BY ACHEOAH OFEH AUGUSTINE (B.S.c, MPIA, MSc (Inter-Relation) Author of the UN’s CENTURY, FULL MEMBER NIIA (Doctoral Candidate International Relations) & ALPHONSUS EFFI (M.A.UNILAG)
The armed conflict in Europe between the Russian Federation and its former Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine is one of the contemporary armed conflicts that had strong implications for global peace and security as well as ideological, historical and political dimensions. The conventional warfare which had received condemnation from across nations of the world against the Putin led government in Kremlin is far from ending as Russian forces continue heavy bombardments inching toward Kyiv. This piece of write up attempts a synoptic perspective on the conflict with its historical, military, diplomatic and economic perspectives in focus. This paper attempts analytical insights into the factors behind the conflict and suggests the Wayforeward.
Understanding the detailed perspectives on the Russo-Ukrainian war demands one first has a grasp of the historical, political, diplomatic and ethno-nationalist backgrounds of both present Russian Federation and Ukraine as successor states from the breakup of the Soviet federation in 1991.
While the contemporary Russian Federation is an offshoot state from the Soviet Federation, the Soviet Federation is the successor state to the post-Tsarist Russia that came after the October Bolshevik Revolution. The Tsarist dynasty had spanned several centuries from 16 January 1547 to 15 March 1917 (430 years).
Russian federation is the world’s largest state with a landmass of 17, 125, 191 sq km surpassing one-eight of the earth’s inhabitable landmass and bordering 16 sovereign nations including Ukraine, the most of any single nation in terms of territorial contiguity.
The ethno-demographic perspective of the conflict is vital to understand how the fears of Russification by the non-Russian minorities including Chechnya came about in the asymmetrical plural federation. Ethno-demographically, ethnic Russians represents about 80.9% of the population while the Tatars had 3.9%; Ukrainians 1.4%; the Chechen and others are minorities. There have been fears of assimilation among the non-Russian soviet republics before the break up (that they have been russified) in the same way that the Slovaks feared they have been Czhechized. Assimilative concepts such as the Germanization of the Poles, the Russification of the non-Russian Socialist republics, the Czechization of the Slovak people, the Europeanization of Africa or the Sinicization (signification) of non-Chinese into Chinese culture (cultural imperialism), by Tibet’s and other minorities are classic examples.
On 30th December 1922, the Soviet Federation was formed until its breakup on 25 December 1991. Ukraine on the other hand, one of the successor states of the defunct Soviet federation with deep socio-political and geostrategic and diplomatic vestiges that threatens the unity of one of the Border States to Russian federation.
Ukraine is one of the 15 soviet socialist republics that break up in 1991. The second largest country in Europe with a landmass of 603, 628 km 2ss after Russia, Ukraine was established on 22 January 1918 as the Ukraine Republic and entered into Union with West Ukraine’s Republic on 22 January 1919, joined the defunct Soviet Federation on break into an independent sovereign state on 24 August 1991 with the Act of Declaration of Independence.
Ukraine, a sovereign state today though formerly under the Russian communist federation until 1991, was attacked in late February 2022 by the Russian President and former KGB personnel turned President, Vladimir Putin. Putin who was has a radical, cum-dictatorial posture, nursing the ambition of remaking a “New Russia” expansionistically as a way of reordering the balance of power in Europe between the post-Communist and the EU amid Brexit.
NATO’s membership expansion is also feeding into the threats that result from the fears by Russian leaders that Georgia and Ukraine’s EU membership ambitions threaten Moscow’s territorial sovereignty. Putin is at war with Ukraine as a result of strategic, political and ethno-nationalist interests of Russia undermining the post-1991 sovereignty of Ukraine and international law as well as the UN Charter (1945).
Understanding the conflict requires one has a grasp of the history of the Cold War and how that had shaped post-1990 international economic, political and diplomatic realignments we have seen in the last 33 years.
Zelenski is being supported by Ukrainians who wanted a Ukraine independent of Russia while Ukraine’s citizens of ethnic Russian ancestry push along Moscow
Post-cold war NATO membership expansion to include former Soviet Socialist Republics of Georgia and Ukraine is not unconnected with the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War with the geostrategic and ethno-irredentist agenda of Putin towards actualizing what has been described by him as “A new Russia” the major goal. Territorial expansionism by military subversion is not just forbidden under international law but also a violation of the Stimson Doctrine. It was for this purpose that NATO was founded in 1949 following the emergences of two events that still shape the world we live in 73 years after:
i. Soviet Russia detonated atomic bomb and bipolarized the nuclear monopoly the US had since Trinity test in 1945;
ii. The Communist won victory over nationalist in China and Beijing replaced Taipei as the dejure state of China under Chairman Mao Zedong.
