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Fragile Peace

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is a grim reminder of how fragile global peace is. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is making everyone jittery about the prospects of a full-scale conflict never seen since World War II. Russian forces have been carrying out airstrikes and advancing towards Kiev while Ukrainian forces fight off the offensive and civilians flee the capital.


Needless to say, this conflict has the potential to further erode global economic growth already stunted by a raging pandemic that has basically erased all our gains in the past decades. This is because of the fact that conflicts are essentially unpredictable. This can end quickly or escalate into a full-blown, long-drawn war that can engulf the entire world. It would be the height of naiveté to think that this conflict will not affect us on one way or another.


I have never personally experienced war but I was born near the post-war period and I have heard harrowing accounts from those who experienced it. We do not want war, period.


The immediate impact would be on global economy and trade. Russia is the world’s 11th biggest economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and is a major global supplier of natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, metals and wheat. The prices of gas and food are expected to rise because of the potential disruption by the conflict to the supply chain. This will certainly add more pressure to the economy of many countries.


The more significant impact would be the human costs. Just a couple of days after the Russian offensive began, the United Nations (UN) has already reported at least 127 civilian casualties while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that more than “100,000 have lost their homes and are displaced inside country” including “several thousand who have crossed international borders in the region.”


Protagonists should ensure the safety of civilians and avoid civilian deaths especially women and children.


I join the call of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for all parties involved to “seriously de-escalate the situation.” The UN Chief also cited the UN Charter which proclaimed the responsibilities of all states to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” That should be our priority — maintain peace and security. There is no such thing as a “confined war.” All nations will be affected adversely by the Russia-Ukraine conflict especially if other superpowers like the US, Europe and China are drawn into the conflagration.


And while I also join the call from the international community for all parties to respect and reaffirm the sovereignty of all free and independent states, I would like to add that such calls should not be selective. Even as the United States has defended the sovereignty of Ukraine against what it called as “Russian invasion,” it should also practice what it preaches, or what it imposes. No superpower, no state — Russia, the US, China — should be allowed to violate the sovereignty of any country.


I call on the Philippine government to ensure the safety of Filipinos not only in Ukraine but in surrounding areas that maybe drawn into the conflict. Our officials need to be quick in terms of gathering information and providing logistical support for the possible repatriation of our kababayans. Government should also be prepared to act if the Ukraine crisis worsens and impact our economy. We need to be prepared if, for instance, oil prices increase and the supply of basic goods become scarce. Government needs to be decisive and forward-looking. It needs to open communication lines with our allies — the US, China, ASEAN, Russia — to make sure that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are safe and that our country is not drawn into this dangerous game played by global powers.


Let us pray for the immediate, peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and hope that all the protagonists soon realize that in war, there is no such thing as victory. Wars bring suffering and as Pope John Paul II once said, “War is a defeat for humanity.”



Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar