*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Leader comment: Cold comfort for Ukraine

by
22 July 2022

ON SUNDAY, the war in Ukraine will be five months old. It is salutary to remember the gloom that fell during those early days in late February, when a Russian victory seemed inevitable. The resistance of the Ukrainian people in the defence of their homeland has been remarkable, as has been the failure of the Russian military enterprise, plagued by incompetent leadership and, when propaganda meets reality, bewildered and reluctant soldiers. The overriding image from the war — perhaps because Western European viewers are spared images of bloodshed — is of shattered and burnt-out homes and accommodation blocks. The wanton destruction that President Putin has inflicted on Ukraine is proof, if any were really needed, of how false was his claim to be “liberating” the Ukrainian people from its leadership.

Looking ahead, we fear that the horizon will need to be further than five months. The Russian presence in Luhansk and Donetsk is now firmly established, and has the support of much of the population that remains there. There are reports that the Russian forces, both men and machines, are exhausted; but holding territory is easier than gaining it. Russia appears to have a continuing supply of ordinance with which to terrorise the Ukrainian public. Its indiscriminate shelling pushes into the indefinite future any prospect of a return home for the five million refugees, largely women and children, scattered through Europe, and the seven million displaced people still in Ukraine.

The prospect of a new Cold War is hard to contemplate. Yet the rules of engagement that the NATO countries have agreed — the supply of military equipment and intelligence, but no fighting forces or aerial engagement — make it almost impossible that Ukraine will be able to reclaim all its lost territory and hold it securely. But, as during the former Cold War, a state of military readiness makes life extremely perilous. Miscalculations and misunderstandings are not to be discounted when combatants possess nuclear weapons; and, were President Putin’s forces to follow up one of the many threats that he has made against the surrounding NATO countries, the escalation of the war would seem probable.

Meanwhile, as long as the war continues, the casualty rate away from Ukraine continues to mount, as the country’s grain is prevented from reaching the hungry nations that have relied on it; energy is priced beyond the pockets of most people outside the wealthier nations and of many people within them; and funds earmarked for social projects and health care are redirected towards defence. President Putin has made the world a poorer and more dangerous place. Notwithstanding the security of his position, shored up by the blanket of lies with which the Russian media have covered the conflict, and by the firm suppression of public protest, the hope must be that he will be deposed. The growing number of Russians who have had a son or a husband killed or injured might yet turn the tide.

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)