Sleep-walking into ‘Cold War Mark 2′

Cameron Duodu

This article was written on 15 April 2022 but we failed to publish it on our blog. Now three months has passed and the UN-brokered deal on the export of foodstuffs from Ukraine has been announced, we will invite Cameron Duodu to comment on how opinions in Africa have been influenced.

The escalation of the Ukrainian war that will be the inevitable consequence of the sinking of the Russian warship Moskva sends shivers down my spine.

Of course, Russia has not admitted that the ship was sunk by Ukrainian missiles. But one doesn’t need to be a military analyst to conclude that with the increased provision of arms to Ukraine by NATO, it’s more than likely that the warship was, indeed, the victim of a deadly Ukrainian pre-emptive strike.

Russia will no doubt seek to retaliate in a spectacular manner. For although the Russian people are denied a truthful account of how the Ukrainians have been courageously fighting back, many Russians will be intelligent enough to conclude that a warship that is supposed to be the “flagship” of a major Russian naval formation, does not just “sink” because of “a fire accident on board” (as the Russian military authorities have characterised the mishap.)

Simultaneously, the Ukrainians will be pressurising NATO – especially the US – to “give us the weapons and we shall do the job!” (as the UK war leader, Winston Churchill, put it to President Roosevelt during the darkest days of the Second World War, when Britain was suffering from a devastating blitzkrieg that was similar to the ceaseless pounding that Ukraine is currently receiving at the hands of Russian tanks and artillery.

The clear danger is that “hawks” in both the Russian and Ukrainian war machines will – whether with disapproval from the higher leadership or not – stage military offensives that will take the conflict to a more dangerous level.

The most obvious path for any “hawks” anxious to give the enemy “a bloody nose”, will be to shoot down a plane – preferably one carrying civilian passengers. The fallout from such an air attack would, inevitably, be an air confrontation between Russia and NATO.

Each side knows that such a confrontation will create a situation that would be just “one minute to midnight”, “midnight” being the deployment, initially, of “tactical” nuclear weapons, which could easily trigger an all-out nuclear holocaust.

The question the world should be asking the two sides is this: what gain would such a deadly outbreak of wart bring to either side? Already, enough devastation has been caused in Ukraine as must convince Ukrainian President Zelensky that he might have badly miscalculated the cost of loudly proclaiming Ukraine’s intention to join NATO.

Of what use will Ukraine be to himself and his followers if it wins NATO membership for a country half of whose dwelling places and factories have been burnt to ashes? Indeed, of what use would a Ukraine with a “moon-like” terrain be to NATO? Yes, bravery and tenacity of purpose are worthy virtues in a nation’s leadership. But so is political cunning that does not go to the extreme length of pitting national survival itself against the achievement of a desired political goal, however worthy such a goal might be.

Russia too would be wise to pull back from the brink. The course of the war against Ukraine, so far, has demonstrated that the Russian military machine might have ignored its “clay feet” in certain areas of operation, when it moved, head-first into Ukraine. Trying to regain national pride by committing atrocities (whilst seeking to punish Ukraine for showing up Russian military weaknesses) may well be a case of using good money to chase after bad.

Certainly, by any calculation, Russian gains from a victory over Ukraine cannot make up for the economic sanctions – ever being ramped up – that the Western nations are imposing on Russia. The disquiet over relations with Russia that non-NATO Western nations are currently displaying, should tell Russia that there could be an oversize political price to pay in Europe, for the Ukrainian misadventure.

The fact that both Russia and Ukraine are victims of military and political weaknesses they did not anticipate before the outbreak of war between them, gives hope that if world leaders who seriously treasure the peace which the world has enjoyed since the end of “Cold War Mark One” were to step forward and jointly put unbearable pressure on the two sides, the war might end with a negotiated settlement that saves the faces of both countries.

At the moment, though, it is difficult to identify world leaders who could summon the moral authority to knock heads together in a bid to end this meaningless war. But with the United Nations General Assembly divided and the Security Council crippled – as ever – by the veto system, it is difficult to see who could step forward and fulfil a role which, if cleverly executed, could bring new hope to the world – especially to the young citizens of the world, to whom the sight of so much destruction caused by armed warfare, must bring great depression.

The Ghanaian journalist Cameron Duodu has followed African and international affairs since the late 1950s. He is a regular contributor to the UK and Ghanaian media, and his writings are widely syndicated.

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