Humanity on the Clock
The Doomsday Clock is a metric that is published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This is an organization that is dedicated to reducing the man-made threats that put civilization at risk. The clock is the estimation of how close the world is to nuclear war. There is nothing magical or biblical about this estimation. It is a good faith estimate by smart, motivated people who think a lot about these issues. During the height of the Cold War the clock never got closer than 2 ½ minutes to midnight. In 1991, in a hopeful moment after the dissolution of the USSR the clock stood at 17 minutes to midnight. Today, it rests precariously at 100 seconds to midnight. Considering the most recent developments, I suspect it is even closer than that.
First, since the world does not do nuance anymore, let me state, as I have before, unequivocally, that what Russia is doing is a war crime. As I have argued, all wars are unjust. It is also undoubtedly true that Ukraine is committing crimes all its own, but our state centered media refuses to consider this or give it any coverage. Nonetheless, what is going on is a crime against humanity.
What we have seen recently is a series of reverses in Russian fortunes at the hands of the Ukrainian forces. This is directly related to the amount and quality of the weaponry that NATO has provided, in addition to the extensive training provided in the previous 5-6 years. Let’s be clear here, all this support has made NATO an active co-belligerent in this war. This means it is only Russian forbearance that stands between them and striking at such a co-belligerent. True, the Russians have shown more forbearance than the US or NATO, but they may yet be backed into a corner and make a tragic miscalculation.
Before the Russia haters chortle too loudly let’s consider the context of these Ukrainian advances. The areas that were taken back by the Ukrainian army were lightly populated areas to begin with, not the more heavily populated areas of the Donbas region further east. Also, there is some question as to the quality of the forces in these areas. It seems as if they might have been manned by militias from the Luhansk region, not regular Russian army units. Nonetheless, the Russians have suffered reverses, taken a hit to their morale and were not able to accomplish their goals on the cheap. That said, this high point for Ukraine may very well be the limits of their military power. Therefore, I still maintain the position that I took at the start of this tragedy; Ukraine cannot win without direct, US/NATO intervention in the conflict. In short, World War III.
What these victories have done is expose the Russian war effort as being inadequate. It seems they wished to decapitate the regime, install a puppet government, and “negotiate” a deal to their liking. In pursuit of this strategy Russia went to war by inches. Despite what the western press and Ukrainian propaganda tell you this is not anything approaching a genocide. It is not even close to total war, or even hard war. The Russians will now go to war by yards and miles not by inches.
Russia has called up 300K more troops and will be deploying them in the next several months. Before then they will escalate their attacks on the Ukrainian energy grid, as well as the transportation lines bringing weaponry from the west to the front lines in the Donbas. They will also likely initiate more indiscriminate bombing to erode the industrial capacity of the Ukrainians. This will inevitably, and tragically increase the loss of innocent civilian life.
The Russians have also announced that they will hold referendums in the eastern Donbas region. These have been labeled as a sham by the west, and they likely will be. Although, it is important to remember that these regions voted consistently and heavily in favor of more Russia friendly candidates prior to the Russian invasion. In any event, Russia will then consider these as a part of Russia and treat attacks in these areas as attacks on the Russian homeland. This exponentially increase the odds of a Russian tactical nuclear strike if these areas are seriously threatened, and it appears that the US will sign off on such Ukrainian attacks. If this happens then we are likely to see a series of radioactive dominos fall that destroys human civilization if not the species altogether.
Negotiating a Way Out
All of this is, of course, insanity. What in the name of God could possibly be worth the nuclear incineration of humanity? How then, assuming any adults enter the room, can we extricate humanity from this potential nuclear vice grip? First, we must recognize the one thing that Russia had to have: no Ukrainian membership in NATO-Ever! It needs this in writing from the United States. If the US had granted this there would have been no invasion. See here and here. There would still be the issue of the Donbas but that has been in dispute since 2014 and did not precipitate a Russian invasion. So, even if those issues remain that need not hold up a cease fire.
Such a pledge should be an easy lift for the US. Why does Ukraine need to join NATO? Why does an adversarial military alliance need to be so deep in Russia’s flank in a country with a deep, often troubled but inextricably linked history? To grasp this, ask yourself what the US reaction would have been to the USSR inviting Mexico into the Warsaw Pact. Is Russia justified in threatening nuclear war over Ukraine? No. No more than Kennedy was justified in threatening it over Cuba in 1962. It is all immoral, but it is what nations will do, such is the reality of the fallen world we inhabit.
There is no legitimate defensive need that either the US or Europe has in demanding Ukraine join NATO. It is an aggressive provocation of Russia, the same way the USSR provoked the US in Cuba in 1962. (Provocation being different that justification). If the US refuses to grant this, then it should be clear that they are not seeking peace for the Ukrainians but rather bleeding the Russians for purposes other than defense. Many will go on, and on about territorial integrity and national sovereignty. Therefore, they say Ukraine must be supported. Well, Ukraine’s borders have fluctuated greatly over the past 500 years, as have France’s, Germany’s, and all Eastern Europe-so what? Again, not necessarily moral but it is what happens. Why risk everything now over this particular border dispute?
Remember, It’s About Harm Reduction
It is Christians that are often accused of being pie-in-the-sky utopians. However, the language used by the war party (which is damn near everybody) is that of moral absolutes and black and white, good, and evil dichotomies (the reality is that it is all about cynical imperial desire). A follower of Jesus will be, amid wolves, as shrewd as serpents and as peaceful as doves (Matthew 10: 16). To that end, we must remember that it is all about harm reduction, not moral perfection.
We can grant Russia the one central thing it needs to satisfy its sense of self and security, without conceding the morality of any of this. The US can grant them a pledge that forswears NATO membership for Ukraine forever. We can then secure a ceasefire, negotiate the situation in the Donbas, likely not as favorably as if the US had done this before the invasion, but it can still be done satisfactorily.
This then allows for the ceasing of the slaughter of the innocents and the dialing down of the risk of global nuclear war, all while allowing Ukraine the space to prosper. While hardly perfect this represents real harm reduction for all involved, except the imperialist war mongers, whose feelings matter not one whit.
Now is the time to demand action by the US. Contact your elected representatives and demand a diplomatic solution. This can even effectively be argued to many war supporters. Now that Russia has been given a bloody nose, goes the argument, it is time to negotiate an end to the hostilities. It may be a losing fight as the clock ticks closer to midnight, but it is one that the followers of the Prince of Peace must make in response to the gifts He has given us.
Praise Be to God