Daily Independent’s Editorial
After months of tensions and arms build-up along its borders, Russia finally invaded Ukraine on 24th February, 2022. Airstrikes and missiles bombarded Ukrainian cities, followed by ground invasion from the Russian and Belarusian territories.
The invasion, the first of such in the 21st century, provoked anger and condemnation across the globe, especially in Europe and North America. At the emergency session of the United Nations on 2nd March, 2022, 141 out of the 193 member nations voted in favour of the resolution condemning Russia, 35 abstained while five voted against it. The United Nations “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine”. It demanded Russia “immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine” and “completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces”.
At the beginning of the tensions in 2014, Russia had annexed Crimea while the separatists it backed seized part of the Donbas region, sparking a war between Ukrainian armed forces and the Russian-backed separatists.
The on-going war has led to catastrophic deaths and destruction in Ukraine and resulted in the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War. The conflict has led to food and energy crises with attendant rise in cost of living all over the world.
There is the strong view, especially among the Western states, that an authoritarian state like Russia harbours mortal fear for the democracy wind blowing across its borders with the potential of rocking the political boat within its territory. The plausible cause of the invasion would seem to prevent Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Russia had for years railed against the expansion of the Western military alliance to Eastern Europe and station of its weapons close to its borders. In the months before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia specifically demanded that NATO revert to its 1997 borders in Europe, remove its military infrastructure from the Central Europe and the Baltic as well as guarantee that Ukraine would never be admitted into the organisation. The US-led NATO largely rejected the demands, restating its open-door policy. It noted that Ukraine would not in the immediate future be admitted into the alliance.
However, more than a year after the invasion, the war has raged on ferociously, with western nations supplying Ukraine with high-grade weapons. While we recognise the rights of every sovereign nation to belong to any association of its choosing, the security concerns of Moscow should not be completely ignored. The recent admission of Finland into NATO, a country which shares a massive border with Russia, may further escalate military tensions with potential for debilitating consequences across Europe and the world.
After the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and dissolution of the rival Warsaw Pact, the continued existence of NATO and its assimilation of former members of the Soviet Union would naturally alarm Russia and raise eyebrows about the real motives of the US-led NATO. For instance, why is NATO expanding only to the borders of Russia? Why is the military alliance only interested in membership of countries bordering Russia? Why does NATO still exist as a military alliance after the end the Cold War? Can NATO explain away the charge that it is using the Russia-Ukraine war to test the efficacy of its high-tech weapons, just like Russia would also stand accused? Why does the alliance insist Ukraine must win the war rather than negotiate an immediate ceasefire and ultimate settlement of the avoidable conflict?
Nevertheless, we reject the invasion of an independent entity by another sovereign country, especially without the sanction of the United Nations. Countries must respect the territorial integrity of one another. Russia must stop the war and pull its forces out of Ukraine immediately. It must jettison the sham referenda and the consequent absorption of the four regions of eastern Ukraine – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – into Russian territory. NATO must end with deliberate speed its supply of weapons to Ukraine and kick-start the process of dismantling the military association.
We call on Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements, as a way out of the political logjam in the Donbas region. All parties to the conflict – Russia, Ukraine and US-led NATO – must seek diplomatic solution to all the contentious issues without further ado