On May 6, the Cercle d'Economia awarded the prize for European Construction to Ursula von der Leyen. As a member of this institution I felt a healthy pride and I could not help but remember the rudeness inflicted on the president of the Commission by some phallocrats anchored in her prejudices, who left her without a seat or denied her a greeting, simply because she is a woman.
Our president is a good symbol of what Europe is today: above all, soft power and the defense of values built with a long struggle, such as women's equality. That is to say, little military testosterone and a lot of conviction. Europe has not reached this point by chance, but by dint of suffering in its midst the most devastating wars in history. So that they would not happen again, the European Union was created, bringing together nations that were previously irreconcilable enemies.
Europe is now under attack by an autocrat for whom such soft power is a real threat. Putin cannot tolerate that what was part of the Russian empire prefers to look at the West rather than allow itself to be devoured by the bear hug. In the demagogic story launched from the Kremlin, the responsibility for this war would come from Western aggressiveness, which has not hesitated to humiliate Russia, cornering it with an unstoppable expansion of the European Union and NATO.
Unfortunately, this argument finds quite a bit of echo in apparently antagonistic political positions. The ultra-nationalist leaders that proliferate all over the globe venerate the religious national ideology that has inspired the Russian president, despising the democratic architecture and the values on which the European Union is based. From the other end of the (old) ideological spectrum, all kinds of blame are attributed to Europe for having supported the strategy of cornering Russia.
There is no doubt that Europe acted in an imperialist manner in its colonial past and that post-Cold War management could have been conducted better. This must be the object of a critical analysis from a historical perspective. But this exercise should not be used by satraps of all stripes to throw squid ink at their corruption and legitimize their undemocratic exercise of power. We no longer live in a colonial world and US imperialism is probably experiencing its last throes. States now have sufficient sovereignty to establish their own network of international relations, as we are moving towards a multipolar world in which history will be written with many hands.
In this context, it is necessary to note that if there is a war in Ukraine it is, firstly, because Putin's plan to stay in power goes through the war dynamic and, secondly, because the Ukrainians decided to resist so as not to become a State footman. To brandish the expansion of NATO as a threat to Russia is to subvert the historical narrative, since its members have voluntarily joined it, precisely to avoid being attacked. And as for the supposed humiliation, it is worth remembering that if the Soviet Union imploded and Ukraine became independent, it was exclusively because Boris Yeltsin put his desire for power before the maintenance of Soviet unity. Eliminating the USSR would get rid of Gorbachev, thereby removing the last hurdle in his political career. And let's not forget that Putin was directly nominated by Yeltsin as his successor.
But contempt for Europe and the values it represents are essential elements in the ideological program of the autocrats, who will continue to try to undermine it. Faced with this, the European Union is demonstrating step by step the singular strength of a project based on consensus and voluntary adherence. Each obstacle represents a new milestone in its construction. At the beginning of the pandemic, hesitation was confronted with the vertical effectiveness of the Chinese model. And yet, the vaccination campaigns have been carried out decisively and the mutualization of the debt was approved for the first time to finance the Next Generation funds. The war in Ukraine leads us to face even more decisive challenges, such as the common management of energy shortages and the construction of a coordinated defense structure.
It will not be easy, but the female leadership of our president, apparently weak, although endowed with the tremendous strength of convictions, is in keeping with what the European Union represents.