The Russian invasion of Ukraine, sanctions on the country, the abstention from the UNSC resolution by India and China and their decision not to criticize Moscow are a heady mix that have been dominating every media discussion.
Numerous factors led up to the current crisis – the US was aware war was on the cards, yet announced it could not support Ukraine’s militarily, despite knowing that was music to Russian President, Putin’s ears. This sealed Ukraine’s fate, to a large extent.
Ukraine itself was equally aware, especially after Russian deployment along its borders, exercises in Belarus, mass cyber-attacks on its critical infrastructure and announcements of unacceptable terms and conditions by Putin. It failed to act speedily even after Putin recognized the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. By the time it decided to act, it was too late.
Europe knew war was imminent but like the US, failed to offer any real support when Ukraine needed it the most. The Chinese were aware but maintained silence. India was timely to the extent of warning Indian students studying there who themselves did not see an urgency of leaving as the Ukraine government kept reassuring them that war was not imminent.
India decided to display neutrality, condemned the use of force and insisting that war is not an option, saying a resolution is possible only through talks. Will Ukraine be forced to accede to Russian demands? Could it become a satellite state, rather than a democracy?
In the West, the current standoff between Ukraine and Russia has typically been presented as one in which a righteous Ukraine is standing up to a bullying Machiavellian Russia. There is an opinion that while Ukraine is suffering, it is however not an ideal candidate for portrayal as a righteous victim. Word goes that Ukraine is not exactly a bastion of democracy. At best, it can be described as a transitional or hybrid in terms of democratic endeavor. Ukraine hasn’t always been an honest broker in negotiations with Russia over the future of the predominantly Russian speaking eastern Ukrainian territories.
Ukraine has done very little to provide the citizens of these territories with the autonomy negotiated back in 2014 and 2015, under the Minsk Protocols. What is significantly relevant is to remember that this swath of Russian speaking Ukrainian territory did not end up as part of an independent Ukraine through some sort of a popular revolution. An independent Ukraine was born more thanks to the machinations of a power – hungry Soviet republican leaders, who in their quest to rid of the USSR, removed their principal political rival, Gorbachev, in what seemed more a power grab, than based on any popular sentiments of a people or nation.
While the world is reeling from the suffering of the Ukrainian people, it would be insightful to see current events from the Russian perspective as well. Putin’s show of force can be seen as a move to defend a Russian minority in Ukraine – and a local majority – from an anti-Russian government in Kyiv that has not kept its side of the bargain. More importantly, Russian moves can also be seen as an attempt to ward off the encroachment of a hostile military bloc-NATO-into territory that has historically been dominated by Russia.
The current situation is intensely polarized – diplomats and politicians on all sides of the crisis in Ukraine feel that an expedient end to this situation is dire. But if a peaceful resolution is to be found, the Russian perspective cannot be ignored or overlooked.
The US has formally accused Russia of war crimes as humanitarian crisis in Ukraine increases. As President Biden consults with Europe with battles raging at its edge, his government formally declared that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, citing the besieged port of Mariupol. Putin’s forces have used similar tactics in the past – Grozny, Chechnya, Aleppo and Syria, where they intensified their bombardment of cities to break the peoples’ will. Similar attempts in Ukraine have again shocked the world.
NATO officials recently released an estimate of Russian military deaths in the Ukraine war – up to 15,000. Officials believe the toll to be much higher. An emergency meeting of NATO leaders is called in Brussels. The NATO chief also called on the allies to step up defense of other potentially threatened countries. The war in Ukraine has resulted in NATO proclaiming, “a new normal for our security is essential, and NATO has to respond to that new reality.”
Biden will use the emergency meeting in Brussels, as well as those of the EU, to push for more sanctions against Russia and ways to bolster military defense of Ukraine without escalating the conflict. Biden’s visit shines light on a dispute with European allies, some of whom are heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas whether to impose further energy and sanctions.
Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said he expects serious steps from Western allies. He repeated his call for a no-fly zone and complained that the West had not provided Ukraine with planes, modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons. He says at these summits, “we will see who our friend is, who is our partner, and who sold us out or betrayed us.”
Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a ‘special operation’ that is not designed to occupy territory but to simply destroy its southern neighbor’s military prowess and capture dangerous nationalists. The West claims it a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war.
What really triggered it and where will it all end, this hopeless unnecessary devastation is still anybody’s guess. It seems, the world, which is still hurt and healing from a pandemic, has not learnt. The hubris of the human race never ceases to amaze.