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Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: 6th August Seventy-five years ago

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By Kirthi Tennakone

The dwellers of the Japanese city Hiroshima resorted to their routine on 6th August 1945. That day the morning sky had been clear – people observed three air planes and descending parachutes. These are happenings to be expected at the time of a war and largely ignored.

Around 8.15 am a flash of light intensely brighter than the sun and a burning sense of heat terrified the population. The noiseless instant effect reacted more severely over a circular area of radius approximately 1 kilometer. Men, women and children exposed to the flash were incinerated to ash or fatally burnt. Cloths crumbled to pieces or spontaneously ignited – particularly if the shade is darker. A man dressed in white was burnt lightly, but his wife in black beside him died as a result of harsh burning. Most people within the range succumbed immediately- very few shielded by thick concrete survived. After fraction of a second a blast wave flattened almost every building in an area of nearly 40 square kilometers. A fireball formed created in the atmosphere expanded rapidly blowing a horrendously hot wind – setting fires everywhere up to a distance of about 4.5 kilometers from the centre. The pressure of the blast wave and heat of the rushing wind killed or wounded many more people. Expanding and a rising fireball created a white plume extending to the atmosphere up to a height of 6100 meters darkening the city as if night has befallen. Around 9 am a black toxic rain poured over a large area, sickening those who got wet. The death toll in the day of the incident exceeded 40,000 and subsequent mortality resulting from injuries was estimated to be more than 100,000.

ATOMIC BOMB

The Japanese government and most of the world at large could not immediately fathom how a ferocious calamity unheard previously was inflicted. A devastation of such magnitude would require dropping thousands of most powerful conventional bombs simultaneously – a technical impossibility. On August 7th, the American President Harry Truman announced ‘It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East’. He further stated that the bomb had more power than 20000 tons TNT- more than 2000 times the blast power of British Grand Slam which is the largest bomb ever used in history of warfare.

The bombs based on detonators such as tri-nitro toluene (TNT) derive energy by breaking of the molecules of this substance into lighter more stable fragments. In contrast atomic energy is released when the nucleus of the uranium atom disintegrates into lighter nuclei – a process referred to as nuclear fission. A calculation based on Einstein’s theory of relativity revealed that the energy liberated in fission of uranium is about one million times the equivalent weight of ordinary explosives. Fission is triggered by hitting the uranium nucleus with a neutron. When the nucleus breaks-up several additional neutrons are emitted. Hungarian-American physicist Leo Szilard speculated extra neutrons might disrupt other uranium nuclei causing an explosive chain reaction–a possibility of making a dangerous weapon. In 1939 he persuaded Albert Einstein to write a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt pointing out the urgency of the United States engaging in this effort – otherwise the consequences could be disastrous if Adolf Hitler develop a nuclear weapon. United States Intelligence found Germany had already started to work on the problem, hastening President Roosevelt to appoint a committee replying Albert Einstein. Soon the research work aimed to develop a nuclear bomb was commissioned as the Manhattan Project – under scientific leadership of the Robert Oppenheimer and a team of several other eminent physicists excluding Einstein. Perhaps Einstein was considered too much even for a project of this nature because of his extreme radicalism and pacifist views.

Leo Szilard with Albert Einstein

Despite theoretical soundness of the argument of achieving an explosive nuclear chain reaction, the Manhattan project encountered many astounding practical challenges. Natural uranium occurs in two forms named as isotopes U(238) and U(235). A chain reaction is feasible only with U(235) occurring as 0.7 percent of the metal found in the uranium ores. Furthermore to initiate a chain reaction at least a critical mass of about 60 kilograms of U(235) is required. Refining the ore to obtain this amount was an arduous costly task. Another option explored has been to use plutonium instead of uranium. The advantage of the latter is the smaller critical mass 5-10 kilograms. Plutonium is not found in nature can be synthesized – again a time consuming costly affair. Expenses of the project ran to 100 million dollars a month!

