We need a world without wars and invasions21 December 2022
Bharat Dogra :
Two statements made by NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg on December 9 (quoted in The Telegraph, UK, next day), have attracted much attention.
"I fear that the war in Ukraine will get out of control and spread into a major war between NATO and Russia."
"If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong."
Although the NATO chief also said that it is possible to avoid this, he was not speaking from a perspective of peace. He said much else that can actually lead to escalation. However what is most important is that he publicly voiced his fears regarding how bad things can get.
These statements need to be read together with statements made earlier by senior Russian leaders (related to the very extensive support provided to the Ukraine forces fighting Russia by the USA and some other NATO members), that in their perception they are already fighting NATO/leading western powers.
Now we have confirmation from very senior persons on both sides that there is a major risk of a war between NATO and Russia. It is also very likely that in such a war weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons are likely to be used, intentionally in a planned way or due to misunderstandings regarding each other's intentions and moves, and this is something regarding which several experts have increasingly warned. Russia and NATO members have over 12,000 nuclear weapons, or over 90% of the world's nuclear weapons. They also have capacity for other WMDs.
Thus although the overwhelming majority of the world's people continue to go about their daily chores in routine ways, there is increasing reason to believe that the world is passing through perhaps its most dangerous times, more dangerous than the peak period of the two world wars, or the days of the Cuban missile crisis, in terms of the enormity of what can happen, what is increasingly within the realm of real possibility.
Our planet can be compared today to an apartment block of about 200 units in which in a few rooms enormous piles of explosives, inclusive those emitting very dangerous radiation, have been stocked, enough to blow up the entire apartment block and render it and its surrounding area unlivable for future as well. What is worse, some residents consider themselves to be each other's enemies and rivals for dominance. Despite the presence of such a dangerous stockpile and some very mutually hostile persons all the time, the residents of the apartment do not accord high priority to removing the explosives or even resolving disputes. They keep on living a carefree life neglecting biggest dangers to them and their children (and generations yet to come), not to mention the various birds, animals and plants, assuming that no one will be crazy enough to blow up the entire apartment block and render it unlivable, even though the means of doing this within minutes have been kept ready for a long time. Then one day it is suddenly realized that it was a false assumption that no one will be crazy enough to blow up the explosives. This is the situation of our planet today.
To carry this analogy further, let us assume that this apartment block is in addition threatened by the increasing likelihood of a very serious natural disaster. For protection from this, very close cooperation of all members, particularly the leading members of the residential block is a must, but unfortunately they are involved in fighting each other.
Our planet is also threatened by climate change and other very serious environmental problems to check which very important and sustained work involving close cooperation of leading countries is needed but in reality they are torn apart by rivalry and enmity. Instead of cooperating for saving the life-nurturing conditions of planet, they have been involved in wars and invasions with the result that several relatively prosperous countries have been devastated in recent years.
At this critical stage of human history, it is more important than ever before to avoid invasion and war. In the context of most dangerous of on-going wars, we may ask-was it possible to avoid the Ukraine war? Of course it has always been perfectly possible for neighbors Ukraine and Russia to live peacefully with each other. Unfortunately the USA and some of its close NATO allies made long-term efforts, accelerating in 2014, for creating conditions in which possibilities of friendly and peaceful relations between Russia and Ukraine would keep decreasing, leading to the present proxy-war. Given this situation, if we had a strong peace movement in the world, or if the world media was highly truthful and unbiased in bringing out the true situation on a continuing basis, still the disastrous Russia-Ukraine war could have been avoided.
The tragic situation today is that the forces which could have been mobilized for peace and to prevent wars are being used mostly in opposite ways for very narrow ends. Hence the danger of war and conflict, proxy-wars, civil strife and now even a third world war is at a very high level, at a time when weapons in stock are destructive enough to destroy the entire world. It is likely that other important countries too may be pushed toward proxy war path of destruction in the context of other big power rivalries like the USA-China rivalry.
To come out of existing high risk situations and to avoid future ones, to create conditions of cooperation in which pressing environmental problems can be resolved, to create a future without wars, all people of peace and all forces of peace ( with justice) must assert themselves much more than has been seen in recent times.
(Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and
A Day in 2071).