All limits of irresponsibiity have been crossed by big powers in the build-up to Russia-Ukraine war and now its actual outbreak. Beyond the immediate issues lurks the much bigger truth that the deeply troubled humanity just cannot afford any war at this critical juncture of its history, when it stands precariously at the onset of a survival crisis caused by about a dozen serious environmental problems, accumulation of weapons of mass destruction and certain other factors. Humanity’s preparedness to face this most serious of all challenges of a survival crisis is very weak at present, and these already faltering efforts of critical importance will be pushed back further and endangered seriously by this war, which indirectly involves the confrontation of biggest military powers.
Seen in terms of the last stage of the build-up of tensions and the actual break-out of the war, the bigger irresponsibility is on the part of Putin. When he spoke earlier of the need to protect the security and defence of Russia by opposing NATO reaching so close to Russia, this was understood and appreciated by a large number of people. But most of them will not support the crossing of the threshold by actually invading.
From a longer-term perspective, however, the bigger irresponsibility is that of a succession of hawkish USA policy makers. After the end of the cold war, they should have engaged Russia in friendly talks and relations. This would have been good for the USA, good for Russia, good for Europe and good for world. This would have contributed much to creating a safer world.
Instead hawkish and aggressive policy makers of the USA acted in stupid ways to make Russia feel more insecure in various ways, and kept provoking it. One of the important ways of doing this was to interfere too much in countries close to Russia, geographically and historically, trying to install anti-Russia regimes there and seeking to enroll them in NATO membership. This should have been avoided.
In fact the USA went even to the extent of particularly engaging with the neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, include those in its armed forces, to strength the anti-Russian plank there. Surely, this should be opposed even by the European allies of the USA. But even at a wider level, the hawkish policy makers of the USA generally opting for a confrontationist path rather than one of peace and friendship have become a serious problem not just for the USA but the entire world.
Hence at the end of the cold war, the big possibilities of world peace could never really be grasped and the world kept moving from one place of war and civil strife to another—be it Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen , Libya and now Ukraine, not to mention several smaller but no less tragic conflicts of recent times. In most of these the USA as the biggest superpower was found to be on the wrong side of peace, although it wasn’t of course the only culprit.
The United Nations has not been able to play a particularly helpful role in checking or stopping all this completely avoidable violence and destruction, but still we must appeal to it to try to still reduce the damage of the latest conflict, which can have much wider and truly frightening implications. A big blow to world peace has already been dealt by the irresponsible conduct of the two biggest military powers, but still damage can be contained even at this point and must be contained. The wider truth at this juncture of humanity’s history is that we just cannot afford this madness of wars in the middle of a pre-existing survival crisis.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Earth Beyond Boundaries and Protecting Earth for Children.