Conflict in Ukraine
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 23 Aug , 2022

In an article in Foreign Affairs magazine (The Putin Doctrine: A Move on Ukraine Has Always Been Part of the Plan, By Angela Stent January 27, 2022).She wrote, and I quote- “The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine is a reckoning that has been 30 years in the making. It is about much more than Ukraine and its possible NATO membership. It is about the future of the European order crafted after the Soviet Union’s collapse.” Unquote. Russian President Vladimir Putin now reviled throughout the world, if 3rd March UNGA voting is any indication where141 voted for that resolution (more than two-thirds of those voting) received was a diplomatic blow to Moscow. On the other, five countries voted against the resolution, while 35 abstained and 12 absented themselves.

President Putin never reconciled with the demise of the Soviet Union and its denial of the seat along with the US and her allies to dictate the affairs of the world. Though Donald Trump’s “America First” and the policy’s consequential effects on Europe / NATO members and the freedom loving people throughout the world, were disappointed with the then US President.  His successor President Joe Biden has succeeded to an extent to repair the damage done but is yet to regain the trust of the world in the reliability of the US as a friend in need.

To many President Putin is on his way to establish Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth’(based on George Orwell’s novel NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR).Orwell created ‘Newspeak’, the official language of the totalitarian state of ‘Oceania’. Its purpose was to diminish the range of thought by eliminating shades of meaning and nuance from Old speak (Standard English). For example, without a word for freedom, the concept of freedom cannot exist. It remains to be seen if President Putin, barring atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in occupied areas of Ukraine, is aiming to just that.

One may recall that after the fall of Adolf Hitler an estimated four million German women were raped by the victorious soldiers. During the Sino-Japanese War historians named the defeat of the Chinese and called the massacre of the Chinese capital as “Rape of Nanking,”. The Japanese soldiers butchered an estimated 150,000 male “war prisoners”, massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process. These examples are not given as an “explanation” of war time massacres as one rape is far too many and the perpetrators should be punished without mercy.

It is viewed that the current crisis is ultimately about Russia redrawing the post–Cold War map and seeking to reassert its influence over half of Europe, based on the claim that it is guaranteeing its own security. One may wonder if a case can be made for President Putin. In a televised address in February this year Putin complained that over the past 30 years Russia had been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe.

In response to Russia’s proposals, it “faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite Russia’s protests and concerns”.  There is no denying the fact that the Western developed economies after winning the Second World War ushered in a period of complete suzerainty over the whole world including the aspiring newly emerging countries. The distribution of IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) the head of which shall be an American national while the head of IMF (International Monetary Fund) shall be from Europe is a case in point. Europe was barred from the New World due to the strict imposition of Monroe Doctrine by the US which declared itself as the sole arbiter of settling all disputes in Latin America. The Monroe Doctrine was applied by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yet nobody,(President Biden included) wants a Third World War. The Economist in a write up on August 2nd2022 held out the hope that “The strongest reason for America’s caution, though, is the fear of escalation—that Russia might lash out militarily at NATO (“horizontal escalation”, in their jargon) or resort to use of chemical or nuclear weapons in Ukraine (“vertical escalation”). Either version would almost certainly draw NATO into direct conflict with Russia, and President Joe Biden has vowed to avoid “World War III”. But then one has to be cautious of Thucydides Trap.

More often than not wars break out due miscalculation of one party or the other. Hopefully everyone is on board with Joe Biden. Otherwise as someone has commented that the malign spirit of the Monroe Doctrine not only continues but has now been extended by the US government into a kind of Global Monroe Doctrine. In order to assert this preposterous claim on the entire planet, the United States has pursued a policy to ‘weaken’ what it sees as ‘near peer rivals’, namely China and Russia. Time has changed from the Spartan age to the modern era and certainly from the post-World War II when the Americans in particular with the British acquiescence wrote the history of the world regardless of the aspirations emerging economies and newly independent countries had. Some developing countries, eg India, could not be written off due to its size and democratic credentials which the developed economies preached.

Coming back to Russian invasion of Ukraine analysts opine that as far as Putin is concerned, the use of force is perfectly appropriate if Russia believes that its security is threatened: Russia’s interests are as legitimate as those of the West.  For the most part, the United States and Europe have rejected the Kremlin’s narrative of grievance, which centers most notably on the breakup of the Soviet Union and especially the separation of Ukraine from Russia. When Putin described the Soviet collapse as a “great geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century,” he was lamenting the fact that 25 million Russians found themselves outside of Russia, and he particularly criticized the fact that 12 million Russians found themselves in the new Ukrainian state.

