We have just marked important memorial days: the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, 1914-1918. Last weekend, we marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and the removal of the ‘iron curtain’ which had split Europe and the world since the end of the Second World War. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved, but not the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the West’s military organization.

There are many things to remember and mark with regards to the political and military events in our time. We can surely mark events, but we shouldn’t celebrate wars. I am worried about the way we mark wars in Europe, and indeed the way the Americans mark their wars, with Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. Wars must not be glorified. Alas, regimes do that, especially those with imperialistic aspirations.

WWI is long gone. The main lesson to be drawn however, is important, though notably that the loser that time, Germany, was treated in a way that had elements of humiliation. That is part of the explanation for why WWII happened.

When WWII ended, Germany or more precisely, the Nazi regime was the loser. The Soviet Union in the East was on the winning side together with the Allied Forces in the West. But then there were the two political and economic systems, communism and capitalism, and they could not work together. Europe was split in two, which may have been in the US’s interests, but hardly in the interests of Europe and the countries which then fell under authoritarian Soviet influence, the Eastern Bloc.

WWII was not only about Nazi ideology in Germany, made even more extreme by the way it was addressed by the Allied Forces. WWII was as much about world leadership, trade and industry, as about ideology. It was about the US’s world leadership and supremacy – fought on European soil. And the peace treaties were all made with the US in the chair. In hindsight, it seems absurd that the two political and economic blocks were established with an ‘iron curtain’.

And then, in 1989-90, the Cold War ended. Last weekend, people in the West, and the former Soviet Union marked it; the majority celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I also celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. But I am not sure I celebrate the collapse of the Soviet Union despite there being many dictatorial and authoritarian aspects in-built in the communist system.

Are we again on the brink of another war, or a Cold Peace, with similar frontlines as those of the Cold War? And if so, what have the world leaders been doing – or rather, not been doing – for the last 25 years since the end of the Cold War, which we so boldly celebrated last weekend? And what is the purpose and aim of the behavior of the West, indeed the US, which is in the driver’s seat? Is the West not humiliating Russia? Why does it bother the West so much that members of the Russian Federation want to loosen – or strengthen – their cooperation with Russia? Are they not, after all, in the Russian geopolitical sphere of interest?

Imagine if some of the Western countries would have wanted to go the other way, to seek ties with the Russian Federation. We can use Cuba as an example: America cannot even accept that a little developing country has a different ideological, political and economic system than Big Brother.

As the world is, there are certain ways that the great powers behave towards the countries in their spheres of interest. They shouldn’t be vassal states, but some form of close cooperation within a region is also necessary. Direct military force must not be used, also not economic force. But it is not only Russia’s behavior towards Ukraine and Crimea that is wrong; it is also the US’s behavior towards Cuba and many other countries in its Latin American backyard. In most cases, the West’s wars today are subtle and indirect, supported by media propaganda. Therefore, many people don’t see the true face of what goes on.

Today, it is not logical that there are ‘walls’ between East and West. Could not Ukraine and other countries be both Eastern and Western? Could not the West, indeed the US, begin to admit that there were positive aspects too, to the former Soviet Union, and Cuba today? Could we not begin to realize that it is wrong that the ‘winners take all’, and that the strong always decide?

If the word realpolitik does have a substantive meaning, we should try to make that practical and real today. We must sober up 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than two generations since the end of WWII, and three generations since WWI. We must develop inclusive policies that can accommodate countries and groups of countries that have differences and different alliances, without forcing all to wear the same straightjacket and swear allegiance to the West’s capitalism, under America’s and NATO’s leadership.

History will judge us all. Now it is our time to make sure that we don’t fall deeper into a Cold Peace, and perhaps push Russia and Chine too close together – in the future, maybe against the old Europe. Must we not focus on increased cooperation and reduction of military arsenal including nuclear weapons? Can we not in our modern time transform wasteful military expenses, and conflicts into development, and create real openness on a level playing field on all sides of the walls that we still build?

At a graduation ceremony at a Pakistani university last year, a candidate who received her degree in engineering said about her professional aspirations: I want to pull down walls and instead build bridges. What a wise young woman.

The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience in research, diplomacy and development aid.

atlehetland@yahoo.com