The heated debate was at its peak when an intruder entered the room. The G-6 of intellectuals did not like the recently expelled group member’s entry but they continued the discussion anyway.

First: I doubt if anyone except Vladimir Putin knew the exact timing and scale of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. I doubt if anyone knows when Moscow would call it a day. However, Russia’s queen gambit opening reveals at least one thing. It is an all-out attack and nothing short of a decisive victory would satisfy Putin whose message is very clear: Ukraine is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam and no one would be allowed to mess with Moscow in or around its backyard. Unfortunately, even Zelensky could not realise that Ukraine was the Russian ‘Redline’ but not for the West. He is literally taken aback to see the West not ready to fight the war until ‘Europe’ felt threatened as if Ukraine was situated in Africa.

Second: It seems the US has learned a couple of history lessons from the bombing on Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is now aware that innocent civilians die in such blatant attacks, a sad fact that the entire world should condemn.

Third: China’s abstention from the UN Security Council vote needs to be interpreted. An enemy’s enemy is a natural ally. Of course, Beijing did not approve of the invasion but neither did it condemn it. What does it mean? China would like the West to face the music entirely on its own. Temporarily shifting of the West’s focus from its ‘China Containment’ pursuits to ‘Saving Europe’ might also provide the required breathing space that the South China Sea waters and Covid-19 need right now. Nevertheless, China might be willing to play a mediatory role between Russia and the West for putting a halt to the miseries of Ukraine. The question is: would the West’s political ego allow backtracking from bringing Ukraine into the NATO and EU folds and that too through a declared adversary? Somehow, I have a feeling that in the ongoing war in Ukraine, there will be more than one winner. There is a lot for China to gain here indirectly.

Fourth: I don’t think the US would ever wish to involve China in it let alone requesting Beijing to help dissipate the alarming situation. To begin with, the war in Ukraine does not adversely affect American objectives. By siding with Ukraine, Washington would gain on at least three fronts besides safeguarding the interests of its defence industry. At home, people would be convinced that the Trump era’s ‘crisis of confidence’ has effectively been addressed by leading the world politics as the world leader. The US would be more than happy to see Russia, an enemy, being isolated worldwide or militarily and economically weakened. Lastly, at the end of the war, the US might emerge as the final protector or savior of Europe. Hence, the US would not mind spending some billions in the process of regaining its lost image as the champion of democracy and human rights. Economic gains would be the icing on the cake.

Fifth: Usual paradoxes are coming up as the conflict deepens. The EU has announced some sanctions against Moscow but the movement of oil and gas from Russia goes on unhindered. The banking channels are meant to stop the inflow of foreign currency into Russia as the Ruble loses more than twenty percent of its pre-war value but the Russian State Bank has a contingency plan to stave off the losses. It has substantially increased the interest rates. The Europeans are facing a paradoxical situation as they feel compelled to take decisions against Russia at the cost of their own energy requirements. Germany imports fifty percent of its total requirement but is in a fix to see any viable alternative. The targeted Russian billionaires whose assets are being frosen find it difficult to prevail upon Putin in the West’s bid to force an immediate return of troops back to Russia. Meanwhile, smaller countries are calculating the risk factors particularly the effects of rising oil prices. Finding opportunity in this challenging situation, the oil producers and arms manufacturers are already calculating the increased profits.

Sixth: You can start a war at will but stopping it at will is usually beyond your control. Russia might have calculated every bit of its military operation and the involved political and economic ramifications but Russians could easily revisit the devastating domestic economic situation that dawned on them soon after the disintegration of the USSR. Whether Ukraine becomes another Afghanistan or the Russian map eventually changes, one thing is clear. Large-scale wars bring about devastation, displacement and weakening of economies of both the related and unrelated states. I don’t think Zelensky would step down to save his country from further devastation. Just like Ashraf Ghani, his helicopter might be ready to help him flee to a safer place.

Intruder: After listening to such insightful analyses, I think Putin, Biden and Zelensky should make you their advisors on foreign policy and military strategy. Goodness gracious, as Pakistanis, you are more worried about the supply of gas to Germany than the tons of wheat your country imports from Ukraine or why Pakistan is forced to import wheat in the first place. Go and count if all Pakistanis have returned home from Ukraine safely. Let Putin do what he wants to do. Let the West worry about the countermeasures. They neither need your advice nor would they ever bother about what you deduce or conclude. Think about Pakistan and the future repercussions of staying neutral. Reflect on how Pakistan and India could learn to co-exist peacefully. By the way, has anyone noticed that Pakistan and India seem to have exactly the same position on the war in Ukraine? Do you think only an outside significant event could bring India and Pakistan together? I must leave now as my little one is waiting for me to help him finish his homework.