Analysis: Conflict in Ukraine changes level and increases risk of World War III


The Russian attack on the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security in Iavoriv takes the conflict in Ukraine to a new level, dangerously close to the darkest scenario of all, that of a clash between Moscow and NATO forces (Western military alliance).

In Portuguese, the risk of a Third World War, nuclear as all sides have already warned, is inevitable during these weeks of crisis. If the hypothesis had already been reintroduced into everyday life after 30 years of dormancy due to the illusions of the end of the Cold War, it is now on the table.

In carrying out the attack, Moscow gave substance to the threat made by Vice Chancellor Sergei Ryabkov the day before, that convoys with lethal anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles sent by the West to Kiev would be legitimate military targets.

Obviously, they are. Russia is losing a considerable amount of armored vehicles due to the action of these weapons. The attack was a wake-up call: the Iavoriv base, a mere 25 km from the Polish border, is one of the presumed receiving and distribution centers for these lethal supplies.

Where the US military taught Ukrainians how to use the Javelin portable anti-tank missile launcher shortly before the war, Iavoriv is one of the most obvious points of contact between NATO and Kiev. It won’t be surprising if any of the dead are Westerners, although no one can admit that.

The move also coincided with reports that Kiev and Moscow may be close to pushing forward a deal, so it could also be read as a risk on the ground made by the Russians to keep the West out of the negotiations.

Had he attacked a convoy directly, the next logical step in the climb, the Russians would risk killing some Poles. The neighboring country, due to its long history crushed between the interests of Germany and Russia, which have deprived it of sovereignty several times, is probably the most aggressive member of NATO.

It was in Warsaw that the plan was drawn up to send its fleet of 28 MiG-29 fighter jets to Kiev to use in the war, since it pilots the model, only to be refuted by the US. That’s where the most insistent calls come from that Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for a Western no-fly zone to be implemented in Ukraine be heard.

Again, a no from NATO, based on the candid admission that such a move would lead to a Third World War with the world’s greatest nuclear power. Still, the gears of war don’t stop.

On Sunday, Polish President Andrzej Duda, a leader almost as illiberal as Jair Bolsonaro, Hungarian neighbor Viktor Orbán or rival Vladimir Putin, said in an interview that NATO should consider going to war if weapons were used. mass destruction in Ukraine.

He refers to the stories told by both sides. According to the Kremlin, the US paid for a network of biological laboratories that, of course, could only exist to make weapons of the kind to carry out the genocide that is said to occur in Donbass (the Russian east of the country). The Americans say that this is an excuse for Putin to make use of this type of weapon, or chemical weapons, which he sanctioned for friendly dictator Bashar al-Assad to use in the Syrian civil war.

Probably both sides are lying or exaggerating, but what matters is that the motivation is drawing. Under this darker lens, this Sunday’s attack was just an inexorable step. The most optimistic view associates the warning with the possibility of an agreement.

The confusion is clear because Russian military activity in western Ukraine was quite limited. There was an unsuccessful attempt to carry out an airborne assault with helicopters near Lviv in the early days of the conflict, and then only sporadic bombings. Nothing like the violence in Mariupol, Kharkiv or around Kiev.

The US has already deployed two Patriot anti-aircraft batteries to Poland. The operational status of this is not known, but one of the fighters or attack planes that fired on Iavoriv this Sunday is enough to escape its trajectory and cross Polish airspace for the clock to advance one minute towards the larger conflict.

There was a rehearsal of this in Syria itself, when a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber was shot down by an F-16 for basically licking the Turkish border at the start of Moscow’s intervention there in 2015. In the end, diplomacy and objectives commoners spoke louder, but there is no chance that Warsaw will emulate Ankara in its behavior and interests.

In short, everyone involved already has their narrative ready to act in a next chapter, and this is terrifying given that we are talking about forces that detain almost the entirety of the planet’s nuclear warheads.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had the book “The Cannons of August” distributed among all commanders of the United States Armed Forces, published that year by the American historian Barbara Tuchman.

The work summed up, concisely and brilliantly, how each factor in the crisis that led to the First World War in August 1914 moved like an autonomous cog in a great gear, ignoring the consequences of its decisions.

Rigid alliance policies, obsolete certainties, incorrect perceptions in the end made the world collapse in the great conflict, which only ended in the even more deadly Second World War 25 years later. In the end, both conflicts reaped something like 100 million souls.

It is not known whether Kennedy’s military read it, but in the end that sharp moment ended the president’s assertion: “We are not going to war,” he said, defying the uniformed machinery that was pushing Washington into nuclear conflict. In 1983, he would move again with great danger, though less publicity.

Almost 60 years after the Cuban crisis, someone should take copies of Tuchman’s book to Putin, Joe Biden, Duda, Zelensky and so many others.

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