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We are on the brink of World War III

30 Mar 2022 at 10:03hrs | Views
A Third World War is looming after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The military action which Russian President Vladimir Putin described as a special military operation to disarm a neo-Nazi Ukrainian administration was prompted by relentless attempts by Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a hostile western military alliance. At least 3 million people have fled Ukraine into Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and other neighbouring countries days after the Russian invasion, plunging Europe into a refugee crisis for the first time since the end of the 2nd World War. In this article, we will examine the mechanisation of war in the contemporary conflict, the conduct of war and the possible escalation of the conflict into a devastating nuclear war.

Following President Putin's announcement of a special military operation in Ukraine on Russian State media, the Kremlin army entered Ukraine from at least three fronts; from the Russian annexed Crimea in the south, from its own borders in the East and from Belarus on the northern front. Borrowing from the Schlieffen plan to carefully plan and prepare for an aggression, Putin first assembled 90,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border under the guise that they were carrying out training exercises. He has since increased the number of troops present or ready to enter Ukraine to 190,000, giving himself a numerical superiority.

This tactic enabled Russia to invade an unprepared Ukraine, allowing for a short and effective military operation. Such an operation where both numerical advantage is combined with highly mechanised combat movements to gain territory and force the enemy to surrender within a short space of time has been described as the blitzkrieg strategy in war literature. It involves the use of speed and surprise tactics resulting in a situation described as a lightning war.

Putin wanted to achieve a string of objectives chief among them to block Ukraine from joining NATO and hence stop the military alliance from expanding eastwards, to ensure pro-Russian eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk were recognised as independent states, to protect its annexation of Crimea under the broader goal to restore the Soviet Union greatness and at the very least to install a pro-Russian administration in Kyiv.

Russian tanks started to roll on the highways to Ukraine's major cities on 24 February under a freezing cold weather on all fronts. Next was the aero bombardment of Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv, home to at least 3 million people. Other cities that came under heavy artillery shelling and bombing in the first 14 days of the war are Kherson, Mariupol and Kyiv, which the Russian army has now almost encircled.

Part of the war machinery relied upon by the Kremlin army includes the tanks, motorised machine guns, war planes dropping cluster, vacuum and hypersonic bombs, a new development in modern warfare. The Ukrainian defence composed of largely untrained volunteers has used rifles and anti-missile weapons donated by NATO countries, with the US donating billions to help pay the volunteers and boost morale. However, the Russian army has not been able to achieve its military objectives after at least a month of war - perhaps due to a vast war ground, decreasing morale among troops due to food supply shortages and lack of support from Ukrainian city residents who blame the war for the destruction of their properties, internal displacement and a dire humanitarian crisis. Nonetheless, the political objective to block Ukraine from joining NATO has been achieved.  

The Washington post reported, "It was clear from the way Russian forces moved in the first hours of the war, that their key objectives were to take Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv, link up the occupied Donbas region with the port city of Odessa along Ukraine's southern coast, and — most crucially — capture the capital, Kyiv, with a lightning push from the north."

But this is a war Putin must win at all cost in order to protect the sovereignty of Russia effectively by blocking NATO from creating a one-World government. In fact, this is Putin's war against Joe Biden, with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky providing the battlefield.

The conduct of war is unprecedented. Conduct of war precisely refers to how a justified or unjustified war is fought particularly if the international law and ethics governing the conduct of the army is followed during the war. The US has formally declared that Putin has committed war crimes in Ukraine by targeting civilian facilities for shelling, resulting in a number of civilian deaths. However, Ukraine has used social service centres and shopping malls to gather its troops, hide weaponry and launch its missiles against Russian forces and aircraft. This has justified the Russian attack on residential buildings, hospitals, schools and shopping malls as the Ukrainians use civilians as human shields. Additionally, by giving weapons to its civilian population to resist the Russian invasion, Ukrainian authorities have created a huge risk on its ordinary people as they can no longer be regarded as civilians by the Russian troops. About 1500 civilians have so far died from Russian shelling, at least 3,5 million have fled Ukraine and at least 7 million internally displaced.

Having incurred casualties of at least 15,000 troops according to Western media, Putin is justified if he escalates his campaign to a nuclear war in order to limit loss of troops in this just war. During talks to create humanitarian corridors and to negotiate a ceasefire, Putin's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov insisted any attempt by NATO allies to intervene militarily would lead to a devastating Third World War which would be nuclear. Putin himself also announced the Russian response against countries that would offer military support to Ukraine would be prompt and with consequences never seen before. The US and it's NATO allies have as a result refused to intervene militarily, opting instead to impose crippling sanctions on a number of Moscow officials and businessmen linked to the Kremlin government. The US has also threatened China with unspecified action if it steps in to assist Putin in his campaign in Ukraine. However, NATO has refused to impose a no-fly zone over Ukrainian skies, fearing a direct confrontation with Putin.

(Energy Mutodi is a graduate of War from the UZ Centre for Defence Studies where he obtained a Bachelor of War & Strategic Studies & Geography in 2001. He also graduated with an Executive Course in Defence Management from the Witwatersrand Graduate School of Public & Development Management, focussing on the UN Charter & the Global Regulation of War & Conflict. Energy MUTODI also holds a Bachelor of Laws Honours Degree, a Master of Business Administration Degree from the UZ  and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. He is formerly the Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting Services in the Zimbabwe Government. "On the Brink of the Third World War" is part of his Working Paper Series on Contemporary Issues on Geopolitics & Development).

Source - Energy Mutodi
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