wage senseless wars against each other.
In ancient Greece, Sparta and Athens fought several battles while other city states of the great country were also not immune to these internecine wars. Before the emergence of the Roman Empire, the Italian city states also indulged in senseless conflicts with their neighbours. In India, princely states and in China regional governments fought their brothers next door in search of power, glory and dominance.
Feudal and Papal states in Europe also waged terrible wars against one another. Even after the creation of the so-called nation-states in the 17th century, neighbouring states across the continent continued to hatch conspiracies against each other, plunging the region into a permanent state of tensions. The French and British remained engaged in slaughtering each other for over 100 years. Sometimes it was Prussia that dreamt of establishing hegemony by subjugating its neighbours; other times it was France or the Hapsburgs that sought to become the masters of the region. Hitler and Mussolini were also interested in conquering the world while racist Churchill was not ready to witness the decline of the British empire which emerged as the most powerful state of Europe in the 19th century.
But after decimating millions in wars, conflicts and skirmishes, Europe decided to put aside its differences with the states of the region reconciling with each other. After World War II, they even prompted the US to join this regional unity, establishing in a way an Anglo-American world led mainly by Washington and London with Germany and France playing a key role in this new political arrangement. The US cleverly sorted out its territorial disputes with Mexico and Canada long ago.
Europe put an end to such territorial claims by forging unity among the ranks of the states in the region. Even during the cold war, Europe did not indulge in a direct conflict despite being divided along ideological lines with Eastern and Central Europe supporting Moscow and Western Europe following Washington’s dictates.
However, the US and its Western allies continued sowing the seeds of conflicts across the world, supplying weapons to all belligerent groups in the developing world. In China first they supported anti-Mao forces and later the breakaway province of Taiwan. In the Korean peninsula they threw their support behind the South while in the Arab-Israeli conflict they primarily bankrolled the Zionists. They also pampered anti-communist forces in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Yemen, Egypt and several other parts of the world.
Consequently, the Global South witnessed more than 180 conflicts and wars during the cold war decimating millions of people with the Korean war claiming around three million lives, Vietnam 3-7 million, Afghanistan over two million and Iran Iraq war over one million. In addition to that, conflicts in other parts of the world also maimed or wounded millions of people besides causing destruction on an epic scale.
In most of the cases it was the neighbouring states or regional countries that were part of the conflicts with the West and the US supplying weapons to almost all belligerent groups. During the Iran-Iraq conflict both Tehran and Baghdad received weapons from London, Paris, Washington and some from Moscow as well. The Arab-Israeli conflict also saw the rise of Western arms manufacturing companies. Western powers also armed Pakistan and India, prompting the leadership of two countries to divert the much-needed resources towards this senseless arms race that has plunged the region into an abyss of poverty and economic misery. Today India houses more than 243 million poor people (unofficially it is believed to be over 600 million) while Pakistan is burdened with over 80 million people living in abject poverty.
Other states that fought their neighbours or interfered in other states’ affairs at the behest of the West or for the sake of regional hegemony are also in a miserable situation. Iraq after losing more than three million people since 1979 is in a shambles. Afghanistan has plunged into an age of barbarism. Libya is a hub of death and destruction while Syria and other states also suffered immensely.
Europe has recently been immune from these neighbourly conflicts but the war in Ukraine has demolished this myth. The flames of war are knocking at the doors of the continent. Yes, it’s true that the conflict has greatly enriched a few Western oil and arms companies. And it has added to the wealth of a few business tycoons in the continent but for ordinary Europeans it spells a disaster. The region is not only witnessing the worst fuel crisis, inflation too is skyrocketing and creating immense hardships for the people.
The warmongers sitting in the power corridors of Washington want to push Europe towards a conflagration for the sake of oil and arms firms. They know that the US is protected by what we call natural boundaries of the Atlantic that has protected Washington from any aggression and war for decades but the fate of Europe has not been as good as that of America. Europe witnessed the two terrible wars that annihilated the achievements of several centuries within no time. Almost every European witnessed the horrors of wars listening to vivid images drawn by their parents or grandparents. Therefore, the leadership of the continent should spring into action saving not only their own continent from an impending catastrophe but the world as well.
The Ukrainian conflict may not affect the US immensely because the war-torn state is not located in the Western Hemisphere. That is why it is in the interest of Washington to prolong this conflict, dragging Moscow into a war of attrition. But prolonged conflicts have always been catastrophic. The Japanese attack on China during the decade of the 1930s was ignored by the West but this occupation was one of the factors that triggered the mass slaughter of 1939-1945.
Europe needs to remember that Russia is their neighbour and can't just be wished away. By ratcheting up tensions with Moscow, they have been deprived of a cheap energy source. The US might be happy over the destruction of Russian pipelines supplying fuel to the West but American companies cannot be the cheap alternative of Russian fuel nor do they want to provide it at discounted rates. Immense economic hardships are causing anxiety among the people, strengthening the position of far-right political groups whose xenophobia was one of the factors that plunged the continent into insane wars. Therefore, European leadership should come up with a mechanism to normalize ties with Moscow. Supplying arms to Ukraine in the hope of prolonging conflict or encircling Russia could greatly affect the future of Europe. A beleaguered Moscow might be forced to take any extreme measure.
History tells us that when the prestige and power of a superpower comes under attack, it goes to any extent to protect such prestige. If such a situation arises it will not be the US, sitting thousands of miles away, but Europe that will face the brunt of any such extreme measure. Therefore, ending not prolonging the Ukraine conflict is a way forward. If Europe can forget Napoleon’s France’ crimes, if it can ignore Hitler’s Germany’s horrible past, then it should also summon enough courage to sort out Russian transgressions through dialogue.
The writer is a freelance journalist who can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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