The other hurdle was assembling of the critical mass.

The requisite amount of uranium or plutonium cannot be simply cast as an ingot. Moment the critical mass which depend on shape and density of the sample is reached. The chain reaction propagate emitting radiation, because even one neutron is sufficient for triggering. Some neutrons always exist in the environment and also produced by spontaneous fission uranium. A method planned was to collide two pieces of uranium in a gun-like device using dynamite so that their union creates the critical mass. Another method considered was casting uranium or plutonium into a sphere of calculated size and implode it to increase the density by firing an appendage ordinary explosives. These methods needed to be secured foolproof and tested.

TESTING THE BOMB

After three years of intensive activity, scientists and engineers at the Los Alamos Laboratory assembled an atom bomb on 13th July 1945. It was a plutonium device containing around 6 kilograms of this metal in the form of a sphere. Why was a plutonium bomb instead of uranium chosen for testing? The amount of weapons grade uranium available at that time was sufficient to make just one bomb, planned to be fired by the gun mechanism. Plutonium of much lower critical mass, adequate for several bombs was ready in the processing line. Furthermore, the implosion firing mechanism worked out for plutonium bombs demanded experimental confirmation.

Including accessories the bomb nicknamed ‘Gadget’ weighed nearly 5 metric tons. Gadget was transported to the testing site in the New Mexico desert and hoisted to a 100 m high steel tower. The bomb was scheduled to be exploded at 4 am 16th July 1945. However because of bad weather the time was pushed forward to 5.30 am. Scientists stationed 10 km away eagerly awaiting to watch the test were concerned. Some doubted whether the bomb would turnout to be a dud. Other pointed its power might exceed the expectation and pose danger to observers and community in the neighbourhood. Emphasizing this point, Edward Teller who later came to be known as the father of the hydrogen bomb distributed suntan cream.

When the trigger was switched-on at 5.30 am, the whole landscape was instantly lighted many times brighter than sunlight and a rising vividly coloured fireball appeared in the sky. The test was a success and a moment that changed the world forever. Seconds later the bang was felt, following a gush of wind. Physicist Enrico Fermi floated pieces of paper, timed their motion and quickly calculated the strength of the bomb, saying it is equivalent to 10 kilotons of TNT. More precise calculations carried out later revealed that strength was 22 kilotons.

BOMBING HIROSHIMA

The success of the atom bomb test was conveyed to President Truman but not publicly announced. general public inquisitive of the blinding flash and the bang were told an explosion occurred in an ammunition storage. President was planning to visit Germany to attend Potsdam conference – the famous big three Truman–Stalin–Churchill meeting. At the proceedings he hinted new development but did not elaborate. On 24th July Truman met Stalin casually and told him the United States has developed a weapon of unprecedented strength. Stalin did not react with excitement or interest and said ‘I hope the United States would make good use of it ‘. The reason for Stalin’s indifference became clear later. Soviet intelligence had been aware of the achievements in the Manhattan project.

Potsdam deceleration warned Japan to surrender unconditionally or suffer utter destruction – which Japan did not accept. Immediately the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan was confirmed. The directive was said to be – hit Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata or Nagasaki after 3rd August as weather permitted.

The bombing operation was assigned to Colonel Tibbets of the US Air Force. On August 6th early morning he took-off from Tinian Island air base in the Pacific carrying the bomb. Two other planes accompanied the B-29 bomber to monitor weather and parachute instruments to record the physical effects of the explosion. At about 8.15 am the pilot released the bomb from an altitude of 9.5 kilometers. The bomb fell down for 47 seconds and exploded at a height 600 meters above the ground – the triggering mechanism designed to explode the bomb in mid-air for the purpose of maximizing the destructive power. Tibbets who hurried away was at a safe distance of 18 kilometers when he observed the flash and the fireball.

