In a war for world order, Russia bombs Ukrainian cities

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Russia’s wave of attacks destroyed 40% of Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure, causing power outages and threatening millions of civilians with a deadly winter. Yesterday, the President of the European Commission described these “acts of pure terror”. The United Nations and other observers point out that attacks on these civilian objects are violations of international humanitarian law. The World Health Organization warns that Russia’s attacks on their homes and community services will put more Ukrainians at risk of frostbite, hypothermia, pneumonia and other illnesses – “a matter of life or of death”, declared its director for Europe.

That these atrocities against Ukrainian civilians are a deliberate and desperate choice by the Kremlin is reflected in the way its forces carry them out with whatever weapons they can find or adapt, including Iranian drones and anti-aircraft missiles. S-300. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov this week covered up Russia’s use of Iran’s Shahed drones, even though it has been publicly photographed and documented in detail.

President Putin’s expansionist designs, unprovoked war and now his attempt to bludgeon Ukrainians into submission all ignore the lessons of a predecessor. Eighty-two years ago, Adolf Hitler faced the British challenge of his invasions in Europe. During the Battle of Britain, he committed his own aerial war crimes, heavily bombing civilians in London and other cities. The bloodied Britons buried their dead, shoveled up the debris and supported their fight. Prime Minister Winston Churchill then fended off extreme pressure to negotiate with Hitler. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now defying similar pressures. We should support him.

The financial war

As Putin’s war drags on and winter approaches, a critical struggle is financial. Russia, with an economy several times larger than Ukraine’s, is expected to lose 4-6% of its gross domestic product this year due to war and resulting sanctions, according to Bloomberg data and an estimate. of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in August. These losses could be cushioned by the decision taken last week by OPEC, the cartel of oil producers, to cut production and maintain higher oil prices.

Londoners fight fires from the 1941 Nazi bombings that unsuccessfully tried to force the British into submission. (National Archives)

By contrast, according to the World Bank and other analysts, Ukraine will lose 30-40% of its gross domestic product this year, its civilian economy will collapse and nearly 8 million Ukrainians will seek refuge abroad. current UN data. Ukraine will need more than $3 billion a month until next year to maintain government and basic services – as well as help to rebuild critical infrastructure, President Zelenskyy said this week last. One of the resources for Ukraine’s reconstruction is the $300 billion in Russian central bank reserves that are frozen in the banks of the Group of Seven countries.

As was the case with Britain’s stance against fascism during World War II, supporting Ukraine is a basic investment in preserving international order and security against future wars by dictators – and nations must cooperate to share this burden. The unthinkable alternative is world surrender – to Putin now and to the certainty of more potential modern emperors in years to come.

It should be noted that Russia’s war against Ukraine “continues to powerfully destabilize the global economy”, including by increasing inflation rates around the world, according to an IMF report last week. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the costs to people around the world will include an estimated $2.8 trillion in lost global economic output in 2023 alone.

A disproportionate share of the costs of the war fell on Europe, which responded with extraordinary generosity. Traveling in Ukraine last month, I took a train through Poland, which is currently home to 1.4 million Ukrainian refugees, but we did not see a single refugee camp of the kind common to other areas. of war. This is because ordinary Poles have reached out to welcome fleeing Ukrainians into their own homes and communities. This is the kind of commitment to the survival and recovery of Ukrainians that all of Europe and the world must emulate, if only out of a common interest in future global stability.

The Kherson ordeal

Poland figures prominently among European countries that have extended their military support to Ukraine, notably with the European Union’s decision this week to begin training 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers in various of its member countries. Along with this support, the escalation of Russian air attacks on Ukrainian cities makes it essential that allied countries act quickly on their various offers to send improved air defense systems to Ukraine.

Ukrainians continue to reclaim swaths of their country seized by Russia earlier this year. After the collapse and retreat last month of Russian forces from the eastern province of Kharkiv, a potential new turning point is emerging in southern Ukraine. There, Ukrainian forces made slow progress against Russian forces dug into Kherson province – and Russia’s supply of its forces in the south was complicated by damage to its only railway line for that purpose, on its bridge across the Kerch Strait, which was damaged by massive explosions last month.

The focal point is now the city of Kherson – the only provincial capital the Russians have captured since their escalation of the war in February. Like Donetsk, Mariupol, Mikolayiv and other southern cities, Kherson and its residents have endured brutal violence for months – including, notably, the murder this month of a conductor who refused instructions Russian authorities to organize a public concert to show peace and joy in the city under Russian rule. But Ukrainian recapture of areas around the city now means Russian troops, estimated at perhaps 20,000, risk being isolated there on the west bank of the Dnipro. Russian officials have expressed concern that they could soon lose the city, which could happen with a sudden collapse, as happened in Kharkiv.

Putin’s nuclear threat

Putin now faces his army’s continued retreats into Ukraine and the political risks piling up at home with evidence, increasingly clear to ordinary Russians, that his assault on Ukraine is based on a web of lies. . Most obvious to the Russians is this: what Putin calls a limited “special military operation” is actually open warfare that kills their men in numbers that the government keeps hidden. This is demonstrated by Putin’s need this fall for a new conscription campaign that has prompted an estimated 300,000 or more Russians to flee their country.

Like Putin has done before, he is trying to ease his situation in the face of the threat of using a nuclear weapon. NATO countries must continue their careful monitoring of Russian nuclear forces to detect any movement towards an actual attack. Any use of a nuclear weapon would have catastrophic consequences – a fact that the United States and its allies must continue to make clear. Russia is deeply isolated in this war, with only a few dozen countries even abstaining from recent condemnations of its actions by the United Nations General Assembly. Ukraine’s allies should work through all diplomatic channels to ensure Putin hears the message that his global isolation would deepen to the point of guaranteeing his and Russia’s defeat if he detonates a nuclear warhead.

Eight decades ago, Winston Churchill and his battered Britain dramatically symbolized global issues by opposing a self-aggrandizing dictator seeking empire through war. It would now be fatal not to see our current moment and the role of the brave Ukrainians for what they are. The imperial fantasies of Putin and his allies are a greater global threat than even eight months ago. As winter approaches, Ukrainians are, to their own pain, the frontline defenders of the world. We must strengthen our support for them, knowing that this is how we and they will shape the future in which our children will live.

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