Old Men Talking Sense on Ukraine

Photograph Source: David Shankbone – CC BY 2.0

Some of the most sensible commentary about the Ukraine war is being made by people in their nineties, born before the Second World War and with vivid recollections of the Cold War. One is 98-year-old Henry Kissinger and another is the 94-year-old Israeli global strategist Prof Yehezkel Dror of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Both men are old and distinguished enough not to be caught up in popular war hysteria or foreign policy establishment conventional wisdom and herd instinct.

I have never been tempted to write many good words about Kissinger, but his realism about the war is a welcome contrast to those who would like to see it go on ad infinitum in vain pursuit of some unattainable victory.

Asked who will win the Ukraine war, Prof Dror, who has advised six Israeli prime ministers, replied: “This war, like most wars, will end with no absolute winner. Both sides will lose. The question is which side loses more. Ukraine is fighting bravely. President Volodymyr Zelensky has become a mass media hero. Western countries are condemning Russia and providing Kyiv with weapons and sanctions. But meanwhile, Ukraine is being partly devastated and depopulated. It is paying a very high price in blood and material, while Russia remains secure.”

Asked about President Vladimir Putin’s state of mind, Dror said:

“Putin may well be stressed. Emotional name-calling, such as branding him as a war criminal and calling for a regime change in Moscow, may be morally and ethically correct and honourable, but it is also form of strategic madness. Russia is, and will remain, an indispensable major partner in the global arena. Attempting to turn it into a pariah state and making Putin persona non grata is an approach that could, under mounting stress, become suicidal.”

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).