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Colombo Flood Protection

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by N. V. Gooneratne

There were several articles on ‘Colombo flood protection’ in your newspaper and I would like to mention the following. The following fact should be placed before the public:

The Madiwela East diversion canal was constructed under the Greater Colombo Flood Control and Environment Improvement Project (GCFC&EIP) Phase 1. A little upstream of the Malabe Athurugiriya Road there was a deep excavation. For earth canals, the slope of the sides of the canal must be at least 1:1.5. i.e. for one foot vertically it should be 1.5 feet horizontally. If the earth is week, it should be 1:2 or 1: 2.5, depending on the earth. Also, in the case of deep excavations, one or two horizontal sections are required. The Consultant of the project requested sufficient land to be acquired. The officer in charge of the project gave, in writing, to construct the canal with the available land. Thus, this section was constructed with a slope of approximately 1:1. Hence, this section collapsed in a short time and the canal became ineffective. Either the required land should have been acquired or some other alternate method, such as a concrete structure, should have been constructed, in this section of the canal. I am not aware of the present condition.

In the early 1990s, a Senior Engineer decided to buy and install two 25 cusec pumps near the Elvitigala Mawatha Bridge and pump the water across the road as there was a flooding problem in the Torrington area and the pumps were bought. When the other Engineers explained that more than 50 cusecs would flow under gravity these pumps became redundant. At that time there was the problem of pollution in the canals and then the Engineer who ordered the pumps decided to install them at the North Lock at Nagalagam Street to pump water from the Kelani River to flush the canal system. For this, a gate was installed with the bottom of the gate at 6.0 feet above mean sea level when fully opened which was the designed high flood level. During the 1992 floods, the water level, at the North Lock, was about 7.0 feet above mean sea level. There were several complaints that the gate was obstructing the flow. Dr. Obeysekera, who was the Chairman, contacted a high officer in the Navy (I remember as Mr. Tissera) and instructed me to go and meet him to get the gate demolished. I went to the Navy Camp, in the Mutual area, and met the officer who sent two Navy Officers with me to the North Lock. When we went there, we observed that the water was flowing as the bottom level of the canal was 4.0 feet below mean sea level and the gate was fully opened up to 6.0 feet above sea level. However, there was an obstruction as the water level was 7.0 feet above mean sea level. As the gate was a wooden one, the two Navy Officers removed the bolts and nuts from the timber obstructing the flow, removed the timber and the water flowed without any obstruction after that. The claim that the gate was blasted is false.

There were a large number of structures in the canal system. During the 1992 floods, the salt water exclusion structure near the Havelock Road Bridge, in the Wellawatte Canal was a major obstruction. There were wide piers and less than 30% of the width of the canal was flowing when all the gates were open. The difference in water level, on either side of the structure, was about five feet. Colombo had not experienced such a heavy rainfall for a very long time and also a large extent of land had been developed increasing the discharge to the canal system. The Corporation was very fortunate that Dr. Obeysekera was the Chairman at that time. He immediately brought the Corporation machinery and staff and demolished the structure within two or three hours. This enabled the water level to be reduced considerably although it took some time for the water to discharge to the sea, as the volume of water, collected in the catchment area, was large. The Wellawatte Canal is the main outlet when it rains, at present, and it is important to maximise the discharge to the sea when it rains.

Colombo developed mainly due to the Port, and most parts of it are at a low level. Most of the rain water was earlier retained in the large marshes which have been developed mainly during the last 50 years and has resulted in high levels of water when it rains. The Parliament floor level is about 7.0 feet above mean sea level and some Committee Rooms are about a foot below that level. The Galle Road is around 30 feet above mean sea level. If you look at the water in the canal, near the Galle Road Bridge near Savoy Cinema you can see how deep it is. However, if you look at the water in the lake at Battaramulla Bridge you can observe that it is only a few feet below the bridge although there is very little difference in the water levels during dry periods. When Parliament was to be constructed, the Corporation requested, in writing, that the Parliament floor level be raised by at least two feet. At that time the Corporation was dredging the lake and the person in charge of the project rejected the request saying they only knew how to pump chocolate mud and did not know the effect of seeing the water when anyone is in the Committee Rooms. The result is that Parliament has been under water several times and a large sum of money is spent to protect the Parliament when the water level in the lake rises.

The Beira Lake is an artificial lake, constructed at 6.0 feet above mean sea level, to transport goods from the harbour to the warehouses that were constructed around the Beira Lake. Now goods are transported in containers. Hence, the Beira outlet, near the old Parliament can be used as an outlet when it rains, as the necessity to maintain the water level at 6.0 feet above mean sea level is not there. After some studies, the water level can be reduced, at least during the rainy periods, by constructing some gates at the outfall. Then by connecting the St. Sebastian Canal near, the Technical College, to the Canal, leading to the Beira Lake, the water level in the main canal system can be reduced.

When the Parliament was constructed it was decided that there should be a green belt on either side of the canals. Also the canal reservation, when the Irrigation Department handed over the canals to the Corporation, in 1979, was one chain (66 feet) in some sections and half a chain (33 feet) in some sections of the canal. However, the Corporation has reduced it to 6.0 meters (20 feet) and 3.0 meters (10 feet). Thus, there is hardly any green belt and insufficient room for maintenance.

In the report prepared for the GCFC&EIP Phase 1 it was proposed to have 980 acres of retention around the Colombo Canal System and in addition it was stated that there is 3.8 million cubic meters of retention around the Parliament Lake of which 95% should be kept for retention. The Corporation through the government acquired about 1,200 acres of which some areas were fairly high and some low areas had not been acquired. The acquisition should have been done according to some level such as those less than four feet above mean sea level.