The fear of communist expansion is not new in international politics for communism has its international wings (Communist International or Comintern founded in 1919 with world communism its core goal. In the United States, Red Scare beginning from 1917 after the Bolsheviks revolution and again in 1947 after WWII McCarthyism amid burgeoning communist espionage and for fear that communism was spreading. After the breakup of the Soviet empire, the Commonwealth of Independent states became a successor entity to the Soviet.
As the West sets to expand market economies and liberalism into former soviet republics, Moscow’s concerns over its national security had been advanced as the raison d’ etat for going into war with Ukraine that Russia’s national security will be undermined by a-Ukraine NATO membership for contiguity and geostrategic reasons.
Although Francis Fukuyama wrote “The End of History and the Last Man” in 1992 in which he espoused that liberal democracy has outlasted its rivals with the collapse of the Soviet empire, the end of the cold war. Is Putin reversing his thesis? Meanwhile, within Ukraine, internal political cleavages due to ethnic plurality in Ukraine’s demography that saw a number of native Russians in the Eastern region of where pro-Russian movements had lent force to Russia’s war objective in Ukraine.
The war triggered with the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity on the territorial status of Crimea and swaths of the Donbas which is internationally recognized as an enclave of Ukraine. On 18 March 2014, Russian forces invaded Crimea and annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in what came to be known as the Russo-Ukraine war.
The war since 2014 has taken different stages militarily:
i. Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014;
ii. The military invasion of the Donbas since 2014 between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists;
iii. Russian military build ups on the Russian border from late 2021; and
iv. The ongoing February 24 2022 full scale conventional war between Russia and Ukraine
There are power symmetries and asymmetries in military capabilities. Ukraine is never a match for combat with Russia, this the world top military powers knew but for ideological, political, economic and geostrategic interests, Ukraine is loathed into asymmetrical entanglement with Russia on the confidence that the West and the United States and EU/NATO will respond. It was a miscalculation for Kyiv to resist rather than a UN-Peace Keeping Operation acting under collective security. The fact that Russia’s vote is key to securing the UN Security Council’s authorization for a peacekeeping operation in Ukraine and that one of the Veto Power states of the UN is actively the lead belligerent and violator of the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine posed another stumbling block to multilateral intervention on the Russo-Ukrainian war.
In Ukraine, internal cleavages had seen pro-West and Pro-Russian groups within Ukraine with native Russians, one in six Ukrainians favoring Russia while the pro-West groups wanted EU and NATO memberships. Putin did not only fed into separatist undercurrents in Ukraine but also described separatism in the Donbas as part of historic “New Russia” region citing the 1922 foundational pact among the soviet republics.
Following the rise to power of pro-west government led by Zelenski in Kyiv, Russia meddled in by voicing supports for demonstrations amid separatist movements in Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia had exploited the strategic leverage it had by stationing its fleets at the Black Sea. Russia’s power symbols is both geostrategic with the largest landmass on earth, an impregnable fortress for the Nazis during the 1941 Operation Barbarossa. It was from Russia that the fall of the Nazis first began in Stalingrad when the Red army repelled the Nazis into a war of attrition. Had the Nazis conquered Russia, then history of the world would have been different. Of the 22,402,200 km2 landmass of the Soviet empire, Russia took 17,125,191 km square while the other republics (Ukrainian SSR, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Moldavian SSR, Turkmen, Kirghiz, Byelorussian SSR, had 5,277,009 Km2)
The Soviet was ethnically diverse with Russian hegemony amid fears of Russification. As at the time of its de-federation, the Soviet Union has a population of about 293 million (about 50.78% were Russians; 15.45% Ukrainians; and 5.85% Uzbeks). A 1989 census figures revealed that some 25 million Russian diasporas in the Soviet republics. While ethnic Russians dominated the Legislative body (the Duma) non-Russian Soviet leaders such as Joseph Stalin (a Georgian) Grigory Zinoviev (Ukrainian) (Chairman of Communist International ) was among the few that were in the elite rank before the break up in 1991.
