There comes a time in any conflict when the casualties and deaths of either or all sides becomes so high that the prospect of a peace deal underpinned by compromise is deemed an act of treason.
The dead demand more dead and the living dare not defy them, and if a recent item in the Turkish newspaper Hurseda Haber is to be believed this conflict after one year has certainly accounted for more dead than any other in Europe since the Second World War. According to data claimed to have been compiled by Israel’s Mossad, so far 157,000 have been killed on the Ukrainian side dead and approximately 20,000 dead on the Russian.
If true it constitutes an eye-wateringly big Butcher’s Bill in terms of the lives lost.
Even if the above stats are untrue, and certainly the assessment of Russian dead appears to be low by comparison to the Ukrainian number, it remains beyond peradventure that this conflict has been particularly brutal with no sign whatever of anything approaching serious talks to bring it an end on the horizon. Escalation not diplomacy has been the preferred choice, with the hysterical demonisation — and boy has it been hysterical — of Putin and Russia ofa brand not seen in Europe since the lead-up to the First World War.
And, indeed, this conflict in our time is more akin to that slaughter than it is to any of the more modern conflicts fought since. The near complete absence of airpower and with tanks vulnerable as they have never been before due to the array of anti-tank weaponry that now exists, has turned the conflict in Ukraine into an attritional meat grinder, replete with vast networks of trenches and bunker and the air colonised not by modern fighter jets but instead drones.
The fighting around Bakhmut in the Donbass has been particularly brutal, with claims and counter claims of huge casualties been suffered by both sides. And most alarmingly, there are now claims of chemical weapons being used by the Ukrainians. The shocking and GRAPHIC footage of the Russian soldier convulsing until he dies below would, on first impressions, appear to be inexplicable otherwise.
The Ukrainians, for what it is worth, has strenuously denied that their forces are using any such weapons, but with the stakes involved and the Ukrainians doggedly holding on, we are reminded that in war winning is the only thing that matters.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has embraced the role of khaki-attired wartime leader with the aplomb of a man astutely aware of his place in history. Packaged and promoted as a latter day Winston Churchill, he continues to be held up as the embodiment of absolute good standing up to the absolute evil embodied by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the process any and all nuance has been sacrificed on the altar of unreality. There are only good guys on one and bad on the other, along the lines of one of those old black and white John Waybe cowboy movies that Hollywood used to churn out when at its historical best.
Russia considers itself to now be engaged in an existential struggle with the collective West over not only the dagger pointed at its heart in the form of NATO expansion up to its western border, but on its right to exist as anything other than a defeated foe whose decisions when it comes to its security should taken not in Moscow but in Washington, Brussels and London, et al.
This is undoubtedly the most significant conflict in Europe since the Second World War. And like that war its outcome will shape Europe for generations. It has unleashed ancient hatreds and produced new ones, with dead and the living in entwined in a tight embrace.
With a new Russian offensive expected to begin sooner rather than later, and with more and evermore destructive weaponry being supplied to Kiev by the West, it’s an embrace that grows increasingly unbreakable.
The author is a commentator and writer. his work can be supported here. You can also grab a copy of his book, ‘This Boxing Game: A Journey in Beautiful Brutality’,from all major booksellers, and his novel, ‘Gaza Weeps’, from Amazon.
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