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Ukraine war where even victory may come in the form of unprecedented calamity

By Bharat Dogra 

It has been customary to discuss war in terms of victory or defeat of the two sides. So it is hardly surprising that the ongoing Ukraine war too has often been discussed in these terms. However there are important reasons why such discussion is increasingly irrelevant, the most important being that even a victory by any one side in the Ukraine war can be accompanied by an unprecedented calamity for the victor as well as for many others not even involved in the conflict.
First things first-- what are the two sides of the Ukraine war. At the more obvious level, there is Russia on the one side and Ukraine on the other side. In reality, there is Russia on the one side and USA/NATO on the other side, with Ukraine being made to play a very high destruction-prone role by its ‘friends’, USA and close allies. This is well recognized not only by leading scholars, but also in statements made by leaders on both sides. The biggest danger will appear when this breaks into more open conflict between the two real sides, which is most likely to happen sooner or later if the present dangerous trends of escalating role of USA and allies continue.
So how is victory perceived by the USA? This is perceived in terms of a mix of military setbacks by Russia, more or less collapse of Putin led government and preferred emergence of a pliant regime in Russia which is like Yeltsin regime in opening up Russia’s vast resources to plunder by US led western powers and multinational companies. This vision of a victory is not at all rooted in reality but has the support of the huge military-industrial complex, its hangers-on in the media and academia, among leading politicians and government leaders.
Now let us assume (quite unrealistically, for the sake of argument) that the USA achieves the greatest success regarding such a victory. Now whether or not this amounts to an existential crisis for Russia can be open to debate, but before such a US victory is completed, the decision makers in Russia would obviously interpret this as an existential threat and so would feel free to try to prevent this by resorting to nuclear weapons (Russia has the most nuclear weapons in numbers and also highly advanced delivery systems).
As Russian leaders very well understand that the real power behind the entire proxy war against them is the USA, in the situation of a perceived existential crisis Russia may use its deadliest arsenal against the USA or its closest ally (Britain?) rather than Ukraine. This can lead to exchange of nuclear weapons unleashing unprecedented, highly painful loss of human life as well as well as other forms of life, with short-term as well as longer-term impacts spreading to many neighboring countries and regions not even involved in the war. Hence victory against Russia can soon become the biggest ever calamity for the victors as well.
Now let us examine the other side of how Russia would perceive a victory. As all its efforts to join Europe on cooperative terms with equality and dignity have been spurned and instead US with European and other allies ( willing or unwilling) appears to have firmly chosen the path of bleeding and weakening Russia generally and the Putin government in particular, the response of Russia and its current decision makers would also be to not just try to win the Ukraine proxy war ( in such a way as to avoid Ukraine being used forever as a proxy against Russia) but in addition to weaken the USA as well in whatever possible way. Hence decision makers in Russia would be happy if apart from defeating the present Ukraine regime they can also weaken the imperial might of the USA to permanently trouble them. One way would be reduce the exceptional economic strength achieved by the USA due to the highly privileged position enjoyed by the US dollar which has been increasingly misused by imposing sweeping sanctions against countries deemed to be hostile to the USA. If Russia successfully resists USA, dollar hegemony would get a much bigger blow than the smaller blows inflicted already. China would be happy to assist in this, it also has better means for this, and so would other victims of sanctions like Iran. More silently, many other countries would rejoice. But the USA decision makers would be so unhappy about this that they may resort to the most terrible options to stop any decisive threat to the worldwide hegemony of the US dollar. Hence if Russia emerges close to victory as perceived by it, then the US may also seriously consider engaging it in an all-out war, inclusive of the nuclear weapon option, a war which will also involve US allies and on the other side may also involve China.
This is why, contrary to several other critics of US dollar hegemony, this critic has always argued that the end of US dollar hegemony, a desirable objective in itself, should be achieved in conditions of peace and stability so that US economic interests are not harmed too much and its shift to a different framework of managing its finances is facilitated by the world/international community.
To capture the essence of our arguments here, we may conclude by stating that that there can be no real victory for either side in the Ukraine war, and the best option for both sides and the entire world is to announce immediate ceasefire and negotiate for short-term as well as long-term peace and disarmament. Any prolonging and accentuation of the conflict along recent trends would be ruinous and can bring unprecedented destruction to both sides as well as to almost the entire world.