The bomb aimed to the Aioi Bridge missed the target by 250 meters and detonated overhead Shima Hospital flattening it instantly. Amazingly the structure of the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall almost at the epicenter did not collapse. A temperature exceeding 4,000 degrees Celsius burnt the roof killing everybody inside, but the peculiar way in which the shockwave approached, left the structural shell largely intact. This landmark ruin named Atomic Bomb Dome serve as a memorial for lives lost and a reminder for peace.

I (the author of this article) visited Hiroshima in the year 2000. My daughter then a high school student posed in front of the dome for a photograph and smiled. When I said this not a place to smile. A group of Japanese visitors at the site understood what I meant and emotionally expressed appreciation of my remark.

WORLD AFTERMATH HIROSHIMA

Even after Hiroshima attack, Japan did not surrender but vowed to fight. Soviet Union declaring war on Japan 8th August 1945 and United States dropping of a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki next day changed the situation. On 15th August 1945 the Emperor Hirohito agreed unconditional surrender effectively ending Second World War. Some celebrated the bombings implicating it’s a lesson to warmongering and crimes committed, but those died were innocent civilians. The horror atomic bombings particularly the late effects of radiation continued to uncover as days and months passed. Nevertheless there were glorifications of nuclear weapons. Many nations strived hard acquire them, boost their destructive power and develop strategic methods of delivery. Human desire for increasing power of self-destructive weapons did not end with atom bomb. In 1952 United States tested first hydrogen bomb or the thermonuclear device based on nuclear fusion – the opposite of fission where lighter nuclei similar to hydrogen fuse together to yield heavier nuclei liberating extra-large quantity of energy – thousands of times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb. In the following year, the Soviet Union exploded a similar weapon. Between 1950 -1962 the competition of super powers in detonating nuclear bombs polluted the atmosphere- increasing the incidence of cancer.

The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 forbid atmospheric tests. However, underground tests continued and the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of the United Nations could not be strictly enforced as some nations avoided the agreement. On July 2017, United Nations proposed the resolution – The Treaty on the Prohibitions of Nuclear Weapons. The enforcement of the agreement require signature and ratification of 50 states. To date of the 82 countries, who have signed the treaty, only 40 have ratified it. Some countries seem to abstain from signing and ratifying the accord on the presumption that those who might not agree will pose a threat – vicious circle contradicting attitudes. Global citizens worldwide and a number organisations advocating peace, campaign to prohibit nuclear weapons. Most vociferous among them are the survived victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki- popularly known as ‘hibakusha’. Their pledge is ‘so that the people of future generations will not have to experience hell on earth, we want to realise a world free of nuclear weapons while we are still alive’.

The first sitting US President to visit Hiroshima was Barak Obama. On May 26th , 2016, talking to a gathering there, Obama said ‘Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom require moral revolution as well ’.

Human greed – the limitless urge to acquire material possessions – is blind to dangers ensuing in the horizon, threatening their own existence. Nuclear weapons and excessive burning of fossil fuels are two examples.

The author Prof.Kirthi Tennakone, National Institute of Fundamental Studies can be reached via ktenna@yahoo.co.uk

 



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Features

Whither the rules-based order?

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by Andrew Sheng
for Asia News Network

Every day, we are told we must defend the rules-based order. But whose order? What rules? Why should we defend an order if we did not have a say in shaping?

All this is in the realm of politics and geo-politics. The biggest thinker who shaped the current neoliberal order was Austrian philosopher Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), whose ideas of classical liberalism of freedom, democracy and self-order of markets dominated global relations. Neoliberalism was put into practice in the 1980s, when US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pushed through the free market philosophy that swept away Keynesian state intervention of the 1950-1970s.

The deeper thinker on the whole question of constitutional law, politics and international order was German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), whose influence on conservative political circles in almost all the Big Powers has been growing. I only became aware of Schmitt’s work when Noema magazine wrote an editorial on Schmitt’s Nomos of the Earth (1950). Schmitt is controversial, because he essentially wrote the legal basis for Nazism in the 1920s, which accounts for his ostracization (in today’s language “cancelled”) from academic circles for decades.

