The scenes are apocalyptic, villages, towns and entire cities reduced to rubble. Innocent, unarmed civilians deliberately targeted and executed en masse. Not just shot and killed but violated in a manner reminiscent of the world's most deranged and heinous serial killers, with a quantity multiplied by thousands.
The destruction rather than random or indiscriminate is chillingly calculated and purposeful. Precisely targeted are social support institutions. Schools, nurseries, hospitals, transportation hubs are systematically destroyed. It is madness with a most diabolical methodology. The purpose is to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure, to make the entire country uninhabitable. The damage wrought in six short weeks will take generations to repair and rebuild. But the targeting of civilians has an even darker more cynical purpose.
Full military strikes on civilians cause widespread terror and panic. It is the worst, most illegal kind of warfare. The result is that fleeing populations themselves become a weapon of war. Evacuating communities, providing humanitarian aid compromising defensive military strategies to avoid further civilian suffering all are an advantage to the aggressors. The weaponization of human slaughter is not necessarily confined to the immediate region of conflict. It creates an assault on secondary regions and nations as the terrorized and wounded stream across international borders. In this way Putin’s war on Ukraine is exported to all of Europe and soon far beyond. It is no longer just a proxy war with Europe, all of Europe is now the war zone.
Putin’s War Goes Worldwide
The calamity spiraling out of control in Ukraine is far too big to be contained by its boarders nor will it be confined to NATO territory. The effects and impacts of Putin’s war are moving around the world as efficiently as the Coronavirus. No continent or country is exempt from the economic shrapnel. Ukraine is a global supplier of agricultural food products, particularly wheat. While the direct impact on food security for Western nations would probably be limited the resulting food shortages in the Middle East and Africa should the conflict drag on have the potential to be catastrophic, literally millions might die from famine.
While food shortages may not directly threaten more affluent Western nations, global financial instability likely will, possibly in extreme ways. Prices can spike, markets can crash, credit ratings can be downgraded and entire economies can contract significantly. By the time this is over Putin’s war on the West may do more economic harm to Western nations than their sanctions do to Russia.
The Price of Western Timidity
Politicians and bureaucrats do not make war well. It’s not something they believe in, practice for or instinctively understand how to cope with. Within the NATO alliance there are 30 heads of state and 30 legislative bodies, not counting sub categories. It is not impossible to efficiently organize a military strategy within such a complex organizational structure, but decisive action is often difficult to achieve even when critical threats arise.
Regardless of what NATO leaders say to reporters they are dreading the prospect of a direct confrontation with Putin’s army. An army that appears to be as deranged as he is. But as dangerous as Putin’s army is the threat to Western nations posed by their own inaction is actually significantly greater. With each, executed civilian, each raped woman, each murdered child, each destroyed village Putin’s campaign of terror and horror metastases anew growing stronger through its very ability to continue.
Each day NATO nations chose not to use their superior military capabilities to end this war and they surely can, is a day that Putin grows stronger, the position of Western nations becomes weaker and the threat to global security becomes greater. Putin cannot win this war militarily but through inaction the West can win it for him. The West is hesitating and Putin is acting. So even though his army is performing very poorly Putin is winning, on a global scale. The inaction actually encourages a furtherance of the violence. The only meaningful deterrent is a sufficient counterforce.
More dead Ukrainian civilians won’t make the West more secure, it will make Putin more confident and aggressive. The West can confront this threat now or later. Now is by far the better option. This is a war Western nations insist they are not engaged in. In reality is is a war they dare not lose.
Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News. On Twitter: @MarcAshRSN
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