The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for more than 500 days. Both sides on every other day claim to be dominating and getting closer to rout the other. However, there is no end in sight to the war.
The history of this conflict traces back to the Cold War when the world was divided into two camps: one dominated by the Soviets and the other by the US. In the early years of the Cold War, just after the Second World War, the US as an unmatched economic and military power promised to provide economic and military support to the war devastated Europe. The US followed with the famous Truman Doctrine, proposed by then-US President Harry Truman, by aiding Europe planned to counter the spread of communism. In this direction, the US also formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in April 1949. In return, the Soviets tested their first nuclear explosion in August of the same year. The Soviet Union also formed the Warsaw Pact in 1955 to have control over European security. However, with the end of the Cold War in 1991 the Warsaw Pact was neutralized. However, NATO remained intact.
Not an Inch eastward
In 1989, a critical moment arrived in the history of modern Europe when Germany, which was bifurcated into two after the Second World War, was about to unify. The US security Tsar’s believed that if the US promised the Soviets that the expansion of NATO would come to a halt then the USSR would allow the reunification of Germany. In one of the negotiations discussing this issue in 1990 then US Secretary of State (SOS) James Baker promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO, “not an inch eastward”. The West promised not to expand NATO but the Cold War era military alliance kept on expanding. The first wave of expansion started right after the disintegration of the Soviet Union with Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic joining NATO in the 1999 summit at Washington. The second wave inducted eight new members in 2004. The third wave inducted two more nations in 2009, one more in 2017 and 2020, and most recently Finland became the 31st member of NATO.
The Russian Response
Russia faced monumental political instability, economic downturn, military retardation, and diplomatic isolation throughout the chaotic 1990s. Russia in those days was too weak to respond to the gross violation of the Western promises. However, with the rise of President Putin, Russia gained strength with a stabilized economy, and political stability and once again could assert itself in the diplomatic and military arena.
The Russian response to the NATO expansion post-cold War was mostly diplomatic as they didn’t have much capability to stand against the West. However President Putin at the Munich Security Council (MSC), 2007 gave an outstanding speech that is still today criticized in the West. Some even say that Putin made his intentions regarding Ukraine clear in 2007. However, the MSC 2007 speech was one of the most honest public deliberations by the head of a major power. Putin at Munich spoke at great length and pointed out the Western hypocrisy regarding the invasion of Iraq and said, “Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have………created new centers of tension”. He said that some powers have bent “basic principles of international law……..to one state’s legal system”. He proudly stated that the “unipolar model” is impossible and multipolarity will “inevitably….. strengthen”. Putin also drew attention to the fact that the UN charter shall be the only legitimate document regarding the use of force and not the “NATO or EU ” charters. He talked about NPT, high-tech weapons, missile capabilities, the militarization of outer space, the condition of the Treaty on the conventional armed forces in Europe, and weaponization of trade which increases social tensions and results in the “growth of radicalism, extremism, feeds terrorism and local conflicts” and about the Organization of Security and Cooperation (OSCE). He also quoted former General Secretary of NATO Manfred Woerner who stated “that we are not ready to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee”. This speech of Putin which should have led to more negotiations and discussions was single-handedly declared “disappointing” by then-US SOS Robert Gates. The Western nations who preach talks, negotiations, and trade to the rest of the world failed to accept the reality and labeled Putin’s Russia as an evil “dictatorship” which wants to recreate the erstwhile Soviet Union.
The US-led West in response to Putin’s MSC speech convened in Bucharest for the annual NATO summit in 2008. At Bucharest, Putin was also invited to the NATO-Russia summit but the US stated that it plans to station missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. NATO also accepted the application of Georgia and Ukraine for the NATO membership but they didn’t give a timeline for their induction into the alliance. These announcements naturally antagonized Russia.
Russia after the Bucharest summit got involved in conflict with Georgia regarding control over the strategic south Caucasus region. Russia also installed a favorable regime in Kiev to control the military and foreign policy of Ukraine. However, all this changed in 2014.
