Is a global war on the way?

This article is based on a story published in the Polish weekly newspaper Mysl Polska.

The Russian mobilization announced on Wednesday means the end of the “strange war” in Ukraine and its transformation into a full-scale conflict. In the context of the referenda planned for the next few days and the annexation of part of Ukraine’s territory by the Russian Federation, there are concerns that the current local conflict will turn into a global one. It seems reasonable to ask: are we on the verge of World War III?

Putin’s strange war

Vladimir Putin’s decision comes as no surprise. The only surprise is that it was taken so late. Of course observers and commentators do not know all the assumptions made by the Russian command before the start of the military operation in Ukraine. However, it would be absurd to assume that they were identical to the actual progress of the Russian troops. After the capture of Lisichansk, the Russians and their allies stuck in the suburbs of Bakhmut, losing their strategic initiative. In this situation, it was only a matter of time before the Ukrainians attempted local counterattacks. The more so as the Russian side has been carrying out its operation with limited forces, inadequate for such a huge theatre of operations.

The effective counter-offensive actions by the Ukrainian side carried out in early September finally forced the Kremlin to change its strategy. The limited mobilization ordered by the president of the Russian Federation today is fully rational from Russia’s point of view, although it is definitely too late. For Ukraine, however, it means serious problems due to the prospect of transforming the conflict from a restricted conflict to a full-scale one on both sides.

Scenarios for Europe and the world

The escalation of activities in Ukraine may become the starting point for several scenarios. Paradoxically, their implementation will not be a simple result of the forces and quality of the actions of the belligerent parties, but of strictly political decisions taken by NATO, thus de facto Washington.

Should the Western countries continue to provide limited military and economic support to Ukraine, there will be a gradual increase in the military advantage of the Russian side in the theatre of operations in question. This means that Ukraine will be pushed onto the defensive within a dozen or so weeks, and ultimately its defeat.

A significant increase in NATO’s military involvement in Ukraine, but without any formal interference in the conflict, will in turn lead to an equalization of the forces of the fighting parties. It could mean years of positional fights interspersed with periods of nervous, uncertain truces. This would mean being stuck in an undeclared war with Russia for a long time.

NATO’s military involvement will mean, however, a full-scale, global conflict with a force impossible to estimate at the moment. In this scenario, the use of weapons of mass destruction is likely. This is an extremely dangerous variant for Europe.

The fourth scenario is the extension of the Ukrainian war to other auxiliary fronts. The world war for hegemony would then be fought through a series of proxy wars, for example over Taiwan, Syria or Armenia. This would require the perpetuation of the war in Ukraine.

The last and fifth scenario is to bring the dispute to an end through negotiations. Although this is rejected in the information space infested with war propaganda, the parties to the conflict have still not broken all channels of diplomatic contact.

At this stage, it is impossible to fully assess the likelihood of any of these scenario.

European interests

Regardless of geopolitical considerations, we should consider the potential effects of the expected escalation of military operations in Ukraine primarily through the prism of our own interests. Unfortunately, everything points to the fact that at this stage there are no scenarios that would be unambiguously favourable for Europe. However, there are some that are less unfavourable than other ones.

In the face of the threat of global conflict,the first goal should be to preserve the biological existence of Europe. The second is to preserve the territorial integrity of European states. The third is to preserve as much independence as possible. The fourth is to preserve the highest possible material wealth of the countries and society. Defeating real or imaginary enemies appears to be a secondary goal, auxiliary to the basic goals. So is helping actual or imaginary allies.

In this context, it is obvious that the most favourable scenarios for Europe are those aimed at a quick ending of the armed phase of the conflict. Even if it were to the detriment of Ukraine.

Przemysław Piasta

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