One year of war gave the world a new cold war. In the east, China has become the new superpower, while Russia has become a small economic vessel, but with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, Ukrainian history professor Serhiy Plokhy (65) tells Dagbladet Bok.
Russia’s total war did not turn out as Putin hoped. Washington and Moscow are no longer the superpowers, as they were during the previous Cold War. Today it is about Washington and Beijing. Instead, Russia’s strategy of “borderless” friendship has turned the two countries into unequal partners.
Serhiy Plokhy was born in the Soviet Union, raised in Zaporizhia, Ukraine, and is now a professor at Harvard University. He is the author of the main novel on the history of Ukraine, Gates of Europe From 2015, and now it comes with a new book on the ongoing war: The Russian-Ukrainian War.
Plokhy believes that history will be decided more on the battlefield than in negotiations, and believes there are two main questions here: the outcome of the Russian winter offensive – and what will happen with the declared Ukrainian spring offensive.
– We have an answer to the first question: The Russian attack did not come this winter, so he says and adds:
– I am very optimistic on behalf of Ukraine in the long term, but worried in the short term. The legacy of Vladimir Putin will be that he completely destroyed the dream of restoring the empire.
History as a weapon
The 65-year-old historian and author has written a number of books about Ukraine and the Cold War, but he never saw a war of aggression in Russia coming.
– I received a letter about the war, and immediately called my sister, who lives in Zaporizhia. Bombs were all over Ukraine, but it took a while before I could take the war in my head and it got personal, Plokhy says.
Journalists and publishers called him late and early to hear that historian’s view of the war.
– I hesitated. The historian must sit quietly, aloof, and have an academic, objective, and professional approach to the material. Our advantage is that we know how the story ended before we analyze it. But slowly I changed my mind.
He points out that “precisely history is a weapon in war and conflict,” and quotes the president Putin article in July 2021, Where Putin explains why “Russians and Ukrainians are one people – one unity,” and that “Ukrainians will forever be part of Russia, whether they want it or not.”
– Putin’s misleading story-telling had to be answered, he says, and he says he ended up in the same position as other Ukrainians.
After the worst trauma is over, you ask yourself what you can do to help. Whether you are a musician, driver, doctor or engineer… we are all part of the history of war – and I am a historian. The trauma, the pain, the frustration, and the anger did their thing to me, so I started doing what I could: writing.
Sarhi Balukhi says his new book is a long story.
– Not only a book about Ukraine’s struggle for independence, but also about the collapse of the Russian Empire. It began at the same time as the Ottoman Empire fell during World War I. Plokhy says that Ukrainians have tried to free themselves from the empire five times since 1914.
He stresses that he cannot predict what will happen tomorrow or six months from now.
– But I try to see this war as one of the many wars in which empires collapse. If we go through the history from 1945, all the great powers have lost the wars they started. From Korea to Vietnam and Afghanistan, he says and continues:
– I don’t know if this is the final chapter of the Russian Empire, but it is an important chapter.
– the soldiers took a “crocodile baptism.”
Longtime BBC World Correspondent John Simpson read the book: “Not that this remarkable and valuable book can tell us the outcome of the war. But it is a remarkably clear, authoritative and calm account of how we got here.” Watchman.
Plokhy grew up in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, which is home to the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. In addition, he has written in the book about the six largest nuclear disasters in the world “Atoms and Ashes”. Now the historian is particularly concerned about the lack of protection of nuclear power plants in the world.
– On the first day of the war, the Russians captured the Chernobyl power plant. A few days later, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was captured. Now we are waiting or expecting a major Ukrainian counteroffensive that will start exactly in the Zaporizhia region where the power plant is located, says Plokhy and continues:
– It turned out that the world was completely unprepared for these crises. The International Atomic Energy Agency The International Atomic Energy Agency does not have protocols for what should happen during a war.
Plokhy notes that the Ukrainian guards at Chernobyl did not fight the Russians, but laid down their arms. In Zaporizhzhya, Ukrainian guards tried to fight back, and there were fights at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
None of the 440 nuclear reactors in the world today were designed to withstand conditions of war. We are not ready to know what to do. So I worry a lot about that, he says.
Putin rallies the Ukrainians
Harvard professor Plokhy will not say anything about how much the war of aggression will cost – neither to Russia, nor to Ukraine, nor to the entire world.
– But Russia and Vladimir Putin lost. Finland and Sweden want NATO membership. Most Ukrainians were divided until Russia entered Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014. With one group facing east – while the rest moved west. Now the Ukrainians are one people, more united than ever. Plokhy says Putin brought them together.
Although Ukraine is not part of NATO, the historian believes that Ukrainians “are on many levels the most integral members of the defense alliance”.
– Ukraine is now fighting with German tanks, French, British and Norwegian weapons – and much more. He says Putin has made Ukraine an increasingly integrated part of Europe’s structure.
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