Thoughts about the War in Ukraine – A Response

Thoughts about the War in Ukraine – A Response

I share your frustration with the hype & hypocrisy that’s overtaken the media & politicians on all sides. On the other hand:-

a) Genocide as now defined in international law no longer means simply the annihilation of a people, eg. Jews or Armenians; it can cover attempts to destroy the cultural/religious/national identity of a people as well. No need for lots of dead bodies. So Putin’s policy about Ukraine not being a nation just about fits the charge, and likewise Chinese policy over the Uighur population. Obviously those who stand up and resist ‘forced cultural assimilation’ won’t be let off with a slap on the wrist…. Is it worth fighting a war to the death? It seems that before Putin’s invasion, most Ukrainians would have said ‘No’. Now, since the invasion etc. I think it’s clear enough that the majority of Ukrainians are saying, ‘Yes’.

b) Genocide may be a crime but it carries no extra penalties compared to ‘war crimes’. But it is a crime that should trigger an international response according to UN rules/expectations.

c) Something like 20% of US & UK exports = the arms industry. Any war is also a mega showground of the best weaponry available. I’m sure all those countries sending home-grown military produce to Ukraine will reap one hundredfold in terms of profits, not least because Russian weaponry is proving to be deficient. In any case, much of what is being sent to Ukraine isn’t a gift but a loan, to be repaid at some indefinite time assuming they win.

d) How much of the Western hype is true? Is ‘Western democracy’ at risk? If Putin wins in Ukraine is he likely to move into other ex-Soviet countries, eg. the small Baltic states or Moldova? Clearly, many of these countries think so, and most are members of NATO or the EU. Putin’s invasion certainly seems monstrous to us, unless there’s a ton of stuff we’ve not been told.

e) Have Ukrainian soldiers misbehaved as well? The answer is obviously Yes, tho we don’t know the scale. But they haven’t been torturing/imprisoning Russian civilians etc. Insofar as any bad behaviour reflects anger at the deaths of innocent loved ones etc., I don’t think this equates to the bad behaviour of invading soldiers or random shelling/targeting hospitals etc. But folk don’t warn against ‘the dogs of war’ without good reason.

f) Modern wars aren’t only fought with weapons & fake news but also with powerful drugs to help soldiers keep going without sleep etc., and do stuff they wouldn’t ordinarily do… We know the Russian soldiers are being given such drugs. We don’t know about the Ukrainian soldiers.

g) What about US invading Iraq & Afghanistan, or what’s been happening in Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Myanmar etc. etc.? I’m sure that were I from any of these countries, I would ask, ‘What’s so special about Ukraine?’ It’s a very good but also very big question. I would begin by saying that after its Vietnam trauma, the US for more than a generation stepped back from ever doing the same thing again. The same thing happened with Russia after its trauma in Afghanistan, which also helped bring down the USSR. The US thought it had learned all the lessons, and invaded Afghanistan & Iraq only to reap new trauma. To some extent, Ukraine is therefore Russia over-reaching once again as well, but with new, graver implications because Ukraine is on the border with NATO and the old Cold War protocols don’t apply anymore.
There’s no doubt that the US military has misbehaved in ‘the war against terrorism’. Like Russia, the US refuses to join/recognise the International Court of Justice. But at least there is a debate going on about all this, and opponents of Guantanamo Bay etc. don’t get thrown into prison etc. Still, we can see the power of fake news influencing the attitudes of US/Israeli soldiers and their communities, and governments actively suppressing Truths.

So not exactly black hats v. white hats, but there is a difference.

h) I don’t think it’s coincidental that the GDP per person of Ukraine is about 3 times that of Russia. The Russian soldiers aren’t looting stuff they can find back home! Ukrainians may be defending their nation, but I’m sure they are also defending their new lifestyle & standard of living! Yet the rhetoric is all about patriotism, and not these other realities.

i) I’m sure it’s no coincidence that ‘big power’ politics is so easily coinciding with ‘(wo)man-in-the-street’ reflections about what to do. By this I mean that ordinary folks in Europe & the US, and Japan etc., will be sympathising with Ukraine and supporting the supply of weapons etc. Otherwise, Ukraine would certainly fall, despite the anger & willpower of its people. It’s the Russian juggernaut after all. Letting Russia succeed in Syria was one thing, but on the borders with Europe so much more is at stake….
Big power politics can agree with all this. And then, on top of genuine concern for Peace, Democracy, Stability etc., this is a chance to bleed Russia and hopefully engineer a democratic revolution, or at least push Putin & Russia off the world stage. What’s not to like?

