Vitalii Portnikov

The Long Wars of Our Time

When terrorists from Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 of last year, many thought it was a classic local conflict that would end within days or weeks with a ceasefire and the exchange of Israeli hostages for imprisoned Hamas militants. The initial rounds of negotiations seemed to support this. However, now even Israeli officials say the war will last until the end of this year — and that’s an optimistic scenario.

A similar observation applies to Russia’s war against Ukraine. When Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine on February 24, 2022, many thought it would be resolved within days or weeks. The initial rounds of negotiations seemed to support this. However, now it is said that the war will last until the end of the year — and that’s an optimistic scenario. In reality, no one knows when the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine will end.

Some may think this is an objective course of events, but it is not. These are 21st-century wars — wars of “red lines.”

There is no need to explain that Israel’s military potential surpasses that of Hamas. However, the Israel Defense Forces must exercise caution: any miscalculation could result in civilian casualties, strained relations with the United States, and a new surge of anti-Israel sentiments worldwide. Therefore, the war in the Gaza Strip cannot end quickly.

Russia, of course, surpasses Ukraine in military and mobilization potential. However, Ukraine has access to modern Western weaponry, the use of which can alter the balance of power. Yet, Ukraine’s allies fear a direct conflict with Moscow and so far have not allowed the use of this weaponry on Russian territory. This, of course, allows Russia to restore and strengthen its military potential. But Ukraine can resist the aggression on its territory, and this is also the logic of a long war.

One might argue that such caution is necessary in our time. But we already see how both wars exacerbate global tensions, worsen relations between Western countries and the “Global South,” and create new fault lines within the civilized world. This means they lay the groundwork for new conflicts. Long wars are a cancer that cannot help but metastasize.

About the Author
Vitalii Portnikov is a Ukrainian publicist, writer, TV presenter and member of the Ukrainian PEN. He is also an author and renowned journalist working in democratic media in Central and Eastern Europe for more than three decades. He is the author of hundreds of analytical articles in Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Russian, Israeli, Baltic media. He hosts television programs and his own analytical channels on YouTube. He is currently broadcasting at the office of the Espreso TV channel and continues to cooperate with the Ukrainian and Russian services of Radio Liberty.
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