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Picasso's Guernica on a tiled wall

Originally written on 24 February 2022, the day Russia launched a full-scale invasion if Ukraine.

War is monstrous. And it creates further monstrosities that are hard to un-make. Those who were previously banging drums that could only lead to war seem to think that the monstrousness is news and somehow vindicates their previous warmongering.

No one who brought the current incarnation of the monster into being can escape responsibility. The circumstances that bred it were largely created by the US, through its commitment to potentially endless NATO expansion and its apparent ambition of holding something much more than the balance of power in the Eurasian landmass. And then the final responsibility for unleashing the dogs of war was Putin’s. There are no excuses for either side.

The case against Biden isn’t that he lied, but that he didn’t

Biden understood very clearly what kind of poker game he was playing, and what the immediate consequences would be. Those who had fun at the expense of his repeated predictions of invasion misjudged the situation. A Russian invasion is not a wil o’ the wisp like Saddam’s WMD, that a US President might think he can conjure in and out of existence as he pleases. The case against Biden isn’t that he lied, but that he didn’t. Knowing what he knew, he resolutely stuck to a position that offered no prospect at all of a negotiated settlement that Putin could accept. Presumably both Biden and Putin think that the present situation can be turned to their advantage. They probably can’t both be right. So some kind of war, hot or cold, will continue.

Russia is a piece in the USA’s China game. Not exactly a pawn, maybe a rook. There can surely be no doubt that the US government must see it that way, given the massive re-orientation against China that US strategy has recently undergone.

Whatever China’s immediate reponse to the crisis, it will notice the move and plan accordingly. Effective global action to deal with climate change will be impossible. Nations will not cooperate with one another on massive systemic change if they suspect one another of plotting their demise.

Our only recourse is implacable opposition to warfare, whether military or economic. For us in the UK, western Europe and the US, that means saying no to NATO expansion, no to NATO itself, no to eastward troop deployments however “defensive” their alleged intention. For Russians, it means saying no to Putin’s military adventure and the nationalist rhetoric that comes with it. For Ukrainians, it means saying no to demands that they “fight for their country”.

It goes without saying that Ukrainians have the right, if they choose, to resist invasion and occupation. But if they do, they will also be fighting for the government that brought this disaster upon them,  and for the non-existent “right” to join NATO. These are things they should be fighting against at least as firmly as they fight against the invading forces. If they choose to fight they will also, of course, be fighting for the US government. And in doing so they put all us in danger.

Just as surely as Ukrainians have a right to resist the invasion, they also have a moral and political – though not necessarily legal – right to refuse to fight.

There is precious little sign at the moment that any of us are in a position to stop this thing in its tracks. But stop it we must. And every little thing that we do will diminish the harm that develops from it.

Photo: Guernica Gernikara – painted by Basque artist Agustín Ibarrola, inspired by  Picasso’s Guernica and reproduced here on a a tiled wall in Guernica. © tichr/Shutterstock

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