How to Prevent World War III
At the end of World War II, the United Nations was formed, but the inherent dominance of the victors in the war, wielded by permanent membership in the Security Council, and the power of veto remain to this day. The rest of the world lobbied to restructure the UN but failed. Consequently, the relevance and usefulness of the United Nations in truly dealing with a global crisis has diminished, expectations of it have been reduced and, at one point, its importance has been reduced to that of a society debate and a secondary show.
Other groups such as the G-7, G-20 and the WTO have emerged to weigh and organize global issues. The European Union was born with the hope of sealing the end of European wars. The end of the Cold War had the world eagerly awaiting a “peace dividend”, through which defense spending could be diverted to health and education. A series of proxy wars during the Cold War and wars between unequal adversaries caused the world to neglect to ensure that the risk of an encounter between great military powers was kept to a minimum. And now that risk has exploded. Given the current situation in the world, what is the best strategy to prevent such an encounter?
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NATO believes that limiting its security guarantee to its members and helping Ukraine only through financial aid, sanctions and arms deliveries is the best way to avoid World War III. NATO therefore signals to Russia that all non-NATO members are “fair”. So it makes sense that Russia would gobble up all of these countries, growing stronger in the process. Doesn’t that increase the chances of World War III?
It is a harsh reality that the only language a despotic, expansionist, autocratic ruler understands is power and the projection of power. Everything else is considered a weakness and answered accordingly.
A month ago, if NATO had warned that an attack on Ukraine would be militarily repelled, would the Russian invasion have happened? We’ll never know, but chances are it didn’t happen.
What could NATO do differently to project strength, rather than weakness, to increase the chances of ending Russian aggression, rolling it back, and helping Ukraine defeat Russia?
For starters, he should stop saying that NATO will not act militarily to defend Ukraine. Let Russia constantly evaluate and lose sleep over this. It’s not like Russia is attacking NATO because it hasn’t given up a military commitment.
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Is it even possible that NATO would take this position given that it has declared that it will not engage militarily? Of course it is. All he has to say is that given Russia’s barbaric actions, targeting civilians and destroying cities, all options are now on the table. Let the Russians understand what this means. NATO is the greatest military power on Earth, and in its efforts to come to the aid of the Ukrainian people, it should act as one.
Second, is NATO doing all it can to help Ukraine with military equipment? Apparently, that’s not the case. The window of opportunity to bring this equipment into Ukraine may soon close as Russian attention expands into western Ukraine. Is the window maximized to pass the equipment? Visible signs indicate otherwise, but I hope it is happening on a secret level.
Third, there is no reason for issues between NATO members to be discussed in the media. If a country’s spokesperson replied that the matter was confidential due to its sensitive nature, that would be acceptable. After all, the war is being waged against an extremely secretive, reclusive and deceptive adversary. Full transparency is not the way to deal with such an actor.
Fourth, there is a whole range of secret measures that can be adopted, and it is hoped that they will be used. Ultimately, a conflict is a battle of wits. Democracies, with their broad participation, creativity, and diverse opinions and capacities, have a natural advantage. While official actions and commitments are one thing, secretly many other things can be done. All possibilities must be exhausted.
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The Ukrainians bravely face an army much larger than their own. They deserve to get all the help they ask for. If they need MIG-29s, we’d have to find a way to get them to them. Is a fighter plane essentially different from anti-tank missiles? Both are military equipment. If the Ukrainians had a new stock of aircraft, they could easily eliminate the tanks and artillery taking positions around Kiev. Despite a superior air force, the Russians often do not venture into Ukraine, preferring to fire their cruise missiles from Russian territory. Additional fighter jets in Ukrainian hands could change the calculus of war at this critical juncture.
If Ukraine needs a no-fly zone, a partial no-fly zone in western Ukraine, or even a complete no-fly zone, should be implemented. It can be applied from the ground with appropriate military equipment, otherwise from the air. The important thing is to put it in place, to declare it, to challenge Russia’s ability to openly massacre Ukraine from the air.
The embargo on the import of Russian oil into the United States is a good measure. But the European measure aimed at reducing the import of Russian gas by 2/3 by the end of 2022 is weak. A faster reduction would come at an economic cost to Europe, but some cost will have to be borne if Russian aggression is to be reversed.
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Many European countries welcome and support Ukrainian refugees with open arms, led by Poland, but the UK and the US must be called to account for their actions on refugees that do not match their rhetoric. The UK has not eased its bureaucratic procedures to help refugees enter, and the US is turning Ukrainians back at the US-Mexico border. This needs to be fixed right away.
Therefore, the way to prevent World War III is to face aggression, not retreat from it. Those who wield military power must use its threat to deter aggressors and aid countries under attack. If this military force is not used to maintain peace and prevent aggression, then those who possess it risk losing this military force.
Mueen Batlay is CEO of Think Build Scale (Pvt) Ltd and a member of the Independent Economic Advisory Group (EAG).