Our economy, their war | Sunday Observer

Our economy, their war

12 February, 2023

The war in Ukraine should end but is not appearing to be ending anytime soon. It’s toll on the global economy though is incalculable. In Sri Lanka we have felt the repercussions more than most, for the simple reason that we were barely coming out of a once in a lifetime economic meltdown when the war’s bite began to be felt here.

Of course the economic costs to us are nothing compared to the human costs felt in Ukraine and in Russia which are both losing men and women — and children — in the war. All wars are abhorrent and obscene, but this one has been particularly well covered in the media. Does that mean that our sympathies should accrue more to these people who are suffering in Ukraine and Russia than victims of war anywhere else?

No. All wars must end and this includes those fought in places as far afield as Yemen and in certain parts of Syria. But yet the world could work at ending the war in Ukraine first because it’s having more repercussions all over the world, for starters.

Negotiating for peace or doing the best that statesmen can to understand the enemy is not an act of appeasement. So why is it felt that any effort to end the war is an act of appeasement?

People in Western countries are suffering as a result of the exorbitant price of fuel due to the fighting in Ukraine and the interrupted supply lines that have resulted. This is having terrible repercussions with people suffering very cold winters, especially the poor and the homeless. The homeless are homeless anyway it may be argued, but anyone who says that would be proving how crass he or she is. Let’s not go into that because war is serious business.


Why is peace or waging peace always seen as an act of appeasement? It isn’t, because claims of ‘appeasement’ only prove how incompetent the negotiators are. There are many ways to try and secure peace and there are ways to ensure that the party seen as the aggressor is not getting away with any hegemonic design.

President Ronald Reagan negotiated to remove intermediate range nuclear weapons from Europe. Was it an act of appeasement? It was not.

The problem is that the moment negotiations begin, there are shrill individuals or shrill interest groups that make the process very difficult by raising the bogey of appeasement. This is a very poor reason not to try to reach accommodation with the most difficult sounding of enemies.

There are also ceasefire agreements and so on which are building blocks to long term peace. But none of this appears to be tried when it comes to Ukraine. To face the facts, there is international consensus more or less these days that the Russians overplayed their hand or at the very least badly miscalculated when invading Ukraine.

So that’s out of the way really, because it’s felt that there is one erring party here. Even those who head anti-war groups such as Tariq Ali the UK based author acknowledge that the Russian invasion was a misadventure by all accounts because Putin had hoped for a sharp, short intervention that would quickly unseat the Ukrainian regime, but it never happened.

But that would mean that it would be easier to negotiate with the Russians without appeasing the Russian leadership because there is no way the invading forces wouldn’t be looking for a way out. At least the possibilities would be worth exploring.

However, the desire to negotiate seems to be absent by and large as far as both parties to the conflict are concerned. It means that escalation is the constant reality. This is terrible primarily considering the number of lives lost and the numbers made homeless and otherwise destitute, but when all the other global repercussions are concerned, the cost of this war is enormous.

But yet not many of the concerned actors seem to want to settle the issue. They seem to all be looking for escalation, unless somebody wants to correct this writer on that. This is extremely bad news not just for Sri Lanka but for countries such as Pakistan that are facing the effects of the twin problems of the pandemic aftermath, and the fallout from the war in Ukraine.


On the one hand there is the feeling that Ukraine is prevailing i.e winning the war. That’s not quite what it would seem to many people, which isn’t good news. That’s because even as commentators are saying Ukraine is winning they also speculate that Putin will launch another assault on Kiev the capital, even though generally this is seen as an audacious move that will obviously not pay off.

But the Russians don’t seem to care and are probably in the long game. That means the world, the Ukrainians and ordinary Russians are all probably going to suffer much more on the long run — but you may as well ask, who is bothered?

It doesn’t seem that the powerful actors on all sides that can do something about bringing the conflict to an end are concerned, at least to the degree they should be. There are also other reasons that short of appeasement there should be no stone left unturned to ensure there is peace. Not least of these reasons is the involvement of nuclear weapons. It is not to suggest that any of the countries involved would use nuclear weapons carelessly. But no chances can be taken, when nuclear arsenals are involved.

What of those who can prevail on all parties to try and work towards peace, such as religious leaders and so on? Perhaps a lot of those folk fear that they would be branded appeasers.

But there should be intelligent enough appraisal to understand the fact that there could be movement towards peace without appeasement. It has happened in conflicts before and it can happen again.

It happened in Serbia and later enabled the then Serbian leader to be brought before UN war crimes tribunals where he was found guilty. Obviously considering these precedents, all parties have a stake in ensuring the eventual outcome would not be detrimental to them even if a peace agreement is hammered out with regard to Ukraine.


But finding a way towards a peaceful resolution should never be ruled out or approached lightly in a situation of this sort. Anti war groups are vilified or sometimes ‘vilified without being vilified.’ That’s because their bona fides are questioned. But in wars of this nature there are genuine people who want a real peace — peace sans appeasement — because they see how bad the human costs can be.

Also despite the optimistic noises being made in some quarters, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Russian President Putin has been written off before as a spent force but he has, to put it by way of understatement, always managed to stay relevant.

Considering this context, how long can a ‘forever war’ go on? And at what cost? Besides that the long reach of the suffering, and the disruptions to people all over the world has to be factored in, along with the threat of nuclear war or the threat of world war three.

Suing for peace is a must and blessed are the peacemakers. No, peacemakers aren’t and don’t have to be appeasers. That’s the skill of the actors involved — to forge a viable peace without any hint of appeasement. It may of course be easier said than done, but at least there should be more than the minimum level of trying.

The world at this point doesn’t seem to be convinced that anybody is trying. That’s the rub and that’s what’s disturbing.

The costs to humanity are way too steep.