Russia/Ukraine War – How It Got to This Point and Was There Ever a Chance It Could Have Taken Another Course?

Death wish

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine gets ever deeper and the tanks roll on and the airstrikes hit civilian and other targets and EU arms flow into Ukraine from all over Europe and Germany commits 100bn Euros to a new armed forces fund, so the planet continues to heat up, the IPCC’s latest report this week paints the worst scenario yet and Covid/Post-Covid recovery seems to have just evaporated into thin air – we are left asking: is this the best we can hope for?

While the human family is on the ropes thanks to man-made climate chaos, pandemic and inequality, this latest military conflict surely reveals one thing and one thing only : the utter insanity, if not bankruptcy, of world leadership as we have come to know it. We are staggering from one huge existential crisis to the next and as if climate chaos and still on-going global COVID pandemic was not enough, we are back to debating nuclear war, Putin, tactical and strategic use of nuclear warheads and any NATO response.

Just this week, in the closing session of the recent IPCC meeting, Svitlana Krakovska of the Ukrainian (IPCC) delegation stated: “We will not surrender in Ukraine, and we hope the world will not surrender in building a climate resilient future. Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots – fossil fuels – and our dependence on them.”

And she expressed her sadness that after years of meticulous work by scientists around the world, the IPCC’s findings would now have to “compete for media space with war”.

Her words describe the madness – and sadness – of where people and planet finds itself.

Could a different road have been travelled?

The West/Russia tug-of-war over Ukraine is but one more salutary tale of seeing the metaphorical car crash coming but – for personal, political and geopolitical ambition – unable to avoid the inevitable collision. And while Russia lied through its teeth about not invading in the weeks before it did, many did see this conflict coming – and for years before it happened.

But, like the financial crash, climate change and pandemic, it was a can conveniently kicked down the road.

And so, tragically, inevitably, we ended on the road to war, in spite of many warnings over many years.

We have no idea where or when this war will end. We are in limbo.

Could a different road have been travelled?

Here is Henry Kissinger (no peacenik) warning in 2014 not to admit Ukraine to NATO – and why. Fascinating. “Henry Kissinger: To settle the Ukraine crisis, start at the end

And here is former U.S. defense secretary William Perry explaining in his memoir that to him NATO enlargement was the cause of “the rupture in relations with Russia” and that in 1996 he was so opposed to it that “in the strength of my conviction, I considered resigning”.

Stephen F. Cohen, an eminent scholar of Russian studies, warning in 2014 that “if we move NATO forces toward Russia’s borders […] it’s obviously gonna militarize the situation [and] Russia will not back off, this is existential”

Economist Jeffrey Sachs, right before war broke out, warned in the FT that “NATO enlargement is utterly misguided and risky. True friends of Ukraine, and of global peace, should be calling for a US and NATO compromise with Russia.”

Historian Adam Tooze presciently wrote in January 2022.

“Nor was it by accident that it was as those foreign exchange reserves approached their first peak in 2008 that Putin began to articulate his determination to end the period of Russia’s geopolitical retreat. This is the second key element of the diagnosis.

Putin laid out his position in no uncertain terms in his sensational speech to the Munich Security Conference in February 2007 in which he outlined his comprehensive critique of Western power and Russia’s refusal to accept any further eastward expansion of NATO…

The structure of this conflict is clear as are the routes which generate escalation. The question is, can it be resolved? “

Putin’s Challenge to Western hegemony – the 2022 edition.’

And we’ll end at the beginning with this from the George Washington Archive

NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard1990

Declassified documents show security assurances against NATO expansion to Soviet leaders from Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major, and Woerner

Michail Gorbachev discussing German unification with Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Helmut Kohl in Russia, July 15, 1990. Photo: Bundesbildstelle / Presseund Informationsamt der Bundesregierung.