By Ben Chacko
A year into the brutal war in Ukraine, we face a choice. We can continue to flood armaments into a deadlocked yet bloody conflict while prices soar and our governments claim there is no money for pay or public services. Or we can recognise that battlefield victory is a chimaera and that negotiations are the only way to prevent Ukraine being the first battlefield of a third world war.
That war is looming. US Air Force General Mike Minihan predicts a US-China Pacific war the year after next. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace states bluntly that we will be at war within seven years.
It is past time we woke up to how close world war has come and what it would mean: further crackdowns on democratic rights; public services sacrificed for arms spending; an end to any action to combat climate change, and, above all, death and suffering on an extraordinary scale, including in this country.
The armchair generals say this is to counsel surrender. Their argument rests on a false narrative in which the “democratic West” is reluctantly forced to confront threats from rising authoritarian powers.
It ignores how the US and its allies took us to the brink: the trade warfare by which Washington tries to strangle China, the repeated crossing of red lines China set with the US over Taiwan in the 1970s, the advance of Nato up to Russia’s borders in breach of promises made to Moscow in the 1980s, the point-blank refusal to discuss de-escalation proposals around Ukrainian neutrality or withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Europe as late as December 2021.
On the war’s first anniversary two very different proposals hit the headlines. Former British PM Gordon Brown proposes we commit to putting Russian President Vladimir Putin on trial for war crimes. The suggestion is as hypocritical as it is reckless. Brown, who was number two in the government that launched an illegal war against Iraq, is in no place to pontificate about “the crime of aggression.”
And even if we accept his claim that international tribunals have held war criminals to account following the Yugoslavia conflict — many would say the procedure was one-sided — it cannot have escaped his attention that the West’s ability to do this derived from complete military victory and a dismembered Yugoslavia.
Is that our end game here? Battle to the death against the biggest country in the world, one armed with 6,000 nuclear warheads? Putin is unlikely to be tried for the same reason Tony Blair has not been. The demand just makes it harder to arrange peace talks. Far better that countries take their cue from the 12-point plan China has put forward for peace.
It calls for the territorial integrity of all states to be upheld under the UN Charter, thus rejecting Russia’s forcible annexation of four Ukrainian regions. It condemns the threat to use nuclear weapons, which has also been levelled by Moscow.
But it also shows an understanding of the war’s longer-term causes by opposing “strengthening or expanding military blocs,” a reference to Nato expansion. (Bizarrely, Brown in his Guardian op ed mentions Putin’s threats to retaliate over Nato expansion 15 years ago as proof of how unreasonable the Russian leader is, rather than reflecting on how long the warning signs for this conflagration have been present).
It prioritises achieving a ceasefire and then, once the killing has stopped, negotiating a “sustainable European security architecture” that does not pit great powers against each other. The plan may not be welcome in Washington, Brussels or Moscow: the delusion of military victory still haunts the protagonists.
All the more reason voices for peace must be raised from below. The drive to war might have near-unanimous support in British Parliament but that does not reflect public opinion. If we do not make ourselves heard, the coming catastrophe will be beyond imagining. (IPA Service)
Courtesy: Morning Star