The Ukraine war is a lose-lose proposition. It is a modern war, with cyberattacks and footage of the fighting streaming over the internet. It is an unprovoked and unnecessary war. Every war is bloody and inhumane, in terms of loss of civilian life. I’ve seen the results of war, and it is extremely sad.
This war began with a very wrong assumption from Putin. In view of the vastly superior military force of Russia, he thought Kyiv would quickly surrender. After surrender, a puppet government would be installed. Over time, Ukraine would take their orders from Moscow. It was all in the mind of Putin. He could go back in time, and redraw the borders of Ukraine. This is Putin’s personal and deranged fantasy.
Putin’s justification for invasion is founded on the idea of the redefining Russia along historical borders of the Soviet Union about 30 years ago. A full generation has past. In fact, he goes so far back in time, that he recalls World War II in a very twisted narrative, to somehow paint Russia as a victim for which he must now extract revenge on the grandchildren of those who fought in the great war. Wars should not beget wars. Wars should beget peace.
If the fallen soldiers of decades gone by could speak, they would be begging for peace.
In Putin’s mind, he is correcting the errors of the past when Ukraine won its independence. Peace among nations must be founded on respect of international law and agreed upon boundaries as they exist, no matter how long ago or ill advised they have been drawn. It is the principle that we may not socialize with each other or even like each other, but for our continued survival, we must respect each other, and the territorial boundaries. Otherwise, we return to the law of the jungle.
This perspective was brought forward by the Ghana representative to the UN in the Security Council and later repeated by Fareed Zakaria on CNN. He observed the African continent was subdivided by European colonists, disregarding cultural and linguistic differences. Yet, these border have remained. Respect of territorial boundaries is imperative for peace and disagreements are settled by dialogue not weapons.
The leaders of Europe and United States gave Putin full notice that they would do everything within their power to resist the invasion within the law. However they would not escalate the conflict. No boots on the ground was the right policy. Ukraine is not a member of NATO and as Biden said, once Russians and the US are fighting on the same battlefield, then you have World War III.
Weapon systems have increased, and the potential of escalation is really frightening. Cluster bombs are meant to keep on killing long after a bomb has been dropped. Vacuum bombs (“mother of all bombs”) with the intense heat, are similar to nuclear bombs, designed to wipe out entire populations in a large area.
Our planet in the last 20 to 30 years seems to have gotten much smaller. Cyberwarfare is real and powerful. It is a new element of aggressive military action. Drone warfare is also new and lethal. These are both offensive and defense weapons. These are new elements might seem more humane, but the war is still as bloody and brutal as ever.
The invasion of Ukraine was immediately condemn by world leaders, The Secretary-General of the UN Security Council Antonio Guterres said it best nearly a week ago, “Bring the troops back to Russia” – see link. Unfortunately, although countries like Russia, Iran, North Korea and China still will still find ways to censor the news to create their own alternative facts. It feels like part of our planet is fully illuminated or at least truth is very available and others parts are kept in the dark. Information and misinformation travel fast, at the speed of light. To Putin and others, truth is just another enemy. Anti-war protesters were beaten by the police in the streets of St Petersburg.
Putin’s war further advances the militarization of our planet. It is a huge step backwards. The UN was formed to prevent conflicts like this one. I feel no safer if in the future, the western border of Ukraine is heavily armed by NATO forces against military bases of Russia on the other side. I felt as if when the windows were being blown out of apartment buildings in Ukraine, as if the windows on the UN were also shattering.
I kept thinking of how beautify and perfect our blue planet looked, when we saw it from space without any boundaries. Just water and land. In the words of the late Elijah Cummings, “We can do better.” How to get back to a more demilitarized world, I’m not exactly sure.
I will not list a long list of links, as these can easily be found on the internet.
(Antonio Guterres is the former Prime Minister of Portugal. He has been the Secretary-General of the UN Security Council since 2017. He chooses his words carefully. He was pleading with Russia to reverse course, to no avail.)