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Friday, August 12, 2022

Is war imminent in Eastern Europe?

Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine

In an unprecedented speech on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin made clear that the Russian government is preparing for a potential war with NATO. During the speech, Putin emphasized case after case in the past 30 years when “US has bombed countries, in complete disregard of international law and previous agreements.” To be more specific, the Russian president pointed to Iraq, Libya and Syria where these countries had come under US bombing.

Moreover, Russia warned of a “Yugoslavian scenario” of the mid-nineteen nineties when NATO engineered the breaking up of Yugoslavia. Now, Putin, said, their target is Russia, the largest country in the world. They want to break Russia, according to the Russian president, into a miniscule group of states through a combination of ethnic conflicts, civil wars as they have done before.

While this claim may have been hard to accept, NATO behavior over the past few decades in Eastern Europe is a cause for concern. Its never-ending expansion toward Russia is not only a threat that could lead to a regional war, but a war that might threaten the very existence of humanity.

In supporting Ukraine, the western argument points out Russian control over Crimea and infighting in eastern Ukraine instigated by Russia. What they won’t say is that Ukraine’s current predicament is the direct result of a military coup set off by the US and its EU partners in 2014, toppling a pro-Russian government.

In presenting his case to the Russian people, Putin said that NATO must understand that “We have no way further to retreat,” this is “right before our doorstep.” And the Russian president warned, “In case of continuation of the rather aggressive line of our Western colleagues, we will respond with adequate military-technical measures, [we] will react harshly to the unfriendly steps.” Ukraine is part of historical Russia, and the two countries share a long history—language, culture and more.

What is the logic behind the drumbeat of war? Can NATO go to war with Russia without putting humanity in peril? But more importantly, what is the rationale behind NATO expansion near Russia’s border?

The Corona virus is the enemy

As the world faces its biggest challenge since 1918, war would be the last item in the agenda of any leader with a sense of humanity. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which contains most of the world’s wealthiest countries, “has suffered 115.3 million COVID-19 cases and 1.89 million deaths. It is passing through a winter pandemic surge that the World Health Organization (WHO) projects will claim 700,000 more lives in Europe alone. Moreover, the new Omicron variant, which will likely evade current COVID-19 vaccines, is now spreading in both America and Europe.” This is according to the latest figures.

At a press conference on December 23rd, Biden stated there would be no “shutdowns or lockdowns” to halt the contagion while stressing the emphasis on existing vaccines. But that will only solve part of the problem, for nearly half of the population has not been vaccinated. A lot of people are angry. So, stoking military tensions in Eastern Europe could be a way to distract mounting internal opposition to the policies on the pandemic.

But these are selfish risks, high enough to trigger an all-out war with Russia and, by extension, China. While the western media focuses only on the Russian troop buildup near the Ukrainian border, NATO is launching its own military buildup on Russia’s borders. It is arming Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles, guided-missile warships to be built by Britain, and anti-air missile batteries. Adding to the tension is that the Ukrainian government has not denied Russian reports that it is massing 125,000 troops on its border with Russia.

Can Ukraine really defend itself against an almighty Russian superpower? “A multi-domain operation would be devastating for the Ukrainian military, which is why Kyiv is asking for more air defense support,” a US official said.  And according to Politico, the same US official “added that the talk in Washington about supplying Stingers, Patriot air defense systems and Javelin anti-tank weapons would have only ‘a marginal benefit at best against a Russian operation of this size, either due to technical reasons, or simply not enough numbers or enough time to deploy and integrate them.’

Over 100,000 Russian troops have massed in an arc along Ukraine’s borders, from Crimea in the south to its northeast frontier, complete with enough equipment and logistical backbone to make a quick push into Ukraine if so ordered.”

Any war—small or large-scale—would have a devastating effect on the world. The real enemy to fight is not Russia. It is Covid-19. But don’t place your trust on the selfish calculus of the western establishment. They can miscalculate, and humanity will face a catastrophic disaster.

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