Not all support Putin’s war, but all can help deliver a solution

Osama al sharif
The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. (Photo: Jordan News)
This is a time for cool heads and wise decisions. The Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens the security of almost every nation on Earth. The longer this crisis lingers on, the more dangerous it becomes. So dangerous that it could eventually involve the use of tactical nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The call for cooler heads addresses both sides: the embattled Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, and the leader of the Western camp, Joe Biden. اضافة اعلان

A 21st century global war must not be fought; the deeply polarizing ideological principles of the 20th century Cold War world need to be bridged. A new Iron Curtain descending on Central Europe will bode ill for the rest of the world, which is also fighting a global pandemic and the effects of climate change.

President Biden will travel to Brussels this week to participate in NATO, EU and G7 meetings. All are aimed at tightening the economic blockade on Russia while increasing military aid to Ukraine. European leaders are being egged on by the US and Britain to make the cost of Putin’s war on Ukraine unbearable. But this war has multi-dimensional aspects that make it a challenge for almost every country in the world.

International humanitarian bodies warn that the crisis in Ukraine could drive more than 10 million refugees into the EU, something unseen since the last world war. The economic and social effects of this happening will have long-term negative effects on host societies.

And then there is the global food security issue, which is now nagging at the leaders of many countries, especially in the MENA region. There is no doubt that the food supply chain will be interrupted as long as this war drags on. The crisis is already posing challenges to countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, and Sudan, among others. The socio-economic reverberations of a critical break in food supplies will present a new set of challenges to the stability of many countries.

Added to this is the current fluctuation in global energy supplies and prices. This is an existential threat to most European countries that cannot afford to cut off Russian oil and gas supplies now or in the near future. Blocking Russian energy supplies to Europe, estimated at 1$ billion a day going to the Russian treasury, is a double-edged sword. Europe will not find a replacement anytime soon. Pushing Putin to the wall may force him to take a unilateral move to shut down supplies, which at this point  remains unlikely.

Putin’s military adventure in Ukraine has proved to be reckless so far. After almost a month, his military has failed to achieve the most immediate strategic goals and has only caused massive damage to mostly civilian targets. He is now being accused of using thermobaric weapons, in addition to hypersonic missiles, against largely civilian areas. The more civilians die, the more likely his country will face accusations of war crimes and demands for economic reparations.

This is why Europe must not isolate Putin politically. Over the past week, French, German, Turkish, Chinese, Saudi, Emirati and Israeli leaders maintained lines of communication with the Kremlin. Russia is a geographical neighbor to Europe, whether European leaders like it or not. The Europeans should never abandon the hope that a political solution could be reached that would provide Putin an honorable way out of the current conundrum.

Moreover, Russia’s security concerns must be addressed at some stage, once this war is over. Ukraine’s neutrality is an issue that must be tackled along the way. Ukraine must not be destroyed for the sake of an ideological showdown that goes back many decades.

The fact that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, the UAE, India and China, among others, have chosen to stay in touch with Putin should not be regarded as a bad thing. Russia is a nuclear power and a major supplier of energy and grains. The fallout if this crisis goes badly will be felt by most countries around the world.

The priority now is to draw a line between the US-UK immediate goals and the long-term national security interests of Europe as a neighbor of Russia. While Putin must not be allowed to swallow Ukraine or force it into a humiliating surrender, there are other routes that other countries must submit to the embattled head of the Kremlin.

On the other hand, Putin must distance himself from waging an existential war in Ukraine that would resurrect images of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which ended in the demise of the USSR as superpower. He, too, must embrace an alternative political path. Just as Europe is a neighbor and an economic partner of Russia, Putin must accept that the European entity will always be Moscow’s neighbor. If he fails to acknowledge that, he faces a long and costly war of attrition and his objectives in Ukraine will prove to be beyond Russia’s ability to force a new geopolitical reality.

The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.   

Read more Opinion and Analysis