Does 100 days of bloody war in Ukraine presage wider conflict?

One hundred days of fear. One hundred days of death. One hundred days of annihilation of cities, towns and villages.

It is 100 days since Russia launched its bloody wave of killing and destruction in Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine is not a war somewhere off. It is in the biggest country in Europe and is on the delicate border between the EU and Putin’s Russian sphere of influence.

The impacts on Europe are immense and growing. From the need for countries such as Poland to house millions of refugees to the need to urgently rewire economies dependent on Russian and Ukrainian wheat and vegetable oil. And there is the vexed question of Russian gas and oil which props up some European economies and pumps funds back into the Kremlin’s murderous war machine.

Sanctions and reluctant measures to reduce dependency on Russian fossil fuels are having an impact. But like the supply of weapons, it is proving too little too late.

As Michal Siewniak wrote earlier, the refugee problem is immense: 7.8 million people have fled Ukraine, mostly women and children and people over 65. Eight million have been displaced internally within Ukraine.

What Russia had planned a shock and awe campaign lasting a few weeks has failed. The capital Kiev has not fallen. But up to 100 Ukrainian soldiers being killed every day. The number of injured is not known but the battlefield estimate is that three times more fighters are wounded than die. Civilians are being targeted. War crimes are being committed.

The town of Bucha has become an emblem of the Russian barbarity but the savagery is widespread. There have been horrific atrocities. Murder torture and rape. Victims dumped in mass graves. People murdered and left in streets to be eaten by scavengers. Looting and arson by ill-disciplined Russian troops.

As the war marches destructively on, we are in danger of becoming hypnotised by numbers. To becoming immune to the images on our screens as though they are from movies about the Second World War. We have seen 100 days of horror. How many hundreds of days more must the people of Ukraine endure? How many more men, women and children must be slaughtered, maimed and traumatised before this act of aggression by Russia comes to an end?

The west seems not to have understood how much weaponry it takes to repel a foe like Russia which has no regard for the life of its own troops or for the lives of the Ukrainian troops, volunteers and civilians. Weapons have been supplied by the west but too little and too late.

There are glimmers of hope. If we have learnt anything from this cruel, brutal invasion is the people of Ukraine have spirit. The Ukrainians won the Eurovision song contest and they duffed the Scots at football. They face Wales this weekend. That will lead to split loyalties. Many in the UK will be rooting for the home nation. Others will want to cheer Ukraine onward.

But winning football or a song contest may lift a nation’s spirit but it will not win a David and Goliath war in Eurasia.

At stake is not just the future of Ukraine but the ability of the west to stand up to Russian aggression. It is not difficult to imagine if Russia succeeds in Ukraine, even in a limited way, that China will try to possess Taiwan. Or Kim Jong-un will launch missiles into South Korea or across the sea to Japan.

We are approaching a point where the delicate, difficult balance between east and west is at the cusp. Will it collapse leading to widespread war? Or do we have the strength to face down destructive forces?

That means more weapons, more diplomacy and more facing down threats. Making seemingly impossible decisions about priorities, weaponry and sanctions possible. Are our world leaders up to that?

How many more lives must be sacrificed. How many more people must be traumatised. How many more families must be broken. Before we give peace a chance?

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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5 Comments

  • My generation, the baby boomers, grew-up with the Vietnam war and John Lennon’s “give peace a chance.” As the first televised war it brought the horror of front line fighting into peoples living rooms and with it a widespread anti-war movement. The supply of weapons by Russia was a critical element in the victory of North Vietnam over South Vietnam and the USA.
    When the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the financing of weapons from the USA was equally critical to the Soviet withdrawal from that country. The soviets were forced to withdraw in 1989. In the same year we experienced both despair and euphoria as we saw on our screens both the Tiananmen Square massacre and the fall of the Berlin wall.
    1991 saw the end of the cold war. For a time there was talk of a new era of peace – the post WW2 Pax Americana to rival that of the Pax Britannica in the century from Waterloo to WW1 and a United Nations that would finally be able to oversee the end of aggressive wars. It was not to be with the break-up of Yugoslavia and wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and many more.
    We must rebuild the foundations of that hoped for peace on stronger ground. It needs to bring together the Western democracies in Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia around a shared commitment to the principles of the UN charter; and be self-evidently in the interests of all countries that aspire to improving the lot of their populations through the implementation of Universal human rights. We may never be free of wars, but the effort to bring to an end military solutions to disputes and the rejection of the Wilhelminism gospel of iron should never end.

  • George Thomas 4th Jun '22 - 10:09am

    “We must rebuild the foundations of that hoped for peace on stronger ground. It needs to bring together the Western democracies in Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia…”

    Is there a Western democracy not financially reliant on fossil fuels, questionable foreign states or both? Londongrad may be shutting down but it’s still very much open to other countries who are still supporting Russia.

  • George,

    this is the account of a man from Mariupol The story of a Mariupol resident who lost his eye and family contrasting his experience of Russia with his travels through Western democracies in Latvia, Poland and ultimately Greece. This is how International peace and cooperation will be built. By the way human beings in need of help, particularly refugees displaced by conflict, are treated.

  • William Francis 4th Jun '22 - 10:21pm

    @John Walker.

    The legacies of empire are Indeed to blame for this war. To be more precise the legacies of the Tsarist and Soviet empires.

    Putin has repeatedly said Ukraine is not a real country, RIA Novosti is abound with irrendentism and russification is already happening in Russian occupied Ukraine.

    We should support Ukraine as long as it wants to achieve the peace it wants.

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