Ukraine: peace, not war, needed

Sent On: 
Wed, 2022-03-16
Newsletter Number: 

Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Channel One at Russian state TV, during prime time on Monday March 14, briefly jumped behind a newsreader, holding a banner reading: “No war. Stop war, don’t believe in propaganda, they’re lying to you here. Russians against war.” This was extremely brave and may have dire consequences for her. There are also anti-war demonstrations in Russia which show growing frustration of Russians with the war in Ukraine that started on February 24.


Protest on Russian TV


Don’t believe in propaganda, not only in Russia but also in the West.


The consequences of this war are huge and worldwide. Dutch farmer Kees Huizinga has been working for 20 years in Ukrainian agriculture and is pleading against the war in Ukraine. Huizinga owns in the Ukraine 1300 hectares of agricultural land and has 2000 cows with 400 employees. Huizinga knows Ukrainian agriculture well and presented the following facts: 30% of wheat on the world market comes from Russia and Ukraine. 50% of sunflower oil in the world market comes from Russia and Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are also large food producers of many other products. Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt and many other countries are strongly dependent on wheat from Ukraine and Russia. Wheat prices have already increased with one-third and are continuing to increase. Also gas and oil prices are increasing. Who are the primary victims? The world’s poorest nations. If this war continues the consequences for the word food production will be lasting for years, Huizinga states.


A recent U.N. report expects that if the war continues, nine out of ten Ukrainians could face poverty within the next 12 months and the country could be set back by almost two decades in terms of economic advancement.


Most Western commentaries are extremely negative about Russia and its autocratic leader Vladimir Putin. The U.S. Senate condemned him as war criminal. Stories fly around about Russian ambitions, war crimes and losses. No doubt the war has caused much damage, but in war truth is the first victim. Certain, however, is that Ukraine is the weaker military party, but it has the overhand in social media in the West, generating much sympathy and support from the West.


Certain also is that this war is strengthening nationalist feelings, first of all in Ukraine but also in Russia and this is deepening divisions. The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is supporting Vladimir Putin with extremely inflammatory nationalist-religious language. In history we have often seen religious leaders in autocratically ruled countries moving close to the leaders in these countries which doesn’t foster confidence in their messages. Putin is using similar nationalist religious language which helps to mobilize a large segment of the Russian population.


The war has stirred up anti-Russian feelings in former Eastern European countries as Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. These are former communist countries that now belong to the EU and NATO.The Prime Ministers of these countries travelled on March 15 by train to Kiev to demonstrate their solidarity with Ukraine and told the Ukrainians “you are fighting for our freedom.”


Sentiments as these are fully understandable but do not help. It is in no one’s interest that the war continues. Countries would do much better to advocate dialogue. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has, since the war started, repeatedly been pleading for NATO imposing a no-fly-zone over Ukraine. I am glad this has not happened since this would certainly lead to war between NATO and Russia. Zelensky has also been pleading for a rapid acceptance of Ukraine as a member of the EU. This too is not going to happen. EU membership procedures can take years to complete. Zelensky and his government may have hoped for more Western support since the war started. Ukraine receives much support but not the two alliances that Zelensky had hoped for.


The US government is considering providing Ukraine with U.S.-made killer drones — cutting-edge guided missiles that could accurately target Russian tanks and artillery positions from miles away, NBC reported today. Perhaps this is done to add pressure on Russia on the negotiating table with Ukraine, but this policy may risk the West drawn into this war with disastrous consequences.

The war is sadly the result of clashing ideologies. After the defeat of Nazi-Germany the great powers at the time agreed to divide Europe in spheres of influences, a Russian sphere of influence and an American sphere of influence. The stand off between the two power blocks resulted in the cold war. I was at the time a member in the Dutch Christian Democratic Youth movement and heard many people stirring up fear against the Soviet Union, not much unlike stories today that Russia could march into Europe if it is not stopped in Ukraine. This fearmongering at the time was totally unrealistic and so is it today. Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine shows how hard it is for Russia to conquer the Ukraine, let alone that they would be able to conquer Europe with conventional weapons.


Countries of the EU have 2,4 million armed forces with Russia 1,48 million.  Russia’s main military advantage is that it has nuclear weapons, but they know well that nuclear weapons will be destructive for all parties involved.


