Dangerous new phase

Russian President Vladimir Putin
AP Photo -
Russian President Vladimir Putin AP Photo -

THE BELL of Peace hangs in what is called the Peace Garden at UN headquarters in New York. Exactly a week ago, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres rang the bell as part of a series of events to commemorate the International Day of Peace.

By Wednesday, however, a dramatic war of words was swirling through the UN.

In a national address to his people, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the escalation of his assault on Ukraine through a mobilisation of troops – the first by Russia since World War II. He warned Russia is prepared to use all the means at its disposal against NATO. It was a threat taken to be an allusion to nuclear warfare.

In reply, US president Joe Biden, speaking at the UN general assembly, condemned Mr Putin’s “imperial ambitions.” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a special video address to the UN, laid bare Russia’s barbaric combat tactics and insisted his people will continue their resistance.

It is now clear that all hope of this conflict de-escalating is more or less gone, with only frightening possibilities ahead, including the prospect of a third world war.

Such a prospect is one which this country, and the entire Caricom region, needs to come to terms with and prepare for.

Mr Putin has issued veiled threats in relation to nuclear warfare before, much of which has been taken to be mere sabre-rattling for strategic ends. On Wednesday he said: “It’s not a bluff.”

Various assessments have indicated it may well be. But it does not matter whether Russia has the capacity to launch a nuclear strike on NATO and its allies or not. Its ongoing assault is dangerous enough.

There have been consistent reports of shelling at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which has resulted in damage and has triggered the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, to warn of the risk of “a severe nuclear accident.”

Mr Grossi was at the UN this week for high-level consultations on a proposal to establish a nuclear safety and protection zone around the plant.

But Russia’s mobilisation – which might see 300,000 of its citizens thrown into the war, and which has reportedly seen scores of people seek to flee the country and to protest Mr Putin’s latest move – is clearly no accident.

It comes after Russia suffered many recent setbacks in its campaign, including the loss of an estimated 80,000 soldiers and Ukraine’s stunning recapture of Izium, hitherto a major base of operation for Russia.

Though it is a sign of increasing desperation on the part of Mr Putin, the escalation represents a dangerous new phase in a war that, increasingly, looks set to change the course of history.


"Dangerous new phase"

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