The world must pull back from the brink

Updated on Apr 17, 2022 07:56 PM IST

Developing and poor nations require food, not weapons. The situation is fuelling inflation and the direct repercussions are being felt the most by developing countries

A Ukranian serviceman looks into a crater and a destroyed home are pictured in the village of Yatskivka, eastern Ukraine on April 16, 2022 (AFP) PREMIUM
A Ukranian serviceman looks into a crater and a destroyed home are pictured in the village of Yatskivka, eastern Ukraine on April 16, 2022 (AFP)

The post-Covid-19 world needs food, not weapons. A shocking image from the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, recently showed dozens of women gathered outside the Russian embassy to protest the sexual violence and rape inflicted on Ukrainian women. Wearing black masks, the women were dressed only in shirts. This is a reflection of the brutal times that we live in.

In Finland, citizens are being asked to acquaint themselves with the techniques of modern warfare. Apart from this, the government has issued orders to stock rations, petroleum products and essential medicines for a period of three to 10 months.

Not just this, Sanna Marin, the prime minister of Finland, in a joint press conference with her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Anderson, expressed the desire for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned both these countries to be prepared to face extremely serious consequences if they go down this path. Will Russia now launch an attack on Finland? Most analysts believe that judging by the manner in which Russia has been bogged down in the Ukraine conflict, it is capable of taking any step, in desperation.

It is true that Putin didn’t expect such fierce resistance from Ukraine. Despite becoming an independent nation in 1991, the people of Ukraine have continued to have an emotional connection with Russia. That’s why Putin believed the Ukrainian people would extend a warm welcome to the Russian military. Perhaps, he could have learnt a lesson from the failed strategy of Pakistani leaders Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1965. At that time, they dispatched their troops to Kashmir, in the belief that the Kashmiri people would welcome them and the Pakistani flag would be hoisted in Srinagar. They were proved wrong.

Not only have the citizens of Ukraine displayed their unique patriotism, President Volodymyr Zelensky has emerged as a hero for the masses. Zelensky has evolved a unique art of dialogue. Far from escaping from the country, he didn’t even move out of Kyiv and has been addressing parliamentarians around the world from the Ukrainian capital. His easy manner and style have struck a chord with many people. As opposed to this, Putin doesn’t allow anybody else to speak on his behalf which has meant that Russia has not been able to put its point of view across to the global community.

Reports in the western media claim that three Russian major generals have been killed in this war and its biggest warship has been either damaged or destroyed. Putin has reportedly imprisoned more than 125 army and intelligence officers including Vladislav Surkov.

At one time, Surkov used to be the deputy prime minister of Russia and played a major role in Putin being made president. He is credited with coining the term “Putinism”. Not just this, Nashi, the radical political youth movement in Russia, is also Surkov’s brainchild.

There was a recent photograph of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Zelensky strolling down the streets of Kyiv on April 9. Perhaps, Johnson was trying to rectify the historical mistakes made by his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain.

Chamberlain and a former French prime minister had entered into an agreement with Adolf Hitler on September 30, 1938, in which a chunk of German-majority areas in Czechoslovakia was handed over to the Fuehrer. History has never forgiven the two leaders for their folly.

Another consequence of this attack is that NATO — which was perceived as inert not too long ago — has emerged as the great unifier of western nations. Today, along with the West, even countries such as Australia and Japan are partnering with Ukraine. The conflict has also set off a frenetic arms race around the world. This has led to several repercussions. Moscow is feeling the heat, but the American arsenal is also being depleted. The Pentagon has sent as many as 33% of its Javelin and 25% of its Stinger missiles to Ukraine. The US has already spent $2 billion on the crisis. A CNN survey says President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are down to just 39%.

Last Friday, with a joint military exercise on the border of Taiwan, China announced that the dark shadow of war isn’t looming only over Europe.

A six-member delegation of American legislators was visiting Taiwan during the time this exercise was carried out. At this point in time, the world, reeling from the trauma of the pandemic and the Ukraine conflict, needs basic amenities for life, not war.

Let’s not forget: Developing and poor nations require food, not weapons. The situation is fuelling inflation and the direct repercussions are being felt the most by developing countries. Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy and inflation is growing in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. If these trends continue or it triggers World War III, there will be global anarchy. The world must pull back from the brink.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan The views expressed are personal

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