March 22, 2022
This is a time for cool heads and wise decisions. The Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens the security of almost every nation on Earth. The longer this crisis drags on, the more dangerous it becomes — so dangerous, in fact, that it could eventually involve the use of tactical nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The call for cool heads involves both sides: The Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, and the leader of the Western camp, Joe Biden. A 21st-century global war must not be fought on the deeply polarizing ideological principles of the 20th-century Cold War world. A new Iron Curtain descending on Central Europe will bode ill for the rest of the world, which is also fighting a pandemic and the effects of climate change.
President Biden will travel to Brussels this week to participate in NATO, European Council and G7 meetings. All are aimed at tightening the economic blockade on Russia while increasing military aid to Ukraine. European leaders are being egged on by the US and UK to make the cost of Putin’s war on Ukraine unbearable. But this war has multidimensional aspects that make it a challenge for almost every country in the world.
International humanitarian bodies warn that the crisis in Ukraine could drive more than 10 million refugees into the EU; numbers unseen since the last world war. The economic and social effects of this happening will have long-term negative effects on host societies.
And then there is the global food security issue, which is now nagging at the leaders of many countries, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. There is no doubt that the food supply chain will be interrupted for as long as this war drags on. The crisis is already posing challenges to countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia and Sudan, among others. The socioeconomic reverberations of a critical break in food supplies will present a new set of challenges to the stability of many countries.
Added to this is the current fluctuations in global energy supplies and prices. This is an existential threat to most European countries, which cannot afford to cut off Russian oil and gas supplies now or even in the near future. Blocking Russian energy supplies to Europe, estimated to be worth $500 million a day to the Russian treasury, would be a double-edged sword. Europe will not find a replacement anytime soon. Pushing Putin to the wall may force him to make a unilateral move and shut down supplies, which today remains unlikely.
The Russian military has — so far — failed to achieve the most immediate strategic goals and has only caused massive damage to mostly civilian targets. Moscow is now being accused of using thermobaric weapons in addition to hypersonic missiles against largely civilian areas. The more civilians die, the more likely Russia will face war crime charges and economic reparation bills.
This is why Europe must not isolate Russia politically. In the past week, French, German, Saudi, Emirati, Turkish, Chinese and Israeli leaders have maintained lines of communications with the Kremlin. Russia is a geographical neighbor to Europe, whether the European leaders like it or not. The Europeans should never abandon hope that a political solution can be reached that would provide Russia with an honorable way out of the current conundrum.
The Europeans should never abandon hope that a political solution can be reached that would provide Russia with an honorable way out.
Moreover, Russia’s security concerns must be addressed at some stage, once this war is over. Ukraine’s neutrality is an issue that must be tackled. Ukraine must not be destroyed for the sake of an ideological showdown that goes back many decades.
The fact that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, the UAE, India and China, among others, have chosen to keep in touch with Putin should not be regarded as a bad thing. Russia is a nuclear power and a major supplier of energy and grains. The fallout of this crisis going bad will be felt by most countries around the world.
The priority now is to draw a line between the US and UK’s immediate goals and the long-term national security interests of Europe as a neighbor of Russia. While Moscow must not be allowed to swallow Ukraine or force it into a humiliating surrender, there are other routes that other countries must submit to the embattled head of the Kremlin.
On the other hand, Russia must distance himself from waging an existential war in Ukraine that would resurrect images of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which ended in the demise of that superpower. Moscow too must embrace an alternative political path. Just as Europe is a neighbor and an economic partner of Russia, the Kremlin must accept that the European entity will always be Moscow’s neighbor. If Russia fails to do that, it faces a long and costly war of attrition. This may well prove to be beyond Russia’s ability to force a new geopolitical reality.
- Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view