By Abukar Arman
Since February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine, likelihood of a nuclear war became a looming threat that is hard to ignore. So, it is in our collective best interest—leaders, thinkers, activists, and other influencers—to actively engage and contribute toward the defusal or prevention of such a threat. And this will require certain level of honesty and independent thinking that are currently in short supply.
Before delving deep into other critical aspects of the Ukraine war that are seldom reported by media in the U.S., let me say this about the two main characters driving this war:
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is a war criminal. His bloody footprints are all over Syria, like president Barack Obama’s in Libya and President George W. Bush in Iraq. However, unlike the latter two, Putin is a ruthless despot, uncompromising realist, and a very competent strategist.
On the other hand, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is a charismatic, flattery-fueled reality president who showed up on the world stage in combat gear to win a game of geopolitical Mortal Kombat. He is a self-assured man willing to bet on his entire country.
A Reality Check
Any state actor who subscribes to the principles of realism would unapologetically acknowledge that states when they are under real or perceived existential threats take rationally justified, occasionally drastic, actions to defend themselves and their interests. Yet, in recent years, the U.S. and its Western allies recklessly disregarded that fact. They dismissed Russia’s expressed concern that the on-going process to admit Ukraine into NATO is tantamount to a hostile trespassing into her backyard- similar to how the U.S. felt during the historical encounter known as the Cuban Missile Crisis when the Soviet Union placed missiles in Cuba. Russia is adamant to stop that even if that leads to World War III.
To make matters worse, the West threatened Russia with severe consequences if it were to attack Ukraine. Russia attacked anyway, and the West unleashed what seemed like the mother of all economic sanctions. The objective was “to cut Russia off from the world’s financial arteries” and totally wreck its economy. So, Russia was banned of using SWIFT- the global network that makes international trade and sending or receiving money possible.
Meanwhile, U.S., its Western allies, and media have launched a relentless disinformation campaign that outdone Russia’s old-fashion propaganda. They have been claiming that Ukraine is winning with incredible ease and that Russia was suffering a humiliating defeat. They have been claiming that there will be uprising against Putin, and that would be followed by regime change and prosecution at the International Criminal Court for war crimes. The disinformation has been persuasive enough for some Western pundits to call for a balkanization scenario in which Russia would be divided into several satellite mini states.
The realist despot became convinced that the U.S. led NATO and the EU presented existential threat to Russia, and that Ukrainian was a dangerous pawn- a proxy war to subdue and humiliate his country.
Who Is Paying The Price?
Though Ukraine’s military did make its presence felt by their Russian enemy, but Ukraine could not sustain its advances and recapture the massive territories it lost to Russia. Putin appointed General Sergey Surovikin as the overall commander for the military operations in Ukraine and deployed 300,000 more soldiers as reinforcement. This new commander is the brutal war criminal who used to carpet bomb highly populated Syrian cities.
So, Putin continued grinding Ukraine with conventional weapons while leaving the nuclear weapon option wide open. Knowing that most Ukrainians in urban areas live in high rise apartment buildings, Putin’s new commander has been strategically targeting civilian infrastructure facilities such as power grids to deprive these civilian populations electricity and water during winter. Currently one-third of Ukraine is in the dark. And, according to Ursula von der Leyen, leader of the European Union parliament: Since the invasion “more than 20,000 civilians and 100,000 Ukrainian military personnel have died.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. and its Western allies continue supplying Ukraine with massive amount of conventional and high-tech weapons without any checks and balance apparatus. Though most of these weapons are used in the battle fields, a considerable portion of them find their way into the international black markets. They are illegally sold by corrupt Ukrainian military commanders and war profiteers. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria confirmed a concern that others have expressed before: weapons supplied to Ukraine are illegally coming to his country and other countries in the Sahel region. Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Ukraine as 58th most corrupted country out of 180.
Flirting With Fire
U.S. continues its demand that Russia must go back to its pre-February border line for a peace negotiation to begin. But no self-respecting realist out there would see this demand more than a quixotic adventurism. Russia is determined to become the sole hegemon in its neighborhood, and it is mindful how if this war drags on could weaken its military against any future confrontation with the West.
Putin is also mindful of the 20 U.S. B-61 nuclear gravity bombs at Büchel air base in Germany. He is worried about the first strike advantage that some war hawks are advancing. In a recent interview, he said “The United States has a theory of a ‘preventive strike’….Now they are developing a system for a ‘disarming strike’. What does that mean? It means striking at control centers with modern high-tech weapons to destroy the opponent’s ability to counterattack.” Against that backdrop, it should shock no one to see him counter-strategizing.
Putin sees in his strategic best interest to keep the nuclear red-light blinking.
Peace: So Near Yet So Far
Shortly after his return from the U.S. in which he delivered Europe’s grim concern to President Joe Biden, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, urged the U.S. and Europe to accept President Vladimir Putin’s proposal before his invasion of Ukraine to jointly frame a security architecture that prevents NATO from coming to its doorsteps and the deployment of weapons that threaten Russia. “That topic will be part of the topics for peace, so we need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table,” said Macron. If European leaders continue pressing the U.S. to make room for unconditional negotiations, the Russia Ukraine war could realistically end before Feb 24 of the new year.
With the global energy and food insecurity that this war has already created, things could get worse. Especially for the U.S. and the West that dominated the global wealth for almost a century. Continuation of this war will expedite the collapse of the current U.S. dominated international financial system.
The China-led BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) is likely to become BRICTISS when Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are admitted in that economic bloc in 2023. With a population of roughly three billion people, massive human, and natural resources, growing economies, and surging discontent with Western hegemony, they will be a power to reckon with. Such bloc could easily challenge the Western liberal order and transform all the institutions that govern and protect it- UN Security Council, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, International Criminal Court, and others.
Chess And Checkers
Being in solidarity with the oppressed is a moral obligation, and that is the least we could do for them. We should advocate the protection of Ukrainian civilians, and punishment of their oppressors. But it is the epitome of foolishness to uncritically join the jingoism bandwagon with most Western politicians, celebrities, and media. Ukraine and the West are not wholly innocent, and Russia and China are not wholly evil.
At this critical juncture of history when majority of the Russian people support Putin’s war and lionize him as the man who reclaimed their lost dignity and carved Russia a geopolitical tiger’s den, he is likely to insist ‘my way or no deal.’
Putin knows his country dodged the economic nuclear attack. The Russian Ruble is recognized as the best performing currency in 2022, and Russia’s revenues from energy fuels have surged beyond anyone’s expectation. He knows he has a loyal strategic ally in China. He has won the war and Europe is at his mercy.
So, Putin may recognize this historic moment as the right time to deflate the Western hubris and expose their hypocrisy. On the one hand their liberal world order has been promoting human right and democracy; on the other hand, it has been fiercely defending the last apartheid regime in the world—Israel—and ganging up on Russia for a lesser violation. Systematic genocide of the Palestinian people has been going on since 1948, way before there ever was a country named Ukraine.
The old KGB spook does not need to capture Odessa and render Ukraine a landlocked country to shout: Checkmate, NATO. Checkmate, liberal world order!
Abukar Arman is an author, former diplomat, and the Servant General of Baseerah Transformative Strategies. On twitter @Abukar_Arman