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Ukraine: Do Tanks Bring Peace?

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Arshad M Khan
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There is something quite unsettling about Joe Biden, our president: in a long political career, there has never been a war he didn't like.

He voted for Bush's Iraq war, and extended the Afghan war by multiplying US force levels. When Vice-President, he supported Obama's bombings in Yemen (at the behest of Saudi Arabia), airstrikes in Syria, even the bombings in Libya that included the unnecessary destruction of the hugely expensive system conveying water from the south to the capital, Tripoli. Exactly how that helped the Libyan people -- our supposed cause there -- is not clear.

No surprise then if Biden has been pushing the reluctant Germans and others to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks. Newsweek published a full list of countries on the 'pleasing Biden' list. A rueful Vladimir Putin reminds his people they will be facing German tanks again as they did in World War II some 80 years ago; except this time he opined Russians will be countering them not with their own tanks but by other means -- rockets one supposes. He was speaking at a ceremony marking the end of the WW2 siege of Stalingrad, now called Volgograd but renamed Stalingrad for a day to honor the defenders and the dead.

Russia lost a colossal 25 million people during the war through its effects in disrupting food production and supply, and of course in the actual fighting. In comparison, US casualties ran to about 400,000.

Exactly what the tanks will do remains to be seen -- there are only a little more than 400 after all. Perhaps, they could spearhead a thrust at the Russian line of defense that protects the Russian-speaking East. But the Russians won't be sitting ducks. Putin has hinted at an asymmetric response -- heavy bombing of cities perhaps or tank-annihilating rockets?

On a geostrategic level, the war can hardly be claimed a political success for the Biden administration. It has weakened Europe's effort for a tighter economic embrace of Russia -- a source of cheap energy for them. That has already seen a decline in Germany's projected growth rate. Putin, too, wanted closer European ties but all that is in the past now.

Instead, the war has thrown Russia and China together, now forming an axis with Iran. In fact, Russia has recently bought 1700 Iranian drones -- unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to conduct attacks against Ukrainian special forces and other military units, as well as targets like munitions and oil storage depots.

Needless to say, escalation in arms seldom brings peace. It is de-escalation and talks, not tanks, that is the logical path to ending the conflict. Always the unimaginable looms in the background. In this case, the nightmare of a miscalculation leading to a nuclear exchange.

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
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