j) Of course this might also lead to nuclear weapons etc. being used and potentially WW3. Clearly, this is a risk that the NATO countries, and therefore the US & UK individually as well, are willing to take. If Putin is happy to go ballistic just over Ukraine, then the hype was all true and there’s even more reason for Putin to be stopped.

k) All the above may be true, but it also comes out of the same ancient playbook that spawned the great legends of old. But just read the Iliad, and appreciate how the ancients also saw the bigger picture. The Iliad doesn’t end with the Fall of Troy. We know about that from Virgil, the Odyssey etc. No, it ends with the meeting of Achilles and King Priam, facing up to their shared sorrows and bonding in the face of the epic horror of the Heroic Age. This was the climax of the Trojan War for Homer, not the inevitable ‘Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose’…..

l) In many ways it’s this mega failure in insight that I lament most nowadays. Is this also Christian blindness? After all, Democracy, Hollywood, the Media etc. are very much in the Western/Christian domain. We invented all the rhetoric. Is there something we’ve forgotten and need to learn from the pagans all over again?

m) One unsung, Iliad-like story, is how American Vietnam vets suffering trauma etc. reached out to Soviet Afghan vets also suffering from trauma. It began without official govt. approval but thankfully became a major program that helped enormously to ease Cold War tensions. Like the US after Vietnam, Russia had no medical recognition/treatment for war trauma. In the end, Russia set up a program to learn from what the US & other Western countries had begun to do about war trauma. But it all began with a few US vets making contact because they cared and shared.

n) BBC, CNN etc. are all joining the politicians to say that Putin is now facing defeat. The longer he continues the war, the bigger his defeat will be. Defeat in this sense of course means ruin of the Russian economy and ruin of Putin’s reputation & legacy. They talk of possible assassination or revolution. But if true, then the US and maybe NATO may be wishing for a longer war, rather than an early ending. If the ultimate aim is to weaken Putin & Russia as much as possible, then Ukrainians will suffer more and more…. But many Ukrainians may prefer a weaker Russia, whatever this takes.

Against this background, what does ‘Compromise’ mean? Does Peace now, especially if it means Russia keeping some of the territory it has gained, mean Peace in the long term?

o) My Anthropology tells me that this war has defined Ukrainian identity for the next 1,000 years. If you check out Ukrainian History on Wikipedia etc., it’s clear that along with Lithuania, Poland etc. East European ‘nations’ it floats around historical maps like a drunk crisscrossing the street…. Difficult to define but with a language & identity. Why do Ukrainians have so many relatives in Poland, and vice-versa? Or Russia? So many of the modern East European nations have ancient names & identities, but their modern location may be far less than what they occupied in the past. At least they are now independent, rather than part of Austrian/Russian/Ottoman etc. empires. Being part of somebody else’s empire meant you didn’t have clear borders….
The borders of most European countries reflect compromises made in the past. Nation States are a modern invention. In Eastern Europe, most countries have had a few generations to get used to their new clothes. But Ukraine is still a bit new to the game and its independence is only 30 years old. The border with Russia is also a bit of a modern invention.
There is therefore a kind of common sense that says Ukraine should recognise Russian control of the Donbas & Ukraine, and like Finland give up territory for long term peace. Against this, one might argue, ‘Russia basically had all this before the war. So why invade Ukraine?’
It seems Putin/Russia wants it’s Western border to be a buffer area against NATO. That’s why the war isn’t simply about Ukraine; it’s about Ukraine not wanting to be a buffer state. This would mean a Ukraine that cannot join NATO and maybe not even the EU. This is where the rhetoric over ‘compromise’ doesn’t add up. Ukraine may be willing to give up its Eastern border region, + Crimea, but only if it is then free to join the EU etc.
So are we talking opposed nationalisms or opposed social & economic systems? The choice for Ukrainians now seems clear: Yes to both. But for Putin & Russia, the language is about Empire & Russia’s right to rule. It seemed so much easier when the confrontation was between Capitalism & Communism!

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