April 11, 2022
JAKARTA – Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, we watch with horror at the unfolding crisis. Last week’s Russian missile strike on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, killing more than 50 civilians, suggests that this war is not about to end anytime soon. If anything, it is going to get even more brutal.
There is not much that the world, or anyone, can do, except sit down, watch, and pray. This is turning out to be both a humanitarian tragedy, given the level of death and destruction, and a human tragedy — given our sense of helplessness.
Political elites play strategic geopolitical chess-board games all the time to secure their country and border against real or perceived threats. However, this multiple-player game, involving Russia, Ukraine and the expanding NATO, is the deadliest of all, certainly in the 21st century. Let us hope this is the last one, as we figure out ways to end the war and learn from how this war began in the first place.
The death toll of more than 1,400 people given by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as of April 3 clearly underestimates the true figure. It excludes the recent discovery of bodies of dozens of civilians in Bucha believed to have been executed by Russian soldiers during their brief occupation of the suburb of Kiev. And it excludes the number of soldiers killed on both Ukrainian and Russian sides.
Every day we watch news of tens of thousands of Ukrainians, mostly women, children and the elderly, fleeing the war. As of last week, the war had displaced more than 6.5 million Ukrainians, and more than 4 million of these had fled to neighboring European countries.
The United Nations’ response to the unfolding crisis since the invasion is appalling. The Security Council, designed to prevent or put a stop to all of this, is rendered impotent given Russia’s veto privilege. The three resolutions against Russia by the General Assembly hardly moved the Kremlin elites. When this is all over, there is a need for a complete revamp of how the UN operates to make it more effective in preventing future wars.
Economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the US and its NATO allies have not forced Moscow to rethink its Ukraine policy. We doubt if the answer is more stringent and encompassing boycotts. Many countries are feeling the economic pinch from rising world oil prices and now, prices of food and supplies. Economic sanctions first and foremost hurt ordinary people, not only those in Russia, but also in the rest of the world.
Appeals for peace from world leaders have fallen on deaf ears. Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the current president of the Group of 20 wealthiest nations, which includes Russia, has been consistent in calling for peace before and after the Feb. 24 invasion. Pope Francis too has made an appeal to stop the war and is now considering a visit to Ukraine.
This war can only be stopped by those playing the strategic geopolitical board game, meaning the elites in Kremlin and big players in NATO. They have the responsibility to act. How many more deaths will it take before they know that too many people have died?
Sadly, the answer for now, according to Bob Dylan, is blowing in the wind.