Can The Ukraine Conflict Become Much Wider?

ukraine russian troops

Seven months after the Russian invasion started, the Ukraine crisis has become the biggest flashpoint which can endanger world peace. From the point of view of those who cherish world peace, the situation is fast becoming more perplexing, difficult and dangerous than before. It may sound alarmist to ask whether we are moving closer to a world war type situation but at least the possibilities of the Ukraine conflict getting wider clearly exist.

On August 2 a Reuters report had quoted Russian spokespersons as stating that the USA is directly involved in the war. This statement came after a Ukraine intelligence official told a British paper that HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Racket System) missiles used to attack Russian forces had been guided by US personnel. In September the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “Russia today is at war with the collective west”. President Putin said that his troops were facing the best of the “western military machine”. While the USA and Russia have been on the opposite sides of several proxy wars earlier, this kind of comments were not heard earlier, testifying to the exceptionally serious nature of the present crisis.

The Ukraine conflict has been called a proxy war quite frequently. The more obvious sign of this has been the constant instigation of the USA and its close allies for Ukraine to be hostile to Russia, backed by billions of dollars worth of military and other assistance, discouraging any possibility of any accord between Ukraine and Russia. A settlement may have been possible as early as April, but it was scuttled.

A proxy war has suited the USA/NATO well, as with increasingly sophisticated military assistance being provided to Ukraine, it becomes possible to inflict more and damage on Russian defense forces without any harm being caused to USA/NATO forces at all. Hence it is OK for the USA and the NATO if this conflict continues along the same line. But of course Russia realizes the needs to change this situation and feels a pressing need as well for this. In the process it can take escalatory actions, leading to a chain-reaction which can further widen the war.

This escalatory action, now quite visible, can be in the form of integrating parts of Ukraine which have many Russian speaking people and are already under significant Russian control, fully into the Russian federation and declaring that any attack on them would be considered an attack on Russia. On September 22 the former Russian President (presently the deputy chairman of security council ) Dmitry Medvedev said that any weapons in Moscow’s arsenal , including strategic nuclear weapons, could be used to defend territories incorporated in Russia from Ukraine. He stated, “Russia has announced that not only mobilization capacities, but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection.”

All this creates very disturbing prospects of escalation and the conflict becoming much wider. Above all there are frightening possibilities ahead of increasing loss of human lives and other immense harm suffered by ordinary people, most of all in the conflict zone of course but also not insignificantly in other parts of a globalized world where a big war can adversely affect even very far away people. In the present context, for instance, the Ukraine crisis has accentuated the hunger and famine crisis in Africa.

Hence the reasons for de-escalation and peace in Ukraine are strong and getting stronger. Despite this, we do not see much evidence of active peace efforts. In fact often we see that if one side issues a provocative statement, the other side makes haste to come up with an even more provocative one. Despite all that has been done and said in the name of world peace, when world peace is so seriously threatened, there are very few unbiased efforts which raise genuine hope of resolving the Ukraine crisis.

It is important at this critical juncture for all peace forces to assert themselves more forcefully and also join hands with each other to create spaces and openings from where an unbiased agenda of peace, peace which can be acceptable to all affected people, can be pursued with continuity, involving also senior retired diplomats known to their commitment to peace. Various solutions can be discussed and suggested as a part of this process in the hope that the ones most likely to succeed will emerge. Not all contentious issues need to be resolved at once; ceasefire can take place on the basis of more limited agreement while setting up a time frame for other more difficult issues to be resolved later.  The world leadership has to rise above narrow, short-term thinking of just weakening the adversary and increasing one’s own dominance.

What the world cannot forget is that any possibilities of a conflict between the two major nuclear weapon powers of the world should not be allowed to rise beyond a point. The USA and the Russia together have over 90 per cent of the nuclear weapons of the world. It is not enough to say that they should avoid war; they should also avoid getting to the brink of war. But the way things are going at present in Ukraine, the actual situation is getting quite close to this. The situation from the point of view of disruption of world peace is extremely worrying just now.

Bharat Dogra is Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.


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