I would not want to be Zelensky. In a world of great powers and their jockeying for position to fulfill hegemonic aims or protect and strengthen their interests and grow their ambitions, entire nations, let alone governments and individuals or individual leaders within those nations are simply pieces to be manipulated and used as long as they are useful and sacrificed when they are not. We don’t know what Zelensky’s fate will be when the West’s game-play on Ukraine begins to change, as it inevitably will, in response to the slow strategic game that Russia is playing so close to their own backyard.
When playing a board game the tension and stress and excitement can at times be overwhelming to bear. When the game is on the world stage and the stakes are the lives of nations and of entire peoples, and arsenals of weapons that, because of miscalculations or missteps have the possibility and potential to cause worldwide destruction, the game needs to be immediately ended, no matter the short term damage to the voracious national egos involved.
Too much is at stake for humanity as a whole. We have seen, following the horrors of the two great wars of the last century and the countless lesser wars that followed and new conflicts that continue to be endlessly rolled out in our present times, far too many unnecessary deaths solely for the ambitions of nations led by heartless politicians plotting hegemonic aims as game scenarios in conjunction with their military branches.
In the real world the game will not necessarily stay confined to the chosen board or field of play no matter how careful the pre-game planning. But the real suffering of flesh and blood human beings and their response, can spread a conflict far beyond the board or arena on which the “great” powers seek their aims. The long term consequences are very real, the damage to individuals and societies tragic.
When your opponent turns out to be a strong player and the game moves toward a likely stalemate, or worse, towards checkmate, the consequences for the proxy armies, and the proxy politicians trapped in the game are dire. The pressure on Zelensky, the pressure of carrying out the bidding of powers that will abandon him, without compunction, if he is no longer useful to their interests, aims, or ambitions, will have tragic consequences for him and Ukraine. The Ukrainian military may not be happy with him if he negotiates with Russia, The US and UK will not be happy if their revised strategy moves towards negotiation and he doesn’t comply as the whole Ukraine/NATO enterprise begins to falter.
But the real tragedy, as it was in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the ongoing devastation in Yemen enabled by arms sales to Saudi, is that nation after nation that experience great power ideas of reshaping and nation building, suffer incalculably in the aftermath of these disastrous enterprises.
All this fumbling and stomping will not fly in a world that has shrunk due to the technological speed enabled by modern communications and travel and financial interactions. The vast interactive web of trade interests, financial networks, and the cross-cultural boundaries that have become increasingly porous, make co-operation and non-coercive respect across borders and between cultures essential.
Cultural or political arrogance is not useful when the web of cross connections between nations are so pervasive, but can be immensely beneficial when carried out with mutual respect and genuine adherence to an ethics free of coercion, threat, and intimidation.
It’s too late for Ukraine, it doesn’t look like the Western (meaning US/NATO) hope of an implosion of the Russian government and economy is going to materialize, there doesn’t seem to be anything to look forward to in Ukraine but more infrastructural destruction, a slow grinding erosion of Ukrainian territorial integrity, and countless more tragic deaths and displacement within the population. Hopefully this will perhaps lead to talks and negotiations (all wars must at some point lead to negotiated settlements) sooner rather than later.
What happens to Zelensky at that point is unknown. He is certainly in an uncomfortable position. Having carried out the West’s bidding, he will, as the most visible icon of Ukrainian resistance, be the recipient of whatever disappointment or anger accompanies a Western change of strategy in Ukraine as the realization sets in that Ukraine is fast becoming a dangerous quagmire that is sapping the strength and image of Western powers and the NATO alliance.
Although Zelensky’s image and fate will be managed as judiciously as possible, it’s going to be a painfully uncomfortable downhill slide for him if the Ukrainian narrative begins to shift.
The upside is that that is a small price to pay to wind down the conflict and save numerous lives and rescue and preserve as much territorial integrity as possible and avoid a long grinding war that will benefit neither Ukraine, Europe, the US or The UK. Events seem to have moved beyond that point and pushing further will bring only further damage.
This conflict began with a Ukrainian and NATO response to Russia with an attitude of Semper Invictus (Always Invincible) but now the Latin phrases that matter most are Damnum Prohibere (Stop the Damage) followed by Semper Ad Meliora (Onward Towards A Better Future). That’s an outcome the greater part of the world would dearly love to see.