CAN THERE BE AN END TO THE UKRAINE WAR BEFORE NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION?
Many of us clearly believe in the justice of one side or another having the greater degree of supportive historical precedent. That, this or that side is totally justified in its actions and the other totally wrong. However, I suspect the violent conflict showing no signs of winding down but on the contrary being escalated to greater and greater heights, has moved far beyond such easy to understand concepts.
We are in an area of many shades of grey.
By most expert accounts Russia did attempt to mount a campaign where a minimal number of civilian casualties would be created and where an equally minimal amount of damage to vital infrastructure and the minimal damage to the most fundamental civilian needs would occur. However, initial, hopeful goals of a short campaign where the Kiev authorities would accept Russian demands faced with the consequences of not doing so, did not transpire.
Backed by the western powers to the hilt Zelensky took an entirely different path to that which I suspect the Russians believed he might. I don’t say they banked on the outcome of Zelensky bowing to the pressure he was put under but I am sure they very much hoped for it with the desire to cause as little death and destruction as possible. It is not a fiction that Russians feel extremely close in many ways to the Ukrainian people. Putin himself wrote a long essay on this topic. For most Russians, Ukrainians are, simply put, their brothers and sisters.
Tragically for the Ukrainians and also for the Russians this war has become an almost internecine conflict, a battle within a family almost and this can’t help but make both sides grieve terribly. Russia, for its part wants to take out the weeds from the good crop if it can, always a back-breaking job that depletes the energy and often fails to completely satisfy. Weeds have evolved to be very strong and resilient to attack, they tend to persist stubbornly even when you think for a moment you have rid the good earth of each and every one of them.
Russia is hurting… but the Ukrainian people are quite clearly hurting more. Millions have left Ukraine seeking safety from the storm that has embodied them and which is none of their doing. Hundreds of thousands of families have been split apart with men having to stay, and possibly fight. To possibly die. In Russia the anxiety without doubt runs deep due to that most feared occurrence within Russian society has returned once more to haunt them. There must be few, if any societies that fear the effects of war more than that of Russia.
What of the West?
In Europe there has been a huge outpouring of fellow-feeling for Ukraine and for Ukrainians. Many households shelter Ukrainians in their hour of greatest need. There has been a huge outpouring of anger too, against Russia. Russia is seen as having brought the evil scourge of war to their doorstep and, due to there being no understanding of Russian motivations and indeed a general consensus that there can be NO adequate motivation for what is going on, there is a very evident one-sided view on the conflict.
Western mainstream press and media have taken the view also that there can be no possible justification for Russia’s attack upon Ukraine, that it is totally without merit, unjustifiable, unwarranted and unprovoked. This very simple analysis is generally, as far as I can tell, held to be true by the vast majority of westerners, though not by all it must be said. With most westerners believing Russia has no case whatsoever to pursue this war and holding the opinion that this is a case of pure evil and deadly, highly oppressive and destructive evil at that, the case regarding justice is closed.
Western political leadership both leads and reflects this black and white view by the general public described above which permeates western societies all across Europe and within the United States. With press, media, public and political elites more or less thinking and acting as one there is no evident appetite at all for compromise or giving any thought whatsoever to the Russian position.
What is the Russian position?
The leadership of Russia considers that what it is doing in Ukraine is an existential question for Russians and the Russian state. They consider that Russia has been brought to make a decision it attempted to avoid and ameliorate for the better part of a decade. They feel that the western world has been consistently aggressive and has used Ukraine as a kind of battering ram with which to shake the foundations of their societal cohesion and the state itself. They saw NATO coming ever closer and in the last two decades have reacted increasingly badly to this fact. This was predicted by the architect of the West’s containment policy of the Soviet Union before he died, Mr George Kennan who said this explicitly. His life work was to manage the West’s relationship with Russia and he saw his life’s work being ruined by the advancement of NATO upon Russia.
Where is all this going?
At this point in time we have a dangerous, highly entangled mess where compromise on neither side looks at all likely. In fact the prospects for this appear to recede further with every day that passes. One escalation follows another with both sides completely unable or unwilling to back down but seeing only the necessity to counter the tactics of the other with ever greater determination. Where that will eventually lead and by use of what further tactical approaches or involving what advanced weaponry can only be a matter for speculation, but at this point there are no good signs to provide hope that a halt will be called at any given point along the way.
What of the rest of the world?
Our world is again at war. Though having said that, in reality it is only two portions of our world to whom this war represents an existential issue. Most of the global south see it as a hopefully limited quarrel in a distant location that they hope will not spill over in too many aspects onto them. For them it is an unpleasant occurrence equivalent to a bitter and noisy dispute between two neighbours within earshot that disturbs the relative calm of their own lives.
These are incredibly dangerous times. Two powerful blocs with opposing belief systems are locked in battle. Neither can afford to lose and both are utterly determined to win. The weapons each is willing to use are not particularly limited in scale or power and dangerously, even the most extreme may be contemplated as each new rupture in relations between them takes place.
The end result which everyone fears of course hardly requires a mention to clarify it.
As the stakes become ever higher for both sides who feel that losing would mean absolute disaster for them and therefore they MUST win and by every means possible… or risk annihilation, humiliation and destruction of all hope, respect and security, we must all ask ourselves if they will halt at the doorway to that final weapon of all weapons that has the potential to annihilate us all.