I hope those nudging Nigeria in the direction of conflict are following events unfolding in the Eastern European nation of Ukraine, where a country of just 44.13 million people (2020 estimates) is locked in a battle of survival against its much bigger neighbour, Russia, which has a population of 144.1 million.
Daily, we have been inundated with newsreels and reports of the death and destruction Russia has been wreaking on the country that was once part of the former monolithic Soviet Union, which imploded on December 26, 1991. Incidentally, during the almost 70 years that Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, it was one of the most advanced of the republics, producing most of the wheat and other grains that sustained the Union, while it was also highly industrialised compared to many other republics, which explains why the Kremlin went to extraordinary lengths to keep the country under its orbit. One of the ways was a deliberate attempt to dilute the native population by flooding Ukraine with native Russians, which is why there is such a large percentage of Russian speakers in the country.
Before the implosion of the Soviet Union some 31 years ago, Russia had viewed Ukraine as a bulwark to a possible invasion from NATO during the height of the cold war between East and West. The sad events unfolding 4,874.69 kilometres away should be enough to open the eyes of would-be warmongers in Nigeria to the realities of warfare, which usually leaves in its wake sorrow, tears, blood, destruction and death.
Of course, those that are old enough to remember what happened during the 30-month Nigerian Civil War, which lasted from July 6, 1967 to January 15, 1970, are big time pacifists. During the two and half years of the war, there were about 100,000 overall military casualties, while between 500,000 and two million Biafran civilians died of starvation. No sane person should be praying for a repeat of such in this country, especially because unlike then, modern weapons are more powerful, and will consequently inflict more casualties and destruction.
In this day and age of digitalisation, one would expect the so-called precision munitions to be what they are called ‘precision’, which means that ideally, they should be ‘surgical strikes’ hitting their targets and not going astray, causing collateral damage – but we should also not forget that any man made contraption is prone to having defects.
This is why guided munitions can and do often go astray missing its intended target and striking civilian areas leading to unwarranted loss of life by non-combatants. Besides the ‘brains’ of the so-called ‘smart bombs’ often scramble and turn them into ‘dumb bombs’ making them go astray; at times faulty intelligence has often made even the so-called Western super powers goof big time in taking out targets.
One of the most high profile of such incidents occurred on January 24, 1991, when US forces struck what the Pentagon said was a biological weapons facility in the Abu Ghraib suburb of Baghdad, but which was actually an infant formula plant. According to reports, intelligence analysts had identified the eightyear- old plant as one of 13 biological weapons sites in Iraq. The four-acre compound had a pronounced military appearance, particularly buildings painted in camouflage colours, surrounded by fence and guard posts.
The Iraqis said the baby milk factory had been camouflaged since the eight year war with Iran in the 1980s. US war planners took no chances and bombed any facility that might be hiding germ agents. U.N. inspectors and U.S. intelligence later concluded that the Abu Ghraib bombing was in error – but the damage had already been done. But perhaps the biggest cock-up was the faulty intelligence that prompted the United States and its allies to invade Iraq for a second time in 2003 – 12 years after a coalition led by it kicked Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait – based on faulty intelligence that it had weapons of mass destruction.
Incidentally, strident denials by Saddam and the failure of an UN-backed team despatched to Iraq to search for them and which said none existed were enough to deter US President George W. Bush and his British counterpart, Tony Blair from leading another invasion in 2003. And after just one month, one week and four days of action they had succeeded in toppling Saddam’s regime, killed his sons, destroyed the country and eventually hung the deposed president for ‘war crimes’. The allied forces then stayed for eight more years during which not one single weapon of mass destruction was ever found, and yet despite all the heartbreak they (Bush/Blair) had caused the Iraqi nation neither man had been hauled before a court or tribunal of any sort to account for their blunder.
With this historical fact open to all, it makes me question some of the utterances of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with two of the notable being his call for the West to declare a no-fly zone over his country’s airspace, and the second being his claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be held responsible for crimes committed by his troops.
The whole world knows that these are no brainers – the west will never declare a no-fly zone simply because despite all their public posturing over their support for the Ukrainian cause, the bare-faced truth is that the country is not worth going to war over, which will certainly be the case, should the no-fly zone be declared. Both the West and Russia have held decades- old suspicions of each other but despite clashing over many issues have resolutely ensured that their forces have never come into direct physical confrontation. During the height of the Cold War they usually engaged themselves through proxies, thus if the US supported one side in a conflict it was very likely that the then Soviet Union would support the other side. Both would send munitions, money and even ‘advisers’ to support their proxies but never combat troops.
In fact, the closest they ever came to possible confrontation was the Cuban Missile Crisis some 60 years ago, but the US was able to get the Soviet Union to remove its nuclear weapons from the island situated close to mainland America without any shots being fired. And no matter how the current Russian military action ends in Ukraine, there is no way Putin will be hauled before a court or tribunal to face war crimes. So while I whole-heartedly admire President Zelenskyy’s courage and steadfastness in rallying his nation in the battle against the invaders; he should also realise that at the end of the day, he will need to make a decision on how much damaged his country can take because he is all alone in the struggle, as only support the West will give him will be sanctions on Russia, munitions, money and verbal – they will never commit troops or declare a no-fly zone!