Mario Vargas Llosa: Is the war over?


According to media reports, the Ukraine-Russia peace talks have made significant progress in recent days. Russia announced to Ukraine that it could become a member of the European Union, provided that it agreed not to join NATO. According to Ukraine, it will be subject to this condition as long as three or four independent countries guarantee its protection from Russian interference in its territory. Indeed, the enthusiasm of the press seems unconvincing.

In the first place, to be a member of the European Union, the country must be completely free, something that will not happen to Ukraine because it will be a member of the future EU only as long as it is deprived of belonging to NATO, the western defense organization. And Russia will not only continue the war, but will continue to intervene inside that country, to “protect” the republics it created in the north of the country, to subject Ukraine to some kind of systematic dependency in the coming years.

Outside Russia, it is possible to speak of a war that has already caused many deaths. how many? we do not know. In Russia, the word “war” cannot be pronounced, and if a distracted citizen pronounces it, he goes to prison. It is also forbidden to demonstrate against the war. Those who do are already behind bars. So what are the Russians doing in Ukraine? They are fighting the Nazis, according to Vladimir Putin, and the bombs they throw at homes, hospitals and schools are apparently an illusion. But the fact is that a month and days after the invasion, the Russian forces were unable to take Kyiv or any important city in Ukraine, while the Russians lost many men and the rumors picked up by war correspondents are that the official figures given in Moscow have nothing to do with reality. This, instead, as far as may be known, is that Russia hired Chechen mercenaries to support the invading forces apparently stopped by Ukrainian soldiers. These, by the way, have the solidarity of almost everyone.

The only newspaper that opposed the war in Moscow had to stop coming out due to the number of warnings it received from the authorities. In fact, things did not seem to have progressed, although the President of the United States had to swallow his words when he said “A man like Putin cannot be at the head of a government in Russia.” The United States quickly denied that it intended to make a decision in the interests of the Russian people, who heads the Kremlin. On the other hand, the Ukrainian delegation in Istanbul warned its members to refrain from eating all local foods, so as not to risk the poisoning of a Russian millionaire and former friend or friend of Putin, Roman Abramovich.

Everything seems to indicate that Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was hasty and that it led all of Western Europe to join forces, demonstrating a unification not seen for many years, and the great majority of the nations of the world showing their solidarity. With Ukrainians already condemning Russia’s military action, many journalists and statesmen see it as an attempt to rebuild the former Soviet empire. Reconstruction which, for the time being at least, seems entirely unlikely, due to the sensitivity to the communist regime revealed by the former vassal states, with the exception of those with dictatorships according to the Soviet model – the Belarus model, for example – against which the majority of this ideological bloc is sympathetic .

On the other hand, it is difficult for Vladimir Putin to save his skin in power, after the failure of his military attack on Ukraine. He said that he was going to fight a small group of “Nazis” who usurped the state, the fact that Volodymyr Zelensky, who heads the Ukrainian government, and all his ministers do not seem to represent such a thing, but to lead a brave and resolute people, who regained their freedom, and fight for it, as well as for its territorial integrity. This sparked the massive solidarity that Ukrainians enjoyed, and thus the vilification of Putin and those who followed him, in Russia, where we have witnessed in recent weeks – at last! Notorious cases of criticism of the authority, despite the fact that the price that opponents of Putin’s policy dare to pay is so high that it reminds of the brutality of the Stalin era. It is possible, after this fatal mistake, that Putin will emerge unscathed, but that will not last long. Sooner or later, in the soft and secret corridors of the Kremlin, his banishment will be cooked, because what happened caused Russia to lose many allies in the world, painstakingly seduced countries which, overnight, just showed solidarity with Ukraine, which they clearly see Victim of Putin’s imperial appetite. He came to talk about the atomic and hydrogen bomb factories that he owns, but the warning that has been raised in this regard around the world is exaggerated. Russia would not dare to use its atomic arsenals, knowing full well that if it did, it would immediately be the victim of a backlash that could suffocate and destroy those arsenals, while inflicting severe damage on the majority of its population.

On the other hand, this blackmail has weakened the cause that the Russian people seem to be defending by invading Ukraine.

At the same time, the most famous opponents – already imprisoned – received new sentences that, in theory at least, would keep them in prison indefinitely. But all this will depend on whether Putin stays in power or secretly removes him from it, in the Soviet way. It is clear from an article by Pilar Bonet in the same newspaper, that the advisers who dared to suggest appeasement were sacked by Putin. But this only leads to the accumulation of responsibilities that burden him, after dragging his country to commit an invasion of Ukraine, which is, by any measure, a flagrant failure of Russia. This has a price, it may be too late, but it will inevitably come. And what would it mean for Russia to exit once and for all from the ominous atmosphere that has prevailed in the country since Putin’s rise to power, which with Putin returned to the capital, after a chaotic freedom, to the Soviet era. Wrong was the military invasion of Ukraine.

But from this can come the solution for Russia. Vladimir Putin made the fatal mistake that sooner or later his enemies would make him pay for it. Hopefully, sooner rather than later for Russia, the country will once again enjoy the (somewhat chaotic) freedom it had in the days of Yeltsin, who was a Democrat despite his heavy drinking. It is only a pity that he chose a successor like Putin, who was educated at the hands of the KGB, and is now trying to remake the Soviet empire. But these delusions of grandeur made him make the mistake of his life. The thing to which he will have to answer, having seen himself removed from power, which he has used so badly, and that after the mistake he has made, for which he will be punished, he finally opens before Russia a period in which he will restore his rule. Freedom can, in the end, coexist peacefully with other countries and exercise that democracy that so many of their fellow citizens demand.

The war will not end soon. But it could also be the end of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

March 2022.

© MARIO VARGAS LLOSA / EL PAÍS EDITIONS SL 2022.

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