Schmitt was a brutally realist thinker who explored the legal foundations of European political theory. Schmitt argues that no order can function without a sovereign authority. A state is legally constituted when the politics distinguishes between friend and enemy and when the citizens are willing to fight and die for its identity. The state alone is given the power of violence (and enforcement) by the citizens to enforce the law.

Schmitt is considered an authoritarian supporter, because he saw sovereign power resting ultimately in the Executive (rather than the Legislature or Judiciary) because the sovereign (i.e. the President) decides on the exceptional situation, where he/she must suspend the law because of war or assume emergency powers in order to restore order. Decisions by the Executive are either bound by law or bounded by his or her moral bearings.

The world is today watching on TV whether former President Trump is morally culpable for causing the January 6, 2021 riots, or legally culpable. The Ukraine war is being supported by NATO on a matter of moral principle for a non-member, but if the war escalates to nuclear global destruction that kills all, how do we trade off the individual rights with the collective right of everyone else to survive?

Schmitt dissected the European constitutional laws and international order, dividing them into three phases: pre-1500, 1648 to 1919 (World War I) and thereafter. Before the discovery of America, European powers fought each other under a religious cloak, since the Pope decided on disputes of rights on moral grounds. Indeed, it was the Papal Bulls of 1455 and 1493 that authorized the Portuguese and Spaniards to conquer all lands and seize and enslave Saracens and non-Christians in the Americas, Africa and Asia. The religious rationales comprised the Domination Code whereby Christians can rule over non-Christians and possess their property, as well as the Discovery Code, whereby lands owned by non-believers are treated as terra nullius (empty land), meaning non-Christian indigenous peoples do not have rights.

But when the Dutch and English started fighting with the Portuguese and Spaniards over overseas territories, what was the legal justification? Dutch jurist Grotius (1583-1645) provided the secular rationalisation that discovery alone is not enough, but since there was freedom in the seas, occupation by a sovereign state confirms rights seized through war. Schmitt argued that Jus Publicum Europaeum (European Public Law) emerged after the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia to allow sovereign countries to have the right to go to war based on their own judgement of justice and necessity without interference in each other’s domestic affairs. This changed after the end of the First World War, when the 1919 Treaty of Versailles treated the losing side as criminals, with their rights cancelled or confiscated.

Whilst the Europeans were busily fighting each other, the United States rose in global power and imposed her 1823 Monroe Doctrine that asserted that she has her own sphere of influence, with the right to intervene in Central and South American states. That sphere of influence would spatially cover cultural, economic, military, political and today technology exclusivity beyond legal sovereign borders.

Schmitt was prescient in seeing that where war is fought on the basis of “good versus evil”, in which all rights of the other side are “cancelled” (like the foreign exchange assets of Afghanistan and Russia are frozen or seized), the situation may be an unstable equilibrium. The unstable European security architecture was settled decisively by the United States in two World Wars because of her overwhelming military, economic and industrial power. But in today’s multipolar situation, who decides on the rules of the international order? If both sides accuse the other side as evil and illegitimate, who decides other than the use of arms?

To cut a complex story short, the NATO military alliance, comprising nearly one billion people and 47.3 percent of world GDP (2020), assumes its status quo role as the final arbiter of the “rules-based order”. The problem is that BRICS countries, plus Indonesia have 3.5 billion population with one quarter of world GDP in market terms (25.6%). However, on GDP PPP terms, they are near parity with NATO and therefore may have their own views on the international order. What if the larger non-Western countries want their own version of the Monroe Doctrine?

The moral principle that all of us should live peacefully on one planet should override sovereign nations fighting over power and ego from turf to space, when humanity could be burned by climate warming or nuclear war. For Nomos (or order) of the Planet, rather than the Earth, we should all rationally cooperate. If we truly believe in democracy, can the eight billion people in the world vote on the rules-based order, or do we still leave it to G-7?

