Ukraine bleeds, but who is to blame?
Did Ukrainians needle Russia too much?The dust of the Cold war has virtually settled down. The people of the world seldom talk about terms like Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), Nuclear winter, ICBMs, Star War Defense etc. Almost a quarter of a century has elapsed since the mighty United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) imploded without a single bullet being fired.
But, fresh signs of tension along the borders of Russia are causing the old long-forgotten angst to reappear. In the bloody conflict in Ukraine that shows no signs of abating, nearly 3000 people have already perished. Ukraine, the largest single chunk of the old Soviet Union to secede, is being very painfully dismembered. Georgia faced a similar situation in 2008 when it had to stand up to the mighty Russian army. The Georgian army suffered a crushing defeat. The scars of that war are yet to heal. Now, we see a similar situation in Ukraine. The country, with its sprawling wheat fields, giant steel mills, and enviable arms industries, is sadly split politically. The western areas want close relations with the European Union and America, where as the eastern areas want close political and cultural links with Russia. This divide should have been sorted out within the country through discussions and mutual understanding. This did not happen. Chauvinistic politicians on both sides pressed harder and harder to have their agenda accepted by the country with regard to Ukraine’s external policy. The stridency continued with increased severity till the unity of the country began to rupture.
Russia was particularly incensed to see the western Ukrainians openly embracing the NATO. It was an unnecessary provocation that forced the arms of Russia. President Putin saw NATO presence in its door step as a foreboding development for Russia’s security. The deplorable Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean region, undeniably, has its roots in this Ukrainian overture to NATO.
Historians will never pardon the pro-West politicians of Ukraine, nor will they have any soft words for Putin’s unleashing of military power on its small eastern neighbor. Probably, Ukraine will survive the Russian push, but only in a truncated condition. There is little possibility of Crimea and the eastern areas returning to Ukraine. The NATO summit last week threw up some interesting strands of opinion. Clearly, a robust NATO military challenge to Russia is off the table, because it is too fraught, and too expensive. Even the appetite for squeezing Russia politically through tougher sanctions is weak. Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, known for her sagacity, wants to tread cautiously in punishing Russia. After all, most of Europe sees off the winter cold by burning Russian gas. This apart, the west needs Russian support for a host of reasons – from sending supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) to anti-terrorism intelligence sharing to support for Afghanistan normalization to the newly started fight against the ISIS. A hostile Russia will surely upend the current world order leading to unintended consequences. It is pertinent here to recall what George H.W. Bush (Sr) and Mikhail Gorbachev had agreed discretely in 1989-1990. The two world leaders had decided that the Soviets would not use force and the West would not take advantage of developments around Soviet Union’s disintegration. As of now, with the Warsaw Pact long consigned to history, there was no compelling reason to bring in Ukraine inside NATO. Russia made enough noises to warn the NATO politicians about it, but the ramifications of an angry Russia headed by an ultra-nationalistic leader like Putin were not adequately weighed. Now, the consequences are there for everyone to see. Russian and Ukranian soldiers had fought shoulder to shoulder against Hitler’s army. This emotional bond has been frayed beyond mending. A fratricidal war is sinking Ukraine. The dissent among the NATO leaders on the matter of confronting Russia is a good sign. At least, from now on, every punitive sanction against Russia will be very carefully weighed for its political gains or losses. Russia’s reputation as a responsible political and military power has been severely dented by its belligerence in Ukraine. Putin’s stature inside Russia has soared, but in the rest of the world, he is being seen more as a gadfly than as a sober and discerning world leader. Written by Ansuman Tripathy B.A, MFC, LL.B