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Tomgram: Rajan Menon, One War Too Many on Planet Earth

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Consider two odd realities of the Ukraine war in this country. The first is that a Congress otherwise seemingly incapable of agreeing to spend money on issues that would truly matter to so many Americans " like easing child poverty " has proven remarkably eager to repeatedly fork over striking sums in military and humanitarian aid to the embattled Ukrainians. By mid-May, such aid had hit $54 billion and another billion will soon be heading out. Yes, indeed, the Ukrainians deserve support against the brutal Russian invasion, but so, you would think, do embattled American children.

The second is that the war that ate the news when Vladimir Putin's invasion began in February " that seemed unavoidable if you turned on your TV or simply opened your computer " the war that every news outlet wanted to cover nightly at length with its top journalists or even anchors, is if anything, fiercer and more devastating now. Yet, on most nights, it's little more than a footnote in the news. Still, whether headlined or footnoted, it rages on, all too near the heart of Europe and " from the continuing overuse of fossil fuels on a heating planet to the possibility of widespread starvation across significant parts of our world thanks to missing Ukrainian and Russian grains " all too dangerously for the rest of us.

At this point in our history, such a war is a kind of madness, even if that madness has largely become a footnote in our lives. With that in mind, TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon (who was, I believe, the first person to reveal how the Russian invasion might induce starvation across significant parts of the planet) considers a subject that should be of importance to us all: How might the Ukraine war actually end someday, for end it must, mustn't it? On this planet at this time, it can't happen fast enough, although the Biden administration seems in no hurry to begin working diplomatically to try to hasten its end. Tom

Ending the War in Ukraine
Three Possible Futures


When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, I was easing my way into a new job and in the throes of the teaching year. But that war quickly hijacked my life. I spend most of my day poring over multiple newspapers, magazines, blogs, and the Twitter feeds of various military mavens, a few of whom have been catapulted by the war from obscurity to a modicum of fame. Then there are all those websites to check out, their color-coded maps and daily summaries catching that conflict's rapid twists and turns.

Don't think I'm writing this as a lament, however. I'm lucky. I have a good, safe life and follow events there from the comfort of my New York apartment. For Ukrainians, the war is anything but a topic of study. It's a daily, deadly presence. The lives of millions of people who live in or fled the war zone have been shattered. As all of us know too well, many of that country's cities have been badly damaged or lie in ruins, including people's homes and apartment buildings, the hospitals they once relied on when ill, the schools they sent their children to, and the stores where they bought food and other basic necessities. Even churches have been hit. In addition, nearly 13 million Ukrainians (including nearly two-thirds of all its children) are either displaced in their own country or refugees in various parts of Europe, mainly Poland. Millions of lives, in other words, have been turned inside out, while a return to anything resembling normalcy now seems beyond reach.

No one knows how many noncombatants have been slaughtered by bullets, bombs, missiles, or artillery. And all this has been made so much worse by the war crimes the Russians have committed. How does a traumatized society like Ukraine ever become whole again? And in such a disastrous situation, what could the future possibly hold? Who knows?

To break my daily routine of following that ongoing nightmare from such a distance, I decided to look beyond the moment and try to imagine how it might indeed end.

Current Battlelines

It's easy to forget just how daring (or rash) Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine was. After all, Russia aside, Ukraine is Europe's biggest country in land area and its sixth-largest in population. True, Putin had acted aggressively before, but on a far more modest and careful scale, annexing Crimea and fostering the rise of two breakaway enclaves in parts of Donbas, the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, which are industrial and resource-rich areas adjoining Russia. Neither was his 2015 intervention in Syria to save the government of Bashar al-Assad a wild-eyed gamble. He deployed no ground troops there, relying solely on airstrikes and missile attacks to avoid an Afghanistan-style quagmire.

Ukraine, though, was a genuinely rash act. Russia began the war with what seemed to be a massive advantage by any imaginable measure " from gross domestic product (GDP) to numbers of warplanes, tanks, artillery, warships, and missiles. Little wonder, perhaps, that Putin assumed his troops would take the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, within weeks, at most. And he wasn't alone. Western military experts were convinced that his army would make quick work of its Ukrainian counterpart, even if the latter's military had, since 2015, been trained and armed by the United States, Britain, and Canada.

Yet the campaign to conquer key cities " Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv " failed disastrously. The morale of the Ukrainians remained high and their military tactics adept. By the end of March, Russia had lost tanks and aircraft worth an estimated $5 billion, not to speak of up to a quarter of the troops it had sent into battle. Its military supply system proved shockingly inept, whether for repairing equipment or delivering food, water, and medical supplies to the front.

Subsequently, however, Russian forces have made significant gains in the south and southeast, occupying part of the Black Sea coast, Kherson province (which lies north of Crimea), most of Donbas in the east, and Zaporozhizhia province in the southeast. They have also created a patchy land corridor connecting Crimea to Russia for the first time since that area was taken in 2014.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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