Farewell to Arms?

The Russia-Ukraine war is a stalemate at the moment. Last year’s counter-offensive by Ukraine failed but it didn’t pave the way for Russia’s outright victory. Western defence experts say ‘counter-offensive failed because its forces had too little time to get trained ‘. In truth some European countries now argue that it is time to negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine. But the merchants of death and the pro-war media would like to talk in terms of direct investments in defence manufacturing industries in Ukraine. They want war, not peace. The total defence budgets of 54 countries supporting Ukraine well exceed $100 billion per month. Current support for Ukraine costs those states less than $6 billion monthly. What all they want is to divert a larger portion of that colossus sum to oil Ukraine’s war machine. The bloody conflict, however, continues with sporadic missile and drone attacks on Russian territory, notwithstanding dwindling military support to Ukraine. Amidst war cry by the hawks in western capitals Russia and Ukraine on January 3 announced their first prisoner swap in nearly five months after mediation by the United Arab Emirates. Russia’s Defence Ministry said 248 military personnel had been handed over by Ukraine. And the Ukrainian authorities confirmed that they had brought home 230 people–224 soldiers and six civilians. The swap was possible through protracted negotiations by UAE that has cordial relations with both Moscow and Kyiv as claimed by the foreign ministry of UAE. For one thing UAE and Qatar are uniquely placed in geo-political gambling though both are conservative and authoritarian in their political outlook.

As per videos circulated by Russia and Ukraine, POWS on both sides appeared to be in good health. Not that it was the first prisoner exchange. Despite a lack of talks on how to end the 22-month war both Moscow and Kyiv have held many prisoner swaps ever since the war started almost two years ago. 2022 was a horrible year for both Ukrainians and Russians as well. Then 2023 was equally disastrous for them. Also, the coming years will not be better unless they agree not to disagree to make a deal for a lasting peace, the possibility of which seems remote. The global military-industrial complex won’t allow that to happen so soon.

At the height of campaign Ukraine was firing up to 7,000 artillery rounds per day. But by the end of 2023, however, Ukrainian forces were firing closer to 4,000 rounds against Russian forces’ 10,000 rounds per day. Warlords in America and NATO camp are worried because Ukraine’s stockpiles of munitions are running low. They say Ukraine will need 2.4 million rounds of ammunition per year. With the escalation of war in the Middle East, Ukraine’s backers, including the United States, will struggle to provide half that in 2024.

With Israel-Gaza war reaching catastrophic proportions America is in a dilemma as to how to keep its Arab allies in its fold while without jeopardising Israel’s barbaric military operations in Gaza. After destroying north and central Gaza completely Israel is now withdrawing some troops, hopefully to regroup them along Israel-Lebanon border where the Hezbollah is giving them a tough time. Partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from northern Gaza doesn’t mean Palestinians are going to get back what they have lost--- their tiny enclave in its original form. Nor will they be allowed to decide their own fate. Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called for a permanent “buffer Zone” to the west of the Gaza-Israel border. Deeper inside the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has already bisected the territory and besieged its major cities while avoiding a prolonged presence within them.

What Gaza might look ‘the day after’ war is still undecided because Israel’s regional and international partners–Egypt and the US–are unlikely to endorse Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Palestinians in Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The basic issue is war is not yet over. Nor is there any possibility of ‘humanitarian pause’ or ceasefire any time soon. At the time of writing US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting Middle Eastern countries showing his apparent disagreement with Israel about the future of Gaza’s Palestinians. But this much diplomacy of balancing act is not going to alter the ground realties. Peace remains elusive.


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Vol 56, No. 30, Jan 21 - 27, 2024