Günter Grass, the German Nobel Prize-winning author, dedicated his final interview to expressing concerns that humanity was sleepwalking into graver conflicts. The author, who passed away on the 21st of March, was regarded for his views on numerous issues, most notably opposing the introduction of nuclear missiles on German soil.
Yet his comments during an interview with El Pais, Spain’s top-selling newspaper, in which he discussed current conflicts, the state of climate change and what these events mean for human beings, are likely to provoke debate on the state of geopolitical relations across the globe.
‘We have on the one side Ukraine, whose situation is not improving. In Israel and Palestine things are getting worse. The disaster the Americans left in Iraq. The atrocities of the Islamic State and the problem of Syria’, he told the Spanish newspaper.
Adding to this is the unrest that is currently destabilizing Yemen, not to mention ongoing conflicts taking place in the Congo, South Sudan and of course, Boko Haram’s campaign of terror in Nigeria; the world has seen better days.
Yet it is the tension between European nations and Russia that is gripping people’s fears over renewed conflicts. Not since the end of the Cold War have European nations been taken by fears that another conflict could break out within the continent.
The annexation of Crimea was merely the tipping point for Western powers to act against Russia. With increasing pressure being mounted by the Kremlin towards its neighbours. In Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Latvia, economic and trade sanctions are being thrown left and right, with each party trying to outdo the other.
Journalists and outside scholars have long debated as to the motives behind Russia’s actions. Most come to a common agreement that the Kremlin is acting to reinforce its sphere of influence, something that directly goes against the conventions of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Russia has countered these claims through the media and at the United Nations, arguing that it acts to protect its citizens and to restrain what it perceives to be NATO aggression in the Baltic States.
There is no denying that the fighting in Ukraine marked a return to armed conflict since the conclusion of the Yugoslav and Kosovo wars during the 1990s. However, no outside military assistance has been deployed to the disputed area, with only sanctions and non-lethal aid provided as a contribution from NATO and EU members.
The culture of media reporting has not helped to calm fears either, despite the coverage of the fighting in Eastern Ukraine easing over time. Yet it opened eyes for a generation that is likely to deal with these issues in the near future.
Leaving the article with a closing comment from his interview, Grass laments that stability can only last so long, and new problems are bound to arise. With an ever-expanding global population, the next decade could provoke wars that do not stem from the invasion of a sovereign state.
‘All of this together makes me realise that things are finite, that we don’t have an indefinite amount of time’. His statement could be linked to a range of possible outcomes: from conflicts revolving around freshwater reserves to finding new pockets of oil and natural gas reserves. It is an issue open to debate.