Under the Treaty on the Division of the black Sea fleet signed in 1997, Russia was permitted to station its military bases in Crimea until 2017 after which it will evacuate. While Ukraine prohibits foreign bases in its territory, it provided for a transitional arrangement under which existing military bases on its territory were permitted allowing Russia to keep its basing in Crimea as “an existing military base”.
In 2019, the constitutional provision on pre-existing bases was revoked but after Moscow had annexed Crimea and withdrew from the basing treaties unilaterally. On 21 February 2022, Russia recognized officially, the two self-proclaimed separatist states in the Donbas and dispatched troops in the disputed territory 72 hours after invading Ukraine.
Upon the dissolution of the Soviet empire, Ukraine had acceded to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon states while Washington, London and Moscow undertook to protect the territorial sovereignty of Kyiv under “The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance”.
In the ensuing color revolution that resulted from the botched 2004 elections viewed as an attempt by the West to destabilize neighboring states and undermine Russia’s national security as anti-Orange protest broke out in Russia.
When Georgia sought NATO’s membership at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, there was a split within NATO between those who opposed offering membership plant to avoid antagonizing Russia. While George Bush pushed for Georgia’s membership and NATO refused, Ukraine and Georgia membership action plan but membership which Putin kicked against (a factor behind the ongoing war).
Before Putin, Boris Yeltsin reacting to Poland’s NATO membership described it as “a threat to Russia and violated the Spirit of the 1990 Agreement”. Furthermore, in a May 1997 signed between NATO and Yeltsin, a text described NATO new membership expansion as a threat to its National Security Blueprint.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian unrest in some parts of Ukraine in riposte to the removal of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukoviych in February 2014 added fuel to the inferno consuming Ukraine in recent days. In August 2014, unmarked Russian military vehicles crossed the borders into the Donetsk republic sparking an undeclared war between Ukraine forces on one hand and separatists group intermingled with Russian troops on the other.
In the 2015 Minsk Accord II between Russia and Ukraine was never implemented.
In the diplomatic impasse the world is paying for a conflict that the UN is never structured to halt militarily rather it took to appeals for aid and humanitarian intervention efforts as well as human rights violations that followed the war of territorial aggrandizement by Moscow against Kyiv.
The War has resulted in the following:
i. The war has resulted in military annexation of Crimea by Russia;
ii. The occupation of the Kherson Oblast (portion of Crimea peninsula) since march 2014;
iii. While pro-Russian forces control the Donbas
The Russo-Ukrainian war also brought to bare, the institutional frailties of the UN and the anachronistic provision of Veto and unanimity principle among the P-5 which has been instrument for power politics than the maintenance of international peace and security. Chapter VII vested on the Security Council the primary but not exclusive mandate to determining what constitutes threat to the peace, breaches of the peace and Acts of aggression; to determine and take measures necessary to maintaining international peace (Article 39 to 51 of the UN Charter 1945).
The institutional crisis in the UN in pursuant to the goals of maintenance of international Peace and security emanates from the failure of the Security Council to provided Collective Security as the authorization of Peace keeping Operations (Blue Helmet) is only upon approval of the Security Council which had became a victim of blackmail and power politics among the five permanent ,members invoking their veto powers against any resolution in which they are the aggressor states or the interests of their ally (ies) are undermined for international peace. This was why the UN’s first 45 years of multilateralism was clogged and chained and UN cannot intervene while Nigerians were killing themselves in the Civil War (1967-1970) as the then dictators’ club, OAU saw the conflict as internal affairs (citing Article III Section 2 of the OAU Charter).
In Summary, the emergence of Pax-Americana may have been impossible without Russia’s military prowess that saved Europe from the raging ruins of the Nazis. Prior, Russia had been the world second military power after the United States and Ukraine was goaded into defense of its territory with the hope that the West will support rather than the UN. Russia sold Alaska to United States in the Alaska Purchase of 30 March 1867 during the expansion of the United States from its original 13 colonies.
When Britain and France declared war on Germany on the 3 September 1939 following Nazi invasion of Poland, Anglo-Franco forces were unprepared for war (see Chieflen Plan). It takes the Red Army to save Europe from Nazism and by far America from the spread of Nazism and Fascism from the Mediterranean basin to Central Europe. France had been liquidated militarily as de Gaulle formed exile Governments in London and Algiers.
