By Prof. M. K. Othman
I came across an analogy of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in a Facebook explanatory message between husband and wife when they were preparing to retire to their bed. The wife said, “Russia is an aggressor for attacking Ukraine, a smaller country without “provocation”.
The husband kept quiet and decided to pick a kitchen knife, which he placed on the bed in-between them. The wife commented, “is it not risky to keep the knife on bed between us when we are about to sleep”. The husband said that is precisely the answer to your accusation of Russia being an aggressor.
Ukraine is about joining NATO and NATO has members who are archenemies of Russia and they will have the freedom to keep their armaments in Ukraine, a border to Russia. Can this be a justification for a military invasion of a sovereign country, Ukraine? What led to the invasion? Was the war instigated and by who? Can the world continue to watch the collateral damages being inflicted on Ukraine? No doubt, these are difficult questions to answer but we must look for answers before we make up our minds and learn lessons therein.
Russia might have been paranoid due to the five ugly events of the last three centuries and determined never to have a repeat. The unforgettable events were the Polish occupation of the Kremlin (1610-1612), the Swedish invasion of the Napoléon invasion of Russia (1812), Russia (1908-1909), World War I, the central power against the allies (Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan) and the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union (1941). Russia paid heavily with both human and material resources in addition to the significant loss of influence as it passed through those dreadful tumults. The aftermath of World War I initiated the Russian Revolution that abolished the monarchy, adopted a socialist form of government but before consolidation World War II came. After World War II, Russia did not get the desired respite despite its size and enormous resources.
Almost immediately, Russia started going down the drain despite being a veritable power bloc with its famous or infamous KGB, skillful expertise in space technology. Analogously, Russia was an absolute archrival of the West in the cold war and the only known sympathizer of Africa that did not partake in battering and plundering of Africa in the name of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Russia’s fate or what seemed to be fate was clandestinely orchestrated with the birth of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) as the aftermath of World War II. The United States, Canada, and ten other Western European countries created NATO in 1949 to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. “An injury to one is an injury to all” is the main motto of NATO. This allows members to pull and share military capabilities, promote democratization, common values, and interests while pushing back against the rise of communism. NATO continued to increase the number with the entry of Greece, Germany, Turkey, and Spain between 1952 and 1982.
The entry of Western Germany into NATO propelled the formation of the Warsaw Pact (WP). WP was a collective defense, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland, between the Soviet Union and seven other Eastern socialist republics of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe.
A combination of several variables worked against the existence of the Warsaw Pact; the global supremacy of capitalism over socialist ideologies. The Western countries’ behind the scene shenanigans of promoting democracy, the end of the cold war, the collapse of the Berlin wall and disintegration of the USSR, etc pressured the final collapse of WP. However, the then impression of the liberals was WP and NATO outlived their usage and there was understanding that NATO would not have new members. Then, the cliché of war against terrorism surfaced, which massaged NATO to open doors for new entries. The Hawks had their way; between 2004 and 2020; there were eleven new entries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Montenegro, Slovakia, Lithuania, and others at the backyard of Russia. This made Russia agitated as the expansion of NATO was threatening its sovereignty, especially with future NATO plan to admit Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine.
This prompted President Putin of Russia to ask “Why do we need a World if Russia is not in it?” yes; the stage was set for a full-blown war.
The war was preventable if the pieces of advice of American diplomats were heeded. William J. Burns, former US Ambassador to Russia said, “Ukraine entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite. From knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests”.
Again, former Secretary of State of USA was quoted “trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching. This move was a case of recklessly ignoring that the Russians considered their own vital national interest”. Additionally, Strobe Talbott, former US Deputy Secretary of State, and George Kennan, American diplomat and Historian among others all talked against the expansion of NATO but were all ignored.
While acknowledging a serious threat to Russian interest and national security but can this justify the kind of destruction being inflicted on Ukraine? Truly, Ukraine is a mere pawn in the global chess table of America and Russian supremacy and power tussle.
The carnage, human waste, infrastructural collateral damage, and the deadly blow on the world economy are too costly for the human race to bear. The world may be brought to its knees if something is not instantly done. The United Nation must urgently stop the calamitous and fatal destructions in the name Ukraine war.
Finally, the key lesson from this saga, UN must assert itself to police the world by putting a ceiling and limit to the outbursts and manipulative tendency of the world leaders, the so-called global power in their supremacy tussle. Their actions in crossing redlines have cost the world hundred of thousands of lives in addition to massive displacements of millions across the world.
The allegation of “weapon of mass destruction” linked to Iraq and its aftermath is still fresh in our memory. Now, we have Ukraine episode an absolute threat for the possible use of Nuclear weapons, whose destructive capabilities are limitless spatially and temporarily. The inferno may consume the planet called “earth”. God forbids, amen.
Othman, a university don writes from ABU Zaria.