Is Ukraine on the brink of war? Two articles explain why this crisis matters to the world

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday recognized the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. In his speech, he claimed that “Ukraine has never had traditions of its own statehood”, calling the eastern part of the country “former Russian lands”.

He then ordered the Russian military to launch what Moscow calls a “peacekeeping” operation in the region. the BBC reports this morning that overnight footage appeared to show Russian military vehicles heading towards the Ukrainian border. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting last night in which Western countries condemned Russia’s actions as a breach of international law and an implicit attack on the territorial integrity of each member state. of ONU.

The leaders of France, the European Union, the European Commission, the United Nations, NATO and Lithuania condemned Russia’s decision. US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to halt US business activity in breakaway regions. The members of the European Union are meeting today to decide on the sanctions to be imposed.

The beginning of future conflicts?

I found two articles on the escalating crisis in Ukraine particularly instructive.

First, New York Times Columnist David Leonhardt writes: “A Russian invasion of Ukraine would resemble the kind of war that has been largely absent for the past eighty years and was once common. This would involve a powerful nation seeking to expand its regional dominance by taking control of its neighbor.

He adds that such a “wilful war of aggression” would signal that Putin believes the United States, the European Union and their allies have become too weak to demand painful consequences in response.

Like Russia, the leaders of China, Iran and Venezuela are also autocrats. According to Leonhardt, they observe the Western response to Russia: “If the world enters an era where countries again make decisions based, above all, on what their military power allows them to do, that would be a big change.

Moreover, notes Leonhardt, a Russian takeover of Ukraine would be an autocracy taking over a democracy by force. Putin and his entourage believe that Western democracies are in decline, polarized by cultural conflict and ruled by weakened political parties and leaders. Therefore, this could well be the start of a similar and escalating aggression to come.

“Does history repeat itself endlessly?

A second article I wanted to discuss with you today is by bestselling author and historian Yuval Noah Harari. Write for the Economist, he says, “At the heart of the Ukrainian crisis is a fundamental question about the nature of history and the nature of humanity: is change possible? Can man change his behavior or does history repeat itself indefinitely, man being forever condemned to replay past dramas without changing anything except the setting?

It describes two options. One is a school of thought that “firmly denies the possibility of change” and “holds that the world is a jungle, that the strong prey on the weak, and that the only thing that keeps one country from swallowing up another is military force”. His second option is the belief (to which he subscribes) that “war is not a fundamental force of nature. Its intensity and existence depend on underlying technological, economic and cultural factors. As these factors change, the war also changes.

Harari then points to the evidence for the second position: “For the past seven decades, there has been no direct war between the superpowers.” With this result: “During the first two decades of the 21st century, human violence caused fewer deaths than suicide, car accidents or obesity-related diseases. Gunpowder has become less deadly than sugar.

According to Harari, “The decline of war is not the result of a divine miracle or a change in the laws of nature. This resulted from humans making better choices. It is arguably the greatest political and moral achievement of modern civilization. Unfortunately, the fact that it is a human choice also means that it is reversible.

“The Arc of the Moral Universe”

Leonhardt highlights the enormous stakes of the crisis in Ukraine as a harbinger of similar crises to come. Faced with this looming threat, Harari pinned his hope for the future on “humans making better choices.” This is because, as an atheist, he does not believe in a God who has “concrete ideas.” . . on human politics.

But you and I know better. We know that the God of the universe “makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges the nations and drives them away” (Job 12:23). On the other hand, “The man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:12).

This is why we place our hope for the future in the Lord of eternity.

Therefore, please join me in praying earnestly for God to change human hearts bent on war and destruction. Ask him to protect the persecuted from their persecutors (cf. Psalm 35). Ask Him to redeem the suffering of the innocent (1 Peter 5:10; Romans 8:18).

And remember, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This is because the King of the universe is “a God of justice” (Isaiah 30:18).

So let’s reclaim these familiar words for our broken and unjust world:

This is my Father’s world.
O let me never forget
What if evil
Often seems so strong,
God is still sovereign.

This is my Father’s world:
The battle is not over:
Jesus who died will be satisfied,
And the earth and the sky will be one.

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