old long war in Afghanistan has barely ended and already there is a
new one, this time in Europe. Most governments, the media, and the
United Nations General Assembly reached a consensus quickly: the
contemptible aggressor is Vladimir Putin. Public opinion strongly
supports Ukraine. Large demonstrations form almost daily to demand
peace. The Global South, however, with much of the world’s
population, is not eager to participate in sanctions against Russia.
China, India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, and much of
Latin America will not join in. Several countries rely on grain
imports from Ukraine and Russia, and worry about major shortages
caused by supply chain disruptions. The efforts for peace are
commendable—but could they fizzle out too soon? Is this
well-meaning but perhaps myopic movement the best we can hope for, or
could we aim for something better for Ukraine, for Russians, and for
the rest of the planet if we step outside the framework of the
Western neoliberal capitalist war machine?
the early days of the invasion, Western media showed brave Ukrainians
training for the 2022 war against the Russian Army with wooden
replica rifles. While they may be brave, it is impossible to ignore
that they started this fight with insufficient equipment against an
army that well outnumbered them. Furthermore, according to the
law of armed conflict,
civilians who take part in hostilities lose certain legal protections
and can become targets. That is already happening before our eyes on
TV. Even if the civilian resistance is partially successful, it will
suffer too many casualties. Is this what freedom supporters want for
the Ukrainians who have already borne much during their last 100
years of history? It is easy to fight proxy wars when you sit safely
at home and have no skin in the game. Give them weapons, sure, so
they can really fight! If they are heroic and resilient, this may
turn into a nasty, longer-term struggle, house ruin to house ruin,
street by street. It will brutalize the population, devastate the
country, and damage the environment
It could also evolve into a quagmire with fallout more devastating
than the already-awful tragedy of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Incremental escalation also increases the risks for the use
of tactical nuclear weapons.
if the Ukrainians, despite their cheerleaders in the West, do not
last long against a mighty military machine, then the coldly
calculated net sum may just be an appalling waste of life and great
sad futility that simultaneously triggered a big wave of bereaved
women and children as refugees (with existing inequalities
race and nationality reflected there too). According to the Costs of
War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute, “38
million people have been displaced by the post-9/11 wars
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and the
Philippines.” Are the architects of NATO expansion ready to
accept responsibility for their deeds and take in huge numbers of
am not drawn to these possibilities. It is eerie and disturbing to
witness how fast people become nearly fanatical in blaming the newest
villain or the momentary evil empire. It begins with Putin, proceeds
to Russian vodka, and will end where? It also creates some type of
love-of-freedom euphoria. But will it last when the time comes to
face the costs of this catastrophe?
any event, it may have been an unwise and rash move to invite newly
independent countries of the former Warsaw Pact to become members of
NATO. What’s the hurry? For those who lived under Soviet
control in Eastern Europe, it will take more than the three decades
that have passed so far to reduce the negative stockpiles of
experience, emotion, resentment, and revanchist impulse. Providing
incentives for building a healthy economy and showing the road to EU
membership were good options, but using former Soviet-controlled
countries to become a bulwark against the Russian bear was not.
Finland, which again ranks as number one in the 2021 World
is a small successful country that has chosen a different approach
while living next door to Russia. The bear is dangerous when
rejected, provoked, and angered. So where was the strategic empathy?
Russia knows that it is unloved in these former satellite countries.
It understands that it is nearly encircled and almost under siege by
the push against its borders and by efforts to pull even Ukraine into
NATO. And so perhaps it is understandable that it has rolled itself
up like a hedgehog facing peril, showing its prickly exterior. After
all, it has been invaded repeatedly but has not done much westward
invading itself, except when chasing intruders out. Yet the chance to
loosen things up slowly after the Soviet era while supporting more
democratic developments was squandered. The Russian people didn’t
get much of a break.
are Atlanticists who will not accept that Russia is part of Europe.
But like it or not, it was, and is, and will be—at least up to
the Urals. Denial will only maintain a festering trench of potential
conflict, and it could drive that vast country into the “briar
patch” of China’s Xi Jinping,
as David P. Goldman recently put it in Asia Times. The political and
economic leaders of the Western alliance who are used to things going
their way are in need of a reality check; the rest of the world is no
longer willing to tolerate their irrational addiction to the
confrontational and rapacious behavior that is misnamed foreign
policy. No, the end of the Cold War wasn’t the “end
And as Andrew
in the Boston Globe, “The argument made by several recent U.S.
administrations that NATO expansion does not pose a threat to Russian
security doesn’t pass the sniff test. It assumes that U.S.
attitudes toward Russia are benign. They are not and haven’t
been for decades.”
is the key: passing the sniff test. A change in attitude is required.
That is not a weakness. It is good sense and the positive will to
help life and the living. The last thing the U.S., Europe, and the
abused planet need is more obscene destruction, new stockpiles of
mental contamination, and, as the UN
the additional 10 million fleeing and internally displaced Ukrainian
people so far. It adds insult to injury. And the only participants
you will hear laughing are the sanction-free oil and gas
producers/promoters on their way to the bank. In addition, as it has
repeatedly occurred, the dominant drumbeat of war drowns out much of
diverse public communication. Such a one-dimensional mainstream
narrative contributes nothing to de-escalation—it does the
opposite. President Biden’s recent State of the Union speech
barely touched on the existential threat of the climate crisis.
it is fantastic to see how the majority of the international
community stands with Ukraine. But a Woodstock-like freedom frenzy
will be too short in duration for the making of peace. That requires
cool heads, warm hearts, at least half an ounce of humility, and the
firm determination to stop the insanity of this preventable war.
commentary was produced by Globetrotter.