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Confusion or Clarity Over Ukraine War

November 6, 2022

By Stuart Rees

Cascades of commentary about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine give no clear vision of how to end the carnage. Instead, pundits and politicians repeat points about NATO and the US provoking Putin, about the supply of arms to Ukraine as the way to achieve victory.

In Australia, news readers display pride in their country’s supply of military vehicles as the best gift to Ukraine and as a show of defiance against a Russian dictator. 

More military, more carnage, no end in sight. 

Fatalism and confusion flow. A wide public watches powerless, even depressed. Prestigious commentators repeat that NATO should not have been armed, US influence should have been challenged and Putin’s early threats taken seriously. 

Lots of wisdom after catastrophe. Lots of attention to spilt milk. 

Wise after the event perspectives have included the persistent reference to Nazi influence in Ukraine, as though this would dilute the significance of Russian brutality. Admitting the existence of Nazi sympathisers across Russia, in the US, the UK, in several European countries and in Australia would have been a helpful caveat to critical commentary about extreme right wingers in Ukraine. 

One piece of clarity persists. The US, western allies’ repetition about ‘the rules based international order’ paints a holier than thou image of democracies pursuing rights, authoritarian regimes promoting evil. The simplification is untruthful. Unless truths are grasped, and realities grounded in tested records, delusion prevails.

War like psychosis spreads. Reliable treatment is prescribed: electro convulsive therapy conveyed by missiles. 

If this is the only remedy, more carnage, more confusion. 

Revelations about the past have not indicated ways to end this war but should affect the attitudes of those responsible for negotiating ways to peace. The ‘rules based order’ is historical nonsense.

Journalists gathered in Istanbul ahead of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations over a potential peace deal, March 2022. There was hope that these talks might change the course of the war but unfortunately they did not result in any real commitments to end the war.
Journalists gathered in Istanbul ahead of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations over a potential peace deal, March 2022. There was hope that these talks might change the course of the war but unfortunately they did not result in any real commitment to end the war. Photo credit: twintyre/

In response to the aggression which the powerful consider a form of government, countries are invaded and abandoned. The list is huge: Turkey into Cyprus, Israel brutality over Palestine, Russian destruction of Syria, Morocco capturing Western Sahara, the UK emptying the Chagos islands, Indonesia taking West Papua, the US invading and ruining Iraq, Russia waging war in Ukraine. 

This record teaches one lesson. Violence begets violence. A massive illiteracy about non-violence guarantees that political leaders stay hooked on more militarism as the best form of defence, the pathway to that elusive phenomenon, security. 

There are more imaginative ways of thinking and acting. 

Confusion and carnage could be ended by investment in every possible measure of nonviolence. Initiatives for peace in Ukraine, in Russia and elsewhere will require balance in the peace v. war equation.

On the see-saw of international relations, peace is a lightweight, the cost equation absurd. The annual UN budget on peace keeping operations is approximately eight billion dollars which amounts to half of one per cent of the money spent on the global arms industry.

It seems to be taken for granted that commitment to killing and destruction should be so much greater than life enhancing ways of living. Other perspectives exist. 

Face to face conversations are key features of nonviolence and should not be the preserve of diplomats or other elite government officials. Greater sense of influence, even clarity, might be brought to the Ukraine war if ordinary citizens felt they had something to say or do. Understanding of dialogue and visions of who can participate, could conjure ways to end violence. 

Russian and Ukrainians who are grieving over the deaths of loved ones, could meet to share common ground. Lower ranks of each side’s military might be invited to conversations and address the question, ‘what’s the point of all this?’ Across Ukraine, Russia and Europe, members of NGOs will need to dialogue about the means of re-building destroyed lives. Consistent with Security Council Resolution 1325, which recognises women as agents of change in conflict prevention and resolution, there’s a massive opportunity to engage women’s groups from every Ukrainian and Russian region in dialogue about the destruction of man’s latest war. 

Such dialogue could create a new and novel principles based order. Enlightening, life enhancing, unusually creative, always nonviolent. Worth a try. There’s no other peace with justice goal in sight.

Stuart Rees

Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney, recipient of the Jerusalem (Akl Quds) Peace Prize and author of the new book “Cruelty or Humanity”. A human rights activist, poet, novelist, and Founder Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

Feature image: Flags of Russia and Ukraine on concrete wall with shadows of soldiers, Photo credit: Toma Ragina/Shutterstock

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    One comment on “Confusion or Clarity Over Ukraine War”

    1. Yes the psychological divide between the Russian people and the Ukrainian people which should be quite small has become so large that many in Russia apparently support or acquiesce to major violence being inflicted upon the Ukrainian people through unprovoked war.

      Our ruling oligarchies, governments and especially dictators have too much influence over the informational space of the applicable populations which can degenerate into citizens supporting the unsupportable and also becoming the victims of violence.

      The Russian invasion of Ukraine is following a rapid timeline that more morally virtuous paths of greater peace, mutual contact, understanding and goodwill cannot unfortunately overcome quickly enough but these peaceful actions may help moderate the violence somewhat and must be pursued.

      The war is surprisingly now heading in favour of Ukraine regaining all lost territories and being able to potentially maintain an economy, society and military that can adequately resist and hopefully deter subsequent hostile actions by Russia.

      This is not about Ukraine leaving the Russian sphere of influence and joining the Western, EU or US sphere of influence but Ukraine being an independently run nation - even if they will require Western, EU and US political, economic and military support in perpetuity.

      An independent Ukraine will eventually again have Russia as a major trading partner and citizens of both countries will again become closer over time, but on terms acceptable to the Ukrainian people and not according to the xenophobic, racist and dictatorial dictates of Russia's ultra-nationalists that are unworthy rulers of that country.

      So much death and destruction has and will result because of the delusional dreams for old empires by the ruling Russian ultra-nationalist elites that would be wiser to first look inwards for progress and no longer lust for the territories of others that resist their dreams of domination and servitude.

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