Mr. Putin’s Russia, The West and Ukraine: A Fight of Two and a Half!
Let us be clear: The agitation of the West/Western powers, that is the European Union (EU), the United States (US) and their NATO-allies, for the soul of Ukraine, which is garbed as being their support for the wishes and yearning of the people of Ukraine for freedom is not without self-interest(s). Understandably, nobody would gladly wish to do a bad business under any circumstances, be it political, economy or any other adventure. The question to ask thus is this: What do the West stand to gain in the quest to conquer (or better politically put- to gain) Ukraine for itself? And yet another question: Why does the West need to gain Ukraine for itself? Many questions can and need be asked, but let us stay put on these two for now while I turn to talk about Mr. Putin.
Better put, let me say I want to talk about Russia. Actually, the line of differentiation between Mr. Putin and Russia as a country is very thin so that one can as well talk of Russia as if one is talking of Mr. Putin. Overtime, it has come to be that it does not matter in any order one talks about either of both parties mentioned, the one can be (and in fact is to be taken) for the other. Simply put, since the emergence of Mr. Putin into power in Russia, Russia is as good as Mr. Putin, and Mr. Putin is as good as Russia. When he speaks, the world in and around Russia listens, and that very attentively. This could be perceived either ways, positively or negatively. In recent times, it must be said though, that the latter seems to be the dominant effect being deduced when Mr. Putin (Russia) speaks.
Now, let me be clear about another matter: Being in the West could make it very difficult to objectively see beyond one’s nose when talking about issues which affect relations between Russia and the West. Most especially, as in recent times, Western media have succeeded in their propaganda-like portrayal of Russia as being against the rest of the world. Even if this is the case, an objective reader or viewer would be careful not to take in these reports hook, line and sinker without looking beyond the peripherals. I am one of such critical and objective consumer of Western media. Understandably, being dwellers in this hemispherical part of the world i.e in the West, we can practically do very little to influence what we consume from the media world. Let us leave that aside for a while, lest I loose focus on the key matter being addressed here. This is the truth: Russia is not against the world. The present provocation is a conflict situation between Russia and the West for the soul of Ukraine.
Of course, one can say this: Because Russia is against the West in this matter, it is also indirectly in conflict with all other countries, who, in case of unavoidable escalation or even war, will support the West. We should however not be easily carried away by the numbers of countries who are likely to support the Western powers. Russia is also not alone. There are hundreds of countries who do not support the West. There are those who are strong supporters of Russia and there are those who neither support Russia nor are against her. We should not forget too that decision-making and side-taking can be very fluid in international politics, particularly in conflict situations. These are unsure times; a seemingly trustworthy ally/agent can become an enemy overnight: Think of Mr. Snowden and you will understand better!
Having made clear that Mr. Putin, namely Russia, is not in conflict with the whole world, I will move on to the next item. By the way, the same questions as posed to the West can be posed to Mr. Putin: What does Mr. Putin stand to gain in his quest to win Ukraine to his side? Why does he want Ukraine on his side and is apparently ready to militarily march into Ukraine if he is “forced” to do so/left with no choice?
There have been many speculations so far as to Western interest in the region. Clearly, the expansionist motive of the EU cannot be mistaken; this has been explained as a historical prerogative in order to keep Europe together and avoid the mistake(s) of the past. The unity of Europe has thus made the expansion towards Eastern Europe a must apart from economic interests which is accruable from the adventure to the powers that be in the EU.
The EU is not the only bloc that made up the West/Western powers. The US cannot be left out of the equation. One can even say that this is more worrisome for Mr. Putin’s Russia. Mr. Putin has never been too friendly with the EU. In fairness however, it cannot be said that he was too hostile either. His dealings with the EU has made a Mr. Putin, who cannot be said to be democratic in the Western-sense of the word (and this is not to be understood negatively), practically into what he is not- he is gradually and practically being garbed in a Westernized system that he normally would not be ready to partake in. Russia and her territories have not been known to subscribe to democracy as practiced by the West. They have their ways of doing democracy- Think of the Russia of Lenin and the Russia of Stalin! After the death of Stalin, the succeeding governments can as well be referred to as regimes close to a “totalitarian state” saving that of Mr. Gorbachov’s government. I need not emphasize that Mr. Gorbachov is seen in Russia as a puppet of the West and as a traitor because they believe Mr. Gorbachov’s self-imposed weakened position in dealing with the West led to the collapse and eventual death of the Soviet Union. Mr. Putin is not different from past regimes who had reigned in Russia before him.
Russia is a world-power. At least many Russians believe they are, according to a survey conducted. The US believe Russia is a seriously weakened world-power. Although the US have been very careful not to negotiate with Russia from this point of view, Mr. Putin believes, and that very strongly, that the US do not often take Russia serious. He wanted a Russia that is seen to be at par with the US when negotiating. On the other hand, the US often believe they have always conceded too much when Russia is in play. Mr. Putin does not want a Russia being treated with hand-shoes on, as though it is a sick fellow, who is gradually recovering from a bout of life-threatening fever. In short, the atmosphere can be said to be that of a complexly challenged Russia whose complex is not unnoticed by the US. This often makes relations between both powers strained.
