Ukraine is the newest target in Russia’s aggressive expansionist policy.
But since its annexation of Crimea in 2014, President Vladimir Putin has become an increasingly aggressive player on the international stage, rekindling the tensions of the Cold War era.
Moscow’s decision to back the pro-Russian separatists in the region of Luhansk and Donetsk alongside the Ukraine-Russia border could end up being the biggest military mobilization within Europe since World War II.
Unfortunately, war is an ever-changing part of our world.
However, after the end of World War II, war has been transformed in several significant ways that exert pressure on today’s current events.
The first is the lack of profitability.
As trade and prosperity rise, war and the need for conflicts declines.
Arguably, since the 1950s nowhere in the world has there been substantial border changes through the use of force.
Despite the million battle deaths of the Korean War, the border remained where it had been set from the start.
Israel siezed land in 1967, returned most of it and is still contesting the rest.
These are just two of several armed conflicts that were more costly than profitable.
Secondly, the argument that there has been a shift of casualties from troops to civilians.
Statistics note that war deaths a century ago were 90 percent military and 10 percent civilian. In today’s conflicts, many would argue that the reverse is true.
However, in today’s conflicts being at a far smaller scale than World War II, rapes, ethnic cleansings and suicide bombings are equally horrific but less devastating in size.
An invasion of Ukraine would carry a significant civilian suffering, displacement and deaths.
To most, the undeserved suffering of fellow human beings is unacceptable, as thanks to this mentality, war has remained a constant unwanted, unwelcome visitor in the attempt to resolve conflicts.
As Joshua Goldstein, professor emeritus of International relations states “We will always have the capacity to kill one another in large numbers, but with effort we can safeguard the norms and institutions that have made war increasingly repugnant.”
The rise of authoritarianism and nationalism threaten these norms, and that is why Russia’s actions are an alarming change.
It shows a disregard of international peacekeeping institutions, the global status quo, and the wellbeing of human lives.
Russia’s actions in Ukraine could be the first sign of the end of Pax Americana, a term used to describe the global stability of the last decades, in which all the major powers abide – more or less – by international laws and treaties set in the 1940s.
This is not to say the use of force to expand their influence or set up proxies is unheard of, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in the 1950s, the USA invaded Panama in the 1980s.
However, the potential invasion of Ukraine is unpredecented.
Some have argued that 69-year old Vladimir Putin is seeking to restore what he perceives to be the rightful place of Russia, in the twilight of his presidency.
In this way Mr.Putin also is securing his legacy and place in history by trying to turn back the clock and recover the losses from the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
However, by doing this he is endangering the international global order at a time where unity is required to deal with tackling of issues like Climate Change, environmental collapse, pollution and human rights.
On the conflict with Russia, Anne Applebaum from the The Atlantic wrote that Putin and his supporters are “people who aren’t interested in treaties and documents, people who only respect hard power.”
This certainly seems to be the case given the disastrous meeting between Liz Truss and Sergey Lavrov.
But how should diplomats and governments from democratic governments deal with counterparts unwilling to negotiate?
An equally hard line only leaves room for escalation and eventual war.
Whether forecasts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine come to pass or not, the conflict itself is a symptom of a much larger problem facing the current and next generations of diplomats and politicians: a change of the status quo that has dominated international relations since the ending of the Second World War.
Without that and an increasing decline in democracy, the rise of authoritarianism and a return to armed conflicts are all but certain.
Tania Chen is a historian, writer and political analyst. She is a graduate of Bristol University where she did a BA in History, followed by an MA in Historical Studies.
Her areas of specialization are China in the 20th century, International Multilateral Organizations, and the Holocaust and it’s representations in current media.
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