No order is stable without true legitimacy. How to achieve that order remains an open question.

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Scarcity, prices, hoarding and queuing

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By Usvatte-aratchi

We live in a scarcity economy and will do so well into 2024, past the next Presidential elections if it comes then; it may not. (The new minister may open bets.) All economies are scarcity economies; otherwise, there would be no prices. We also live in plentiful economies; look at the streets of Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Paris or San Francisco during day or night. Scarcity is a relative term, as most terms are. A scarcity economy is one where prices rise relentlessly, where cigarettes are more expensive in the evening than they were the same morning. Scarcity economies will have two or more sets of prices: one official, others in markets in varying shades of grey until black. Scarcity economies are where everyone (producers, traders, households) hoards commodities, hoards everything that can be hoarded, at reasonable cost. Scarcity economy is one where productivity is lower than it was earlier, where both labour and capital idle. Scarcity itself may push down productivity. Observe thousands of people standing in queues to buy all kinds of things whilst producing nothing. That is labour idling. Others hang on to dear life in crowded trains arriving in office late to leave early, to get to ill lit homes where to cook each evening they repeat what their ancestors did millions of years ago to light a fire. Money is one commodity that can be hoarded at little cost, if there was no inflation. The million rupees you had in your savings account in 2019 is now worth a mere 500,000, because prices have risen. That is how a government taxes you outside the law: debase the currency. In an inflation afflicted economy, hoarding money is a fool’s game.

The smart game to play is to borrow to the limit, a kind of dishoarding (- negative hoarding) money. You borrow ten million now and five years later you pay 500 million because the value of money has fallen. US dollars are scarce in this economy. It is hoarded where it can wait until its price in Sri Lanka rises. Some politicians who seem to have been schooled in corruption to perfection have them stored elsewhere, as we have learnt from revelations in the international press. Electricity is not hoarded in large quantities because it is expensive to hoard. Petrol is not hoarded very much in households because it evaporates fast and is highly flammable. That does not prevent vehicle owners from keeping their tanks full in contrast to the earlier practice when they had kept tanks half empty (full). Consequently, drivers now hoard twice as much fuel in their tanks as earlier. Until drivers feel relaxed as to when they get the next fill, there will be queues. That should also answer the conundrum of the minister for energy who daily sent out more bowser loads out than earlier, but queues did not shorten.

As an aside, it is necessary to note that the scarcity economy, which has been brought about by stupid policies 2019-2022, and massive thieving from 2005 is partly a consequence of the fall in total output (GDP) in the economy. Workers in queues do not produce. The capital they normally use in production (e.g. motor cars, machines that they would otherwise would have worked at) lie idle. Both capital and labour idle and deny their usual contribution to GDP. Agriculture, industries, wholesale and retail trade, public administration, manufacturing and construction all of which have been adversely affected in various ways contribute more than 75% of total GDP. Maha (winter crop) 2021-22, Yala (spring crop) 2022 and Maha 2022-23 and fishing are all likely to have yielded (and yield) poor harvests. Manufacturing including construction are victims of severe shortages in energy and imported inputs. Wholesale and retail trade which depend directly on imports of commodities have been hit by the sharp drop in imports. Tourism, which is more significant in providing employment and foreign exchange, collapsed dreadfully since late 2019 and has not recovered yet. About 16 percent of our labour force work in the public sector. They have failed to contribute to GDP because they did not engage in productive work due to variegated reasons. Teachers were on strike for two months in 2021. In 2022, so far government employees have worked off and on. Wages of government employees are counted as contributions to GDP, by those that make GDP estimates. However, here is an instance where labour was paid but there was no output equal to the value of those wages. Such payments are rightly counted as transfers and do not count to GDP. For these reasons estimates of GDP for 2021 must be well below the 2020 level. The 3.6 growth in official estimates is unlikely. The likely drop in 2022 will be roughly of the same magnitude as in 2021. These declines are not dissonant with misery one sees in towns and the countryside: empty supermarket shelves, scant supplies of produce in country fares, scarce fish supplies, buses idling in parks and roads empty of traffic. There have been warnings from our paediatricians as well as from international organisations of wasting and probable higher rates of child mortality. It is this sort of sharp fall in wellbeing that engenders the desperation driving young and ambitious people to obtain passports to seek a living overseas. You can see those from mezzo-America amassed on the southern border of US. Will our young men and women end up beyond the wall of China?

