Please don’t call the war in Ukraine ‘global instability’

The only sustainable way to create a safer Europe and a safer world is to ensure Ukraine’s victory.

There is a catchy phrase now being increasingly used to explain all kinds of things when they go wrong: ‘global instability’.

Government officials, politicians, business executives—almost all of them now offer ‘global instability’ as a reason to justify any mistake or any problem.

But this ‘global instability’ is not really ‘instability’ and it’s not really ‘global’.

This ‘instability’ has a real name—war. And it has a particular location—Ukraine. So instead of referring to this vague, very abstract phrase ‘global instability’, we should rather point to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the reason for the international malaise.

This is not just about the words we use—this is about their meaning. While instability has to be stabilised, war has to be won. Ukraine is not seeking to stabilise anything. Ukraine wants to win its war against the Russian army, a victory that will lead to positive outcomes on the international level.

Ukrainian soldiers on the frontlines fight their way through bombings and explosions—very hard, very challenging work demanding lots of courage. If you ask them, Are you guys dealing with the instability?, they’ll tell you, No, we’re dealing with the enemy that wants to take away our lives and our territory.

However, we still see the phrase ‘global instability’ used by the media almost daily. Moreover, it becomes a term used in electoral talk—and this has implications.

Think of this. Two people meet and start a conversation. One asks the other, after reading a morning newspaper, So what do you think about this global instability? Do you know what to do with it?

Of course, it’s hard to understand what’s being meant and what needs to be answered. While if the question is more direct: Do you support Ukraine in the ongoing war against the Russian invasion?, the answer should be much clearer.

Explosions are not ‘instability’

Ukraine depends on Western military, economic and humanitarian support for approximately half of its budget to fund the army and social spending. Both the US Congress and the European Parliament have to vote regularly to provide this support for Ukraine, and this has become a substantially slower process, not least in the US where Republicans don’t really want to put Ukraine bills, prepared by the Joe Biden administration, to a vote as quickly as Ukraine would wish.

These are huge sums: 50 billion euros from the European Union and another 60 billion US dollars pledged by the US. The problem is that to some people responsible for delivering this support, it is beginning to look as though these funds are merely meant to end ‘global instability’.

And just like any ‘instability’, it is viewed as a slow process which doesn’t require any quick decisions. The reality is that this is not ‘instability’, it is a bloody war taking place in Ukraine, one of the biggest countries in Eastern Europe, whose security has been backed by the coalition of democratic nations since day one of the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.

In Ukraine, it’s not ‘instability’ that is destroying homes and lives in cities and villages all over the country. It’s bombings, explosions, shootings—and war crimes. An explosion over your head isn’t ‘instability’, it’s an explosion, a very direct threat to your life and health. And Ukraine needs further Western support to end this and to produce an adequate response by eventually defeating the Russian army on all of the frontlines.

Real war, not Power Point presentations

Now there’s another war happening in Israel. It’s so easy to add up Israel’s war with Ukraine’s and call the sum total ‘global instability’. But this doesn’t make life any easier—neither for Israel and Palestine, nor for Ukraine.

All of these countries struggle with real wars, with advanced technology deployed by all sides. When developments in Ukraine and Israel are described as ‘global instability’, it’s so easy to avoid noticing the tragedies, the losses, the pain of war.

While instability is usually something shown on graphs and charts, Excel files and Power Point presentations, with all kinds of statistics used to forecast an increase (or decrease) in instability, war is something totally different.

War is where soldiers have to risk own lives to defeat the enemy. You can’t hide from war by looking only at charts and graphs. War is a story where people’s lives, people’s faces, people’s emotions, people’s rights matter in the first place.

Victory Day, not Stabilisation Day

If the world is going to stick to this phrase ‘global instability’, it might eventually be used against Ukraine’s interests. There will always be people, including populist politicians and decision-makers, who’ll put Ukraine’s ability to win the war in doubt.

These people will start accusing Ukraine of being an exporter of global instability. Some of them might already be saying exactly this, adding another argument to support Russia’s push to freeze the war and retain control over the occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine.

Intuitively, ‘instability’ is something you’re likely to wish to end with ‘stabilisation’, a meeting or an agreement, where diplomats in suits will shake hands, put their signatures on a piece of paper and then pose for photos, expecting compliments for their accomplishment.

By calling Ukraine’s war against Russia ‘instability’, one makes an argument to end it in one day, rather sooner than later, by signing some sort of a treaty, at any cost and under any conditions. But this is nothing less then playing a game in Russia’s best geopolitical interests. For Ukraine, war needs to be won, not ‘stabilised’.

It’s easy to see all the spillovers of the Ukraine-Russia war: increased defence spending in Eastern Europe, more investments in military R&D by NATO countries, logistical problems in the Black Sea, disrupted energy and food supplies.

It’s a big temptation to notice only these problems and to focus on them, instead of focusing on the underlying reason: Russia’s lawless invasion of Ukraine.

To fix the negative spillovers, Ukraine needs to be helped at an adequate rate—through international assistance programmes—to win the war by defeating the Russian army. This will lead to Ukraine’s Victory Day. Not ‘stabilisation day’, but a full and overwhelming Victory Day. That’s the only sustainable way to create a safer Europe and a safer world.

War needs to be won, not ‘stabilised’.

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About the author

Ivan Verstyuk

Ivan Verstyuk

Ivan Verstyuk is an analyst and journalist based in Kyiv. His book, Changes Outside My Windows, about life during Russia's war on Ukraine, was published in late 2022 by Yakaboo.

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