Last week (24 Feb 2022) Russia invaded Ukraine. The reported images and videos of the war are distressing. The reports of deaths are heart-breaking. At this time, we should be reminded of the historical lesson that the first casualty of war is normally truth.
We should not ignore history, and naively believe that this is the first war where truth is not the first casualty. Wisdom requires that evidence supporting and opposing our preferred views be rigorously scrutinised – to reduce the risk of making a hasty decision that we may later regret.
SUPPRESSING CONTRARY EVIDENCE.
People will be exposed to different views of this conflict depending on where they live. Each country’s politically compromised media will only publish views preferred by their political leaders. Contrary views will likely be ignored, or distorted and ridiculed.
When contrary evidence is suppressed, the public may not know that they are being manipulated to be angry at whatever target the media directs them – to suit an agenda that is rarely in their best interests.
When I heard the reported deaths of all of the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake island, simply for defying a Russian warship, I was angry with Russia. When I later heard that they had surrendered and are all alive as prisoners, I did not know what to believe – but I know that I do not want to be manipulated.
One relevant aspect of this conflict for Barbados, is that trade alliances are not military alliances. Ukraine has many trading partners in Europe and around the world. Eighty-one countries signed a letter at the United Nations condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But despite that overwhelming show of support, none of those countries sent their armies to fight with Ukraine.
Ukrainians now understand that obtaining and maintaining a good military alliance with a dependable military power, is a critical responsibility of any Government. A military alliance is insurance against aggressor nations. Every Ukrainian fighting against Russia desperately wishes that Ukraine was a member of the 30-nation NATO military alliance.
BARBADOS’ MILITARY ALLIANCE.
When we became Independent in 1966, Barbados had a military alliance with the United Kingdom (UK). The UK is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, with enough nuclear weapons to deter any other alliance and nation. The UK is also a member of the NATO military alliance, which obligates all NATO members to respond if one member is attacked.
In our Constitutional association, the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) was a part of Her Majesty’s forces . It is during a time of war that the Queen may fully exercise her Constitutional executive authority over Barbados . The BDF were responsible for defending Barbados  until the nearest available of Her Majesty’s forces arrived.
Barbados was not in Ukraine’s current uninsured position. Barbados was under the umbrella of NATO by its Constitutional association with the UK. Any nation that attacked the UK in its defence of Barbados, had to contend with all 30 NATO members. That was our insurance against aggressor nations.
DRIVING THE BUS.
Every five years, Barbadian politicians raise their hands and offer to drive Barbados’ bus. If the bus gets a flat tyre, they are supposed to repair it and keep driving safely. If they get too arrogant and start to drive recklessly, then we, the passengers, elect other drivers.
Our drivers were never elected to cancel our bus insurance, and they have no Constitutional authority to unilaterally do so. Tragically, that did not stop them from doing so in direct violation of Section 49 of the Constitution of Barbados, and then challenging any dissenter to go to court – I am the only one who did.
The legality of Parliament’s act to unilaterally cancel our military alliance with the UK, and by extension, with NATO, is currently being decided by the Barbados courts – as our politicians have directed. However, our current uninsured state presents us with a rare opportunity.
ISSUES OF THE CONFLICT.
Both Russia and Ukraine had legitimate security and economic concerns, that needed an honest evidence-based discussion to prevent war. As an independent nation with no real military alliances, Barbados was well positioned to mediate the dispute, with a neutral rigorous scrutiny of the evidence of both sides.
The main issues seem to be that: (a) NATO was formed to fight Russia, (b) Russia does not want NATO forces on its border, (c) Ukraine shares a long border with Russia, (d) Ukraine fears Russia and wants to join NATO, which would put NATO forces on Russia’s border, (e) Russia requested NATO not to admit Ukraine as a member, but NATO declined that request, (f) Russia invaded Ukraine before it joined NATO – to avoid fighting NATO.
CASUALTIES OF WAR.
While the first casualty of war is truth, the second is civilian and military personnel. Every death is tragic, and every story associated with each death is emotionally traumatic. Making an emotional decision does not require any effort. We can simply decide that the side we do not support is bad and must be punished. Mediating this matter requires listening to both sides.
Currently, neither side is listening to the other. Those supporting Ukraine are told to believe that Putin is mentally sick. Those who support Russia are told to believe that Zelenskyy is a genocidal Nazi. The world is waiting for an adult to enter the room. Barbados, as a country growing in prominence and with no real military alliances, was in a trusted position to fill that glaring void.
nstead of offering to mediate the dispute as a neutral country, Barbados chose a side and joined Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Jamaica, and Bahamas in signing the letter publicly condemning Russia. Those Caribbean countries’ open defiance will cost them nothing, because they are insured. We seem to have forgotten that we no longer are.
Ukraine accepts that they must fight Russia alone, and are arming civilians to defend their country. They are aware of Barbados’ public condemnation of Russia. But when they learn that our politicians despised our military alliances with the UK and NATO, and harmed all Barbadians by cancelling what they desperately wished they now had, they may pause in their current distress – and feel sorry for us.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com
 Defence Act, Section 4.
 Constitution, Section 63.
 Defence Act, Section 5.