PARIS — July 16, 1945: A glowing mushroom in New Mexico heralds the dawn of the nuclear age. July 20, 1969: Neil Armstrong takes one small step and one giant leap in the dust of the Moon.
February 24, 2022: Russian President Vladimir Putin is eating away at world order and 77 years of nearly unbroken peace in Europe by invading Ukraine, disrupting the food supply it produces for much of Ukraine’s 8 billion people. the planet.
All were turning points in world history, turning points that will be taught in schools for decades to come. All of this changed not only lives but also trajectories for humanity, with repercussions felt across continents and into the foreseeable future.
The Russian invasion, murder and mutilation soon added Mariupol, Bucha and other Ukrainian names to the long European list of towns and villages associated with the abuses of war: Dresden, Srebrenica, the Nazi massacre at Oradour-sur- Glane in France, to name but a few.
And after nearly six months of fighting, with tens of thousands dead and injured on both sides, massive disruptions in energy supplies, food and financial stability, the world is not what it used to be. was.
The air raid sirens that regularly wail over Ukrainian cities cannot be heard in Paris or Berlin, yet generations of Europeans who had grown up knowing only peace were brutally awakened to both its value and to its fragility.
The resumption of war in Europe and the need to take sides – to preserve oneself and to defend good against evil – have also changed the global geopolitical tectonics and the relations between nations.
Some barely talk to Russia. Some have regrouped. Others, especially in Africa, want to avoid being sucked into the rift between Russia and the West. Some do not want to compromise the supply of food, energy, security and income. Russia and Western nations are working — notably, again, in Africa — on the crooks, tricking them into taking sides.
The war in Ukraine has also held a mirror to humanity, reflecting, once again, its propensity to live on the razor’s edge of madness, to recoil even as it pursues progress.
And there had been progress, with rapid vaccines against the global COVID-19 pandemic and agreements on climate change, before Russia’s almighty Putin made it his historic mission to force an independent Ukraine and Western-looking at gunpoint to return to Kremlin orbit, as it was in Soviet times, when he served as an intelligence officer for the dreaded KGB.
With its united stand against invasion, NATO has regained a purpose. Just three years ago in 2019 – before the twin shocks of COVID-19 followed by war in Ukraine made it seem like a lifetime away – the world’s largest military alliance looked like it was in danger of slowly sinking into the state. of disrepair.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “brain dead”. And then-US President Donald Trump didn’t have much patience for the alliance that has been a cornerstone of US security policy for more than half a century, grumbling that the United States United were unfairly carrying too much of the burden of defense and so were other NATO members. little.
Now NATO is gathering ever heavier weapons for Ukraine’s use on its front lines and relentlessly bombing trenches that are horribly reminiscent of the First World War. It overtook Finland and Sweden when those Nordic countries decided that continuing to be non-aligned was too risky in the wake. of the Russian invasion and that they needed the shield of the NATO umbrella against whatever Putin might do next.
Their becoming the 31st and 32nd members of NATO will add to how Europe has been changed permanently, or at least for the foreseeable future, by war.
Further afield, in Asia, the fallout is also substantial.
China is examining the Russian campaign for military lessons that could be applied during a possible invasion of the self-governing island of Taiwan. India, China and other energy-hungry Asian countries are increasing the Kremlin’s war chest and undermining Western sanctions by buying increasing amounts of Russian oil.
And then there is Putin himself. In Ukraine, long before the invasion, many already felt that their country was engaged in a battle for survival against the designs of the Kremlin leader. Since 2014, thousands of people had already been killed in battles with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The faces of the Ukrainian dead from this conflict stare from a memorial wall in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, silently bearing witness to what is now, following the invasion, recognized as fact in Western capitals: one cannot and Putin should not be trusted.
Another change, though perhaps less permanent. High inflation, a troubling agony familiar to those who lived through the energy shocks of the 1970s, is back as a household term. Some economists warn that “stagflation” – a harmful combination of high inflation and slowing economic growth – could also return.
So what’s the next step?
With no end in sight for the war, there are too many ifs and buts to hazard a solid guess. But with each additional day of fighting, the death toll and the repercussions of war around the world increase, and peace recedes.
Humanity has become accustomed to the bomb, learning to live with it. Manned spaceflight has become routine. All we can hope for is that the war in Europe will not take place.
Paris-based correspondent John Leicester has reported from Europe since 2002 and from Ukraine in June.
Follow AP coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine