The conflict remains fraught with the risk of escalation and the idea of nuclear war is being alarmingly normalised writes Andrew Murray

Recent developments in the war between Russia and Ukraine demand a new focus from the anti-war movement and a new push for an early peaceful settlement.

Ukraine has conducted a successful counter-offensive around Kharkiv, driving back occupying Russian troops considerable distances.

At the same time Putin’s diplomatic position has worsened. The Indian government has made its first critical remarks regarding the war and the Chinese government’s concerns have been confirmed, indirectly, by Putin himself.

This is leading the British government and its cheerleaders to claim that Ukraine is on course for victory and that the west needs to stick to its strategy of blocking negotiations while pouring in advanced weaponry.

That is short-sighted at best. A military victory by Ukraine – which Zelenskyy now speaks of as meaning the expulsion of Russian troops from all of Ukraine’s pre-2014 territory, including Crimea – will be the works of months and perhaps years, if it is attainable at all.

In the meantime, more lives will be lost and more of Ukraine will be laid waste. The wishes of the people living in the affected regions will not be consulted.

That is not to legitimise Russia’s invasion, which was as unjustifiable as it has been catastrophic. But it is to face the facts of the present situation.

Nor is the diplomatic position likely to change radically. India and China show no interest in supporting NATO’s sanctions, and nor does most of the rest of the world.

Besides, US and British hostility to China serves to strengthen ties between Moscow and Beijing. The new Cold War exacts a price.

All the while the conflict will remain fraught with the risk of escalation. This could mean the use of weapons of mass destruction – the idea of nuclear war is being alarmingly normalised as the conflict extends.

Or it could mean embroiling other countries, including NATO powers like Poland and Romania which are the main staging-posts for western military supplies.

And the economic consequences of the war, caused both directly by Russia’s invasion and by the NATO sanctions, will continue to be felt by millions around the world.

Certainly there is no solution to the cost-of-living crisis that does not include brining the war to an end.

So the key issue is not prolonging the war but ending it. Only Russia and Ukraine can negotiate their differences, and the British government should stop obstructing them doing so.

The outlines of a settlement remain what they have been from the start – a full Russian military withdrawal from occupied territory, guarantees of Ukrainian sovereignty and neutrality, and the opportunity for the people of the Donbas to express their own views on their future.

That will still be true however long the conflict extends. Stopping a peaceful settlement only serves the militarists here at home, who want to massively increase Britain’s arms spending.

As the Royal United Services Institute has noted, the figures being bandied about by both the government and Labour are fantastic. To be met, they would require tax increases of at least 5% or corresponding cuts in social spending.

This war is therefore already prejudicing the future of people here, as well as the much worse disaster being visited on the peoples of Ukraine.

It is time for a push for peace, challenging the warmongers in the British government and the media, before the war escalates to a still greater confrontation and impoverishes people across the world, including in Britain.

20 Sep 2022 by Andrew Murray

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