Russia's invasion of Ukraine: After Kyiv's offensive stalls, it's time to make peace – Kenny MacAskill
Time was when war in Europe seemed unthinkable, but then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For a time, it was never off our screens and the land’s plight was on everyone’s lips. Now the carnage in Gaza dominates not just media reporting but political interests. Ukraine has almost become a forgotten war.
A Ukrainian summer offensive was eagerly anticipated by Western military commentators egged on by armchair generals. According to them, it would see the Russians rolled back and Putin either toppled or arrested and on his way to stand trial at the Hague, if not strung up on a Moscow lamppost.
Instead, winter nears, and the offensive has made very limited progress, if not stalled, with further Russian incursions in parts. Worse than that has been the cost for Ukraine, its army and its people who are requiring to endure all this. Western equipment may have been provided but it still requires poor damn squaddies to man it; amongst them, the carnage has been brutal.
Britain continues to spout the number of Russian dead. But what of Ukrainian losses? Reported figures are 70,000 fatalities, according to US sources as quoted in the New York Times. But evidence from other sources, according to historian Geoffrey Roberts, suggests a conservative estimate of 150,000-200,000 and some have even said it could be higher. Just as tragically, the Wall Street Journal reported that 20,000 to 50,000 Ukrainians have lost one or more limbs.
Partially fit men are now being mobilised, while many other young men have fled abroad to avoid conscription. The idea that Russians were fleeing military service whilst Ukrainians were all proudly marching to the front was always nonsense. Sophisticated weapons may have been flying in but the men just aren’t there.
The Jamestown Foundation think tank, connected to the American intelligence community, has suggested the Ukrainian population has shrunk from 30 million to just 20 million, which is maybe an underestimate, but millions have fled and of those remaining only so many can be mobilised, in a land devastated by war.
Russian losses have been far greater but the balance of power between the two states isn’t equal. As American military historian Michael Vlahos suggested, comparisons exist with the American Civil War in the contrast between the two sides. One larger, with a bigger army and economy. The outcome largely preordained unless the smaller was supported by powerful nations. The Confederacy sought British and French intervention, but they stayed out and the cause was doomed.
No wonder Ukraine’s Zelensky was doing the rounds of European capitals, pleading for increased support and hoping for American or Nato intervention. But it’s not coming and, with the focus now on the Middle East, even the supply of armaments is in doubt. A modern-day Western Front’s just continued carnage for all.
If, as former German Chancellor Schroder has suggested, peace moves have been obstructed by the USA, that’s disgraceful. Hawks pushing from the sidelines aren’t dying. Ukraine’s being bled white and its economy ruined. Peace and diplomacy must be pursued.
The absurdity is that the war’s trigger of Ukrainian Nato’s membership is now abandoned. The Minsk Accords were the basis years ago for peace and need resuscitating fast.
Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian
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