By Marko Bojcun
The prospect of further armed Russian aggression against Ukraine remains real. It brings into focus two big questions: immediately, how can Ukrainians defend themselves from further aggression, and in the longer term how can the peoples of Europe build a more reliable peace for the subcontinent as a whole?
There is no credible way for the Ukrainians to defend themselves today but to rely on their standing army of 200,000+ and their volunteer reserves which have grown to 400,000. https://www.npr.org/2022/01/19/1073792421/ukraine-russia-attack-military?t=1643018692149
Resistance on that scale will no doubt make Russian leaders think harder about the costs to their own soldiers and civilians if Russia invades. The Ukrainian state itself is seeking additional munitions and other support from NATO to strengthen its army’s capacity to defend the country. Should Russia try to push deeper into Ukraine the Ukrainian army will turn into dispersed partisan units of soldiers, reservists and civilians attacking its positions and communications. The resistance will call for volunteers from abroad as well as more foreign state involvement. A short, sharp, surgical Russian operation to cut itself another slice of Ukraine could well turn into a bloody nightmare. But it is not difficult to envision the current situation unravelling in this way. Russia will find it even harder to back out, humiliated and carrying away its dead by the planeload as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan in 1989.
This is not a scenario that any normal person wants, Ukrainian or Russian. Only Great Power holders and seekers think and plan along such lines. The overwhelming majority of people desire peace, not war. We must be looking both at the immediate and the longer term possible paths back to peace. In the immediate situation I see no alternative but for Ukraine, its people and its state, to prepare for war so as to deter the Russian state from waging it. That already involves other foreign powers, especially some NATO members and it may well drag them further into it, raising the stakes for all involved. The longer fighting goes on the harder it will be to bring it to an end, the greater the danger that it will get out of control and spread into more countries. The outbreak of the First World War holds lessons for us in this respect.
People should be organising pressure on their pwn governments to help stop further escalation. This includes demanding more sanctions against the Russian state, against big private Russian corporations and Western financial services that protect, process and launder assets, especially in London, NYC and the tax havens they maintain. We should also extend our support to the Russian oppositionists who are opposing the war and paying for it with criminal prosecutions and imprisonment. Opposition to the war in Russia itself is key to ending it, in the same way as opposition in the USA was to ending its war in Vietnam in 1975.
Third, we need to envision a path to a reliable peace in Europe, an alternative to the great power blocs balancing one another. This strategy was carried over from the Cold War between the USSR and USA and it has demonstrably failed to keep the peace in Europe, especially on the territory of the former USSR.
No individual country will disarm unilaterally if it remains surrounded or confronted by other armed states. Ukraine learned a bitter lesson when, after relinquishing its nuclear arsenal to Russia in 1994 in exchange for a guarantee from Russia, USA, France and Britain to respect its national independence and territorial integrity, Russia invaded it in 2014 and seized Crimea. There is no authority above states in the world today that can compel them to do anything. Only states that are stronger can compel the weaker. States reside in this Hobbesian state of nature, a dog-eat-dog world. Therefore, people who know and practice another way of co-existing – peacefully, co-operatively and productively, should advance another kind of interstate order that will better serve the peoples of Europe. As a starting point we should call for the return of all countries’ troops from foreign soil to their home barracks, decommissioning of all weapons with a capacity or in a location to be able to strike beyond their country’s border, dismantling of all military bases and installations located outside their home country, and the liquidation of the existing North Atlantic Treaty Organisation led by the USA and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation led by Russia. Parallel action and simultaneous action to those ends by all states militarily present in Europe would build international confidence to take further steps towards an international order based on peace rather than fear of violence. The governments of Europe will not initiate this drive to peace; we must organise it ourselves from below.