The historic handshake between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong half a century ago, on 21 February, 1972, changed the balances and course of the Cold War. Historians spoke of the “week that changed the world”, as it contributed to a rapprochement between Washington and Moscow.
The handshake between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on 4 February, the first between the Chinese president and a foreign leader in two years, leads in the opposite direction, as it inaugurates a new Cold War, and one cannot preclude that it will swiftly move toward a military clash.
For now, the battle between West and East is being conducted on the field of values. The “true spirit of democracy” to which Xi Jinping referred and with which Putin agreed, has nothing to do with democracy as the US and the EU understand it.
A possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, which could be followed by a Chinese intervention in Taiwan, confronts the West with excruciating dilemmas.
For Europe, the danger is not only that it may once again lead to two spheres of influence.
As former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer underlines in an article published in the weekend edition of Ta Nea, Putin’s effort to restore the Russian Empire tests the principles on which Europe was based and developed after the end of the Cold War – the repudiation of violence, self-determination, and the inviolability of borders.
Berlin and other European capitals must clearly and immediately declare their commitment to support Ukraine and defend European values.
The Olympic Winter Games will present a high-quality spectacle, but they must also open our eyes.