Ukraine war most dangerous since Cuba crisis

Israeli author, historian and professor Yuval Noah Harari has frequently spoken out against President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, adding that it had the unintended consequence of forging greater unity between Europe and the US

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Seven weeks into the war between Russia and Ukraine, still escalating tensions are dragging society into what may be “the most dangerous moment in world history since the Cuban Missile Crisis,” according to Israeli historian and bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari.

The Sapiens author said the growing risk that Russia will turn to nuclear weapons or other forms of chemical or biological warfare to fuel its attack poses an existential threat to humanity.

“We are at perhaps the most dangerous moment in world history since the Cuban Missile Crisis when nuclear war suddenly becomes a possibility,” Harari told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore on Wednesday.

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis refers to a period of direct conflict between the United States and the then Soviet Union, often considered to be the closest period to nuclear war.

Anyone who has these fantasies about marching on Moscow, forget them as soon as possible.

Yuval Noah Harari

Historian, lecturer and author

While acknowledging that the current threat of nuclear war is “not very likely,” Harari said everyone — governments and individuals — should be “very concerned.”

“It’s a possibility, a real possibility, that we have to consider. And this is terrible news for all of humanity,” he said.

Still, Harari warned that it was not up to Western allies to forestall such a move by seeking regime change in Russia. Rather, they should focus on further enabling Ukraine to defeat Russian forces on the ground and restore peace.

“Anyone who has these fantasies about marching on Moscow, forget them as soon as possible,” he said, noting that such moves would further provoke the Kremlin.

“The aim of the war should be to protect Ukraine’s freedom, not to change Moscow. It is up to the Russian people,” he added.

A historical turning point

Harari, an associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of History, said the final outcome of the war could mark a crucial turning point in how governments deal with future threats.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin wins the war, more countries would be inclined – or forced – to increase military spending at the expense of other public services.

It’s not clear how much Russia invests in its defense spending, although Harari gave estimates of around 20%. We have already seen recent moves or pledges by governments to increase defense spending. Just days after the conflict began, Germany announced that it would significantly increase its defense spending to more than 2% of its economic output.

If we’re not careful, we’ll slip back into the jungle of war and violence, where countries are forced to spend much more on tanks and missiles.

Yuval Noah Harari

Historian, lecturer and author

“If global defense budgets were 20 percent instead of 6 percent, it would be at the expense of our health care, our well-being, and also at the expense of addressing other threats like climate change,” he said.

“This would be a terrible catastrophe for all of humanity,” he said, adding that a peaceful solution is not only in the interests of Ukraine and its immediate neighbors, but of society as a whole.

“It’s really about defending the peace and the kind of world that we’ve become accustomed to,” he said. “We’ve gotten so used to it that we take it for granted. But if we’re not careful, we’ll slide back into the jungle of war and violence, where countries are forced to spend far more on tanks and missiles and far less on teachers and nurses and welfare systems.”

However, Harari saw cause for cautious optimism if the western allies managed to bring the conflict to a peaceful end.

“If Putin loses and is seen as losing, that actually secures the previous order. When there’s a norm and someone breaks the norm and they’re punished for it, it actually reinforces the norm,” he said.

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/14/yuval-noah-harari-ukraine-war-most-dangerous-since-cuban-missile-crisis.html Ukraine war most dangerous since Cuba crisis

Gary B. Graves

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