Of this lowered supply of goods and services, this society is expected to pay a massive accumulated foreign debt. (Remember the reparation payments in the Versailles Treaty). In real terms it will mean that we forego a part of our lower incomes. Do not miss this reality behind veils of jargon woven by financial analysts. It is not something that we have a choice about. That is where international help may kick in. Gotabaya Rajapaksa government after much senseless dilly dallying has started negotiations with the IMF. There is nobody compelling our government to seek support from IMF. They are free go elsewhere as some who recently were in their government still urge. Examine alternatives and hit upon an arrangement not because it permits the family grows richer but because it will make life for the average person a little less unbearable.

If prices are expected to rise people will seek resources to hoard: money to buy commodities, space and facilities to hoard, security services to protect the property and much more. Rice producers cannot hoard their product because animals large as elephants and small as rodents eat them up. Because of the unequal distribution of resources to hoard, the poor cannot hoard. In a scarcity economy, the poor cannot hoard and famines usually victimise the poor, first and most. If prices are expected to fall, stocks are dishoarded to the market and prices fall faster and deeper. In either direction, the rate at which prices change and the height/depth of the rise/fall depends on the speed at which expectations of change in prices take place. A largescale rice miller claims he can control the price of rice at a level that the government cannot. His success/failure will tell us the extent of his monopoly power.

When commodities are scarce, in the absence of a sensible system of coupons to regulate the distribution, consumers will form queues. A queue is rarely a straight here, nor a dog’s tail (queue, in French, is a dog’s tail which most often crooked). Assembled consumers stagnate, make puddles and sometimes spread out like the Ganges, with Meghna, disgorges itself to the Bay of Bengal. They sometimes swirl and make whirlpools and then there is trouble, occasionally serious. There is order in a queue that people make automatically. To break that order is somehow iniquitous in the human mind. That is why breaking the order in a queue is enraging. For a queue to be disobeyed by anyone is infuriating, and for a politician to do so now in this country is dangerously injurious to his physical wellbeing.

The first cause of rising prices, hoarding and queues is the scarcity of goods and services in relation to the income and savings in the hands of the people.

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Terror figuring increasingly in Russian invasion of Ukraine

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In yet another mind-numbing manifestation of the sheer savagery marking the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a shopping mall in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kremenchuk was razed to the ground recently in a Russian missile strike. Reportedly more than a hundred civilian lives were lost in the chilling attack.

If the unconscionable killing of civilians is a definition of terrorism, then the above attack is unalloyed terrorism and should be forthrightly condemned by all sections that consider themselves civilized. Will these sections condemn this most recent instance of blood-curdling barbarism by the Putin regime in the Ukrainian theatre and thereby provide proof that the collective moral conscience of the world continues to tick? Could progressive opinion be reassured on this score without further delay or prevarication?

These issues need to be addressed with the utmost urgency by the world community. May be, the UN General Assembly could meet in emergency session for the purpose and speak out loud and clear in one voice against such wanton brutality by the Putin regime which seems to be spilling the blood of Ukrainian civilians as a matter of habit. The majority of UNGA members did well to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine close on the heels of it occurring a few months back but the Putin regime seems to be continuing the civilian bloodletting in Ukraine with a degree of impunity that signals to the international community that the latter could no longer remain passive in the face of the aggravating tragedy in Ukraine.

