Russia-Ukraine. Time to take to the streets for Peace

Editorial by Marco Impagliazzo

To some, the start of a war even seems inevitable. Is there a risk of war in Europe? This dramatic question has been hovering over our continent and beyond for a few weeks now, as the tension on the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine has long since reached a warning level. All the signs point to an open conflict between the two countries. Russia is amassing an alarming amount of men and equipment, Kiev is doing the same and, well aware of the disparity of forces, is willingly accepting the support of other countries, some of which, to tell the truth, don't have to be asked twice. Western governments have asked their citizens to leave Ukraine.

The escalation of statements and media warnings has started an apparently unstoppable spiral. But it must be clearly stated that today it is madness to think of a return to war in Europe. It would be to deny in an instant more than 75 years of history in which, apart from the still unhealed wound in the Balkans, our continent has worked miracles of peace. Just think of the closure of long and repeated hostilities, such as those between France and Germany. And above all the fact that Europe has managed to rise from the great abyss of the Shoah. It was not a foregone conclusion that democracy as a model would win out and that a union, even if imperfect, would be a barrier to war.

Of course, the international framework is complex. Putin's Russia is asking for guarantees for its security, which it sees threatened by Ukraine's possible membership of NATO. The United States and its allies do not intend to restrict freedom of membership in the Alliance. Moscow thinks and acts as a global power and has demonstrated this on several occasions in recent years. First in Syria, then in Libya. But also in more peripheral African scenarios. European countries arrive at this crossroads with different positions, some distracted by electoral issues, some certainly concerned about the disastrous consequences that a conflict would have on their relations with the Russian Federation. Russia and Europe are linked by many ties, which are not easy to undo, concerning the geopolitical balance of the continent, the sharing of cultural heritages that are decisive for both, and economic relations, relating above all to gas supplies, but also to a trade network and the presence of European companies in the Russian Federation.

A war, of whatever magnitude and nature, would not solve any of these problems and would cause enormous suffering to the Ukrainian population, far greater than the one already inflicted to date: there have already been over 14,000 victims of the conflict in the Donbass since 2014. Indeed, war in Ukraine has already been going on for almost eight years, although this is often forgotten. What would happen if the front were to widen and other countries become involved? Frantic negotiations are underway. Talks between Russia and the United States continue and, although the confrontation is bitter, they have not been broken off. The attempt initiated by French President Macron is of great importance: it opens an authoritative channel of communication with the Kremlin, pursues the path of mediation between Moscow and Kiev, tries to reactivate the Normandy format and the Minsk negotiating programme, which are the only platform for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbass.

Pope Francis never tires of raising his voice to call for responsibility for peace. "War is madness" he said on Wednesday, asking those responsible to put the common interest before that of the parties. Yes, because among the many absurdities of this issue there is also the one of two peoples fighting, united by a long common history, which, although studded with conflicts, has also generated many threads of family and friendship relations, as well as a largely common cultural heritage, sharing the same Christian faith. And this goes beyond any geopolitical, economic or strategic consideration. Would it not be important today to take to the streets for peace, as was done 20 years ago against the war in Iraq? It would not be naive, but an act of realism by the people of Europe.