THE Russia-Ukraine war has not only created a flashpoint for the world, but has also torn apart the narrative of a united Europe. As the war prolongs, the global powers are puzzled about the future. Indeed, many wonder if there will be a future at all.

The war is disrupting the supply chain and the demand-supply imbalance is affecting the entire globe. Either the countries are involved in the war or they are impacted indirectly by rising fuel and food costs.

Amid all the differences that plague man’s current existence, one finds a consensus: matters are going from bad to worse. The world has a flashpoint and the time is ticking past. In case Russia gets hyper adventurous, or the United States and allies help Ukraine to the extent that Moscow sees it as a direct threat, or China decides to throw caution to the winds, one should be ready for the ringing bells of World War III.

A protracted war favours none. With every passing day, the economic sanctions will be putting stress on the Russian economy and the consensus built in favour of Ukraine will start losing its zeal. Cracks will soon start becoming more evident.

The French president has already mentioned that Moscow should not be humiliated. China, although advocates the end of the war, has declared sanctions against Russia to be illegal. Ukraine, on the other hand, has been able to maintain its sovereignty. The West, therefore, should recalculate the cost of a protracted war and the gains it expects to have by making Ukraine a star in the eyes of the other states.

General Richard Barrons, a former commander of the United Kingdom Joint Forces Command, was unequivocal when he said, “No matter how this war turns out, and as cynical as it sounds now, historians will say that Putin’s attack on Ukraine gave Europe the time it needed to recover so it could confront Russia and, further down the road, China. Ukraine is paying a high price to buy us time.”

The current idea of Ukraine’s victory lies in scraping more territory, pushing Russia back to its pre-2014 position. However, putting aside the anger and following rationality, one may ask the cost that Ukraine has to pay for snatching those extra hectares back after fighting for, say, the next five years.

Limited victory for Ukraine lies in seizing the opportunity while it can by rapidly focussing on reconstruction efforts funded by the West, integrating itself into Europe, and enhancing security while floating towards a democratic future. Reconstruction is an uphill task and takes decades and funds worth billions of dollars. Every day of war exponentially increases the destruction in the country. Ukraine must try harder for a ceasefire so that the world may start moving on.

Needless to say, it will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Ukrainian leadership after suffering so grievously at Vladimir Putin’s hands, but it will make Volodymyr Zelensky’s country retain independence and prosper into a European future.

The US and Europe must encourage a pragmatic solution. The West must be willing to see Ukraine’s win outside the battlefield, in health, prosperity and democracy. If the war continues, friction between the US and regional powers — China and Russia — will only intensify. The US is closely monitoring China’s support for Russia which can lead to further divisions and the establishment of economic and geopolitical blocs.

Putin may yet be able to achieve some of his goals and there is every indication that, instead of acknowledging his mistake, he may choose isolation for Russia, and permanent instability for Ukraine and Europe. Defeat could call into question his political survival.

While Ukraine has received phenomenal support, it will not last forever. With time, the cost of war will be rising, destruction will be exponential and reconstruction will take ages. It is time the world leaders learnt from the past — distant and recent — about how wars play havoc with the lives of people.

The League of Nations was formed at the end of World War I, Nato was established after World War II. However, after World War III, there will be no end. Within minutes, nuclear missiles will be over London, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and Washington. Mars will then be the only abode left for the humans. Do we want that to happen?

Muhammad Ali Falak
Texas, USA

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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