Sadly, not many of our media pundits and politicians today have the moral courage to contradict our political leadership and the talking-head TV generals and colonels when it comes to the Ukraine conflict and the goal of total victory for Ukraine.
To this point, the war has cost thousands of lives on both sides because humanity, once again, didn’t heed the lessons of previous wars. Just as the ill-formulated Treaty of Versailles set the stage for Germany’s economic implosion after WWI and contributed to Hitler’s power grab and WWII, so did our gross failure to integrate Russia into a greater Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall help facilitate the rise of Vladimir Putin and his ambitions for another Soviet empire.
Current Conflict in Ukraine
As of today, neither Ukraine nor Russia has lost or won the latest European war, while the West and NATO, despite all claims to the contrary, have essentially become active participants in that bloody mess.
Recently, even Germany’s former chancellor Merkel and France’s ex-president Hollande admitted that their efforts surrounding the Minsk agreement were not only aimed at resolving the Donbass standoff, yet also at giving Ukraine time to arm itself to fight Russia in a future confrontation.
Here we must obviously further take into consideration the investments that many western companies had made in Ukraine during the Obama/Biden administration, including those involving Joe Biden’s son Hunter. A multitude of economic and security interests was definitely at stake in the Russia-Ukraine stand-off, not just Ukraine’s democratic ambitions, as many would make us believe. Obviously, it all came to a head in February 2022 when Russia embarked on a full-blown conflict with Ukraine. The invaded country was quickly and lavishly supported by NATO and the newly-united West under Joe Biden.
It’s fact that Russia ultimately bears responsibility for starting that war. In the process, it has caused excessive civilian casualties and vast infrastructure damages in Ukraine. Yet the West is also not completely off the guilt hook. It is steadily pouring gasoline on the conflict’s flames with endless and costly weapons deliveries while sidelining diplomacy that will ultimately be necessary to achieve an acceptable peace arrangement for both sides.
In fact, the West, with its diehard belief in a Ukrainian battlefield victory, blatantly ignores the growing possibility that Russia, if militarily humiliated, could actually resort to defending its newly acquired territories with nuclear weapons.
Ukraine Allies Under Threat
Given this dangerous stance by the US-led West and NATO, one has to ask the question of what a NATO-supported Ukrainian victory would realistically look like. Without a doubt, Ukraine’s infrastructure will be in total shambles (it already is), adding to the West’s fiscal burdens for massive and costly reconstruction.
In addition, should Putin resort to tactical nuclear weapons, the West may have to retaliate. What would that look like? With a world already impacted by countless other strategic and economic tensions, planetary warming, and social instabilities in many countries, should we in earnest risk further escalation in Ukraine to the level of mutually assured nuclear destruction, impacting the entire globe?
The ongoing war has all the potential to suddenly come off its conventional rails should cool heads not prevail, and diplomacy be totally ignored.
Could a Channel of Diplomacy Work?
Before we slither down a dangerous slope, I suggest that it’s time to open fresh lines of communication between Russia and Ukraine and let them confront each other with realistic goals for a peace settlement.
Demanding that Russia be forever treated as a pariah nation and that it withdraw from all the occupied territories without some concessions is unrealistic at best. To open a path to resolution, it would probably be feasible to make the Donbas region into a demilitarized neutral zone that, as Ukraine itself, could later become part of the European Union. Meanwhile, NATO might assume certain security guarantees for Ukraine.
Ultimately, peace must return to Europe and the Ukrainian people as soon as possible to lower the risk of a global meltdown. Then, the hundreds of billions of dollars now freely flowing into the pockets of western arms companies could be more wisely spent on rebuilding Ukraine and the lives of its battered people. Maybe the German chancellor is onto something by not readily caving to the pressures of providing Leopard 2 tanks to further bleed all sides of the war.
There is still a window of opportunity to stop the madness in Ukraine and build an acceptable lasting peace—yet it is becoming smaller by the day. As ol’ Marine General: Smedley Butler once emphasized: “War is a racket,” yet it can be stopped by awakened people, especially those who would have to fight it. So why are we still blindly following the false prophets of war?
R.W. Zimmermann is a former tank battalion commander and 3rd Armored Division Desert Storm veteran. He served as a warfare strategy and leadership instructor for the US military and has written Op-eds on various military and international relations topics.