People, whose land had been acquired, wanted them released and when they knew that more than the requirement had been acquired in an unreasonable manner the demands increased. The Corporation decided to release a maximum of 20 perches to an original owner and keep 980 acres, but people with influence obtained in acres whereas some did not get anything. Now, out of the 1,200 acres acquired there must be less than 600 acres. The land around the Parliament Lake had been acquired by the UDA and hence the Corporation did not get it acquired as the UDA, which implemented the Parliament Project, agreed to keep it. With the development that has been carried out around the Parliament Lake definitely the retention available is very much less than the requirement.

At present, the Wellawatte Canal is the main outlet and it is important to maximise the flow in the canal. The width of the canal under the Galle Road Bridge is very much less than the canal on either side of the bridge. When it rains you can see a difference in the water level on either side. The Consultants of the GCFC&EIP Phase 1 observed this but did not consider it as reconstructing the Galle Road Bridge was not allowed due to the traffic. However, after the Marine Drive Bridge Construction and the Duplication Road Bridge Construction this was possible. Similar to the Baseline Road Bridge construction, it could be done even half at a time. In 2005, after Colombo experienced some floods, the government agreed to fund it with local funds. As this bridge is under the RDA, a decision was taken at the meeting for the Corporation to prepare an estimate with the RDA. The Chairman at that time was a politician and a Board Member advised him not to get RDA involved and that the Corporation could construct the bridge on its own. Hence to date this has not been done. If anyone stands at the Galle Road Bridge and looks towards the sea, you can see that there is no reservation and how people have encroached on the canal bund. On the other side, when the Irrigation Department handed over the canals, between Galle Road and Duplication Road, the Wellawatte side was Canal reservation and there were only trees. Today, the entire section is occupied and some have even constructed buildings up to the canal with no reservation. Hence the widening of the canal by reconstructing the bridge will be difficult.

When the tunnel was constructed under the GCFC&EIP Phase 2 along 5th Lane, in Colpetty, there was a concrete structure along Duplication Road and the bottom of it was about 9.0 feet above mean sea level. The inside of the pipes used for the tunnel was 8.0 feet in diameter and with the thickness of the concrete was nearly 9.0 feet. As the tunnel had to be below this structure and satisfactory investigations had not been done before awarding the contract, at the sea outfall, the bottom of the pipe was at sea level. It would have been better if it was at least a foot higher, but could not be done. The concrete structure, along Duplication Road, is very likely to be the sewerage line from Colpetty to Wellawatte. If it is the sewerage line, it will cross Bullers Road also. I observed that a new tunnel is being constructed along Bullers Road. According to the plans displayed, it is 10.0 feet in diameter. In that case, either the outlet will be below sea level or the pipe will have to be raised and the full capacity cannot be utilised. This will be a waste of funds.

The Corporation handles only the main canals. The drains taking water to the canals are maintained by the CMC. Sometime ago a study was done and over 150 problem areas were identified and the CMC was to solve them. However, during recent rains it was observed that very little had been done. They also do not follow up when anyone creates obstructions and it is seen that more areas are flooded when it rains. In the recent past, the RDA constructed drains on either side of the Marine Drive. Some sections were rectangular drains and others were hume pipes. The drains were covered and paved for people to walk. Now the people have a nice walking path on either side of Marine Drive. However, the drains are blocked and never cleaned. When it rains, all the sea side roads, in Colpetty, Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte, are flooded. For the recent rains, people living close to Marine Drive found the roads and their gardens flooded and a few even may have had water in their houses. In addition, all the garbage bins were floating and people had to clean everything. The CMC and RDA are aware of the problem as it has happened several times, but do not clean the Marine Drive drains. The main problem is that officers are attending meetings and do not attend to the work.

Getting foreign aid and implementing projects seem to be what everyone wants. When foreign aid is given the country that gives the funds, although it is a loan, always sends their people at least as Consultants and sometimes to implement the project. Very often these Consultants have little experience and learn implementing projects here at our expense. I have seen a large number of Consultants and I am sure our local companies can do a better job for a fraction of the cost. It is only for specialised fields that we require Consultants. For the GCFC&EIP Phase 2 tunnel, at Colpetty, the Corporation had a Consultant. The Construction period was about eight or nine months. He was stationed at Thailand and during the construction he came about five times and stayed about a week each time he came. He was the only person that deserved to be called a Consultant. In the GCFC&EIP Phase 3 there was a large canal excavated at Attidiya. When this was excavated there was no access to six lands. The Consultants proposed six bridges on piles. Then a Corporation Engineer suggested to construct a 20-foot road on the other side of the canal which was implemented instead of the six bridges, which resulted in a large saving. This indicates the experience of the Consultants that we get paying large sums of money in foreign currency obtained as loans. Very often these inexperienced Consultants prepare preliminary designs for a project within one year. Thus, what is implemented is not the best solution as they are inexperienced and do not consult the local people sufficiently. In most projects, the local staff do not do sufficient checking to get a better job done.

I can write more, but will conclude here mentioning that we must carry out the drainage improvements utilising the funds carefully and implement the best solutions. It is important that all projects are monitored to see that incorrect decisions that can be avoided are not taken. We must also use gravity drainage as much as possible and avoid pumping, which is expensive and we do not have proper maintenance experience and sufficient funds which is essential for pumping schemes. Besides, all responsible authorities should see that they do not allow any organisation or person to create additional problems. When the GCFC&EIP Phase 2 was implemented it was observed that in a road off Jawatte Road a house had been built over the drain. Hence it would not have been cleaned and there was no way to improve the drain. How this has been allowed defies comprehension. Hence, it was not possible to widen the drain. Fortunately, a civic-minded resident allowed to construct a drain through his garden and divert the water.

 



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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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