“When you go down the road, you turn left to the hospital and right to the cemetery.” These harrowing words from a new friend and colleague that I heard today moved me. They betray the obvious truth that this war is having a harrowing toll upon civilians and the military alike. Every day, in every city, there is a new funeral, usually for several fallen men - funerals have become collective affairs. The stench of death across every city centre remains pervasive. People are half-heartedly preparing for Christmas, which is now to be celebrated on 25 December pursuant to new legislation - although I learned today that in western Ukraine it has been celebrated on that (western) date for several years now. However there is little in truth to celebrate. On Christmas Day, Ukraine’s young men are going to be serving on the front line and they are going to be dying on the front line. All the while their families will be worrying about them, enduring repeated sleepless nights, suffering, anxious, waiting for news, not receiving any, more worrying, heart-breaking agony, children wondering where their father is, wives missing their husbands, more horror, more hell.
So far it is estimated that some 70,000 Ukrainian military personnel have died since the Russian “special military operation in Ukraine” beginning on 24 February 2022 and another 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have died within free Ukraine in the same period. That does not encompass the deaths in the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory that began in March 2014. These figures do not include deaths on the Russian side, in respect of which I have heard estimates of some 150,000 since February 2022 but really who knows. Russia is totally impenetrable and unknowable and we just don’t know what is going on there and how many people are really dying but some things we do know are that the Kremlin doesn’t care and that the figures coming out of the Moscow propaganda institutions are not reliable. Any figures released by Russian official institutions are a load of old rot and the reality of the situation is totally unknowable because the Russian government doesn’t care how many of their young men die wastefully and mindlessly on some distant frontline in Russian-occupied Ukraine and the Russian government treats their young men as cattle and they treat their people as cattle and this is barbarism and it invokes a universal sense of disgust. China too considers Russia as a country governed by barbarians, even while she takes advantage in strategic terms of the conflict between Russia and the West. Read Xi Jinping’s remarkably lucid and sophisticated treatise, The Governance of China. In that book he expresses no love for the Russians. He just sees them as useful, if distasteful, allies of convenience. Nobody loves the Russian system. China is far more civilised than Russia in political terms.
Why all this death? What is the point of it all? Why is it continuing? We in the West have the power to bring it all to a peremptory conclusion. We simply have to place NATO troops openly and explicitly on the ground in Ukraine and in particular along the front line with Russian occupation. This will stop the Russians and it will bring this conflict to an end. It is so easy to do and it will save us tens of billions of US dollars in money or even more and it is not complicated and it is the obvious and natural solution to this mindless conflict. The Chinese will not object. China considers Russia as an entirely objectionable uncivilised force and a reluctant ally but contrary to the views of some conspiracy theorists and other people who think that all these conflicts and other things are related, China has no intention of invading Taiwan to seize the microchips to knock out western military systems to help Russia win a war in which China has no interest. China is well aware that the United States, with the biggest navy in the world, has three aircraft carrier strike fleets in the vicinity of Taiwan and those massive naval convoys are there precisely to prevent China from invading or attacking Taiwan and unlike Russia, China is a cautious, sensible and rational country that will not risk World War III in the crazy and lunatic way that Russia seems determined to press upon Europe. China is a country altogether more sophisticated and realistic than Russia, with a longer lens upon history and who understands that there is no value in military confrontation with the West and in particular with the world’s most powerful military nation, the United States. So we all need to rid ourselves of these silly conspiracy theories and forget the idea that China is backing Russia as part of some inchoate plan to seize back Taiwan. China finds Russia profoundly distasteful. China is not joining World War III.
I am getting tired of listening to all these “doom and gloom” scenarios from various mindless talking heads here and there and everywhere but many of them are in the United States, reflecting the perennial political machinations deriving from American divisive politics onto global geopolitics. Henry Kissinger, who just recently passed away, a controversial figure in his era, nevertheless understood one profound reality which is that global geopolitics do not revolve around American bipolar political axes. Americans sometimes imagine that the whole world thinks around their political divisions. But it does not. The rest of the world sees the distinctions drawn within domestic American politics as far less pertinent than Americans themselves do. The distinction between Lyndon B. Johnson, the Democratic US President during the Vietnam War; and Richard M. Nixon, the subsequent Republican US President who brought the war to an end, may seem dreadfully important to Americans; but to the rest of the world these two US Presidents were just two sides of the same coin. What seems critical and fundamental in terms of ideological differences within American domestic politics, to the rest of the world seems just part of a continuum of more or less extreme or unusual American foreign policy.
That’s why the forthcoming US General Election in November 2024, presumptively between Joseph Biden and Donald Trump, is far less relevant in objective terms than the vast majority of Americans might believe. The American point of view, although polarised internally, all looks much the same to the rest of the world. The fact is that the Americans, whether under Democratic or Republican leadership in the period to come, must act to bring Ukraine into NATO and American troops must line the Dnieper River to deter the Russian Armed Forces from further territorial aspirations. It does not matter the colour of the occupant of the White House; the strategy must of necessity be the same. Only then can we reduce, hopefully to zero, the number of shallow graves being dug for these Ukrainian heroes defending Euro-Atlantic values.