We have not heard much from Ukraine or on Ukraine lately, and this is understandable because the biggest need just now is for ceasefire and peace in Gaza, to be followed by very large-scale relief and rehabilitation effort here. Despite all the terrible things that have happened in Gaza lately (preceded by the terrible attack on parts of Israel), there is still the potential of saving the lives of tens of thousands of badly threatened people in Gaza. In fact the number of badly threated people is in hundreds of thousands, particularly if indirect risks are also counted. Brown University’s recent pioneering work on costs of conflicts has shown how indirect deaths caused by conflicts can be as high as four times the direct deaths which are reported (or frequently under-reported). This is even without considering the risks of wider spread of the Gaza conflict. The urgency of the need for attending to the needs of badly injured people, or the seriously ill who are being denied life-saving medical care, cannot be over-emphasized. In addition, of course, anyone concerned with peace in Gaza should also consider that violence and tensions do not increase further in West Bank.
While the predominant objective of world peace efforts just now is to bring ceasefire and peace to Gaza, we should not ignore the continuing serious, tragic situation in Ukraine and the risks of escalation here. While both sides suffer in any such major conflict, the humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine is clearly very serious as the number of loss of human lives, particularly of youth, is very high here and the number of people injured here is also very high. All this is extremely sad as the people of Russia and Ukraine could easily have lived in peace and this is essentially a proxy war in which the people of Ukraine have been sacrificed by the leading forces of imperialism for the sake of their very narrowly conceived self-interests. What is more, at a very early stage of the war, just a few weeks of war, an agreement to end the war was possible but this was sabotaged by the forces of imperialism. As a result on the Ukrainian side several hundred thousand soldiers and others have already died, directly and indirectly, while millions have been displaced and uprooted. Young men not trained to fight in war, not capable of this, have been sent to the frontlines. Of course soldiers and people on the Russian side have suffered too. In addition there has always been the risk of escalation and spread in very dangerous ways, including the risk of a direct confrontation between the USA and Russia, the two biggest nuclear weapons powers who together have about 90 per cent of the nuclear weapons of the entire world. These risks of escalation and spread have of course not disappeared suddenly; these are merely being talked about less because of the focus being just now, rightly so, more on Gaza. But let us face this– the risks of a direct confrontation between the USA/NATO and Russia are more in the context of the Ukraine conflict.
Hence while the biggest need just now is for peace in Gaza the very important task of bringing early peace in Ukraine and ending this conflict cannot be ignored. A stalemate kind of situation cannot be accepted as this can always escalate suddenly, and what is more, this would not be conducive for starting a big, community-based relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction effort that Ukraine really needs more than anything else. For this to be possible the conflict, the war should end as early as possible.
Hence despite the situations being different, one thing common to the two conflicts—in Gaza and Ukraine—is that there should be an immediate ceasefire to be followed by other peace and goodwill measures as well as a big relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction effort. In the case of Gaza, Hamas should also return to Israel all civilian hostages.
While many other conflicts of world have not attracted the same attention, in terms of high human costs these are also very tragic. It is possible that in the middle of the world attention being focused on Palestine and Ukraine, the humanitarian costs of conflict here may get ignored and may worsen. To give one of the more obvious examples, the situation in the Horn of Africa region of Africa has been worsening in some important contexts. In some parts here, we have very serious situation of hunger and at the same time conflicts are increasing. In such situations, conflicts increase distress not only in terms of people who die or are injured in actual fighting or bombings but also because it becomes much more difficult and sometimes even impossible to rush food to people living in conflict zones.
Hence there is a clear need for peace efforts to get the highest attention at the same time in Palestine, Ukraine as well as other serious conflict zones.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.