The new cold war involves more than Ukraine and Europe — it threatens to encompass the entire world
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/04/2022 (287 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The war in Ukraine began with NATO’s attempt to redefine its position in Europe. It now threatens to encompass the entire world.
The precise reasons for Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine in February are still unclear. Was Russian President Vladimir Putin merely trying to pre-empt any effort by Ukraine to join the North Atlantic alliance? Or, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested, were his motives darker? Were they linked to efforts to destroy through genocide the very idea of Ukraine?
We don’t yet know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that the growing Ukraine crisis now affects far more than Europe.
Canada is affected directly. It has dispatched troops to Latvia, and more recently Poland. It is also sending naval forces to the Black Sea.
But countries ranging from North Korea to India are also being drawn in. Some, such as Turkey and Israel are attempting to act as intermediaries between Russia and its critics.
Turkey, Israel and Russia all have similar interests in Syria.
India also has interests in Russia that make it unwilling to join in NATO’s condemnation of Moscow.
North Korea? It has not adopted a formal position on the Ukraine war. But it has taken lessons from the conflict. In particular, it has been reminded that nuclear capability is a crucial deterrent. In the case of Ukraine, the only thing that has kept NATO from declaring all-out war on Russia has been the fact that Moscow has nukes.
It is no coincidence that North Korea marked the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war by resuming its provocative missile testing program.
This is not good news. For a while, it had seemed that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was willing to put off his nuclear program while negotiations took place.
Those hopes have since been dashed. In part, this was because South Koreans elected a new right-wing president who is not interested in negotiations with the North.
But in part it was the North’s reading of the Ukraine crisis: Might is right; nothing can outdo nuclear weapons. Why bother talking?
This is reinforced by a unique characterization of this war: It is blamed entirely on one man. Putin is treated by his foes as the epitome of evil. Not just a bad guy, but the worst man who has ever lived.
Hence the attempt to define Putin as a practitioner of genocide. It’s not enough that he be accused of encouraging rape and murder. It’s not enough that his decision to break the peace and attack Ukraine in February was demonstratively a war crime. If the international crusade to oust Putin from power is to succeed, he must be exposed as the villain he is.
There is a certain irony in seeing Trudeau dismiss Putin for the crime of genocide. Trudeau has also accused Canada and the Canadian government he heads as genocidal in their treatment of Indigenous people. Yet Trudeau is not demanding that the genocidal Liberal government be shut down. No one is demanding that Trudeau be brought before the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide.
But then, in a way, none of this is serious. Putin’s reasons for starting this war are ludicrous. NATO’s reasons for keeping it going are nonsensical.
The war gets bigger and more dangerous. The pressure points of the old cold war are being reactivated. No one is seriously looking for a negotiated solution. People die.
Thomas Walkom is a Toronto-based freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org