Marking the one-year anniversary

As a news junkie, I’ve been on a seven-day high. As Friday saw the one-year anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine, reviewing the year and predicting what is to come has dominated the news cycle. There was also a spattering of this weeks’ events featuring Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine, Putin’s speech about a parallel universe with Ukrainian nazis attacking Russians and scenes of support rallies and vigils starring the familiar blue and yellow flag.

What have I learned from this week of international newspapers, podcasts, radio, television and magazines? President Zelensky is still the master craftsperson of public relations. Despite that, he’s not likely to get the full military support he craves for reasons to do with geopolitics and the practicalities of transporting and using these machines of war. It’s also not likely this war will end anytime soon as both sides are far from the negotiating table. One pundit predicted that this could last a generation.

The most thought-provoking commentaries came from the weekend papers. The Observer editorial put a spotlight on the results of this week’s UN resolution to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine and demand an unconditional withdrawal. The resolution was supported by 141 countries, voted against by 7 and had 32 abstentions:

‘Worrying, even dismaying, is the realisation that important regional powers such as India, South Africa, Ethiopia and Algeria continue to sit on the fence. Foremost among them is China. Beijing is becoming, or already is, a global economic and military superpower. But with power must come responsibility – and its refusal to condemn, sanction or publicly criticise Russia is inexcusably irresponsible.’

Patrick Cockburn in the I Paper offered a sobering thought for us news addicts:

‘Biased reporting is inevitable in any war, but in this case the partisan news coverage has tended to over-focus on the military conflict in Ukraine and under-report the risks stemming from a growing confrontation between a confident America and a weakened Russia.’

Maybe I binged a bit too much on this news cycle as another take away from the week has been a feeling of worried ambivalence – if that’s not a contradiction in terms. This came to me as I was walking down the streets of Cambridge as part of a march and rally for Ukraine. Noting that fewer than 500 people showed up in this thriving student town made me think that this war is starting to drift from the collective consciousness – that was the worrying part. At the same time, I was growing detached from the event as the message wasn’t clear and at times made me feel ill at ease. This march was devoid of peace signs and the main message seemed to be that we are ‘standing with Ukraine.’ Are we standing with them as they fight, as this war is escalating and as more countries become involved? I agree with this in principle but feel uncomfortably militaristic with their application. I also didn’t see any signs or hear any chants or even casual talk about the thousands of Ukrainian children being taken by Russian troops to Russia to be re-educated – Putin is playing the long game by creating the next generation of pro-Russian nationalists.

My head spins with these thoughts, and I’m not really one to shut down and become ambivalent. Like a typical addict, I deal with these doubts and confusions by taking more of the drug that started it. Back to a podcast…