The Most Important Aspect of the Ukraine Conflict May Also be the Most Neglected

Ukraine War

A very important aspect of all wars is the great distress suffered by people and in particular the loss of human lives. This is certainly true of the Ukraine war. However there is one other aspect of the Ukraine war which may ultimately prove to be even more important when later the history of these very unfortunate and needlessly destructive times is written. Unfortunately this most important aspect has been by and large neglected in the otherwise many-sided and extensive discussion on the Ukraine war.

In order to have a proper appreciation of this very important but neglected aspect, one must be well aware that humanity is at present living in the middle of nothing less than a full-blown, human-made, unprecedented survival crisis which threatens the most basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet. This consists most basically of two factors—a dozen or so very serious environmental problems led by but not confined to climate change, and secondly, vast accumulation of weapons of mass destruction capable of destroying more or less all life on earth many times over. While this survival crisis can still be resolved, very less time is left to take all the essential steps. This requires very close cooperation of all countries (particularly of all leading countries), conditions of peace and stability in which all efforts can be focused on resolving this crisis, a no-wars future and ending of the terrible arms-race.

Of course wars, war-preparations and arms race are themselves perhaps the biggest single source of pollution if all dimensions are considered, but the perhaps even bigger truth is that without getting rid of wars ( particularly wars involving leading powers) we just cannot have the kind of international cooperation needed for resolving the survival crisis. One aspect of the survival crisis—the accumulation  of weapons of mass destruction—just cannot go away till wars go away and overall conditions of world peace become much stronger.

Now it should be clear that the most important aspect of the Ukraine war is that it is taking us further and further away from those conditions of international cooperation and peace which are essential for resolving the survival crisis in time. This war has taken us in the opposite direction of what is needed by again dividing the world into rival power blocks. Several eminent experts have stated that the world has never been so close to the terrible prospects of a nuclear war involving major nuclear weapon powers, and the world has been never so close to the possibilities of a Third World War, and all this is closely related to the Ukraine war. So on the one hand there is some chance that the Ukraine war can itself escalate into a bigger war capable of triggering the survival crisis, on the other hand there is a much bigger chance that the Ukraine war can destroy the possibilities of achieving the kind of stability, peace and cooperation that are essential for resolving the survival crisis in time.

This goes beyond the obvious fact that like all big conflicts the Ukraine war has been a big polluter itself if we count all the bombs used, all the fossil fuels used in the war effort and due to the displacement caused by this war. Consider also that the sabotage of Nord Stream was itself the biggest single source of emission of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, and it has made Europe dependent on more polluting energy sources imported from much longer distances, thereby leading to regular release of much more GHG emissions per unit of energy consumed.

Important though all these aspects of increasing pollution may be, these pale in comparison to the wider prospects of the world getting divided between two major blocks and the conditions of international cooperation being badly disrupted at a time and during a period when these were most needed. Even the limited pathways of ending the Ukraine conflict that are still being considered are not those that will result in ending the deep hostilities and suspicions between the major powers. Already some of the most important treaties for limiting weapons of mass destruction have been withdrawn, or else have not been renewed.

This then is the most tragic and dangerous aspect of the Ukraine war which is endangering the future of the children of the entire world. The United Nations appears to be watching more or less helplessly. In the discussions on somehow achieving peace, the role of the United Nations is not mentioned much. The Ukraine war appears to suggest that when confronted with an unprecedented survival crisis, the world leadership is moving in the OPPOSITE direction. All those thoughtful people of world who understand how dangerous all this is need to come together with greater unity to save the situation concerning the most urgent issues before this gets out of hand.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.


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