The second candle and the international jungle

The second candle and the international jungle

The second candle and the international jungle
A view of the town of Avdiivka in the Russian-controlled part of the Donetsk region on February 19, 2024. (AFP)
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The masters of the profession taught us not to fall under the weight of the event, not to jump to hasty final conclusions and to put the scene within the context of history and geography. We must pay attention to the deep spirit in the arena of events, the arsenal of hatred and the temptation of revenge. Thus, we were trained to feel some anxiety when confronted with coups and earthquakes.
I was part of a press delegation shortly after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. On the Iranian side of the border, I witnessed two Iraqi soldiers escort an old Iranian man “to a safe place” from his house, where he was hiding. The man’s face showed signs of fear and humiliation, and I wondered about the extent of revenge Iran would carry out when it had the opportunity.
Decades later, the world watched Gen. Qassem Soleimani dancing with the Iraqi militias after the withdrawal of the American forces that had uprooted Saddam Hussein’s regime.
I was also worried when the US military pounced on Saddam’s regime based on accounts that it had ties to Al-Qaeda and possessed mobile biological weapons facilities. Some victories carry within them signs of their eventual collapse, especially when the party with enormous power fails to understand what is taking place underneath the scene of its victory.
I also felt anxious as I was leaving a meeting with a Syrian official and received a phone message saying Rafik Hariri had been assassinated in Beirut.
I was worried when I traveled from the Middle East to witness the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It was no secret that the wall was both a state border and an imperial frontier. Empires do not usually disappear without bloody feasts, even if they are delayed. I did not know that day that a young KGB officer had quickly destroyed his documents near where he was stationed by the wall and fled back into Russia’s depths. The officer’s name was Vladimir Putin.
I remembered the masters’ lessons when I walked down Arbat Street in Moscow under Boris Yeltsin. The sight of Red Army officers’ uniforms displayed with their medals for a handful of dollars was cruel and terrible. History is a strict teacher. Russia scratches its wounds under the snow and then rises to start a great fire. And this is what happened.
In a few days, Putin will extinguish the second candle of the “special military operation” that he launched on Feb. 24, 2022, to correct both history and geography. He dispatched the Red Army to chase the “Nazis” in Ukraine, which he asserted was a country that would not have existed had it not been for a mistake committed by Stalin.
After the advisers leave, he will celebrate alone. The czar is always one and alone. He will smile sarcastically. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week ordered his forces to withdraw from the city of Avdiivka in front of Russian forces after aid and ammunition were delayed due to the “wars” raging in the corridors of the US Congress. 

Russia scratches its wounds under the snow and then rises to start a great fire. And this is what happened.

Ghassan Charbel

Zelensky’s position reminded me of a remark made by late Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to former Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, that “the one who is covered by the Americans is naked.” The same phrase could be said by Putin to Zelensky.
Putin has the right to be sarcastic. The leaders of the West did not accept that he could not lose … that he went to Ukraine to punish the entire West and to launch a major coup against a world that was born from the collapse of the wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union.
Most likely, he will also ridicule the “comrades” who were quick to surrender and made it easy for their countries to jump off the Soviet train. He will also mock those who danced with joy at joining the NATO paradise under the American era. He has the right to ridicule those who, in the wake of his forces’ invasion of Ukrainian territory, were quick to believe that he had committed the mistake of his life and his setback near Kyiv would push him to accept a settlement to save face.
Putin has the right to mock those who flocked to the Ukrainian capital, believing that the time had come to discipline the man sitting on Stalin’s throne. He also has the right to mock those who besieged Russia with color revolutions and NATO experts. Today, they are discovering that he is advancing to besiege them by manipulating the borders of the Ukrainian map.
He has the right to celebrate because he seemed to be a master at circumventing Western sanctions, at concealing the number of Russian casualties from his people … because the performance of his country’s economy surpassed experts’ expectations … because his ability to produce munitions far exceeds that of the aging continent, which is consumed by fear of the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the Oval Office.
There is no harm in the Kremlin master resorting to the arsenal of Kim Il Sung’s heir or drones from the countries of Ayatollah Khomeini’s successors. Your only mission in war is to win. He brilliantly exploited his country’s massive nuclear arsenal to deter the West from committing the adventure of victory. A nuclear arsenal is useful without even using it. This message is extremely dangerous for the future of the world.
A journalist monitors the pulse of the world and reports to readers. Are we exaggerating if we say that the world is passing a very dangerous turning point? How can we be reassured in a world that has lived for months with this horrific massacre in Gaza and is unable or reluctant to rein in the Israeli killing machine?
Moreover, the fragility of the Middle East does not need evidence. There is no international police guaranteeing freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. International legitimacy does not have the ability to stop roaming missiles and drones traveling in many directions.
The Russian coup through Ukraine is also accompanied by a coup led by the North Korean leader near the Asian powder kegs. Then, if the world concedes to Putin the right to redraw the Ukrainian map, how can it reject China’s right to restore Taiwan as a matter of “returning the branch to the origin?” The Gaza crisis also showed the scale of the Iranian coup in the Middle East. Iran is troubling America and Israel through four Arab maps.
Putin has the right to celebrate. But I wish he would worry a little. He engaged his country in a terrible arms race with the West, which continues to increase its defense budgets. The master of the Kremlin, who is the master of missiles, should pay a little attention to the fact that the West’s capabilities are enormous, especially their technological power. The Soviet Union was not killed in war, but in the battle for the model and prosperity.
Putin has the right to celebrate. The Wagner leader came and went. Alexei Navalny came and went. Russia has a weak memory.

Ghassan Charbel is editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
X: @GhasanCharbel

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