The deafening silence, on this question, on the part of those sections the world over that very rightly condemn terror, from whichever quarter it may emanate, is itself most intriguing. There cannot be double standards on this problem. If the claiming of the lives of civilians by militant organizations fighting governments is terror, so are the Putin regime’s targeted actions in Ukraine which result in the wanton spilling of civilian blood. The international community needs to break free of its inner paralysis.

While most Western democracies are bound to decry the Russian-inspired atrocities in Ukraine, more or less unambiguously, the same does not go for the remaining democracies of the South. Increasing economic pressures, stemming from high energy and oil prices in particular, are likely to render them tongue-tied.

Such is the case with Sri Lanka, today reduced to absolute beggary. These states could be expected ‘to look the other way’, lest they be penalized on the economic front by Russia. One wonders what those quarters in Sri Lanka that have been projecting themselves as ‘progressives’ over the years have to say to the increasing atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. Aren’t these excesses instances of state terror that call for condemnation?

However, ignoring the Putin regime’s terror acts is tantamount to condoning them. Among other things, the failure on the part of the world community to condemn the Putin government’s commissioning of war crimes sends out the message that the international community is gladly accommodative of these violations of International Law. An eventual result from such international complacency could be the further aggravation of world disorder and lawlessness.

The Putin regime’s latest civilian atrocities in Ukraine are being seen by the Western media in particular as the Russian strongman’s answer to the further closing of ranks among the G7 states to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the issues growing out of it. There is a considerable amount of truth in this position but the brazen unleashing of civilian atrocities by the Russian state also points to mounting impatience on the part of the latter for more positive results from its invasion.

Right now, the invasion could be described as having reached a stalemate for Russia. Having been beaten back by the robust and spirited Ukrainian resistance in Kyiv, the Russian forces are directing their fire power at present on Eastern Ukraine. Their intentions have narrowed down to carving out the Donbas region from the rest of Ukraine; the aim being to establish the region as a Russian sphere of influence and buffer state against perceived NATO encirclement.

On the other hand, having failed to the break the back thus far of the Ukraine resistance the Putin regime seems to be intent on demoralizing the resistance by targeting Ukraine civilians and their cities. Right now, most of Eastern Ukraine has been reduced to rubble. The regime’s broad strategy seems to be to capture the region by bombing it out. This strategy was tried out by Western imperialist powers, such as the US and France, in South East Asia some decades back, quite unsuccessfully.

However, by targeting civilians the Putin regime seems to be also banking on the US and its allies committing what could come to be seen as indiscretions, such as, getting more fully militarily and physically involved in the conflict.

To be sure, Russia’s rulers know quite well that it cannot afford to get into a full-blown armed conflict with the West and it also knows that the West would doing its uttermost to avoid an international armed confrontation of this kind that could lead to a Third World War. Both sides could be banked on to be cautious about creating concrete conditions that could lead to another Europe-wide armed conflict, considering its wide-ranging dire consequences.

However, by grossly violating the norms and laws of war in Ukraine Russia could tempt the West into putting more and more of its financial and material resources into strengthening the military capability of the Ukraine resistance and thereby weaken its economies through excessive military expenditure.

That is, the Western military-industrial complex would be further bolstered at the expense of the relevant civilian publics, who would be deprived of much needed welfare expenditure. This is a prospect no Western government could afford to countenance at the present juncture when the West too is beginning to weaken in economic terms. Discontented publics, growing out of shrinking welfare budgets, could only aggravate the worries of Western governments.

Accordingly, Putin’s game plan could very well be to subject the West to a ‘slow death’ through his merciless onslaught on the Ukraine. At the time of writing US President Joe Biden is emphatic about the need for united and firm ‘Transatlantic’ security in the face of the Russian invasion but it is open to question whether Western military muscle could be consistently bolstered amid rising, wide-ranging economic pressures.

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