Ukraine war
Our silence on the futility of the war is not just immoral, in this case, it also constitutes a betrayal of the fate of hundreds of millions of people around the world Image Credit: Gulf News

As is the case of long wars, the warring parties and their affiliated media in the Russia-Ukraine conflict have painted each other using uncompromising language, making it nearly impossible to offer an unbiased view of the ongoing tragedy that has killed, wounded and expelled millions.

While it is understandable that wars of such horror and near complete disregard of the most basic human rights often heighten our sense of what we consider to be moral and just.

This same logic is underway in Ukraine. Both sides are adamant that nothing less than a complete victory is acceptable.

The Ukrainian view is fully supported by western countries in word and deed — as in tens of billions of modern weapons that have done little, aside from worsening an already bloody conflict.

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The Russians have a different perspective. In his speech delivered on the first anniversary of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the war as an act of self-defence.

“They are the ones who started this war, and we are using our forces to put a stop to it,” Putin said in a joint session of the Russian Parliament and Kremlin officials.

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) have themselves characterised the war using similar language. “We are fighting Russia,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

Narratives on both sides

The narratives of both sides, however, are so complex yet so polarised. To even attempt to offer a third view on the war, or to even approach the subject in a purely analytical manner immediately qualifies one to be ‘biased’.

Each side believes that its version of the truth is moral, historically defensible and consistent with international law. As a result, many reasonable people find themselves retreating in silence.

But is silence, in itself, an immoral position, especially during times of war and human suffering? It should be. In Islamic theology, it is accepted that “anyone who refrains himself from speaking the truth is a mute devil.”

This maxim is shared by most modern philosophies and political ideologies. Among many such statements addressing the matter, one of the most powerful assertions by African-American leader and preacher Martin Luther King Jr. is, “The day we see truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.”

Yet, there is no single truth on the Ukraine war that can remain fully truthful after being placed within a larger context.

The war on Ukraine and what happened before that cannot be justified. In fact, none of these acts can be analysed accurately or understood fairly, without considering the others.

A photo shows a damaged building after a rocket attack in Mykolaiv on October 23, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

A year after the war, more fuel has been added to the fire. Concurrently, very few proposals for peace talks have been advanced or considered. Even a proposal made by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, hardly a peacenik, was dismissed almost immediately by the pro-Ukraine camp.

High degree of extremism

When the likes of Kissinger are being accused of being compromisers, we can be certain that the political discourse on the war has reached a degree of extremism, unprecedented in decades.

Aside from the morality of speaking out against the continued war, or the immorality of silence, there is another matter deserving of our attention: The war is not only an internal dispute between Russia and its allies on the one hand, and Ukraine and Nato on the other. It is affecting all of us.

A comprehensive study conducted by researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Groningen and Maryland examined the possible effect of the war on household incomes in 116 different countries.

The latest study created a model for the future, based on what millions of people around the world, especially in the Global South, are already experiencing. It looks bleak.

Just the fact that energy prices could force an individual household to spend anywhere between 2.7 to 4.8 per cent more is enough to push 78 to 114 million people into extreme poverty.

Fate of hundreds of millions

Since hundreds of millions already live in extreme poverty, a massive section of the human race will no longer be able to afford proper food, drinkable water, education, health care, or shelter.

So, our silence on the futility of the war is not just immoral, in this case, it also constitutes a betrayal of the fate of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The war in Ukraine must end. It should end because, regardless of the outcome, long-term instability in that region will not cease completely any time soon; and because millions of innocent people are suffering and will continue to suffer, in Ukraine and around the world.

And because only political compromises through peace negotiations can put an end to this horror.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor. He is the author of six books.