Why Is Europe the Epicenter of World Wars?


David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

Europe was the epicenter of World Wars I and II, and now it threatens, with its war in the Ukraine, to kindle World War III.

1 Jul 2023 – As usual in history, overt warfare is the fruit of a constant, underlying culture of war. And in the case of Europe, it was the culture of war developed over many centuries to maintain the profits of colonialism.

To understand this, let us first turn to that old critic, Vladimir Lenin.

In his essay War and Revolution of May, 1917, Lenin wrote, “Peace reigned in Europe, but this was because domination over hundreds of millions of people in the colonies by the European nations was sustained only through constant, incessant, interminable wars, which we Europeans do not regard as wars at all, since all too often they resembled, not wars, but brutal massacres, the wholesale slaughter of unarmed peoples.”

Yes, in the centuries preceding that of the World Wars, Europe was already engaged in a world war that we know as colonialism. Make no mistake about it, the countries of the Global South did not invite Europe to exploit them as colonies; instead, colonialism was imposed at the barrel of a gun, as well as by the old method of “divide and conquer.”

Europe’s “baby”, the United States, was later to take up colonialism, at the end of the 19th century in Cuba, Philippines, and later the whole of South and Central America, having already completed a war to exterminate the indigenous peoples of North America.

In our times simple colonialism has been replaced by neo-colonialism.

My blogs of the last two months unmask this process, as for the first time there is now a counterforce that opposes the neo-colonialism of economic sanctions and unbridled exploitation carried out by Europe and North America against the countries of the Global South. Since the end of World War II, it has been the World Bank based in Washington that served as the economic lever to support the exploitation of the Global South. The new counterforce, based in China, includes the New Development Bank that provides an alternative to the World Bank. The list of countries lined up to work with the New Development Bank is a listing of the countries of the Global South: Argentina, Algeria, Iran, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Mexico.

By its exploitation and impoverization, as well as its support for wars against Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, the countries of the North have produced the flood of refugees coming from the exploited and war-torn countries of the Global South. See, for example, the comment of the Mexican President how economic sanctions on Latin America are a cause of the flood of refugees to the United States. And this flood of refugees, in turn, is being used by fascist forces to claim political power in Europe and the United States, similar to the political forces that unleashed World War II.

Why, you may ask, has this all come to a head in the unlucky country of the Ukraine?

The war in Ukraine is a renewal of the Cold War that existed between Russia and the West from the end of World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980’s. As I described in an earlier blog, already in 1997, I reported back to UNESCO Paris from my mission to Moscow that if NATO continued to expand towards Russia, it will provoke a war. Ukraine, with American support for the Maidan Revolution in 2014, became the central theatre of this cold-war renewal.

The other wars since World War II, as listed above, could not develop into World Wars because the victims of these wars were not equipped to fight back. Instead, as Lenin, wrote, they were simply brutal massacres. But Ukraine is different because the war is between countries equipped with great military power,

The War in Ukraine is considered by the Americans as an inter-imperial war, not only against Russia, but in the eyes of American military strategists, it is a warm-up for war with China. In this sense it is like World Wars I and II; they were not wars between the North and the South but wars between the colonial powers of the North, inter-imperial wars.

The Americans consider the Chinese-led development of the South to be an empire in competition with the American Empire, referring to the Belt and Road Initiative and now the New Development Bank. Of course, there is some truth to this, but so far, the Chinese Empire is only economic empire and does not match the hundreds of foreign military bases of the American Empire.

And if this leads to World War III, this time the Global South is likely to be a party to the war, as it is developing ever stronger ties with China and Russia. If so, one can say that the old colonies will be taking their revenge.

Are we sleep-walking to Armageddon, as some have predicted? Or will the forces for peace be able to end the Ukraine War? Among the peacemakers are the Chinese to some extent. We can only hope that this aspect of Chinese policy will dominate in the coming turbulent period of history. Will the Chinese be able to resist peacefully the provocations of the American Empire such as those connected with Taiwan? Faced with such provocations in the Ukraine, the Russians fell into the trap of war: we must hope that the Chinese will not do so in Taiwan.

As Daniel Ellsberg often warned us before he passed away last month, our world hangs in the balance.


Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

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