Like Bosnia, Ukraine was forgotten before and could be forgotten again

We forget about the long-lasting implications of war. When the dust settles, if ever it does, history is forever more altered and for the people involved – grief is a long-lasting reality.

News in 2014 of the Donbas conflict quickly settled in the fresh air of a ceasefire agreement, though it quickly turned to polluted promises once a frontline was established, and Russian backed forces continued to fire indiscriminately at homes along the line of contact and the world’s media soon forgot about events unfolding there.

Maybe things would be different in Ukraine if news outlets gave it the attention it deserved before it became the current headlines of today. Maybe the West should have built up Ukraine’s defences long ago. What ifs can be powerful, but they’re often forgotten under the stones of slogans and phrases designed to thwart the very events they’re designed to remember.

Conflict is raging in Ukraine, but my best guess is that once a ceasefire has been agreed upon or the threat to the European Union and its partners lessens, the world will forget about a crisis that has been stirring in Kyiv controlled regions for nearly a decade.

Stopping the war is the biggest challenge faced right now, but it is what comes next that will pose a more taxing endeavour. Literally.

Designated container block housing for internally displaced people in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Rebuilding the country in the aftermath of war is no small feat. Those involved will have to come to terms with loss, grief and potential homelessness. Property disputes will emerge and the sharks will encircle, a threat in both a domestic and international capacity. As witnessed in other parts of the world like Bosnia & Herzegovina, borders may have to be redrawn, concessions given and financial insecurity will mount.

It has been nearly 30 years since the conflict in Bosnia began. It is a country with ambition but riddled with debt, exhausted by political and ethnic divisions alongside the ever-present threat of another war. If ever you take a walk around its cities, you’ll notice that buildings are scattered with the scars of conflict and hit by the shrapnels of trauma.

There is no doubt in my mind that any conclusion of the conflict in Ukraine will be met by the same or similar problems present in Bosnia & Herzegovina effectuated by Russian propaganda and residual motivations for the fighting.

The West will seek promises from Ukraine in order to rebuild the country and this is something we have witnessed in other nations such as Iraq. But we also know guarantees of security and prosperity can be undone if we look to examples of the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, which they claim was liberated from Taliban rule, but in actuality, they controlled huge swaths of land until they rolled back into town to retake Kabul, undoing all the progress made by everyday Afghan people.

But the biggest concern of all in warfare has always been overlooked. No matter how much humanitarian aid is delivered, even if rubble is reversed – trauma remains for generations, bitterness prevails, psychology is altered and a long-lasting peace is not only in jeopardy but uprooted for longer. Without closure from heartbreak and devastation, we risk future resentments between nations and the brutality of war yet again. In the aftermath of conflict, another war begins, a war of the minds.

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