Another long war

Published June 21, 2022

FOUR months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there are no signs that this conflict will be resolved anytime soon. If anything, key voices in the West are warning their own people as well as the rest of the world to prepare for another long war. Among these is Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who told a German paper that the conflict will likely “last for years” and that the cause must be supported regardless of high military costs or spiralling energy and food prices. Moreover, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently returned from Ukraine, wrote of the need to “steel ourselves for a long war”, while his army chief has reportedly highlighted the need to “deter Russian aggression with the threat of force”. Meanwhile, on the other side, the mood is equally combative. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the BBC, there was no room for manoeuvre with the UK which, he said, wanted to bring Russia to its knees. “Go on, then, do it,” he cryptically remarked. The stage, therefore, is indeed set for another lengthy conflict. The Nato/Western combine appears to be gunning for Russia’s total defeat, while Moscow also seems determined not to budge from its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.

While the people of Ukraine are obviously the biggest sufferers of this conflict, the rest of the world has also not been immune as high energy and food prices have rocked the global system, particularly developing states with fragile economies. Ideally, the West and Russia should drop their hard-line stances and negotiate an end to this war. However, as the statements from the primary protagonists quoted above indicate, this is a very slim possibility. The alternatives to peace are not very attractive. The longer this conflict grinds on, consumers across the world should continue to expect to pay high energy and grocery bills. For developing states, including Pakistan, this can have uncomfortable consequences. And should the conflict expand into a direct confrontation between the West and Russia, the ensuing price spiral may well deal a mortal blow to many a developing economy. Therefore, from the viewpoint of the Global South, the sooner this conflict is resolved peacefully, the better, while developing states also need to have alternative plans in place to ensure food and energy security. Previous ‘long wars’ — in Afghanistan, Iraq etc — have laid waste to these unfortunate nations. This one risks upending the global system.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2022

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