Putin proposed to the West that countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine should not join either NATO nor be aligned with the Russian side so that Russian security structure is not threatened. The West, in particular the US, totally disregarded this Russian plan. On 15th August 2022 Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland announced to deepen their security and defense cooperation in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The prime ministers of the five countries met in Oslo, Norway and issued a joint statement. During the meeting, Norwegian Prime Minister talked about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences while also adding that the Nordic countries are committed to supporting the fight that Ukraine has been facing.

The joint statement said that Finland and Sweden’s proposed NATO membership would strengthen the alliance and that the cooperation in the field of security and defense between the countries in the region would help the strengthening and development of NATO. In addition, Nordic countries will be part of the new security order and that all five prime ministers agreed to mandate ministers of foreign affairs, ministers of defense and chiefs of defense to maximize the cooperation among the countries. Earlier in August President Joe Biden signed the instrument of ratification passed by the US Senate on the entrance of Nordic countries Finland and Sweden into North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) confirming the accession.

The expansion of NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance, comes in the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Among the countries who abstained on the UNGA resolution Indian ambassador to the UN T. S. Tirumurti spoke of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to promote diplomacy to end the Ukraine crisis. He elucidated India’s firm conviction, that differences can only be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. Indian ambassador mentioned that Prime Minister Modi unequivocally conveyed this in his discussions with world leaders including of the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Indian Prime Minister underscored the urgent imperative for humanitarian access and movement of stranded civilians. “We therefore sincerely hope that the second round of talks between the Russian Federation and Ukraine will lead to a positive outcome,” he added.

India urges that all member states demonstrate their commitment to the principles of the UN Charter to international law in respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. At the same time Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen MP explained Bangladesh’s abstention from voting at the UNGA resolution that reprimanded Russia for invading Ukraine as the resolution was not meant to stop the war but to blame somebody. At the same time, DR. A. K. Momen emphasized the “importance of international law and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty,” revealing that Dhaka was implicitly condemning Russia for invading Ukraine to support its adherence to international law and the U.N. Charter.

The situation in Ukraine does not appear to be easing. The US and EU Nations have Called For UNSC Meeting to discuss “Situation Prevailing In Ukraine” .The US and certain EU nations have urged the UNSC to hold a meeting on August 24 to discuss the situation in Ukraine.  Earlier on August 17, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stated that the situation surrounding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and the shelling of a correctional institution in Yelenovka will also be discussed by the parties during the meeting. UN chief Guterres is currently on a visit to Ukraine where he is expected to meet embattled President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to reports, the meeting between three leaders is slated to take place in Lviv, near Ukraine’s border with Poland. UN Secretary General Guterres’ visit to Ukraine comes nearly a month after the United States and Turkey helped broker a grain export deal between Ukraine and Russia which paved the way for Kyiv to export its millions of tons of grain that were stuck in the Black Sea ports since the onset of war.

“Guterres’ trip to Ukraine will allow him “to see first-hand the results of the initiative … that is so critically important to hundreds of millions of people,” It is further expected that forthcoming meeting in Ukraine would also raise the need for a “political solution” to the war. It is pertinent to mention here that the delegations of Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of peace negotiations since the onset of the war on February 24, but they all have failed to achieve the desired results. It is expected that talks might resume with Russia in August. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has made it clear that the country will not accept any “ceasefire settlement” that involves ceding territory to Moscow.

Despite Ukrainian President’s bravado displayed on television screens one has to recognize Russian security threats that the Western countries pose by high level visits to Kyiv and arms given to the regime. Quote “Ukraine is part of the Russian area of influence, which includes a variety of hybrid and illiberal regimes, but also loyal allies (Belarus and Kazakhstan), hectic ‘rebels’ (Georgia), and ambiguous entities (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) that are neither aligned with the Kremlin nor directly opposed to it. Russia has long been accustomed to dominating political elites within this area of influence, including by authorizing external military interventions and promoting regime change.

Among the states counted as ‘rebels’, Ukraine has been the most independent and western-oriented, underlined by the Orange Revolution in 2004-5 and the events of the Euromaidan that ultimately brought an end to the regime of Viktor Yanukovych. Given the fact that the Western countries are unlikely to send troops to Ukraine it would be logical to recognize Russian security interests and for Russia to let Ukraine remain an independent country without ties to NATO or the European Union. At all costs rise of an Adolf Hitler in Europe has to be avoided.”

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Kazi Anwarul Masud

former Ambassador and Secretary in the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh.

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