The West stared Russian aggression by antagonizing Moscow through NATO membership expansion towards former post-Communist swath. The wanted and feared the resurgence of Communism amid market failures as did Russia feared its’ national security will be undermined by a Ukraine-NATO/EU alliance militarily and economically. The United States maintain bases across the globe including one that oversees Africa (USAFRICOM) headquartered in Shugart Germany. Its all about political and economic interests that had saw a split world after the writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin and Chairman Mao (All of which has no root in African intellectualism, not even democracy that has Athenian Greece as its fons et origo).
While Ukraine has right as a post-Soviet sovereign state to defend itself against Russian invasion, the international community has not responded adequately militarily to help Ukraine in an asymmetrical armed conflict between nations of unequal military capabilities. Ukraine can never match Russia but miscalculated that the world would come to their aid. If the UN was structured to give Collective Security as aspired under under Chapter VII, then the world would have seen not just humanitarian and other aid but collective military action to stop Putin. The fear among nuclear weapons’ states under the Mutually Assured Destruction and Nuclear Deterrent has saved the world from another Hiroshimas and Nagasaki.
If the five permanent members of the UN want a world freed from all acts of war, they should sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty) which entered into force on 22 January 2021 90 days after Honduras ratified its founding instrument. As of December 2021, 59 states have ratified the Treaty, Javier de Cuellar’s Peru being the most recent in December 2021. While no nuclear armed states have expressed support to join the Treaty, non-nuclear weapons states such as Japan and Australia opposed the nuclear ban treaty, an opposition underpinned on extended deterrence” that Washington’s nuclear armament gives protection to their territorial sovereignty from threats.
The fear that the Russo-Ukrainian war may escalates into a nuclear war from its current conventional stage has been voiced. MAD allays such possibility as both Moscow and Kyiv are rational actors, the real fear of a possible nuclear holocaust stems from the tendency that non-state actors such as terrorist groups may have access to the technology or the bomb. A World War III is out of the game because the belligerents of the Russo-Ukrainian war are the Allied powers that saved the world from Nazism (their common enemy) and formed a UN they rigged from its foundation to become an instrument of power politics among nations at the multilateral stage through Veto Power and Permanent membership (a-five to dictate for 188 structure). The power asymmetries among the nations of the world are hounding the prospect for an effective intervention to save Ukrainians from Moscow’s onslaught. Putin has traduced the UN’s Charter it signed as a founding member on 24 October 1945 and upon the dissolution of the Soviet Federation, Russian Federation emerged the successor state to Soviet Russia and retained its permanent seat.
The world must not fail Ukrainians, sanctions are not enough and the UN Security Council should be restructured democratically along regional lines. It is a rigged multilateralism among nations of asymmetrical power relations
Ukraine is a litmus test on why Nuclear weapons should be totally eradicated, why the UN must be restructured to meet its charter objectives; and why a world order predicated on a single-nation policeman of the earth (Pax-Americana) is anachronistic. The world needs to transition multilaterally into Pax-United Nations (Acheoah Ofeh Augustine, NIIA Lagos, “The United Nations Century: The Accomplishments, Challenges and Wayforeward”, Amazon Book Store).
The whole crisis would not have been there if some writers never wrote these books:
1. Two Treatises of Government in 1689 by John Locke (29 August 1632-28 October 1704)
2. The Wealth of Nations on 9 March 1776 by Adam Smith (died 1790): and
3. The Communist Manifesto” published on 21 February 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedriech Engel.
What the world is seeing in Ukraine today is the consequences of the writings of these philosophers and how their ideas were applied to statecraft. If You take away Adam Smith, Europe goes back reactionarily to Mercantilism; If you take away john Locke, the West goes back to absolute monarchism; and if you take away the writings of Karl Marx, Russia goes back to Tsarist dynasty that the Bolsheviks ended when they misapplied the ideas of Karl Marx, substituting dictatorships of the proletariat to the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks hence, the transitional phase of Socialist Russian state never withered into communism, neither will China the last bastions of socialist world for ideological contradictions and synthesis: Socialism with Chinese characteristics or market socialism augmenting with the ideas of Adam Smith when Karl Marx’s fails (Acheoah O. Augustine, NIIA Internationals Analyst, International R, Alphonsus Effi, March 2022.