WE are now at the start of the second year of the Russo-Ukrainian war. The only certain thing about this conflict is that it is set to continue and get even bloodier.

The exact number of fatalities so far is lost in the predicable fog of war but could easily run to several hundred thousand. It will only get worse. Here is my worry: there is no movement anywhere or on anyone’s part to halt this appalling conflict.

In fact, the outcome of President Zelenskyy’s trip to Britain and the EU last week has been to ramp up the war rhetoric on all sides.

When Zelenskyy talks about “glory to Ukraine” and its soldiers, and British and Scottish MPs cheer him on, we are entering dangerous times for the world.

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It goes without saying that the proximate cause of this war is the indefensible aggression of the Putin regime in Moscow. It goes without saying that the Ukrainian people have the right to defend themselves and seek arms to do so from whoever will supply them. Yet to accept these truisms gets us nowhere in the end if they serve only to stoke the war and – my fear – push Putin towards the use of nuclear weapons.

The war is now a proxy fight between Russia and Nato. I do not care if you feel this is justified to “protect democracy” or “teach Putin a lesson” or “protect the international rule of law”. My point is that the scale of arms supplies from the West to Ukraine has now transformed this conflict quantitatively and qualitatively.

Western military aid now comprises the most advanced technological devices. These have given the Ukrainian forces the upper hand, humiliated the Russian military high command, deeply embarrassed Moscow and let Kyiv regain territory.

But the upshot, as we enter year two, is that Europe and the West have unleashed political and military tides they cannot control – or at least seem oblivious to.

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The survival of the Putin regime depends on staving off defeat and regaining ground. Defeat is not an option. If Putin falls, we will only get an outright, nationalist, fascist (instead of authoritarian) regime in the Kremlin.

Moscow will launch a spring offensive regardless of Nato. Ukraine will appeal for more arms and – led by Britain and America – the West will likely rush modern jets, more tanks and long-range missile systems to the front. For Nato, too, cannot countenance defeat, given the state of public opinion: “Glory to Ukraine!”

And yes, those jets (F-16s, Rafaels, Typhoons) need trained pilots. Which means sending in Nato pilots if Ukraine is suddenly pushed to the brink of collapse – because it takes three years to train a combat pilot. In that event, we face nuclear escalation.

There is an iron logic at work here which Western politicians and media are refusing to understand – a political and economic logic forcing Western civilisation towards Armageddon.

Back in 1980, during the Cold War, the great English historian and anti-war campaigner EP Thompson coined the word “exterminism” to characterise this process. He was writing in the context of a move by the old Soviet Union and Nato to deploy first-strike nuclear missiles in Europe, thus monumentally destabilising global and European security.

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To deploy a first-strike capability is to invite the other side to launch or lose its advantage. So why initiate such a dangerous escalation if mutual suicide was the likely outcome?

Thompson invoked the neologism of “exterminism” to explain this suicidal logic. Our complex societies and economies have evolved to the point where institutional self-interest (military, industrial, media, elitist) over-rides common sense and self-preservation.

It is easier to blame “the other side” than reconsider the impact of one’s own position. Thompson lived and wrote before the advent of social media, which re-inforces tribalism and eliminates nuance. Today, the forces of exterminism are running out of control.

Consider but one implication of the Russo-Ukraine conflict: the stimulation it has given to the Western defence economy. The Western world’s 10 biggest defence companies by revenues (in 2020) were Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Northrop, General Dynamics, L3Harris, Airbus, Thales and Leonardo. Of these, six are American and four are European.

Pre the outbreak of the Russo-Ukraine conflict, this ensemble generated total annual revenues in the region of $150 billion. At that point, the global defence market was growing at a healthy but modest 4% per year. These top corporations had about 7.5% of that pie.

But that was then and now is now. Lockheed is predicting revenues of $66bn this year, up from $45bn in 2020. Raytheon expects sales of $77bn in 2023, up from $24bn. All this as a result of the war in Ukraine and the West’s rush to arm Kyiv and replenish its own arsenals.

For Boeing, mired in huge financial losses as a result of the 737 MAX airliner scandal, the war is a godsend. Boeing will return to profit this year as a result of military sales. Indeed, the good folk at Boeing have been busy inventing new weapons systems to use in Ukraine.

These include the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb, a new precision warhead that can be fitted to existing rockets, extending their range in order to hit targets inside Russian territory. That is how exterminism evolves.

As the military-industrial logic of exterminism unfolds, the next step will be for an embattled Kremlin to resort to battlefield nuclear weapons. Putin will use his nukes rather than accept defeat – unless there is some move from somewhere to open up a path to peace

In the 1980s, partly as a result of EP Thompson’s intervention, a mass peace movement emerged that forced Nato and the Soviet Union to abandon their plans to site first-strike nukes in Europe. It was a famous popular victory that showed the logic of extremism could be broken. We can do it again.

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Part of the logic of the new exterminism this time is the expansion of Nato. Again, for the avoidance of doubt, Putin’s regime is culpable in starting the Russo-Ukraine inferno. But after the end of the Soviet Union in 1989, and with it the end of the First Cold War, Nato was an alliance in search of a reason to exist. Logically, that was the moment to have dissolved it and create a new European security model.

Instead, Nato shifted from being a European defence alliance into a global policeman and a very ineffective one at that. Nato’s bombing Libya into the Stone Age in 2011 merely created another failed state.

Last week, Britain committed to training Ukrainian marines in amphibious warfare, presumably as a prelude to invading Crimea. The UK also said it would start training Ukrainian jet pilots. Both moves represent a significant escalation of British involvement in the conflict. The UK is part of the logic of exterminism.

On current form, so is Scotland. But Scotland – now and after independence – could pioneer a different response. We could seek to initiate a European peace movement, embracing Russians as well as West Europeans. Someone has to take a first step. This war will end in negotiation or it will end in mushroom clouds.