Recently, I read in a newspaper of Russia finally letting go of the believe that she is being surrounded by friends. The expansionist moves of the EU towards Eastern Europe, and the recent flirts with Ukraine finally confirmed his feelings of a Russia that his being pursued/pushed even farther into a corner. Like the proverbial snake or goat that is finally being pursued into a corner, it is left with no other choice than to turn and face its pursuer(s) for a fight-out or an escape route from the pursuers’ end! Mr. Putin’s feeling is that of a Russia that is being asked to give away too much of her perceived territories and areas of influence. We should not forget too quickly the bone of contention between Mr. Putin and the US during Bush administration. The presence of US military know-how and equipment, be it those of NATO or directly from the US is a direct threat to Russia’s interest in the region in Mr. Putin’s opinion. Let us remember that in recent conflict over the soul of Ukraine, many of Mr. Putin’s government officials have never stopped to underline the fact that monies given by the US to support protest in Ukraine and other activities are meant to drive forward the quest of the US for a regime change in Ukraine.
Moving beyond speculation, I positioned yesterday while I talked to friend that Russia’s interests in Ukraine explains in no unclear terms those of the US in Ukraine. It does not matter how we choose to see it, Russia, being a power in that axis is right to want to ascertain and expand her influence in the area. The US is however not wrong in their attempt to win/gain Ukraine into their nest. The EU’s intrusion into the area in the name of expanding eastward is thus one intruder too much for Russia to live with! Come to think of it: The EU is the most trustworthy ally to the US. Therefore, Mr. Putin’s Russia is now being confronted with two of her most-feared “enemy” in the quest for influence. Besides, the fact that this fight for the soul of Russia is right at the door of Russia makes Russia’s reactions more volatile and perhaps even more irrational than they might have been if the dispute was somewhere else.
Before I return to talk about my opinion over Mr. Putin’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine, I will first talk about the US crisis management strategy in recent times. The US have always been known to present themselves as the non-aggressor if we are to look away from many conspiration theories which think otherwise. Moving forward, the non-aggressor often wants to make us understand that he is being “forced” to respond like the proverbial snake/goat, and most of the times, to protect the basic rights of every human, to support the yearnings of all for freedom and for humanity’s sake among many other reasons for intervention in a conflict. Let me state that I absolutely support these grounds. They are legitimate reasons. There are clearly those from whom the common people must be protected because left to these monsters they do not give a damn. All they want is to have their way at whatever cost. The US are thus right to intervene very forcefully in the interest of the people. There are accusations though of double standard in this regard. The US have been known to support some repressive regimes whose peoples also desire to be as free as residents of those countries where the US have been “forced” to come-in in the people’s interest. Beyond the problem of double standard, in recent times onlookers and many observers seem to be less-impressed/convinced with the non-aggressor-but-compulsory-intervention-theory. Therefore, it is pertinent for the US to rethink this particular strategy. We need a new approach established on a better theory. To understand the demand for a new approach, a good question to ask is this: Must the non-aggressive US often be “forced” constantly to intervene in a conflict? The truth is this: When one has to give the same reason for doing the same thing over and over again, the outcome of which is more often than not worse than the initial position/problem, then an objective observer must realize it is time to rethink and re-strategize.
I will move on now to Mr. Putin’s strategy in the crisis in Ukraine. Germany’s Finance Minister in a talk referred to Mr. Putin’s approach as very akin to those of Adolf Hitler. Hitler wanted to “protect” the ethnic Germans outside the territories of the German Reich before the outbreak of the Second World War just like Mr. Putin. He made this clear in the annexation of the Crimea. Mr. Putin also made it clear if he is compelled to do so, he will not hesitate to militarily march into East Ukraine to protect Russia’s interests and those of ethnic Russians. His support for the pro-Russian militias and separatists is unwavering.
Of course, the West is not less guilty of mobilizing her military mights in the region, it must be said though that this is a precautionary move in response to the martial display of Mr. Putin’s Russia. Right from the onset of the crisis in Ukraine, Mr. Putin has never stopped to wield his military might. It can even be said that his body language is such that places military solution above dialogue and international agreement. Come to think of it: The Geneva Agreement is yet to receive his blessing. This is not unexpected because throughout the negotiations, it was Mr. Putin’s Foreign Minister who was prominent in the deal-cutting. That he thus far ignored the commitments in the agreements is not unconnected with his preference for military solution. It need not be repeated that Mr. Putin mistrusts the West. In fact, it could be said that his mistrust of the West is one contributive factor that has made his grip on power last this long. Also, it must not be left unmentioned that Mr. Putin started his career in the Russia of the Soviet Union as a spy- a job that is best-survived when one learns to trust nobody, not even his own instincts!
A good question to ask is this: Does the world need another war with the numbers of catastrophic and war-like conflicts raging already? I do not think so, especially when this might involve too directly three major world powers, namely The US, Russia, and the EU. In my opinion, I strongly believe Mr. Putin can explore many avenues to drive home his points and achieve his aims without a head-long collision with other parties concerned. His approach so far is such that one might be made to believe Mr. Putin had from the onset chosen to exclude any form of solution that might want to include non-military negotiations and dialogues!
The talk of de-escalation and easing tension has been very loud from every corner of the globe in the past weeks. It remains only to be seen if there are serious moves from both sides, particularly from Russia, towards the realization of a peaceful/war-free solutions. The fact is this: This crisis can be resolved without the use of more force than we have seen so far in display in Ukraine; further escalation is in nobody’s interest. In order of loss, Ukraine will most-likely loose the most because she is at the heart of the crisis. However, Russia will not be left without a great loss nor will the other parties, namely the EU and the US be left out. At the end, we all loose and our world will not be made safer for it, in fact we might end up mutually assuredly destroying each other in the fight for self-interest and -realization! This is not desirable and must be stopped in a way that exclude the use of (military) force of any kind.