As the Russian military intensifies its drone attacks on Kyiv and Ukraine’s troops increase usage of homemade drones to hit Russian targets, the region and the world acutely need a proposal calling on both sides to negotiate an end to the war. A first step could be for both sides to agree to stop using weaponized drones.
Current commentary discusses advantages, for one side or the other, to reliance on weaponized drones. But the history of drone warfare in the Ukraine and in earlier wars, reveals two crucial points.
First, the notion that using killer drones will somehow provide the winning edge in combat is magical thinking. In reality, their use only prolongs war and piles up dead bodies. This has been true, in fact, wherever weaponized drones have been used, since the first modern-day drone attack was launched, unsuccessfully, by the United States on the first day of its Illegal invasion of Afghanistan, nearly 22 years ago.
Second, the use of weaponized drones spreads war geographically and politically into areas in which generals, independent military leaders and politicians would not dare to send ground forces. This, of course leads to extremely dangerous, illegal and irresponsible behavior, such as the failed bombing of the Kremlin on May 3, 2023.
As one reads the news of drone attacks, it is possible to think: “Well, today only X number of people died, I can accept the war grinding on”, unless one or more of those dead are people you love.
But the stakes of using drones to kill are extremely high, not only in terms of the consequences of attacking a target of huge political symbolic value, like the Kremlin.
On May 8, Russia announced that it was evacuating nearly 1,700 people, including 660 children, from the area surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, because the situation there is, according to the United Nations, “increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.”
On April 5, Reuters reported that a Russian military officer said that a Ukrainian drone had crashed near the plant.
God willing, we have reached a moment in which Ukrainian and Russian leaders, and their wealthy supporters, will realize that weaponized drones are simply a manifestation of their fantastical thinking about achieving “victory” through technology.
The war will stop at some point, all sides will declare victory over a land sodden with the blood and tears of the politically powerless who were not drones, however much they were treated as such.