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We are all losers in this conflict.

It didn’t have to come to this. If leaders and policymakers had shown some wisdom and understanding over the last few decades, things never would have reached this point. In fairness, a few of them did, only to be overridden by the short-sighted, the greedy, the arrogant, the ignorant, the power-hungry and the downright evil.

Clearly we all lose in a nuclear conflagration, a distinct possibility in these chaotic, reckless times.

Ordinary Ukrainians all over the country lose whatever the eventual outcome, as they suffer daily from the trauma of an unnecessary war on their territory. Now escalating beyond the Donbass, where the fighting and suffering have been ongoing for eight years, the violence is spreading across the whole of Ukraine.

Ordinary Russians lose as they are cut off from the world, repressed, censored, and jailed at home, exposed to the brunt of economic sanctions, and treated as personae non gratae abroad for something they had no control over.

Ordinary people the world over—Americans and Europeans too—lose from being further squeezed by rising prices, particularly in the energy sector, and increasing poverty. I see posts here and there on social media declaring a willingness to pay more for fuel in order to “help” Ukraine by “putting the screws to Putin”, in a commendable show of solidarity. But it won’t just be the price of gas that skyrockets as payment systems and supply chains are completely disrupted by US-imposed sanctions. We will see how these people feel six months from now, especially as they find themselves competing with an influx of refugees for state assistance and jobs. More to the point, apparently no one realizes that this gleeful satisfaction over sticking it to Putin entails other costs, namely Ukrainian lives, given false hope and sacrificed in a conflict that they cannot win. Every day it is needlessly prolonged, the death toll rises. Refugees may return, the injured may heal, towns can be rebuilt. The dead are not coming back.

Putin loses by contributing, through his aggressive actions, to the very outcomes he least desires: a Europe previously divided over how best to engage with Russia is now united in its opposition; NATO expansion has been made even more likely; Nord Stream 2 is virtually defunct; Russia’s economy is taking massive hits from far-reaching sanctions; he has achieved villain-in-chief status in much of the world today and is particularly hated and despised in Ukraine outside the Donbass; and finally, he may face unrest and loss of popularity at home that could conceivably even end up removing him from power (don’t hold your breath).

Zelensky loses as leader of a country that, already plagued by corruption, extremism, and lack of democracy, has now descended into chaos, civil war and violence. He is being hailed in some places for his heroism but will be remembered by history (should we survive to write it) for his folly and haplessness. Voted into power as the peace candidate, he not only failed to deliver on his promises but has fanned, or at least failed to put out, the flames of war. Whether he truly desired a negotiated agreement for Ukraine with Russia is debatable, but even if he did, he has been hamstrung and prevented from acting on it, manipulated by neocon American officials wanting to use Ukraine as a tool against Russia on one side and, every time he seemed willing to talk with Donbass separatists, pressured and threatened by Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups on the other, preventing such meetings and any lasting peaceful settlement that could have emerged from them.

America loses as the breathtaking racism, hypocrisy, and double standards of its foreign policy and military interventions become glaringly blatant for all to see, further damaging its already dwindling credibility as a global leader. Pot, kettle; sauce, gander, goose; choose your metaphor. The blowback from empowering, arming, and training militant right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis, excuse me, I mean freedom fighters, in Ukraine will, sooner or later, reach America’s shores, just as support to “some stirred-up Muslims” (as described by Zbigniew Brzezinski) in the 1980s in Afghanistan did. The swift and ruthless application of widespread economic sanctions against Russia may appear as a display of power and influence, but you can be sure the unintended lesson has not been lost on many observers: don’t make yourself vulnerable to US sanctions. The status of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency will thus likely become a thing of the past. A decades-long policy of humiliation and deliberate exclusion of Russia from Europe has led to the realization of a US geopolitical and strategic nightmare: bringing Russia and China closer together.

And China? I may be missing something but I’m not seeing a downside for China here (assuming we manage to avoid nuclear warfare).

When the dust settles and the bodies have been buried, we may be lucky enough to find ourselves in a best-case scenario: shifting global alignments resulting in a peaceful, stable, multipolar world of nations that respect human rights and international law.

But we could have had all that long ago, without wars—back in the 1990s, after the Cold War supposedly ended—were it not for the relentless drive of one American regime after another for global hegemony, backed by arms merchants seeking endless profits.

Why do so many countries have to be ruined and so many millions have to die before we come to our collective senses?

Jean McCollister is a translator, English teacher, and long-time peace activist living in Slovenia.


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