End Game

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has entered its third month. Though I was following the developments closely at the start, interest has since flagged. However, questions are rising.

“14 Ukrainians including a pregnant soldier have been freed in the latest prisoner exchange with Russian forces,” apparently stated by Ukrainian sources as per the newspaper I read today morning.

A few days back, and I don’t remember the name of the town now, the Russian army reached close to a town they wanted to capture and opened up a path for people to exit.

Whatever happened to the good old playbook of reckless killing and pillage, I wondered. Is this what happens in a war?

But I jump the gun.

What happens then, I wondered, when I read about the exit path for people to leave the town.

Presumably the civilians go to the next town, wait for the Russian army to reach, threaten the town and its residents, and open up a passage for exit to the next town?

Or, perhaps the evacuees do not stop at the next town and simply seek out the nearest border to exit to another country?

But what is the big game plan of the invading army?

Is it to raze all structures to the ground?

Is it to rid the landmass of its present population?

Is it to pick and choose locations to join Russia, then withdraw, and hope nothing has changed?

What is the game plan?

Concern for civilian lives is appreciated, though I wish it was for all lives. Unfortunately, this concern seems to be only a patchwork attempt at face-saving. There are daily reports of civilian lives lost, like this one today, “Moscow has turned its focus to Ukraine’s south and east after failing to capture the capital Kyiv in a nine-week assault that has flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million to flee abroad.”

So much for rules of war, if there are, that both armies have to abide by. But, why could these rules not be extended to a blanket ‘no armed conflict’ rule? Would that work any worse than the present rules? By the way, did the Taliban sign off on them?

And if the big idea is to bomb the agricultural fields and vacant buildings and factories without any human beings, into submission, would it not be better to earmark a desolate piece of land, and the air and space above it, as the designated ‘war zone’ instead of inflicting collateral damage on the global GDP by destroying stuff and killing people?

The battle of Kurukshetra in the epic Mahabharat holds a lesson for all of us. The great battle was fought between the Kaurav and Pandav armies on the plains of Kurukshetra, about a hundred miles from Delhi. The blind king Dhritrashtra, too old and inform to fight, could continue to live comfortably in his palace far away from the battlefield, with Sanjay giving him a running commentary on the unfolding battle.

Where can this place be? How about Siberia, since Russia is one of the antagonists in the current conflict? Or the Australian outback? What about the Sahara desert? Greenland? The Amazon rainforest? Nations that have a score to settle would need to reserve the place in advance. For a fee. Since we live in a GDP-driven world, imagine what it might do for the economy of the host nation?

The United Nations will work out a cost-sharing formula between the adversaries in advance, lest that become the reason for another conflict. Hopefully they will be better at it than at preventing and resolving conflict.

But I jump the gun. Once again.

In my early understanding of the conflict, it seemed that Russia was concerned at Ukraine’s attempts at gaining entry into NATO, as that would bring NATO warheads to its doorstep. And that it had given fair warning that such ambitions should not be entertained. Leaving alone the argument about independent nations deciding their alliances and fate themselves, one wonders what Russia would do after subsuming Ukraine (assumed since it is the much larger and much better armed adversary). Would Poland, then, not become a neighbour? Would it then dislike having a NATO member on its doorstep once again and take suitable action? Would Germany be next? Is there any satisfactory end in an armed conflict?

But that is conjecture.

What is probably fact is that Russia has sent blind soldiers to Ukraine.

The other day, the US secretary of state Antony Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd Austin crossed the road into Pushkin Park in Kyiv, wearing their sharp business suits, dodging Russian tanks, for tea with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky among the elm trees. Later the same day, President Zelensky hopped over to the Ostannya Barykada, a bar inspired by the three Ukrainian revolutions since 1990 – the Revolution on the Granite, the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, for a drink in the evening with UN chief Antonio Guterres. Many other leaders are said to be on their way to meet him. Video calls no longer work.

Only the Russian troops don’t seem to be able to find him.

And I cannot seem to be able to find the reason for the senseless loss of life.

The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was recently reported as saying that “progress has not been easy” even though negotiators from both sides talk every day. I can imagine. It has only been 67 days.

Still looking for the reason, I looked up the stock price performance of two of the larger arms manufacturers. And yes, there are big corporations in America that are not called Google and Tesla and Amazon and Apple and Meta.

What did I see?

Lockheed Martin went from USD 386.46 on 18th February to USD 441.71 on 28th April.

Raytheon went from USD 93.37 on 18th February to USD 98.08 on 28th April.

In the same period, the NYSE composite index went from 16392 to 16032, while the NASDAQ composite index went from 13751 to 12871, both in the opposite direction.

The war started on 24th February, 2022.

I wonder how and when it will end.