I have to admit, I didn’t have World War III on the cards for 2022. I think I’m happiest when the world around me goes about its business, leaving me to ponder the future of The Redemption of Erâth in complacency. When COVID-19 hit, it was difficult, of course, but at least I was able to focus on writing (for a while, at least). But when things in the world take place that can’t be ignored, my personal pursuits kind of take a back seat, and anxiety takes over as I now watch Europe plummet into a war like none it’s seen in almost 80 years.
Understand, though I live in the United States, I was raised in Switzerland and England, and am of British descent. And despite the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (fools), I still hold a deep affinity for Europe as a continent, and its countries as beautiful places filled with rich history and wonderful people. I’ve never ventured as far as Ukraine or its eastern European counterparts, but I’ve always wanted to visit Kiev, and perhaps wander the paths of the Carpathian Mountains, or further south in Romania, and travel along the Danube.
This may no longer be possible – whether through the inability to travel to these European countries because of war, or by virtue of the fact that some of these places may exist soon only as rubble and destroyed buildings. As Russia pushes forward into Ukraine with ground military strikes, I sense the world watching and doing sadly little for fear of Russian repercussions. Sanctions are a useful measure to deflect from conflict, but with conflict already upon the Ukrainian people, I fear what good they may do in the long-term.
The irony is that I don’t hate Russia, either. I don’t hate its people, or its cities, and have long desired to visit St. Petersburg, or even Moscow. Russia also has a long history of art and beauty, and I think it deeply unfair that people should condemn a whole country because of the actions of its leader(s). But the past 30 years have not been so liberating for the former Soviet Union as we might have thought in the 90s, or even the 00s. I’ve seen myself, even as passive and disinterested in politics as I might be, that Russia has moved from a communist dictatorship to a shadowy autocracy, only just behind China and North Korea in the systemic oppression of free thought and speech.
Over the past presidency here in the United States, I watched in horror as the same type of governance was attempted by Donald Trump, though it seemed over time that he lacked the inherent intellect required to actually enact a dictatorship within this country. But still, the radicalization of the right has terrified me, to the point where I actively avoid people who are outwardly pro-Trump (think bumper stickers and MAGA hats) out of literal fear that they might harm me in a misguided effort to vanquish the liberal left.
I’ve seen news organizations become government propaganda (Fox News, I’m looking at you), and lived through what was essentially an ill-attempted coup in January 2021. All of this threatened everything I know and love about the United States (and I’m not a proud American by any means), and I grew increasingly unsettled about where I would live out my life. Could I remain in the United States if its carefully crafted 200-year-old democracy was utterly undone? If not, where could I flee to? Europe was the logical destination.
But no more. Thankfully the dust is slowly settling in the aftermath of Trump’s neo-Nazi-enabling pseudo-dictatorship, and right and reason is slowly returning, but even as it does, Europe is descending into a war that no one actually thought could happen in the 21st century. The days of ground-force strikes and air raids on European soil was meant to have ended with the surrender of Germany in 1945 (not to in any way slight the war-torn lives of those in the Middle-East, who have suffered worse on a daily basis for fifty or more years), and it’s almost unfathomable that a country so close to our western ideologies should be militarily attacked, killing civilians and forcing conscription as the Ukrainian people try desperately to save their homes from a hostile invading force.
I can’t profess to fully understand the motivations behind Putin’s actions over the past week; I don’t really grasp what has led us to this point. It’s difficult to know what information to trust, as in today’s era information is so easily controlled and corrupted but outside forces, and I prefer to try and learn from more factual reports about what’s currently taking place, as opposed to opinion pieces about why it’s happening in the first place. But from what I’m gathering, there is at least some small good news out of this conflict.
For starters, the Russian people themselves seem deeply opposed to Putin’s actions and orders, to the extent of protests in the streets of Moscow, and the apparent desertion of several battalions of Russian soldiers, outright refusing to invade and murder Ukrainian civilians.
Second, it seems unlikely (I hope) that nuclear war is about to break out. As destructive as Putin’s ego is, I can only suspect that he isn’t stupid enough to launch nuclear weapons at any country – NATO-allied or not – because the retaliation would obliterate his own country. It’s a terrifying prospect, to be sure, but I don’t think we’re at a button-pushing point – yet.
It seems far more likely that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine can be kept in check through more indirect means; sanctions, possible future diplomacy, and of course, the rumor of cyberwarfare. It makes perfect sense that, in 2022, war will be largely fought and won through virtual means and in digital arenas; when you can shut down a country’s communications with a well-placed cyberattack, there becomes little reason to send in hundreds of thousands of troops to shoot at each other.
At least … this is what I hope will take place over the coming weeks and months. I could be wrong. I live just outside of New York City, well within fallout radius of a standard warhead. In two more weeks, I could be dead at Russia’s nuclear hand. It all depends on one, single man, hidden away in the Kremlin, sending forth legions from ivory towers and threatening the world with annihilation if they oppose him.
Anyway … I’ll try to resume regular content over the coming weeks if I’m able to (I have been busy over the past couple of months), but I needed to share some thoughts about the situation in Ukraine, and how desperately awful this is for a country of people who just want to live in peace.