By Raffique Shah
February 28, 2022
I told everybody who asked my opinion on the likelihood of war, of Vladimir Putin’s massive military force positioned close to Russia’s boundaries with Ukraine storming into the latter’s territory in a bid to re-draw the maps for that part of the world, that was unlikely.
Speaking more from my heart than my head, I suppose, I posited that “nobody wants a war”—not now, not ever. Wars are costly, bloody affairs that wipe out of existence entire generations of mostly young people.
It is often said that old men plan and decide on whether or not there will be war. They then send the young to endure the hell that war unleashes while they stay far from the theatres of blood, gore, death and destruction. In fact, in today’s high-tech world, the warmongers can access live, real-time video-feeds from the comfort of their office suites or even their homes, watching other people’s children fight and die in the names of countries that are mostly indifferent, if not downright ungrateful for the sacrifices they were ready to make, and in many instances did make, for some greater good that will forever remain undefined.
As the world shook its chronically confused head, trying to clear the fog of Covid that seemed set on suffocating most of mankind with its variants, and other dangerous elements—global warming, for instance—that threaten man’s existence, we came face-to-face with the prospect of war looming in Europe. Comrade Vladimir Putin, who clearly enjoyed too much mischief time while other people fought off Covid, had quietly massed a huge army along Russia’s extensive border with a country that was, before the year 2000, a constituent part of the Soviet Union before breaking away to re-emerge as Ukraine.
This Ukraine is a mass of confusion by itself that bewilders me, hence it will confuse readers should I try to explain why Russia treats with it as the proverbial “bobolee”, breaking and entering into its territories seemingly at will, certainly back in 2014, and since then, on a regular basis. Why Putin chose to rant and rave and misbehave at this point, to declare his designs (to disarm the country, he says), and just what role the ethnic Belarus play is tied into centuries of politics that interest few people or states, except European countries that belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a military alliance that has little practical value today.
A subtle calm preceded the storm that was to come last week. Comrade Vlad threatened fire and brimstone if America and the European Union were to bring NATO into the fray. Also, for not-so-comic relief, Comrade Zelenskyy spoke of Ukraine’s entry into the EU and joining NATO.
Vlady, deciding to up the ante, seized the moment as Comrade Lenin would have exhorted him to do, started rolling his tanks into Ukraine, carrying out a threat that nobody believed he would. I certainly did not anticipate such a move that was uncalled for, since by having his troops and hardware at the gates to Ukraine that was unnerving enough to give him the upper hand.
For some time now, I have watched and listened to Vlad, and I find he sounds and looks more like Donald Trump as time progresses. This is by no means a compliment but an insult to someone of Vlad’s stature who was able to bring a dying Russia back to life in a relatively short time following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The giant state was able to shed its communist armour and revamp its immense resources and industrial base and actually look futuristic. In technology, Russia started ranking with the best in the world and while there remained concerns about the dubious roles of the many oligarchs who were commissioned to resurrect the country’s economy, soon Russia soared.
By the year 2000, unlike America, it fought no wars, modernised its housing and education systems, and was once more taking its place among the most powerful nations on earth. And, Vlady was the man. He led with a stern KGB face, ample advisers and a mass of personal energy. In spite of the best efforts of The West to push back Russia’s clock, onward came the modern giant until now.
I could not believe it when I saw his armour, his air force and other heavy weapons moving into Ukraine. Say what you might about not intending to shed the blood of innocent citizens, war is war. As a trained soldier, I know of no war that was bloodless. Once those heavy tanks and artillery opened fire on Ukraine, the blood that flowed, the corpses that followed, the destruction of houses, churches and businesses were on Vlady’s hand.
Worse for him, Ukrainians are fighting back. Plan as you might, wars go any-which-way.
Vlady’s head may well be on the chopping block before this war is over.