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As Ukraine war turns 100 days, Kyiv seems to be the biggest loser First Post 03 Jun 2022
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not about Ukraine’s personal choices alone but also stalling the eastward expansion of NATO, created post World War II to defend Europe from a Stalin-controlled USSR. The USSR, then expanding westwards, needed to be reined in by strong military power. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO had become defunct. Many in the West argued that it had fulfilled its charter and could be scrapped.
However, proponents like Margret Thatcher stated, “You don’t cancel your home insurance policy just because there have been fewer burglaries on your street in the last 12 months!” NATO then began to expand its responsibilities and membership to promote democracy and stability in nations of the erstwhile USSR. This was against Mikhail Gorbachev’s vision of a common Europe. Western leaders had vaguely promised Gorbachev that NATO would not expand, however, this commitment was never formalised and never implemented.
For years, post-collapse of the USSR, NATO exercises had Russian military observers, while it remained at a loss on whom to project as an enemy, as the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. It chose to continue conducting exercises against the Red enemy (USSR), leading to objections from Russian observers, who on occasions walked away.
Between 1991 and 2007, NATO expansion included the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all part of the erstwhile USSR. No doubt that in 2007, addressing the Munich Security Conference, Vladimir Putin questioned the expansion of NATO. He questioned whether NATO’s expansion was targeted at Russia and if the West sought to box in the nation. His comments were ignored.
A year later in 2008, in a rebuff to Putin, NATO declared that Georgia and Ukraine would be admitted into it, though no firm date was announced. The Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014 did not bring about any change in NATO mindset nor did it engage with Russia to cater for its security concerns, rather imposed sanctions on it. The Maidan revolution in Ukraine in 2014, which overthrew the pro-Russian government in Kyiv, was believed by Russia to be sponsored by the west. Russia’s security proposals of halting further NATO expansion as also rolling back NATO deployment from Eastern Europe were ignored.
James Goldgeier, an American University professor who has written extensively about NATO, stated, “The Russians were always concerned about how far NATO enlargement was going to go. It’s one thing for Poland to come in, or the Czech Republic to come in. That’s not such a big deal. But there was always a concern about Ukraine.”
George Keegan, America’s foreign policy strategist and an ex-ambassador to the Soviet Union, had stated as far back as 1998 on NATO’s inclusion of countries once part of the USSR: “I think this is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake.”
Henry Kissinger warned in 2014, after Ukraine began tilting Westwards and the US and EU encouraging it, “to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country and that the West, therefore, needs a policy that is aimed at reconciliation”.
Stephen Cohen had stated in 2014, “If we move NATO forces toward Russian borders it’s obviously going to militarise the situation and Russia will not back off.” Many believe that the West showered Ukraine with promises which they knew would be difficult to implement. Now that Russia has displayed the end of its patience, Ukraine has been dumped.
Pushing for Ukrainian neutrality, Putin warned of war, the US expected it, so did Ukraine, NATO, China and India. Instead of moving to halt Putin by displaying a willingness to talk, the US pushed Ukraine to the forefront. Addressing the Munich security conference, a week before the Russian invasion, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, stated, “How did we get to this point in the 21st century where war is being waged and people are dying in Europe?” The US is hoping that Ukrainian resistance will bog Putin down. However, they are aware that Putin has no choice but to compel Ukraine to accept its terms.
Russia is not seeking to destroy Ukraine, despite control of the skies and possession of immense firepower. It is seeking to push the Ukrainian government to capitulate and accept its terms and conditions including neutrality, partial demilitarization, accept the loss of Crimea and Donbas as also its recently acquired road connectivity from Donbas to the Crimean port. The West while arming Ukraine will not dirty its hands against Russia.
As the Ukraine war turns 100 days today, we need to realise that conditions for the war were not created by Russia alone but also by those who continued to ignore Russian calls and considered it to be economically weak and dependent on European trade for its economy. Despite all military support, Ukraine will become a Russian proxy. At some stage against a formidable opponent, it will be forced to succumb. The West would then be missing from the table.
Imposing sanctions was the easiest of steps which could be taken by the West as it would display solidarity after pushing Ukraine into conflict. These will neither stop the offensive nor the capitulation of Ukraine. Sanctions on Russia have officially not impacted its oil and gas, solely because the US and Europe depend on it. Demand for Russian oil and gas has no doubt reduced. Ukraine’s demand for a no-fly zone has been rejected because Europe does not seek war, despite leading Ukraine down the garden path. To further cover its failures in dumping Ukraine, the West is demanding the world join it in isolating Russia diplomatically. Pressures mount on nations like India which toe a neutral path.
Ultimately, Ukraine will face destruction and collapse of its economy. With it capitulating to Russian demands, will the West fund its reconstruction? Unlikely. Will Russia do so? Again unlikely. Ukraine will have to fend for itself. Its economy would sink, and its people face hard times in the coming years. All this while NATO and Russia play games against one another. The Ukrainian leadership should have understood this and avoided being drawn into conflict but did not. Warnings were ignored, and logic dumped down the drain, all in the belief that NATO would join the conflict and Russia would be compelled to retreat.
Finally, Ukrainians suffered while the world watched. The future would also be Ukrainians suffering while the world would shed crocodile tears in sympathy. Realpolitik was ignored based on assumed military and economic power, misjudging security concerns and believing that nations would commit security forces against a formidable enemy in a battle which does not concern them.