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THINK TALK: Why Russia Attacked Ukraine?

mindaviews thinktalk

MATALAM, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 9 March) – If you have a friend like the United States, you don’t need enemies in this world. This is the general feeling among NATO and other countries that identify themselves with the US.

But since Russia staged an unprovoked attack on Ukraine, what the US has done, so far, was just plain rhetoric. There’s not a single American soldier in Ukraine. All that we have been hearing were the US and European countries imposing one sanction after another which were all directed at Russia with the hope that its economy will crumble down fast, if not instantly; something that will send Russia reeling down to its knees, all at once.

But think it over one minute. Will Russia feel the brunt of the economic sanctions now? Will these economic sanctions hurt only Russia? No sanctions could hurt Russia as fast as the US and its allies would want. The effect of economic sanctions will surely come, and they could be painful, but they happen very, very slowly. Maybe the war could be over before it begins to manifest and be felt.

Sanctions do not give outright rewards especially when they are not properly monitored. There will always be some countries willing to cheat to take advantage of cheap imports. This is why we do not see Russia trembling down to its knees in the face of these sanctions. A US sanction will also hurt the European economy to a certain extent especially given the fact that it relies on Russia for about 44 percent of its energy requirement.

Don’t get carried away by western media’s report. The issue was much deeper than we thought. It was all about Russia securing its border and protecting its national interest vis-a-vis NATO’s expansionist activities. Russia does not want US and NATO’s military build-up and installations anywhere near its border.

It will be recalled that before Ukraine, NATO’s headquarters was in Eastern Turkey. The United States provided some 90 B2 bombers to augment NATO’s planes and missiles. B2 bombers are among the deadliest in the world. These bombers are capable of unleashing cluster bombs with unimaginable destructive effect and believed to have nuclear capabilities too.

Russia and the US have had major proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Syria, and now Ukraine. In Syria, Russia was supporting Al-Assad’s government while the US was aiding the rebels fighting the Al-Assad’s regime. Now, if NATO’s eyes were all on Ukraine, Russia will do anything to prevent such contemplation. Once US Tomahawk missiles are installed on Ukraine soil, Moscow is just 35 minutes away. And with the US’ hypersonic missile, Moscow is only 5 minutes away.

From day one Moscow has been telling the US and NATO countries to stay away from Ukraine. The rebellion in eastern Ukraine, more particularly in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, has been there since 2014. With NATO’s military build-up near its border Russia would naturally support any uprising against the Ukrainian government to convey the message that it does not want Ukraine’s strong military presence in the border knowing very well that Ukraine’s army is bolstered by NATO forces just around the corner. If Russia wants to attack Ukraine it would have done that years ago or not long after the downfall of the Federated Soviet Socialist Republics.

Putin sort of begged off for the US and NATO to stop their encroachment of Ukraine with their military build-up and installations because it is unnecessarily putting Russian security interests at stake. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. Ukraine, as a country adhering to the principles of democracy, quickly became a disciple of the US. It allowed herself to be used as staging ground in case of nuclear war between Russia and the US and its allies.

When Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev secretly installed missiles on Cuba in 1962 the US vehemently objected to this. President John F. Kennedy declared that any Russian military build-up and/or missile installations in Cuba shall be considered as direct affront to the US. This has been the so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.” In the same manner Russia has been objecting to US and NATO’s military build-up and installations in Ukraine.

At one point President Vladimir Putin quipped: “NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders. This expansion represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask.” At another point he asked: “Against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?” And so Russia’s line of thinking was such that it has to do something to stop this kind of threat coming from its own border.

Sometimes, the best defense is offense. Feeling cheated and deceived President Putin had to speak in the language that NATO understands best: a military offensive! Now that Putin is attacking Ukraine, to send the strongest message of disappointment and disgust, he is the mad man.

Russia’s action against Ukraine has been the result of long patience breaking at the end of the rope. It is to be noted that initially Germany was not indifferent against Russia. But when the two Germanys were united with strong influence of the US and its allies Germany’s attitude towards Russia has significantly changed. The US is playing the same game in Ukraine under the pretext of saving Ukraine’s democracy from being subsumed by Russia’s ideological orientation.

