“Relations between the United States, Russia and China, and to a lesser extent France and Britain, are currently either downright bad, in the case of the West versus Russia, or very tense in the case of the United States and China. All this then leads to the fact that everyone else in the system of international relations also becomes smarter. The time when strong players, despite the existing problems, were able to rationally have fun with each other and had the will to cooperate is over,” political geographer Michael Romancov explains in the program Jak to vidí….
Now, according to him, we are seeing the exact opposite, when treaties are being announced, there is an open war between Russia and Ukraine, and there is a war of sanctions between Russia and the West. “Anyone who has a problem that they believe is realizable through the use of force is then much more tempted to use force in such a setting. A typical example can be Azerbaijan vis-a-vis Armenia.”
According to Romancov, it is very uncertain whether the open floodgates will be able to be closed again. “Europe has been an exception until now. Nothing happened in Europe at all. Europe, when it recovered from the shock caused by the fall of the Iron Curtain, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, believed that it had succeeded in embarking on a trajectory where everyone would communicate with each other and solve problems peacefully. But the rest of the world looked different from Europe, and now the problems are reaching the immediate vicinity of Europe as well.”
According to Romanc, the first warning was the war in Yugoslavia. “In Yugoslavia, the situation went off the rails until finally the North Atlantic Alliance intervened. At the time, everyone thought it was enough of a warning to anyone who wanted to start using force unilaterally in Europe. Incidentally, this culminated a period when the United States used its power primarily in an attempt to enforce peace in the world and protect civilians from the impact of force solutions. Whether it was the first war in the Gulf, the deployment of a contingent of UN forces with American participation in Somalia or the situation in the Balkans. But it was obviously not enough. The results were not conclusive enough to deter rogue states from using force. Therefore, from their point of view, the situation is now favorable.”
The Kremlin’s boundless appetite
Nevertheless, according to Romanco, Europe continues to rely on the so-called American protective umbrella. This is due to two factors. “Europe was hit harder than the United States after World War II. For them, it was an economic and political opportunity to take over the baton of the strongest global power from Britain. Closely related to this was the fact that the Americans were not interested in the Europeans complicating the situation in the world in any way. It was the United States that was interested in keeping Europe focused on itself, which was happening on the blueprint of the North Atlantic Alliance. And the moment the Soviet enemy disappeared, Europe suddenly had nothing to deal with in the security field. The Soviet Union disappeared overnight, and we had the idea that we would establish smooth, cooperative friendly relations with the newly formed states. It worked quite successfully for twenty years.”
But now we have been witnessing the Russian invasion of Ukraine for two years. “Even after the initial shock of the invasion has worn off, Russia still has a bad reputation with the vast majority of Europe’s elites. And that’s a good thing, because Russia will not disappear anywhere, it will always be there regardless of who will be at its head. The regime there will be deeply rooted in the foreseeable future, both in terms of personnel and values, and in the way Russian society is structured. We must therefore take into account that, at least in the medium term, we will have as our immediate neighbor in the East a country that hates us, a country that is at war with us. And that is the most important difference between them and us. They know they are at war with us. We are the ones who still think it’s not a war,” concludes the political geographer.