Editorial – Narratives at war: There is a fascinating discrepancy at work between narratives found in the news. They vary according to the type of actors upon which one focuses. Actually the difference between some of them is so huge that one wonders if they describe the same world. Furthermore, if those narratives are rooted in the conflict in Ukraine they do not stop there but interact with and impact other areas and dimensions.
Narrative One originates from the U.S. and Europe, with slightly varying emphases according to American or European origin. It runs somehow as follows: The conflict in Ukraine is (almost) over, thanks to legitimate democratic elections and the new Ukrainian President elect Poroshenko, who has outlined his peace plan. The next step is thus, according to the last decades of peace missions and operations, the organisation of peace according to known recipe, hence Barroso starting announcing a donour conference for July (see G7 struggles to find common approach to Russia | World | DW.DE). If ever things were not going as past experience has shown they ought to happen, then it means that Russia is certainly manipulating events (Ibid). Meanwhile, “Russia ‘revanchism'” is now a top U.S. threat (see Breaking Defense); NATO deployment is increased on European territories (see all related article in The Weekly), while Europe and Europeans try to find a less extreme way forward between the U.S. and Russia.
Narrative Two is from Russia, and agrees that peace is foremost in Ukraine and should now be organized, also thanks to Ukraine legitimate President elect and his peace plan (see ‘Russian troops in Ukraine? Got any proof?’ Putin’s best quotes from French media talk“, RT). Unsurprisingly, Russia, however denies all involvement in the conflict. If things do not work out, it thus declines any responsibility, instead hinting at an American responsibility in creating the conditions for civil war. Meanwhile, the U.S. in the “New Russia Doctrine” (Defense News) are cast as a threat to stability for manipulating the happenstance of “colour revolutions”.
However counter-intuitive this may seem, we have here two very similar narratives, which does not stop the violent conflict between both alternatives. This looks very much like the return to a new Cold War that has been frequently underlined.
But things do not stop here, we also have a Narrative Three emerging, this time not from classical media and diplomatic channels, but from crowd-sourcing, using both classical and new media. Here, the focus is on the war at work in Eastern Ukraine, with videos that are not so dissimilar from those posted on Syria, everything being equal. This narrative thus undermines and seriously questions Narratives One and Two. Actually, war is not at all over in Eastern Ukraine. If Narrative One and Two are created to allow for diplomatic exchanges, an overall international appeasement of the situation and to give hope for peace, then Narrative Three may be seen as counter-productive, even if it is certainly closer to reality.
Behind those different accounts and narratives, we see at work different ways to understand the world, one where external political actors are all-powerful, and the other where processes of escalation between parties (notably warring ones) have their own dynamics, which are partly independent from those powerful actors. Behind Narratives One and Two, there is a hope or a belief that by 7 June, when Mr Poroshenko will officially become President, the ATO renewed offensive will have succeeded, and as it will have been done by the interim Ukrainian government, the new one will be able to appear, at least externally, as benevolent, thus peace will come back.
Yet, what if things do not work out this way? What if political dynamics are more complex? The forces of Novorossia in Eastern Ukraine appear to be quite isolated, indeed not benefiting from any classical support found in wars. However, if we stop only looking at states entities and elites and consider individuals, then, are they that isolated? Could such individual, uncoordinated support change the course of state actors and elite wishes? Could the two similar phenomena of individual Russians, on the one hand, and individual Europeans, on the other, involving themselves in, respectively, Ukraine and Syria – by the way a phenomenon that is not at all new, as shows the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War – be a signal that Narrative One and Two are wanting?
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Featured image: Explosions – Some of the ground display from the Miramar Airshow – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.