The West must face reality


IT was going to happen. The honest, genuine folks, knew very well that Ukraine would not win a war against Russia.

Fareed Zakaria of Cable News Network (CNN) is amongst…


IT was going to happen. The honest, genuine folks, knew very well that Ukraine would not win a war against Russia.

Fareed Zakaria of Cable News Network (CNN) is amongst the people who knew.

Back in 2014, Fareed sat down with the famous New York Times columnist, Bret Stephens, in New York, to discuss Bret’s then new book “America In Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder”. In their exchange, Fareed argued that the West sending troops to Ukraine to fight Russia, after Putin invaded Crimea, would have been disastrous.

Today, Fareed sings a different tune. He supports the West’s involvement in Ukraine as shown in his Washington Post column this past week and many times over the past two years.

It is March 2024 now, and as the Ukraine-Russia war that began in February 2022 rages on, one thing is very clear, Ukraine is not winning the war.

Ukraine losing the war has prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to say that the deployment of Western troops in Ukraine cannot be ruled out.

It was a bold statement from one of the very important, indispensable statesmen in the European region, Macron. Other European and NATO leaders pushed back though, as they judged Macron’s statement ill-thought.

Zakaria agrees with Macron. In his latest column he writes, “French President Emmanuel Macron is surely right that the central fact that must guide Western strategy is that Putin cannot win. If that means greater Western involvement, even military forces of some kind on the ground, that’s better than watching Russian aggression succeed.” Amazing!

It’s not difficult to comprehend why Macron made these comments. For Western leaders and policy makers, and many other Westerners, it’s very hard to swallow that Ukraine is losing the war.

The sanctions imposed on Russia are not working. Fareed writes, “the Russian economy has withstood Western sanctions far better than most predicted. Its gross domestic product grew at over 3 percent last year, and now inflation, which reached around 18 percent in early 2022, seems to be steadying at about 7.5 percent. Russia’s largest bank, state-owned Sberbank, recently announced that profits last year, fueled by a mortgage boom, surged more than fivefold to their highest ever levels.”

But really, didn’t Western policymakers and intellectuals  know that they were not going to win a war against Russia? Surely they must have anticipated that defeat was the destiny.

Aid, in the form of military aid, financial aid, and humanitarian aid, was not going to be enough to help Ukraine win.

Putin has said that the West deploying troops in Ukraine would be a significant escalation. He’s correct.  It would certainly intensify the war. And the chances of World War III occurring would increase significantly.

Some people argue that Putin would not use nuclear weapons. Are they sure about that? The fact is they cannot be sure, because they do not know what goes on in Putin’s mind.

So whereto from here?

Pope Francis has provoked outrage after saying that Ukrainians should have “the courage to raise the white flag” and be open to peace talks with Russia.

Responding to Pope’s comments, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said “Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags,”.

According to the AP,  Vatican diplomats are now diffusing the outrage.

But then, well, the Pope was being realistic. Every honest person knows he was right.

According to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), most Europeans think Ukraine will not win the war against Russia, and most believe a “compromise settlement” is what will end the war.

So, Pope’s views are supported by many in Europe. Yet, the Pope has had to backtrack after a storm of criticism for his comments from Western capitals.

The  way forward is negotiation. And Ukraine must face the reality that it won’t get everything that it wants in the negotiation. Russia should accept the reality that it won’t get everything it wants too.

Before his death last November, Dr Henry Kissinger  wanted negotiations pursued.

I supported Kissinger’s stance and his wishes for a negotiated settlement. He thought China’s involvement in the negotiations would be good – which I supported too.

There are very limited options in this war. Also, It mustn’t be forgotten that the West itself is to blame for the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Any rational, unbiased person knows that.

I believe the West must lead the effort in finding a solution in the Ukraine-Russia war problem. A permanent war is not in the interest of Ukraine, of Russia, of Europe, and of the world. But, it’s very important to emphasize that such a step to a peace agreement would mean that there must be recognition of Russia’s interests.

Ukraine can no longer be what it was before February 2022, and Western political leaders and policymakers must face up to that reality. The West will not achieve total influence over Ukraine. It’s not practical. What the West should look for at this point, is what Kissinger had recommended; a settlement where both Russia and the West would have “some influence” on Ukraine.

There is a lot of support for Russia in Africa

Another reality the West must face, is the widespread support for Russia in Africa. Bloomberg highlighted this not long ago, thanks in part, to Russia’s free grain to Africa.

Support for Russia is a challenge for the West. Much work will need to be done by the West to win the hearts and minds of millions of Africans. Could be work on diplomatic, and trade ties.

For Africans, it’s important to embrace democracy, freedom of speech, and building  working economic and political institutions that enforce good governance. A balanced foreign policy approach is key for Africans.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky wants to visit South Africa and we must welcome him. When it comes to the battles of super-powers we must avoid picking sides.

Now in closing, I have two questions: does Macron understand how disastrous the consequences of sending troops to Ukraine would be? And why is Pope Francis hounded for his sensible “white flag” comments? PM


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