March 2022 Austrian Economics Monthly revolved around the recent geopolitical frictions and their consequences for Europe.
Pietro Paganini’s opening remarks focused on the importance of reconceiving our geopolitical concepts of East and West as they change dramatically with recent events. The invasion of Ukraine can thus be conceived as the latest step toward a reconfiguration of how the liberal west sees itself and its enemies.
This dramatic change caused by the recent events in Ukraine was also stressed by Barbara Kolm, who looked at how this invasion changed the direction that the world was taking in trying to reconfigure itself after a two-year pandemic that severely damaged economies and civil liberties. As countries started to open up their economies and liberate their policies toward their own citizens, the invasion of Ukraine reinstates an alarming environment in a world economy that is again now filled with uncertainty going forward. Barbara also cautioned about the double-edged sword that sanctions can be, rarely getting their perpetrators the results they wanted in the first place. Even though they seem to be the safest weapon we can use against Russia now, we should always be wary of them.
Nataliya Melnyk, a Ukrainian herself, reports how the war and the current geopolitical frictions are being felt in Ukraine itself. Nataliya focused on how the Ukrainian people are dealing with this conflict. At the same time, the Ukrainian people fight for their country and their own sovereignty. There is an attempt to go back to normal life as far as possible, that is, to keep the economy running, to get people back to work and to soften the worst effects of the war. Nataliya showed how keeping doing regular things becomes an act of resistance during wartime, especially when getting invaded by a more powerful country that is trying to get rid of all your liberties. Nataliya thus stressed how, even in war times, individual entrepreneurship and trade are basic building-blocks of society that can never be fully eclipsed.
HSH Michael of Lichtenstein argues that Ukraine is now at the center of a war that is, at its core, a conflict between the East and West: a conflict between liberal democracies symbolized by Europe and its allies and, on the other hand, an autocratic state with imperialistic-like intentions. He argues that, even though many people thought liberal democracies to be doomed after two years of a pandemic that severely damaged them, the current war shows, above all, the limitations of Putin’s autocratic regime. Putin did great miscalculations that made him underestimate both the bravery and resources of the Ukrainian’s while, at the same time, overestimating his own power and Russia’s military capacities. Michael of Lichtenstein also focused on the crucial role that Turkey is playing in this conflict, sharing with Russia this amphibious character of being a bridge between East and West.
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