by Raffaele Crocco

We are back to “if you want peace, prepare for war”. It seemed an outdated, old and somewhat fascist idea: but it is back in fashion. It was uttered on the eve of the March summit of the European Union by the president of the European Council, Charles Michel. The EU looks increasingly desperate and frightened in the global risk-taking between “pro-American” and “anti-American”. The war in Ukraine has become the “engine of the future” for the Union, which wants to transform itself into a productive and efficient military machine. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commissioned former Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to write a report on improving the EU’s defence preparedness and readiness. It is no coincidence that Finland has become a symbol of new international tensions with Moscow after joining NATO. And the President upped the dose with a precise sentence: “It is clear,” she said, “that there is no more room for illusions: the world has become more dangerous and the EU must wake up. We know that Putin’s ambitions do not stop at Ukraine”.

So, on the 759th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tensions in the world are rising and Europe is putting its cards on the table. After the rumours – but perhaps they are not just rumours – and the speculation about French and Union soldiers deployed on the battlefield in Ukraine, there are now decisions to strengthen the defences. The European anxiety is probably also due to the fear of a Donald Trump victory in the race for the White House next November. With the billionaire – but is he still? – the spectre of a weakened US role in European defence would take on the contours of truth and reality. So, somehow and confusedly, the Union is preparing to go it alone and openly challenge Moscow.

It is a sign of planetary chaos. While little is happening on the military front and the attrition of the Ukrainian army continues, Kyiv is moving on the political front. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s associates hope China will attend the summit for peace in Ukraine to be held in Switzerland. However, the summit will be one-sided: Russia will not be invited. On the other hand, Zelenskyy dug his heels in on the issue of planetary risk, explaining that in his view the leadership of the United States should “stand firm in protecting the international order” now more than ever. He added that Vladimir Putin must lose the war: “It is a matter of life and death for the democratic world.”

It is a view that does not appear to be deterring Moscow. According to international analysts, Putin is indeed working on an ever-stronger alliance with China, Iran and North Korea. The aim is to create a coalition capable of counterbalancing the West economically. And other “antagonists” will also join the alliance, ready to counter the “pro-American” ones. The game is becoming increasingly planetary: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been in contact with Putin to relaunch bilateral cooperation and find instruments to stabilise the South Caucasus: we are talking about Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Further away, in Gaza, the slaughter of Palestinians continues. Humanitarian law is suspended as Israel continues to block aid – food and medicine – to the Palestinian population crammed into a few square miles. To make matters worse, Netanyahu has announced that he has given the green light to plans to attack Rafah, south of the Strip. There are more than one and a half million people there who would be caught in the middle of the attack, with no safe way out. Washington is trying to persuade the Israeli prime minister not to attack and to guarantee food security for the Palestinians. The Israeli government appears to be intransigent, and UN observers are becoming increasingly explicit about Tel Aviv’s desire for “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians.

The tragedy is measured in more than 32,000 dead – at least a third of them children – and almost 80,000 wounded. A slaughter that Israel has no intention of stopping. The consequences reach as far as the Red Sea. The Yemeni Houthi attacks on European and pro-Israeli ships continue, but a new element has been added. This week, a long-range Houthi missile landed near the Israeli Red Sea city of Eilat. The missile arrived unseen, tracked and destroyed by Tel Aviv’s air defences or the many US, British and European ships of the anti-Houthi coalition in the area. There are two worrying elements to this. The first is that it could be a new model of hypersonic missile, capable of surviving the enemy’s air defences. The second is that an Israeli city was reached and hit. In short, the war is spreading. The great game of planetary risk is moving more and more pawns.