By Aare Afe Babalola
In my series of newspaper articles in February, March and April 2022, I have out of concern drawn the attention of the world to the most unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia and its most unpalatable global consequences, an action which I described as a classic example of the popular saying that “when the strong does what he likes, the weak suffers what he must”.
Seven months after the commencement of the patently unnecessary and avoidable war on February 24, 2022 and its attendant massive loss of lives, limbs, ambulatory and non-ambulatory properties as well as means of livelihood, the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is threatening to “use nuclear weapons if Ukraine continues its offensive operations”.
While the long-time Russian leader has previously toyed with the idea of grim prospect of using nuclear weapons (against Ukraine), experts have consistently said that Putin’s latest statements went further, raising fears around the world of an unprecedented nuclear disaster.
Addressing the United Nations last week, Putin confirmed that he was indeed planning to annex four partly occupied regions of the Southern and Eastern Ukraine after some so-called Kremlin’s-orchestrated “Referendums” the previous week.
He added that he was prepared to use “all means” to defend the “territorial integrity” of the Russian-occupied lands and their people.
In the words of Andrey Baklitskiy, a Senior Researcher in the Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Strategic Weapons Programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research: “Putin’s statements go beyond the Russian nuclear Doctrine, which only suggests Russian first use of in conventional war when the very existence of the state is threatened”.
Despite his bold face since the war started, Putin has sought to shield the Russian population from the realities of the war, with Kremlin eager to cultivate a sense of normality on the streets of Moscow and other major cities. Even though many Russians responded to these efforts, Public Opinion Polls, POP, attest to the fact that most average Russians were quickly turning away from the conflict.
This is the genesis of the new development: Following massive and continuous destruction of Ukraine by Russia, Putin is not having a free ride. He is not going unchallenged. The concerned Western powers which believed that “enough is enough” in the interest of world peace started supplying sophisticated weapons to Ukraine as a result of which the now devastated country started regaining areas that had earlier been taken over by Russia.
This has infuriated Putin who is now threatening to call-up 300,000 mostly young Russians and use nuclear weapon against Ukraine, forgetting that in the process of detonating nuclear weapon against Ukraine many Russians would die. No wonder many young Russians who do not believe in fighting an unnecessary and avoidable war are leaving the country (Russia) in droves.
For instance, last week, direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul, Yerevan, Tashkent and Baku, the capital cities of countries that allow visa-free entry for Russians, were sold out, while the cheapest flights from Moscow to Dubai cost about 350,000 rubles, the equivalent of 5,000 Pound Sterling, a fee too steep for most people.
The “strategic withdrawals” of young Russians give verve to Krushnev’s words to Francis Gary Powers in 1960 that “every living thing wants to live”. When Francis Gary Powers refused to use a poison-laid injection pin when his U-2 Plane was brought down by an X-75 DVINA SA-2 guideline surface to air missile in Ukraine on May 1, 1960, the highly intelligent leader of Soviet Union, Krushnev, who was determined to kill him for espionage, jokingly asked him “why he did not use the poison laid injection pin”.
Somehow and unexpectedly after about two weeks, Krushev changed his mind, he called Francis Powers and said to him: “My young man, I am a grand-father, I have children and grand-children. I understand why you did not use the poisoned laden needle. It is because every living thing wants to live”. He spared the life of Francis Power.
On August 19, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage, “a grave crime covered by Article 2 of the Soviet Union’s Law On Criminality Responsibility for State Crimes”. His sentence consisted of 10 years confinement, three of which were to be in a prison, with the remainder in a labour camp.
The world is, however, not keeping quiet at the threat of nuclear war on Ukraine, and by extension, the whole world. While Ukraine has stressed that it will intensify its efforts to liberate its occupied lands, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in an interview with a German newspaper, said he did not believe Putin would use nuclear weapons. His words: “I don’t think the world will allow him to use those weapons”.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last week, the American President, Mr. Joe Biden, has berated Putin for “pumping out lies” after Russia “sought conflict” with the “brutal, needless” Ukraine war. He blasted Russia for “shamelessly” violating the UN Charter in the war against Ukraine.
For daring to threaten that he would use all the means at Russia’s disposal against the world which Putin falsely accused of committing “nuclear blackmail”, Biden has called him (Putin) out in front of the United Nations:
“In the last year, our world has experienced great upheaval, growing crisis and food insecurity, record heat, floods and droughts, COVID-19 inflation and a brutal needless war.
“War chosen by one man, to be very blunt, to speak plainly. A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded his neighbour, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter
Putin claims he had to act because Russia was threatened. But no one threatened Russia. And no one other than Russia sought conflict.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist… should make your blood run cold.
“Russia, in the meantime, is pumping out lies trying to pin the blame for the crisis, the food crisis, on the sanctions imposed by many in the world for the aggression against Ukraine”
The time has come for the United Nations and world leaders to put the rampaging Putin in his right place by prevailing on him to sheathe his sword against Ukraine. The UN and world leaders should prevail on Russia to embrace peace. After all, in a situation of nuclear war, there shall be no winner.
Our university, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, recently rated as Number 1 University out of the 197 universities in Nigeria and one of the top 300-400 in the world by the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, is the only university in Nigeria with a modern and functional Planetarium and indeed, one of the four in the whole of Africa.
Visitors to the Planetarium know that our planet earth which is like a dot in the limitless universe which contains billions of stars and other planets, is inhabited by 7.991 billion people. Any nuclear weapon will destroy the 7.991 billion inhabitants of planet earth.
There is therefore an urgent need for all our leaders to ensure that nuclear war never takes place thereby ensuring that man and other living things on planet earth will continue to live.