Ukraine War: Its Place in History

When the history of these times is written, the last 15 months or so from November 2021 to January 2023 will form a very tragic part of its pages. This has been the time of the most irresponsible abandonment of their most crucial responsibilities by world leadership, leading to a sharp, perhaps unprecedented, escalation of dangers and risks for the entire humanity and in fact all forms of life.
While this escalation of dangers can be seen in several contexts, the most important of these has undoubtedly been in the context of Ukraine, a war which started with Russia being provoked endlessly to invade by the USA and some of its allies. One has generally heard of peace efforts being made internationally when conditions of a very dangerous war emerge, but here was a very special case of endless provocations, coming on back of years of planning for laying a trap with the aim of bleeding and weakening Russia, preferably without having to enter into a direct confrontation with a heavily armed country.
Historians will no doubt, if they have the opportunity, also give much attention to analyzing if after all these provocations Russia still had the option of avoiding this invasion for the sake of world peace. As it appears today, this would have been possible if the world had a strong peace movement and free, unbiased media which could expose the highly unjust provocation in a big way, including the attacks faced by people of Russian ethnicity in Ukraine, and the proven involvement of the USA and its allies to engineer a coup to remove democratically elected government in Ukraine and strengthen anti-Russia forces there for several years, leaving no stone unturned to try to turn neighbors with strong cultural ties into enemies. While regretting the absence of such a strong international peace movement and free unbiased media in the true sense, historians will deliberate what would have been the implications for Russia if for the sake of world peace it had still continued to avoid the option of an invasion. Would then the USA and NATO, facing no opposition, have gone ahead to saturate its neighborhood with such destructive weapons that its sovereign status was all but gone? Historians will ask if Russia had no right of safeguarding its position by avoiding such a possibility.
Historians would be very interested in debating at what point the proxy war started developing into a direct conflict between Russia and USA/NATO and what were its causes. Was this due to the ever increasing supply of more and more deadly weapons to Ukraine? They may like to recall Russian leaders warning at a relatively early stage that the conflict was fast moving into a direct confrontation with USA and close allies/NATO due the heavy supply of weapons, training and even sending of several military personnel to Ukraine by the USA and allies. They may also recall statements by top western leaders that the aim is to weaken Russia and to ensure victory of Ukraine. They may in particular recall an astonishing statement by the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on January 24, 2023 that Germany and its allies are “fighting a war against Russia” and wonder what happened to the Green Party’s opposition to war and the weapons race which taken together also happen to be the biggest polluters?
With no less astonishment they may recall the statements of ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-French President Francois Hollande that their efforts in the context of Minsk Accords were not sincere at all and were merely meant to buy time to help Ukraine to get militarily stronger for a confrontation with Russia.
Future historians will no doubt recall the step-by-step escalation of more and more deadly weapons being supplied by the west and its allies. They may also recall in this context the statement of the Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in October 2022 which very well captures the essence of this—“When I went to D.C. in November (2021) before the invasion, and asked for Stringers they told me it was impossible. Now it is possible. When I asked for 155 millimeter guns, the answer was no. HIMARS, no, HARM, no. Now all of this is yes. Therefore I am certain that tomorrow there will be tanks and ATACMS and F16s.” Well, already very modern tanks are assured.
Future historians will no doubt examine the alarming recklessness of all this when nuclear weapons to destroy the entire world many times over already exist in the world and when around 90% of these are with Russia and the USA. They will no doubt regret the alarming ignorance displayed by those western leaders who talk of defeating Russia knowing fully well that Russia has the most nuclear weapons and also that when faced by complete defeat a nuclear weapon power will use these. They will recall how during the 1990s, in Yeltsin years, the USA and close allies chose to exploit and degrade Russia as soon as they had the opportunity to do so, leading even to an alarming decline in life expectancy.
If the worst fears fortunately remain unfounded and historians are able to deliberate on the follies of our times, they will no doubt record it as one of the most dangerous of times.
The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders



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