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Friday, May 20, 2022

Letters to the Editor : The war in Ukraine should now frighten all of us

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Has it not yet dawn on you that none of the belligerents in this insane Ukrainian war is willing to yield to the other for the sake of world peace and stability leaving me with the gut feeling that it might degenerate into something worse than anticipated? Starting a war for any reason has always been deplorable to me but fueling it in the manner this Russo-Ukrainian conflict has been, with the hope that the situation will out of the blue deescalate back to normalcy seems like a pipe dream to me.

Almost two weeks into the war those in support of the Ukrainians and their Western allies still believer that Russia will eventually capitulate to Ukraine.

Based on what the Western observers have reported about Putin’s prediction of the duration of the war that it wasn’t going to last more than 72 hours but still drags on into its second week, it will be fair to conclude that his troops are bogged down by stiff resistance in their march towards Kyiv their primary objective. But that is if he had ever made such prediction.

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But whereas military experts can acknowledge that as a major setback in the early Russian incursion, scholars should also factor the battlefield theory that inexperienced combatants newly deployed into war theaters often lack the initial stomach to aim, shoot and kill their enemies. This is found in the syllabus of every basic and advanced-infantry-officers course. Studies dating back to the Vietnam war confirmed the hypothesis that 80% or more of newly deployed soldiers in a battlefield would do everything within to avoid aiming to shoot and kill their enemies until they start seeing their partners and colleagues getting killed. Only the exceptional rookies associated with the mental trait of psychopaths negate the commonality.

I don’t know how many folks have seen the footage of a trending video of a Ukrainian civilian male trying to stop a Russian tank from entering his city with his bare hands and even knelt before it during the first days of the war; if not seen I believe it is still available at CNN.com, showing an image that said a lot about the mindset of the tank driver. Yes, the tank driver had to stop until the bystanders intervened and dragged the protester away before he/she proceeded. Trust me, if such an incident was to be repeated now after so many Russians and tanks are reported killed or destroyed by Ukrainian fighters that image would have been totally different.

That is why I refrained from hastily endorsing the conventional wisdom that Mr. Putin is failing in “his war because his forces are overwhelmed by more rugged and formidable Ukrainian forces”. He has been into this business of wars, espionage and counterespionage far longer than imagined and can teach many generals today about the art and science of war. So why not give him the benefit of the doubt when he says that the war is going according to plan?

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I think the Russian invaders are adapting to the challenges of the terrain while their inexperienced soldiers are learning the hard way. It is by now clear to them that America, the European Union and NATO are committing all available resources to ensure a Ukrainian victory over a Russian defeat that will drill the last nail in the coffin of Russia’s military dominance and economic stability. Hence, no matter what, I believe they will fight to the last bullet while President Zenesky equally urges his zealots not to retreat but fight to the end.

Whereas the Russians, on one hand, reported fewer than 500 of their soldiers killed-in-action (KIA) so far, the Ukrainians on the other hand inflated that number to 4000 Russian KIAs since the start of the war. That is usually classic war propaganda hinged on warring factions trying to demoralize each other when the exact number may never be known.

In another related account, the Ukrainians have accused the Russians of committing war crimes for targeting and killing civilians in their major cities which according to international law of war is illegal and ought to stop forthwith; that is if it is at all true. Nevertheless, I also don’t find anything lawful in President Zelensky’s declaration of martial denying Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60-who have no desire to stay and fight-their liberty or human rights to leave the country for they safety. There are people who cannot bear the horrors of war, the sight of gushing blood or the justification to participate in any kind of war. They should all be allowed to leave Ukraine with their families. Arming such people to fight by force is tantamount to luring them into deathtraps.

Should we blame the Russians for targeting and killing such armed civilians if found in city centers reluctantly trying to follow the orders of military commanders or whether it is appropriate to consider them regular combatants when killed-in-action? It is certainly an ill-defined bone of contention?

Interestingly, China’s President Xi Jinping for the first time issued a definitive statement on the war yesterday warning the West about the detrimental effects on all stakeholders from the slew of sanctions targeting the Russian economy. In my book, Xi’s statement finally reveals his disagreement with the West in this war. China and Russia both understand that this is not just about testing their military strength or about the need to get Ukraine into NATO but rather about their economic survival in a global economy controlled and dominated by Americans and Europeans throughout history. Could the same Western rationalization that if Ukraine falls to Russia, Putin will pick out and attack another former Soviet satellite nation aspiring to join NATO be the same logic in the minds of the Chinese and Indians that if Putin is conquered China and India will be next on the Western chopping block? You never know. I think watching Russia collapse under Western pressure will be counterintuitive to Chinese and Indian global interest.

This crazy war is nothing we have seen in recent times since World War 2 and is frightening me every day because of its gradual intensity and imminent impact to the global economy. We are facing the risk of its escalation beyond control which if not stopped unconditionally will either make the world better for all human beings or destroy it permanently for all of us. In the end, it will compress to the actuality of modern wars as once affirmed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that there are no longer winners or losers in them. Let us continue to pray!

Samsudeen Sarr

Banjul, The Gambia

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