As each day of war increases sufferings of people of Ukraine and creates new possibilities of escalation of wider conflict, the first priority, the overwhelming priority should be to end the war as early as possible and secure immediate peace.
However several forces and leaders which are in the forefront of the debate on this highly regrettable invasion do not appear to be guided by this perspective of peace. Some of them are saying that sanctions will continue even if Russian forces withdraw now. Some of them are threatening to try Putin as war criminal. Some are heaping insults on Russia and its top leaders. Whatever all this is aimed and what this will lead to can be debated, but what is very clear is that all this will not contribute to the most important objective of bringing peace as early as possible, to be followed by return of all displaced persons and a huge effort by the international community for satisfactory rehabilitation, to which both Russia and the USA will be expected to contribute a lot.
Instead of pursuing the objective of peace, some western forces appear to be guided by their narrow objective of ensuring that Russia gets struck in a quagmire type situation and continues to get extremely adverse publicity in the greater part of the world. These forces are guided more by inflicting maximum harm to Russia and not by bringing maximum relief to Ukraine.
Let us see what these forces did in Afghanistan. First these forces tried to create such a situation in Afghanistan and its neighborhood during the 1970s so that the USSR would feel increasingly compelled to intervene. It was still a huge mistake on the part of the USSR to take the bait and send its forces to Afghanistan. This was exactly what the western forces led by the USA wanted. By now the USA had ensured that Pakistan and its ISI were entirely prepared to cooperate in its plans to bleed the USSR in return for billions of dollars. The USA started its huge efforts to spend billions to collect religious fanatic militants from all over the world to fight the Russian forces in Afghanistan in the name of jihad and defending Islam. This strategy of the USA, with Pakistan and the ISI as implementation agents, was able to bleed the USSR to such an extent that this became an important factor in the collapse of the USSR. The strategists of the USSR proved to be no match at all for the strategists of the USA and the CIA. In the euphoria of their victory one aspect which the USA forgot entirely was that by strengthening so many religious fanatics with their dollars and weapons, the USA was unleashing a very dangerous force, a Frankenstein, that would come back to haunt its creator time and again in many places.
Unmindful of this, some hawkish USA strategists think that they should try a somewhat similar strategy again, this time to weaken and isolate Russia. The first part of their plan succeeded by installing a pro-USA, pro-NATO , anti-Russia regime in Ukraine, first throwing out an elected government friendly to Russia and mindful of its concerns. The second part of their strategy succeeded when they could provoke Russia enough to invade. The third part now is to ensure that having made the serious mistake of invading, Russia and Putin are now made to pay as much as possible for the serious mistake, in terms of sanctions and economic costs, isolation, bad publicity, internal discontent, if possible also military setbacks.
It is not clear whether USA plans against Russia will succeed as much its plans against the USSR succeeded. What is clear however is that such planning is not at all conducive to bringing early peace in Ukraine. Those who are committed to peace, inside and outside the USA, should strongly raise the issue of what exactly the USA stands to gain from such relentless pursuit of hostility against Russia. This pursuit is as irrational as it is relentless, at least from the perspective of the people of the USA. From the perspective of the powerful military-industrial establishment, it is different as it continuously needs to highlight one big enemy for its profits to keep growing. Other powerful profit interests may want to weaken Russia to such an extent that the USA gains enormous control over its vast natural resources. Another factor discussed has been that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is used by the USA to strengthen its links to its allies, keep them (particularly Germany) further away from Russia and to try to give a moral orientation to this alliance which it has been missing for quite some time.
On the other hand, the USA may as likely be harming its own interests by creating conditions for Russia to get closer to China. From the point of view of world peace and stability what may be even more dangerous is that by all the time trying to harm and humiliate Russia, the USA may ultimately create conditions for even more authoritarian aggressive rulers to emerge here, such as happened when Germany was humiliated repeatedly after the end of the first world war.
As it is unlikely that sincere peace efforts for peace in Ukraine will emerge from the USA or its allies, Ukraine and Russia should hasten to reach an agreement of peace which can be acceptable to both sides, which accommodates more basic concerns of both sides, and all non-aligned countries including India should help such a peace effort. Peace should be followed by very large scale rehabilitation effort in Ukraine.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Earth Without Borders.