Thursday, March 10, 2022

Listen to Zelenskyy

 A very good piece by Daniel Johnson goes beyond the headline about whether a "no-fly" zone in Ukraine is a runner - few if any serious politicians or military experts in the West think it is - to the more general point about what the Ukranian President is actually asking for. His request for more military assistance is based on a real fear that the vicious attack on his country by Putin's army may lead to even more ghastly civilian casualties

Johnson writes:

"We should listen to what Zelensky is saying about his own country’s needs. He keeps reminding us that the threat to Ukraine is not just of conquest but of genocide. He told Sky News yesterday that unless the Russians were excluded from the Ukrainian skies, Ukraine would “lose millions of people”. Coming from the leader of a people who have endured genocidal war on their soil, we should take this warning seriously.

A careful study of the very incomplete data on casualties that we have suggests that Zelensky is not exaggerating. After just two weeks of war, the military losses on both sides must be running into many thousands. The Ukrainians estimate that the Russian army has lost more than 12,000 dead and up to 18,000 wounded; the Pentagon puts their dead at about 6,000. But the Ukrainian losses will have been on a similar scale. The Russians claim to have destroyed nearly a thousand Ukrainian tanks and armoured vehicles, for example. If there is a full-scale Russian assault on Kyiv, we can expect a pitched battle, with tens of thousands of dead on both sides.

The really shocking news, though, is that the main Russian effort in the second week of the war has been directed at urban civilian targets. The shelling of the four besieged cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol, Chernihiv and Sumy has been stepped up and the casualties now being inflicted are huge. In Mariupol, where the maternity and paediatric departments of a hospital were hit yesterday, the official death toll is now well over 1,100. But this is not counting those who are dying of hunger, hypothermia and disease. These were what killed the vast majority of those who died in the siege of Leningrad, 1941-44, estimated at more than 750,000.

Another deeply disturbing development this week has been the deployment of more lethal Russian weapons against civilians. First there were reports of cluster bombs, which cause horrific injuries; now the use of vacuum (or thermobaric) weapons has been confirmed by US intelligence. The Russians may be running short of missiles but they are switching to greater use of artillery and to the kind of munitions used in Chechnya and Syria to raze entire cities, terrorise populations and cause maximum civilian deaths. Humanitarian considerations evidently no longer enter the calculus of an army under orders to win victory at all costs.

It is horribly easy for a modern army to kill huge numbers of civilians. If the carnage continues — and on the present trajectory it is only likely to increase — within a month Ukraine may well have lost 100,000 killed and wounded by enemy fire, as well as growing numbers dying of hunger and disease. Were this war to drag on into the summer and beyond, basic arithmetic tells us that Zelensky’s prophecy of millions dead could be proved all too accurate."

You can read the full article here.

To effectively oppose Putin's barbarism while trying to avoid a third world war will require some horribly difficult decisions. And sanctions will not just hurt Russians, but ourselves too. But Putin cannot be allowed to get away with industrialised murder on a scale not seen for decades.

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