“Sir, who do you support in the war?”
“Ukraine, obviously. But I would wish it all to end with as few deaths as possible. I don’t want thousands of Russian boys to die anymore than I would want thousands of men from anywhere to die. It’s all horrible. I knew a British army officer who said that war was dirty, vicious and bloody, and I have never seen a reason to disagree with him.”
“I’m half Ukrainian, sir.”
“I know. And I think the Ukrainian President, being the man he is, would want the Russians just to go home and for the killings to stop. I watched the video of the Russian helicopter being shot down by a missile and felt sad it had to happen. Those men were someone’s sons, someone’s brothers, someone’s husbands.”
For once, the discussion wasn’t tangential to the content of the lesson. The Beatitudes were the focus of study, “Blessed are the peacemakers” was being considered.
Coming back to my apartment I scoured the news outlets for some idea of in what direction the conflict was going. It seems a stalemate. Some of the news websites were warning of impending massive battles, but there seemed little evidence that the invading army was making progress.
My son, a keen student of military affairs phoned.
“What’s happening in Ukraine?” I asked.
“Very little, it seems. I follow the Twitter accounts of various retired US generals. They say the serving commanders are embarrassed at how much the Russian strength has been talked up.
“The Russians have committed 70% of their available forces and have come to a halt. They are short of supplies, short of ammunition, and low on morale. Money that was purportedly spent on military development was pocketed by politicians and their friends. Vehicles are old and poorly maintained, officers have little idea about tactics, and most of them don’t want to be there.”
“So why have the Russians been talked up?”
“Because it suits those who want extra military expenditure?”
Whose good is served by stories of massive Russian strength when the truth is crumbling tyres, empty fuel tanks, and hungry soldiers?
Not just the advocates of increased military expenditure, but the politicians who want to divert attention from their domestic mismanagement. Like Big Brother in 1984, if one can foster a belief in a constant external threat then one can justify whatever degree of authoritarianism one chooses.