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We’re All Soldiers in This War

Summary

It now appears that Vladimir Putin greatly overestimated his military might or underestimated Ukraine’s.  The answer is likely both. Ukraine demonstrates remarkable prowess and adaptability against what many thought a Russian juggernaut.  Their skill in fighting in small units, moving […]

It now appears that Vladimir Putin greatly overestimated his military might or underestimated Ukraine’s.  The answer is likely both.

Ukraine demonstrates remarkable prowess and adaptability against what many thought a Russian juggernaut.  Their skill in fighting in small units, moving at a pace quicker than Russian tanks, rocket launchers, and troop carriers, has held the world spellbound.  Helping them in the process has been a troubled Russian military, using lethargic troops and crumbling machinery, much of which is decades old.

But the more remarkable victory the Ukrainians are winning has been one of images, technology, and individual valour.  While video of Putin has been file footage from previous venues, the faces of the Ukrainians are shown in real-time, in devastating situations, and has effectively captured the narrative away from the aggressor.  Sights of average citizens gearing up to protect their communities have been impressive, as are the images of Ukrainian women – mothers, celebrities, soldiers – preparing to do battle.  Then there is the ghost pilot of the Ukrainian Air Force, who has supposedly shot down several Russian fighters and bombers.

And then there is Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, fighting the Russians with a simple flak jacket, with a grit equal to that of his fellow citizens.  His weapon of choice isn’t a rifle or rocket-propelled grenade but a cellphone from which he talks to the world and not just his military commanders.

In a war of images, Putin has already lost.  He can only show those of the oppressor, plundering cities and threatening a supposedly contained nuclear war.  He can’t win this kind of battle, but he can, and is, becoming its victim. Eudora Welty said that “A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”  This is now Putin’s fate, as his atrocities burn into the thoughts and minds of the global community.

We are now witnessing a local war being played out on a global scale.  Financial reprisals are about to cripple the Russian economy, which many are shocked to learn only has a GDP the size of Spain’s.  We are seeing military weaponry of all varieties funnelling through the help of the Ukrainians, including some pledges made yesterday by the Trudeau government.  The Russians are dominant, to be sure, but their military machinery is old and only one-third of what it was in the days of the Soviet Union.  Sports stars, celebrities, bankers, historians, companies, investors, entire governments, the UN, NATO, even neutral Switzerland – these and so many others have arrayed themselves against Putin.

We might as well settle in for a convoluted campaign.  As historian Timothy Garton Ash to the Guardian this past weekend in a powerful insight:

 “We must be prepared for a long struggle.  It will take a year, probably decades, for all the consequences of February 24 to be played out.  Almost everyone in the west has now woken up to the fact that Ukraine is a European country being attacked and dismembered by a dictator.  Kyiv today is a city full of journalists from all over the world. This experience will shape their views of Ukraine forever. We had forgotten, in the years of our post-cold war illusions, that this is how nations write themselves on to the mental map of Europe: in blood, sweat and tears.”

Perhaps Putin’s greatest failure comes in how he mobilized average men, women, and children worldwide.  Amid Covid, trucker convoys, and political dysfunction that has kept us preoccupied for the past year, came the Ukrainian conflict that violated the conscience of every global citizen.  We have all become soldiers in the battle.  The same technologies that were tearing us apart have now provided us with the opportunity to come together and support every effort to assist the people of Ukraine.  Vladimir Putin did that, and the best way to thank him is to relegate him to history.

Our world is struggling on so many levels. Yet, with this Ukraine conflict, people and their governments, institutions, financiers, technology companies, and even courageous Russian people revolting against their government remind us why the consensus of nations following World War Two was necessary to stabilize a volatile world.  Our task now is to open a new cooperative era that will see us collectively confront our most formidable challenges and democratize our most significant opportunities.

Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on National Newswatch are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

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