The Coup of 2014
The CIA and state department-backed regime change threw the elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych from power through a color revolution in 2014. This regime change operation was in retaliation to Yanukovych’s decision to opt for the Russia-backed Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) instead of an Association agreement with the EU. The EEU was meant to provide the EU hold of Ukrainian economic conditions via the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). This would have made the EU the primary player in the economic decision-making of Ukraine. The 2014 regime change strengthened the far-right and neo-nazi groups in Ukraine. The new government also started a civil war kind of situation in Donbass and the rest of eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainian army and Russia-backed separatists.
Russia in retaliation sliced strategically important Crimea, where the Russian naval fleet is stationed to patrol the Black Sea. Russia through this action made it clear to the West that any interference in “regional affairs” of Russia will be met with military action. However, the West wasn’t willing to heed this as they continued with their policy of drawing Russia into an open conflict.
The annexation of Crimea by Russia without much toil transmitted a chilling message to the US that the Ukrainian military is ill-equipped and won’t be able to withstand the Russian offensive in the future. The West, thus, planned negotiations with Russia to buy time before the next conflict. This was done under the garb of finding a solution to the Ukrainian issue. The negotiations were led by Germany and France in Normandy format which involved Ukraine and Russia too and ultimately led to two agreements at Minsk, Belarus. The first agreement was signed in September 2014 by Russia, Ukraine, OSCE, and representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk. The first Minsk agreement stressed over 12 point agreements and called for a ceasefire in Luhansk and Donetsk. Unfortunately, the ceasefire was never ratified on the ground as Ukrainian forces continued to attack the ethnic Russians of east Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government even de-recognized the Russian language. The second Minsk Agreement was signed in February 2015 by Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France. This agreement gave a 13-point declaration to bring peace to Ukraine. The Minsk- II also talked about a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and self-government in Donetsk and Luhansk among others but all failed to bring peace. The Minsk agreements now stand liquidated as Russian President Vladimir Putin declared withdrawal of Russia from them in February 2022.
Ever since the war began in Ukraine several shocking revelations have also been unearthed regarding the much-celebrated Minsk agreements. Angela Merkel, former chancellor of Germany in a telephone conversation stated, “I believe that the Minsk agreements gave Ukraine more time to develop between 2014 and 2021. Now Ukraine can both make a response and also to get the necessary support”. Similarly, former French President Francois Hollande stated that “as long as Ukraine wants to continue fighting, and as long as Ukraine is in a position to force the Russians to retreat, there can be no negotiations”. He further stated that “the sole objective of the Minsk agreements was to [buy time to] strengthen Ukraine’s combat capabilities. And this is why we should speak in support of the Minsk negotiations, as it was precisely during that seven-year period that Ukraine obtained the means to fortify itself”. This demonstrates the reality behind the peace deal which European nations sought with Russia in 2014.
The “special military operation” of 2022
The Russian military invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and named it a “special military operation”. This so-called special military operation which indeed is a full fledged war has been going on for months with no end in sight. In September 2022, President Putin declared that the four Ukrainian oblasts namely Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye, and Kherson will be admitted into the Russian Federation. This admission translates into a loss of 20% of Ukrainian territory. Putin in a jam-packed hall stated that “it is undoubtedly their right……of self-determination”. He also once again reaffirmed that Russia or Putin does not want to recreate the Soviet Union, which several Western scholars tried to propagate. Putin stated, “Russia no longer needs it (USSR) today; this isn’t our ambition”. However, certain propagandists don’t care about facts in their hate against Russia and Putin.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been through several ups and downs. In the beginning, it was expected that the Russian military would defeat the Ukrainian forces in a swift mechanised sweep but it didn’t happen. Ukraine proved to be a much harder enemy. However, Ukrainian military victories particularly in the last few months of 2022 were due to the support which the West provided in terms of arms and ammunition, training, intelligence, and weaponry. Ukraine also created a huge hype regarding the so-called spring counter-offensive. Ultimately, Bakhmut, the city whose defense was the pre-condition for the success of the offensive, fell into the Russian hands in May 2023 after a grueling battle and once again gave the edge to the Russians. It is important to note that the Ukrainian military and political leadership created a massive buildup for the battle of Bakhmut. They believed or wanted everyone else to believe that Bakhmut is impenetrable and will become the graveyard of Russians. However, as we know nothing of that sort happened rather Bakhmut has now become the logistical hub for future Russian military operations.
