The most dangerous war in Ukraine since the Cuban Missile 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 United States. .

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Seven weeks into the war between Russia and Ukraine, ever-escalating tensions are positioning society at “perhaps the most dangerous moment in world history since the Cuban Missile Crisis”, according to the historian and Israeli 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 advance its assault poses an existential threat to humanity.

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

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

Anyone who has these fantasies of walking to Moscow, forget them as soon as possible.

Yuval Noé 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 worried”.

“It’s a possibility, a real possibility that we have to consider. And it’s terrible news for the whole human race,” he said.

Yet Harari warned that it is not for Western allies to try to pre-empt such action by seeking regime change in Russia. Instead, they should focus on empowering Ukraine to defeat Russian forces on the ground and restore peace.

“Anyone who has these fantasies of marching towards Moscow, forget them as quickly 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 depends on the Russian people,” he added.

A historic turning point

Harari, a senior lecturer in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the ultimate outcome of the war could mark a turning point in how governments handle future threats.

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

It is unclear how much Russia invests in its defense spending, although Harari estimated around 20%. Already, we have seen recent actions or commitments by governments to increase their defense spending. Just days after the start of the conflict, Germany announced that it would dramatically increase its defense spending to more than 2% of its economic output.

If we are not careful, we will fall back into the jungle of war and violence in which countries are forced to spend far more on tanks and missiles.

Yuval Noé Harari

historian, lecturer and author

“If defense budgets around the world were 20% instead of 6%, it would come at the expense of our health care, our well-being, and it would also come at the expense of the fight against other dangers like climate change,” he said.

“It would be a terrible catastrophe for all of humanity,” he said, adding that a peaceful resolution is not only in the interest of Ukraine and its immediate neighbors, but in that of society at large.

“It’s really about standing up for peace and the kind of world that we’ve grown accustomed to,” he said. “We have gotten so used to it that we take it for granted. But if we are not careful, we will fall back into the jungle of war and violence in which countries are forced to spend far more on tanks and weapons. missiles and much less in teachers and teachers, nurses and welfare systems.”

Harari, however, saw reason to be optimistic and cautious if the Western allies succeeded in ending the conflict peacefully.

“If Putin loses and is seen losing, it will actually back up the previous order. When there is a norm and someone violates the norm and is punished for it, it actually reinforces the norm,” he said. he declared.

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