The war in Ukraine has been a major shock to the Western world, which has long seen itself as a bastion of peace and security. The images of violence and destruction have been difficult to stomach, and many people have been left feeling helpless and frustrated. The entire situation is reminiscent of poverty and an uncivilised world, savagery in the 21st century in Europe. What an embarrassment for the West!
The Athenians’ invasion of Sicily was a major turning point in the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians were confident that they would be victorious, but they were ultimately defeated. The defeat had a devastating impact on Athens, and it led to the end of the Athenian Empire.They were defeated for three major reasons: They underestimated the strength of the Sicilians and the Sicilians were fighting on their own home turf, and were determined to defend their homeland. Also, the Athenians were overconfident. They believed that they were invincible, and did not take the Sicilians seriously. And, the Athenians were poorly led. The generals who led the invasion were incompetent, and they made a number of mistakes.
The defeat of the Athenians in Sicily had a profound impact on the Peloponnesian War. The war dragged on for another 10 years, but the Athenians could not recover from the defeat. Finally in 404 BC, Athens surrendered to Sparta, and the Peloponnesian War came to an end. The Athenians’ invasion of Sicily is a cautionary tale about the dangers of overconfidence and underestimating your enemies. It is also a reminder that even the most powerful empires can be defeated.
The reality in the Russian and Ukrainian war is that Putin and Russians did not foresee that Ukrainians would fight like hell, and that the rest of Europeans would unite against Russia. Sweden and Finland that were reluctant to join NATO before the war are now at the forefront with Finland now a member while Sweden is almost concluding its ascension.
The war is a complete disaster with more than 40,000 Russians dead and their much talked about Nord Stream 2, a 1, 234 km natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany stopped functioning. The removal of Russia from swift, and barrage of sanctions on Russian businesses and its political elites have indeed been a huge hit on Russian ego and influence.
The Russians were led into this disaster by their hearts and not their minds. They saw Ukraine as a walk over given the fact that in February and March 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and the world went dead and silent.
Russia has maintained its control over Crimea and supported pro Russian separatists forces who also took control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine. Fighting between Russian- supported separatists and Ukrainian government forces has continued in the Donbas for the last eight years despite the negotiation of the Minsk Agreement of 2014/ 2015 which called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups and constitutional reform recognising the special status of Donetsk and Luhansk.
On 24 February 2022 Russia launched military action in Ukraine, with forces crossing into the country from Belarus in the north. Russia in the east and Crimea in the South.President Putin said it was a, “special military operation” intended to protect the people of the Donabas and to “demilitarise and denazify Ukraine. He denied that Russia planned to occupy the Ukrainian territory or to “impose anything on any one by force”.
Russians only saw the land grabbing exploits, not the dangers that loomed in the aftermath of their occupation. On the other hand, the Ukrainians refused to be victims of their fate.They refused to be trapped in the moment and their emotions. They did not succumb to the long threat of Russian military convoys snaking 25 miles along the Ukrainian border. The threat was so menacing to the Ukrainians and Europeans.
French president Macron went to the Kremlin twice to avert the looming war. Putin could not be swayed by the consequences and reasons that Macron laid bare on that oversized and long table. Similarly, the German chancellor went for negotiations yet Putin, like the biblical Goliath, was determined to humiliate Ukraine and carry out its exploits.
Ukrainians all over the world came home to defend their country which is amazing to see how ‘human determination can be more powerful than the nuclear atomic bombs’ in practice. They were not frightened by the presence of the superior military strength of Russia.This is human spirit at its best – so unconquerable. More applause goes to Ukrainians president, Zelensky. If most of us were in his position we would have given up right then and there. But he did not. He holds the admiration of many in the world today.
Since last year Russian forces have, however, been conducting a full-scale assault on the country. In early October 2022 Russia signed annexation treaties recognising Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as parts of the Russian Federation, even though those regions are not totally under Russian control. Ukraine, with Western military assistance, has been conducting a major counter offensive and continues to make territorial gains despite the Kremlin’s declaration of loyalty and allegiance to Russia.
The world is plagued by greater and greater divisions – within countries and geopolitical zones, while several neutral countries including Brazil, India and South Africa support peace negotiations, Ukraine and its allies have largely rejected China’s peace plans. They question China’s neutrality given its diplomatic and economic support for Russia since the conflict began. As the leaders of the world are more capricious and unpredictable, so are the outcome of the war.