The Soviet Union collapsed because of its economic woes. Russia today has a Gross National Income (GNI) that is roughly equal to that of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg combined. Germany, France, Italy and the UK each have a larger GNI than Russia. The U.S. economy is 14 times larger than the Russian economy. The economic boycott that countries advocate against Russia will truly hurt Russian economy but with it, it will also hurt numerous other countries that depend on Russian wheat and other products. This is not a country that is capable to threaten Europe militarily.


The best analysis I have seen thus far comes from John J. Mearsheimer, an American political scientist and international relations scholar, who belongs to the realist school of thought. Mearsheimer believes that “the need for security, and ultimately for survival, makes states aggressive power maximizers. States do not cooperate, except during temporary alliances, but constantly seek to diminish their competitors' power and to enhance their own.”


Mearsheimer calls this war disaster and argues that the West is primary responsible for this. In April 2006 the decision was made to make Ukraine and Georgia part of NATO. The Russians said at the time that this is unacceptable. The 2008 war with Georgia was precisely about Georgia wishing to become part of NATO. The purpose was also to integrate Ukraine in the EU and turn Ukraine into a pro-Western country. The Russians made it clear that this was not going to happen. This led to major crises in 2014 and 2021 and the war that is taking place now.


The US supported in 2014 a coup d’état in the Ukraine overthrowing a pro-Russian leading and replacing him by a pro-US president. This resulted in the Crimean war that made Ukraine loose Crimea and incited civil war in Eastern Ukraine.


Many leaders in the West claimed that Russia had nothing to fear of becoming a member of NATO. Ukraine is de jure not a member but de facto it is since the West started arming the Ukrainians and providing military support. The West was also forging ever closer diplomatic ties with Ukraine, and this pushed the Russians to the boiling point which made the Russians invade Ukraine on February 24.


This war is all about NATO expansion. Russia has repeated said that they see NATO expansion as an existential threat. This is the opposite from the efforts of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan that resulted in the INF treaty in 1987 by which the Soviets eliminated about 1,500 medium-range missiles from Europe and the United States removed nearly half that number. This was an opportunity to reduce the risks of a nuclear war and work towards a Russian-European integration. In 2020 we published the report “The Worldwide Threat of Nuclear Weaponry.” Nuclear weaponry is, with climate change, the existential threat that our planet is facing and thus we need to work towards reducing these threats, not increasing these threats! That needs dialogue and cooperation, not war!


Mearsheimer states that the West created the story that Putin is the aggressor. He is said to want to recreate the Soviet Union. Mearsheimer disagrees. Before 2014 nobody argued that Putin was aggressive.  Putin never said that he wants to create a greater Russia or integrate Ukraine in Russia. He might think this, but he never said this. Putin, instead, said publicly that this is a bad idea. He does not have the capability. The Gross national product of Russia is smaller than that of Texas. The US is encouraging Ukrainians to fight, armed and trained them in the hope the Ukrainians can hang in. This is a very dangerous policy.


The Russians, Mearsheimer states, will not give up. They have repeated stated that a Western expansion to the east is for them an existential threat. They will crush Ukrainian resistance. This is how a great power responds when it feels threatened, Mearsheimer explains. They have put their nuclear weapons on alert. This is how serious they take this crisis. When the West starts winning and Russians loose, they push a nuclear power in a corner. This is truly dangerous.  


The Soviet missiles in Cuba were an existential threat to the US. Some advisors of President Kennedy suggested to use nuclear arms against these missiles. This is how nuclear powers can respond if they face an existential threat. Thus, this is a very dangerous situation. Mearsheimer believes the likelihood of using nuclear weapons is very small, but the likelihood does not need to be high to be very scaring because of the consequences of any nuclear war.


It is important to realize that the Russians have the greater resolve in this war. Americans, Mearsheimer states, do not care very much. The real losers are the Ukrainians. They already lost Crimea and might lose Donbas and other areas in the East of Ukraine. The economy of Ukraine has been wrecked. Its impact on world food supplies will be huge. The war is also driving the Russians in the arms of the Chinese, Mearsheimer states. This makes no sense from the perspective of the USA. For Mearsheimer’s arguments please click here.


We hope that negotiations between Russia and Ukraine will soon bring results. The war and any sabre rattling need to stop.



March 16, 2022


Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-Chief Arab-West Report