The skies of Ukraine are covered with dark smoke from explosions, its air filled with the sound of air-raid sirens, bombs, gunfire and missile strikes, and the cities filled with rubble and empty houses left behind by fleeing citizens. Scenes of destruction and loss abound; and, as in any war, any discussion on the matter can begin only with a deep sense of grief.
We can say that the second Cold War has broken out over Ukraine, with NATO on one side and Russia and China on the other. We need to see the rights and wrongs of the confrontation from both sides of the Cold War divide and also across the viewpoints of both ‘Moskva’ and ‘Kiiv’. This is not easy given the present state of the media which is dominated by the West. Let us begin with some historical developments.
Cold War I began with Winston Churchill’s declaration, in 1946, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across Europe.” This was followed by the Truman Doctrine: the American president, Harry S. Truman, expressed his determination to contain the USSR to the Stettin-PrahaTrieste line which the USSR had advanced at the end of World War II. The immediate occasion was to prevent Greece and Turkey from falling into communism. That was the beginning of Cold War I, which came to an end with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Socialist bloc — the Warsaw Pact — in 1991. It was followed by the establishment of a unipolar world presided over by Washington. The major US policy instrument has been NATO.
What has been happening since 1991 is exactly the reverse, and, from the Russian point of view, an unacceptable threat to its security. From Riga in the Baltic to Varna in the Black Sea, NATO has set up an advancing wall of fire in a new ‘Drang nach Osten’ against Russia.
NATO has a simplified view of the conflict with Moscow. Ukraine is a sovereign country; it has bravely resisted Russian aggression and is free to join NATO if it so wishes. It is true that the Ukrainian people are up in arms against Vladimir Putin’s vastly superior Russian army due to their patriotism and the inspiring leadership of President Volodymyr Zelensky. But it would be a mistake to confuse Ukraine’s position with the NATO-US view of the Ukrainian War. As soon as Zelensky saw that NATO intended to leave the fighting to the people of Ukraine, he let a process of negotiation begin with Moscow, an ‘Eastern’ diplomacy that didn’t suit NATO. His people too, realized bitterly that NATO intended to leave Kyiv to reckon with Moscow alone. Putin, for his part, understood that he had bitten off more than he could chew.
How the war in Ukraine will end is still unclear. The broader questions of how and for how long this second Cold War will unfold remain still more unclear. What seems more certain is that we, the people of the world, will need to live under its shadow for quite some time. But we don’t need wars — cold or hot. We need a world of peace. From the perspective of common humanity, it sounds unbelievable that we continue to build lethal weapons and use them on our fellow human beings, that this has not changed through empires and republics and ideologies. But this needs to change. Like we have been slowly appreciating the need, over the past three decades, to protect the environment, it is also high time that we understand the need to move towards a world of peace and cooperation. The best way to start the journey is to shun, most importantly in our minds, the triggers of conflicts like religious fundamentalism, a staunch and militant nationalism, and belief in propaganda, mostly about other nations and peoples. The destination is not easy to reach, but the journey is absolutely worth starting now.