AN ABSURD WAR…WILL THE FUTURE WITNESS MORE SUCH STUFF?

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From deep concern at the start of the Russia-Ukraine War, it is turning out to be more bizarre and absurd as month after month goes by without any end in sight. Recap to the beginning – The USA and Europe felt threatened by Russia. Russia felt threatened by the USA and Europe. NATO developed cold feet having been out of the business of fighting since the Allied war effort during World War II. Ukraine got caught, literally in the middle. The buffer that Russia wanted was making pro-NATO noises and Europe too, wanted a buffer so that Ukraine can take the first hit in any future Russia – NATO conflict. In all this, Ukraine has been the biggest sucker and loser, despite much Western media supporting their (own) cause.

In many ways, this conflict has been absurd to an ordinary observer of international affairs and military science. Absurdity Number 1 is that the world is talking about a Russia – Ukraine War. What about the other belligerents? International Law of Armed Conflict states that any country actively supporting the war effort is as much a belligerent as any of the warring parties. Here, nobody seems to be calling out the rich and mighty nations that are pumping in equipment and weapons that are only increasing the violence and duration of the conflict.

Absurdity Number 2 is that each country or block has its own reasons to perpetuate the war. A renowned analyst has opined that the war is not about Ukraine at all. It is not even about Russia. It is about USA demonstrating its military capability, lasting power and determination to China to signal similar resolve if Taiwan blows up. If this is even half true, Ukraine is again the victim of a proxy war where it is the sole loser. President Zelenskyy is either too naive not to realise this or is expecting a massive post-war reconstruction bailout for his half-destroyed country, for which he will fight as long as USA and Europe want the conflict to prolong.

Absurdity Number 3 is about the geopolitics over oil and gas. Europe stops buying Russian oil and gas and realises that it will freeze to death in winters. We have not yet heard Russia turning off the gas tap, though it has threatened to do so. Does that mean gas is still going West? Perhaps, because Russia needs the money and Europe does not fancy freezing to death. India has been called out by the West for buying Russian oil. This has been forcefully countered by the Government of India using irrefutable logic. Nobody is talking about this any more because I suspect oil and gas supplies to Europe will continue somehow, war or no war.

Absurdity Number 4 is the State use of a mercenary army in an inter-state conflict. So far, there was a clear demarcation between ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ actors. Now the Wagner mercenaries are clearly acting upon directions of the Russian state. They wear uniform and bear arms. That makes them ‘state actors’ in accordance with international laws of armed conflict. Earlier, mercenary armies were used in tribal or gang wars or in states where governance had failed or had no governments worth their name. Wagner is the first use of a  mercenary army in the modern era by an organised ‘state’ in a ‘civilised’ world. This is a Frankenstein’s monster that can easily turn upon its creator and heralds disturbing portents for future conflicts.

Absurdity Number 5 is that world leaders think they can stop the war by making media-worthy statements. This war is beyond the point of no return and will not stop unless one of three things happen. The first and most desirable course is that Presidents Putin and Zelenskyy see sense in peace and stop violence, either unilaterally or through dialogue. The second course of action is that one side gets weakened into capitulation. This will take another few years perhaps, if at all. The third and most undesirable course of action is that the war escalates to the nuclear domain and stops, as happened in World War II. This will be an entirely retrograde step for all of humanity. Ukraine, once again, could be the biggest loser.

While there could be many more absurdities, Absurdity Number 6 is the recent articulation by President Zelenskyy that Ukraine will join NATO after the war is over. Is that not why the war started in the first place? What face will Russia have if that happens? Will President Putin allow the war to end? If he does, why did he start it in the first place? This is yet another instigation to keep the conflict going. In whose interest? Not Ukraine’s. Not Russia’s.

It is time for both warring Presidents to see the big ride on which they are being taken and get together at the negotiating table. For their own good and for the good of the rest of the world.

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