The result of the battle in Bakhmut was predicted by several leading military scholars from all parts of the world. However, “the boys of Davos” as Colonel Richard Blake says it, have decided to back the regime in Kiev against Russia to achieve their twin objectives:
- gaining strategic control over European foreign and economic policy.
- selling more weapons thus making more profits.
Till now, both the objectives of the US deep state have been achieved as the European nations including Germany have restarted the process of rearmament and are buying billions of worth of military hardware from the US. This rearmament is putting additional pressure on an economy that is already in recession. However, the political leadership of Europe has still failed to smell the coffee hence taking necessary countermeasures is impossible. The European nations are also buying oil and gas from the US, which is selling at extremely high prices. But, why is Europe buying highly-priced energy resources when it can easily outsource its energy demand from Russia? The reason, as per top European leadership, is that Russia violated the “territorial integrity” and “rule of law” thus it is extremely important for Europe (also for the rest of the world) to distance itself from the “evil Russian empire”. But if that is the case then, why do Germany and other European nations sell weapons to countries such as Pakistan, who use them against only India? Also, the European partnership with China would be untenable, as the Chinese are responsible for wiping out Tibetan civilization, Mongolian culture and has made Xinjiang an open prison, not to mention their greed for land against India, Bhutan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Taiwan and extraterritorial naval claims over Sankaku islands and South China Sea. But Europeans are expanding their partnership with China and have not even singularly condemned the Chinese intrusions into Indian territory in East Ladakh. This hypocrisy is beyond comprehension.
The way forward
General Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of the US Army in an interview said that “for $66 billion investment, Ukraine is doing the fighting in which Ukrainians are dying and not Americans. That is a pretty good deal”.This is the true nature of the so-called fight between democracy and autocracy. Ukrainians, today, have already lost one-third of their armed forces in the grueling battle of Bakhmut and 20% of their land. The West keeps on “investing” billions in Ukraine to fight Russia, but Ukraine must decide at what cost it wants to fight. Does having peace cost so much? With a prolonged war, Ukraine will only become a battleground, as it already has, for a proxy war that has been planned out in Washington. The EU leadership also needs to contemplate that the sufferers in this war are not Americans but rather Europeans. Also, if due to Western escalation, President Putin uses tactical nuclear weapons, then also it would be Europeans who will suffer and the whole continent will become a proxy of the US. This will lead to an economic halt and the world might even enter a world war, which will be majorly fought on European soil.
The way forward for Ukraine and Europe lies in having a meaningful dialogue with Russia to decide the terms and conditions of an immediate ceasefire and new borders which will emerge from this war. However, this wouldn’t be possible if Europe continues to depend on the US or allow the US to call the shots in the dialogue. Thus, the way of peace in Europe runs through the idea of strategic autonomy.
 Anthony H. Cordesman, Broader Risk: Russian control over Ukraine and Belarus, December 8, 2021, https://www.csis.org/analysis/broader-risk-russian-control-over-ukraine-and-belarus (accessed on 12 July, 2023)
 Economist Intelligence Unit, NATO leaders outlines new objectives to project unity, http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=1852249568&Country=Italy&topic=Politics&subtopic=Fo_7 (accessed on 12 July 2023)
 Kremlin, Transcript, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/24034 (accessed on 12 July 2023)
 General Jack Keane, Fox News, October 4, 2022 https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/gen-jack-keane-us-investment-ukraine-denied-putin-ambitions-kept-americas-future-secure.amp (accessed on 14 July, 2023)