Nuclear catastrophe?

Image: Karyme França
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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.*

Brazilians are among the least aware of the danger the world is in since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022

Brazilians are one of the most complacent peoples on the planet. Like all giant nations, Brazil is prone to introversion. We give only relative, only selective attention to what happens in other countries. Besides, we're lucky. We live in South America, a region of peace, where war has not been seen for a long time. We have good relations with all our border neighbors without exception. And more: we were reasonably preserved from the destructive effects of the two World Wars of the 2022th century. For all these reasons, Brazilians are among the least aware of the danger the world is in since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in XNUMX.

And yet the risks are mounting, even the extreme risk of nuclear war. The conflict in Ukraine involves, directly or indirectly, the two main nuclear powers. Russia directly. The United States indirectly fighting a proxy war in which Ukrainians fight and die for them. For the United States, what is at stake is nothing less than the prestige of its global hegemony, challenged by the invasion of Ukraine. Russia, for its part, sees the West's action in Ukraine and elsewhere as an existential threat, and has said so openly and repeatedly.

Ideally, the United States would be less paranoid about threats to its world leadership. And that Russia would be less paranoid about threats coming from abroad. But these paranoias have deep roots. Americans are used to bossing and bossing, going back to World War II and especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russians, on the other hand, are used to deeply threatening Western imperial invasions, notably Napoleonic and Hitlerite.

We are facing the greatest threat of nuclear war since the Soviet missile crisis in Cuba, in the early 1960s. It is true that, over the last few decades, the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia have clashed in various regions of the world without reaching in fact. Thus, complacency set in. Nuclear war, unthinkable because of its potential for mutual destruction, will always be avoided, it is believed. One theory, optimistic, even postulates that the existence of nuclear arsenals constitutes, paradoxically, a guarantee of peace or, at least, the absence of direct and total wars between atomic powers.

In fact, there are scenarios, more or less plausible, in which a nuclear catastrophe would be avoided. Ukraine's victory, with the expulsion of Russian troops from its territory, does not seem likely, but it cannot be entirely ruled out, given the extent of military and financial support from the West. Russia's victory, more conceivable, given its military, economic and population superiority, encounters fierce resistance from the western bloc.

A third, more likely scenario would be a so-called war freeze, a long-term conflict with no resolution on the battlefield and no diplomatic solution. A “freeze” of the war would keep the risk of a nuclear confrontation alive. The passage of time would multiply the incidents capable of leading to its materialization.

For the countries involved, mainly Ukraine, prolonging the war would bring enormous costs in human and economic terms. Already severely shaken by the invasion, Ukraine would suffer even more. Russia would also pay a heavy price in human, political and economic terms. The West would shoulder an increasingly heavy bill. The rest of the world would continue to suffer the economic consequences of the war.

I return to Brazil. Political leaders like Lula and others are fully aware, it seems, of all these threats. It is understandable and commendable that efforts are being made to secure an end to the war. Countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil, among others, are seeking peace. The path may be the one initially presented by Brazil – the formation of a group of countries that would act together towards the end of hostilities and a lasting solution to the conflicts in Eastern Europe.

Evidently, Brazil and others may end up leaving empty-handed. No matter how great your efforts, there will only be peace if the parties involved in the war are really willing to negotiate. Bearing in mind, however, the dimension of the risks we are running, it is worth persisting in the search for peace.

Brazil holds the presidency of the G-20 in 2024, a group that includes all the main countries involved in the conflict, with the exception of Ukraine. It is the opportunity that may present itself to overcome the war and its risks.

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard (LeYa).


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