What we should understand though is that western democracy is a liberal democracy. Democracy has different versions which could very well vary from one country to another. In fact, Ukraine’s democracy has been laced with autocratic tendencies with democratic icings under the present Volodymyr Zelensky’s regime. Democracy cannot have just one version which the US and European countries had been preaching to the world.

If we feel bad about Russia’s military action against Ukraine, we should also feel bad about the US actions in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and to a certain extent, Iran. But the narratives have been different in these countries and it’s all because of western media’s one-sided view. Russia’s military action now has been the result of western silent aggression in the eyes of Mr. Putin.

Do you think Ukraine can remain a sovereign country if the US and Europe continue to assert their influence in the country’s civil and military affairs? Of course Ukraine will never be safe contrary to what the US and its allies might think because Russia will always feel uncomfortable. Given this situation, what should Ukraine do? Ukraine would be a bit safer if it assumes a non-aligned posture like what India has been. Ukraine should pursue this vigorously until it gains international recognition as such. Putin has hinted that Russia’s action is a “special military operation” aimed at destroying Ukraine’s military capabilities and purging the country of what it says “nationalists.” Putin just wanted Ukraine to remain a neutral state, rather than adversarial, if it cannot show an iota of sympathy to Russia as a mother country.

Many leaders among Western countries were of the belief that Ukraine had always wanted to be an independent country but Russia does not want it to be that way. This may not be true. But of course, we have to agree that Russia exerts some influence on Ukraine. Thirty years ago they were just one country. The embattled City of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s easternmost and second largest city next to the capital Kyiv, has vast majority of ethnic Russians. There is very little difference, if at all, in their social and cultural attributes.

Russia has always given importance to Ukraine. From the early 1990s Russia has been trying to stimulate Ukraine’s economy. While it has two nuclear power plants in Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia (the biggest in Europe) inherited from Russia, the country on the whole is poor. In fact it is the second poorest country in the European continent according to the 2020 Gross National Income (GNI) index, followed by Georgia, Kosovo, and Moldova. Russia also shared some US$250 million to help Ukraine pay its debt. Despite all these favors Ukraine would sometimes cheat on Russia by stealing gas from the pipelines. But Russia would continue to sell gas and fuel to Ukraine at subsidized prices.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict can be viewed in the context of the India-Pakistan experience. When British India was partitioned in 1947, Pakistan became an independent state. India continued to give resources to Pakistan to help pump prime its economy as a young democracy. But what did India get? The two countries fought four wars in the recent past and until today there has been continued mistrust between them. When India fought a war with Pakistan over border conflict in the Kashmir region, the US was quick to come to Pakistan’s side because it was a democratic country that aligned itself with the US, unlike India which remained a non-aligned country. Most conflict in the world saw American interference in many forms, both subtle and obvious.

The US has succeeded in its “divide and rule” tactics of some Middle Eastern countries, and in fact, some of them fought war with each other. The US has used Iraq to fight Iran. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Iraq was the enemy of the US and even drew some Muslim countries into fighting alongside American forces. In Afghanistan, the Taliban was a para-military unit organized by the US to fight the Russian occupiers. When the Russians gave up Afghanistan, the country was led by a US-backed government. When the Talibans fought this American installed regime, they were the enemies of the US. A litany of divide and rule tactics and manipulation of Middle East countries by the US could be told again and again.

Back then, the US has always given Russia the assurance that it will not expand its forces to the Russian border. But lo and behold, the US continued to meddle in the affairs of European countries in the name of preserving and strengthening their democracies. This has been usually done by giving foreign aid and military assistance. America’s military influence in Ukraine became more pronounced during the Obama administration. Yet, when the region of Crimea was retaken by Russia, not a single shot was fired. The US never came to help Ukraine.

Russia will now try to occupy, by all means, the cities of Kherson, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kyiv in addition to the Donbas region it has already occupied. In fact, with emboldened arrogance and pride sparked by long patience that only failed him, Putin may just try to conquer the whole of Ukraine to effect its purging of the “nationalists,” weakened Ukraine’s military forces, but would no longer wish that Ukraine should remain a neutral state this time. In the mind of Mr. Putin, enough is enough.

The cold war shall remain for as long as the superpowers tinker on the world balance of power. It can only turn hot, sometimes.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Maugan P. Mosaid holds a doctorate degree in rural development. He is a freelance writer, planning consultant and teaches Statistics and Methods of Research in the graduate school.)

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