The Seedy Face of War

The war in Ukraine has yet again exposed, despite the holiest-than-thou rhetoric, the double standards which continue to prevail in the world regarding international rules and principles or the victims of war

By Mrinal Roy

The dire consequences of more than two years of Covid-19 pandemic on the world economy and the livelihood and lives of people are now compounded by the adverse impact of the war in Ukraine on rising oil, gas, transport costs and food prices, global inflation and economic recovery. It is patently evident to all including Russia, Ukraine, the US, NATO and all the countries imposing sanctions that the heavy collateral costs and fallouts of the war and the sanctions imposed added to the woes of Covid-19 are unsustainable for people and countries across the world.

The war in Ukraine has monopolized the attention of the leaders of European countries and the US as well as all the main news channels and shifted their focus away from the core existential problems faced by the world and the people in a context of erosion of purchasing power, high unemployment rate, sluggish economic growth, deteriorating competitiveness, widening inequality and climate change threats. These need to be comprehensively addressed now and aptly resolved by governments.

For example, shouldn’t the war in Ukraine and the resulting soaring oil and coal prices be a wake-up call for the world to more robustly tackle the dire threats of climate change on our planet by fast tracking research and investing massively in the production of green and renewable energy to significantly reduce its high dependence on highly polluting coal and fossil fuels?

Instead, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Joe Biden and other leaders are focusing their attention on the war in Ukraine, proposing alternative sources of fossil fuels, gas and coal to replace banned supplies from Russia, beefing up military and other support to Ukraine and increasing the level of sanctions on Russia.

In the UK, this has diverted public attention away from the outcry caused by the parliamentary report findings that parties at Downing Street had breached pandemic lockdown rules. In France, the daily focus on the war in Ukraine has sidelined the urgent need for the government to competently address the core problems and concerns of French citizens regarding the continuous erosion of their purchasing power, the scope and tenor of their social protection, their security and immigration ahead of the forthcoming presidential elections in April. In the US, the war has provided President Joe Biden with an opportunity to rev up his falling popularity.

Propaganda battle

Every war spawns an insidious propaganda battle of claims and counter claims aimed at winning public opinion. This propaganda is spun around a well-crafted and orchestrated toolkit which includes claims about missile attacks or bombings of hospitals, maternity wards or schools, civilian casualties and children killed as well as the number of enemy planes, attack helicopters, tanks and armoured vehicles destroyed or the number of enemy soldiers captured, etc. It also includes the red rag claims about chemical or biological laboratories and weapons of mass destruction or allegations of war crimes. These are red lines.

Are the lives of children killed or maimed in Yemen, Afghanistan or Syria and their refugees less important?

It is the manner these claims are diligently broadcast and recycled by the media and the main news channels without verifying them that tilts public opinion and become part of the narrative of the war. We now know that the repeated accusations of President George W. Bush and his top officials that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have been debunked. The stark truth, as subsequently confirmed by United States inspections, is that there were no WMD in Iraq. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain evencalled it a ‘mistake’.

Biological research laboratories

Chemical and biological research laboratories are red flags. They raise the spectre of covert research of banned chemical agents and weapons.

A controversy arose last week when Russia revealed the existence of a network of over 30 biological laboratories across Ukraine being allegedly run by the US military. In a briefing Russia said that over $200 million was spent on the programme ‘covering research and sanitary-epidemiological work including the study of potential biological weapons agents that can be transmitted to human beings’.The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also claimed this month that ‘the US has 336 labs in 30 countries under its control’ and called on the United States to clarify the extent of its military biological activities across the planet.

In her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland acknowledged that ‘Ukraine has biological research facilities’. She added that ‘we are now quite concerned that Russian army may be seeking to gain control of those labs, so we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces.’

These startling revelations raise so many key questions which demand honest answers. It transpires that the research being carried out in the biological research laboratories cannot be benign as there was US concern and apprehension that ‘they could fall into Russian hands’. What is the nature of research being carried out in these laboratories in Ukraine to warrant taking steps with the Ukrainians to prevent these from falling ‘into Russian hands’?

Why are such sensitive biological research being carried in outlandish Ukraine instead of being effected in the US? Are these in conformity with US law and in compliance with the long-standing international conventions banning the development of biological weapons? Is such research allowed in the US?

The war in Ukraine has yet again exposed, despite the holiest-than-thou rhetoric, the double standards which continue to prevail in the world regarding international rules and principles or the victims of war. It also opens the Pandora’s box of covert dealings and questionable allegiances and shenanigans in the pursuit of geopolitical and other interests.

Ending the war in Ukraine

In the light of the above, this is certainly not the time to escalate the conflict in Ukraine or to brandish, as NATO, the red herring of Russian false flag operations to demand that ‘allies must spend at least 2% of GDP on defence’. In a world still reeling from the disastrous fallouts of Covid-19 and crippling indebtedness, a peace agreement is the only way forward to protect people and the world economy from unsustainable socio-economic woes and widespread human distress caused by the war.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country should accept that it would not become a member of NATO’s military alliance. The conditions for peace are self evident. Despite the Ukrainian President’s daily calls to the US and NATO to provide a no-fly zone over Ukraine, the US and NATO have categorically refused to be drawn in a frontal war with Russia. He obviously does not want Ukraine whose main cities are under direct attack to be reduced to rubble. Millions of refugees have already left the country as the EU countries, the US, UK, and a multitude of countries have opened their doors to welcome them. Russia does not want to occupy Ukraine.

The sensible way forward is to defuse the underlying causes of war. Russia wants first and foremost the demilitarization and neutrality of Ukraine to comfort its security concerns. This means a binding guarantee from Ukraine (through probably an amendment of its constitution) endorsed by the US and NATO that it will remain a neutral country and not join NATO, the recognition of the two mostly Russian speaking ‘republiks’ of Donetsk and Luhansk in Donbass and the Russian annexation of Crimea. In exchange, Russia will have to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

It is therefore more than ever imperative for the main protagonists to set aside anachronistic geopolitical ambitions and egos and honestly negotiate a lasting peace. This is the only viable solution to end the war. It is high time for good sense to prevail over narrow parochial agendas.

* Published ePaper on 18 March 2022

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