The crisis in Ukraine and the tension across the globe

Ukraine crisis 2Although the crisis in Ukraine continues to focus attention on Russia’s western border, the implications for global peace and security are extremely enormous. It is not going to die down soon since Russia will never allow its periphery to be trodden by forces it perceives as hostile to her interests. All Russia’s actions have been in pursuit of a philosophy – a sense of insecurity.

Russia’s historical and traditional view of the outside world is coloured by a deep sense of insecurity, at times bordering on paranoia. This is best exemplified by Russia’s actions throughout the Cold War and today, by the events in Ukraine, where the Kremlin acted to preserve its traditional geographic bulwark against the West – quickly ‘annexing’ the Crimea and tacitly supporting the separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk. How justified or otherwise is Russia?

One does not have to recount all the historical events that explain Russia’s behaviour. A few may suffice. Soon after the success of the Russian Great October Revolution, more than twenty countries coalesced to disturb Russia. A long civil war had to be contained by the revolution.

The Cold War that started about 1948 created conditions for the encirclement of Russia with US bases almost everywhere. Proxy wars were fought. The US administration needed always to use the excuse of Russia’s imperialist ambition in order to get funding for proxy wars and militaristic expansion.

The end of the Cold War should have brought the US and Russia together to help the United Nations to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ – as noted in the preamble of the UN Charter.

On the contrary, a new Cold War is seemingly in the offing. Nothing has changed. The US is seemingly pursuing an agenda of getting Moscow hemmed in.

But Moscow is seeking to work more closely with other countries hostile to America, most importantly China (and this is happening already), creating a coalition capable of hindering, if not blocking, U.S. initiatives. Washington’s allies in Europe will be in economic pain and looking for a way out, ready to break with the U.S.

Already, there is a threat as there is a growing rise in the fragmentation of Europe, not to talk also of the rise of nationalism. Moscow’s actions will always be guided by a state of insecurity.

The continued existence of NATO and the use of NATO against Russia’s interest arekey to Russia’s behavior. NATO forces have been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, without taking into consideration Russia’s interest.

Indeed, Russia had opposed the Iraqi, Libyan, and Syrian campaigns, proffering alternatives for resolution, which were ignored. Instead, the US and NATO have openly supported rebels in all these instances. US Secretaries of State, at various times, had met with Iraqi, Libyan, and Syrian opposition and openly supported their efforts with money, logistics, and intelligence data.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, is on record to have given Syrian opposition $100 million. Incidentally, Moscow is being accused of supporting rebels in Abkhazia, South Ossetia (both enclaves in Georgia) and Ukraine, the reason for which the US is leading a campaign of sanctions against Russia. A case of double standards?

These and many more may explain Russia’s seemingly toxic behavior. There are even more suspicious actions by the US. Last year, in December for instance, after a two-day conference in Stuttgart, Germany, U.S. Marine Forces Europe mapped out a plan for this year’s Black Sea Rotational Force (BSRF) deployment.

Military officials from European NATO nations were also involved in the planning process. The Black Sea Rotational Force 12 will be the longest and largest deployment of the force, a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) first activated in 2010. Naturally, the Russians would react, and they did by taking over completely, all the Crimean ports and deploying more marines.

Again in December last year, both houses of Congress rushed through new sanctions against Russia as part of the so-called “Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014.”

Indeed, the House version, H.R. 5859, was introduced earlier the same day and approved by a sparse crowd late at night.

The Senate legislation, S. 2828, was passed on a voice vote. And had measures that sanction Russian weapons exports and oil-production imports, and financial institutions that facilitate such transactions; target Gazprom if it “is withholding significant” gas supplies from specified states; provide money to “strengthen democratic institutions and political and civil society organizations” in Russia; bar the lifting of sanctions so long as Moscow supports groups undermining “the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine”; boost financial transfers to Kiev; order U.S. officials to work with Ukraine to solve such problems as electricity and fuel shortages; authorize weapons transfers to Kiev; and increase funds for government Russian-language broadcasting services. These are clearly a belligerent posture and Russia under all expectations would have to react.

Indeed, the most likely outcome of this policy is a permanent frozen conflict between the U.S. and Russia, a new Cold War without the ideological component. The good thing is that this anti-Russian legislation did not include any of the many fevered proposals for the U.S. to court war by introducing troops to Ukraine, daring Moscow to attack.

A third world war would have ensued as warned by former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. Indeed, Moscow perceives its interests in Ukraine to outweigh the cost of sanctions. In this, Russia is likely to accept more pain that sanctions imposes.

That’s certainly the case with Russia. Moscow believes that it must prevent a united Ukraine from aligning with the West.Ukraine will always matter much more to Russia than to the U.S., just as Mexico always will matter much more to Washington than to Moscow.

It seems clear that the US has failed to diagnose the problem correctly, especially in geo-political terms. It is the thinking of Moscow that the Obama administration is trying to impose its will on Moscow.

But as Doug Bandow (and also Bacevich in ‘Washington Rules’) would have it “there’s hardly a nation on Earth that the U.S. does not lecture, sanction, bully, or threaten. Russia is not exempt”.

What should not be lost on the US is that American power is not unlimited. Other countries are inclined to resist U.S. dictates just as the U.S. would do in the reverse situation. Indeed, the resistance to American domination is more from non-state actors than states like Russia or China. Apparently, such resistance has roots in American foreign policy.

The creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the atrocities it is unleashing on the whole world as well as the instability in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen can be blamed on a failed US foreign policy. No doubt, according to Bandow, “the U.S. desperately needs foreign-policy leadership – that is, leaders willing to set priorities and able to distinguish between vital and minor interests”.

Ask me and I will tell you that unless Russia and the US come together in the fight against terrorism; unless global institutions stop pandering to the whims of the West (especially the US); unless we refrain from imposing Western values on all nations; the world will continue to live in fear and insecurity, devastation, carnage and poverty.

Dr. V. Antwi-Danso

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