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The Ukraine-Russia Conflict and NATO’s Imperialist Expansionism

“I appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because you are too exhausted to fight, but because War is bad in essence” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Debaditya Raychaudhuri 17 Mar 2022

Ukraine
An old 2019 image of a Russian girl and a Ukrainian boy with their respective national flags have gone viral. Seemingly this image has got nothing to do with the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, but the main aim of this article is to denounce war and promote peace and love, thus nothing can be stronger as an image than this picture.


The ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine, that began due to the Russian military expeditions in the Sunflower country, has its causes deeply ingrained in the post- Cold War era geopolitics of Europe and the world at large.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the world saw the initiation of a uni-polar and hegemonic global power system, with the core of power concentration lying entirely with the United States of America and its Western allies.

On February 21, 2022, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin unilaterally announced Russia’s official recognition of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic of Eastern Ukraine as free, sovereign and independent States. These regions of Donbass have been under separatist control for a better part of the last 6 years (primarily since Russia’s aggressive annexation of Crimea in March 2014). Following this announcement of recognition, the Russian President on February 24, 2022, ordered a “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine aimed at “De-Weaponisation and De-Nazification” of the ex-Soviet State. Thus the Russian tanks, aircrafts, missiles, heavy artillery and troops started rolling into Ukraine initiating the biggest geo-political crisis since the end of World War II. Since the start of Russia’s military expedition, more than three weeks have elapsed, and humanitarian crises of gigantic proportions have started engulfing Europe (and slowly the entire world). More than 3.5 million Ukrainians (official figures) have fled their native land and taken refuge in Poland, the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania leaving behind relatives, loved ones, homes, establishments, memories and trails of tears. Everyday thousands are seen stranded on roads leading to Western Ukraine and the borders. Food, fresh drinking water, medicine supplies have dried up. Relentless bombardments of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities and suburbs have not only caused enormous destruction of property but have also shattered a million civilian aspirations and dreams. But, if we look in detail into the causes of the conflict, we would see the reasons are partially ingrained in the expansionist and imperialist geo-political policies of the last three decades.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) came into existence in 1949 at the end of the 2nd World War and the beginning of the Cold War. This military strategic alliance which initially started with the US and UK (and later some their Western allies), started rapidly expanding into Eastern Europe following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is widely perceived that the erstwhile US Secretary of State James Baker had famously said “Not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with the erstwhile Soviet supremo Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, as a part of a plethora of assurances regarding long-term Soviet security and sovereignty given by the West to the Soviet throughout the German unification process of 1990. But the West went back on its promises and a fierce NATO expansion started in the last decade of the millennium.

First, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (all members of the Warsaw Pact) were admitted into NATO on March 12, 1999. The next round of expansionism includes all the Baltic States - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia along with Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia on March 29, 2004. The next round of expansionism included Croatia and Albania on April 1, 2009 and the process continued with Montenegro on June 5, 2017 and North Macedonia on March 27, 2020.

“Intensified Dialouge” status is conferred upon NATO aspirant nations whose membership applications are being scrutinized and are under serious consideration. Ukraine and Georgia (both former Soviet states and countries with extensive borders with Russia) have been accorded this status. On the March 10, 2018 NATO added Ukraine in the list of NATO aspirant members, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia.

Thus, the military influence of NATO which had already reached Russia’s backyard, was now on the verge of expanding into countries with vast borders Russia. This imperialist expansionism of NATO is not only threatening Russia’s long-term security interests but also the geo-political stability and peace in the region. It is known to all that the US starts installing military hardware and outposts in NATO countries in the name of defence strengthening purposes. Due to these developments, what has transpired is that the US and Russia (the world’s largest nuclear powers) are getting poised directly at each other militarily in East Europe. The only solution for defusing and de-escalating these armaments was to have a neutral buffer zone in East Europe between the NATO countries and Russia. But NATO’s imperial policies have nearly done away with all of the original neutral zones barring Ukraine. In recent years, following the Euromaidan Revolution of 2013 (in which a highly unpopular pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown), Ukraine has moved a lot closer to both the European Union (EU) and the NATO. This coupled with the impending threat of Ukraine’s pending NATO membership seems to have rattled Russia’s security concerns significantly.

Nato

Figure 1 : Map displaying NATO’s expansionist drive | Courtesy: https://mronline.org/2019/01/02/is-russia-imperialist

President Putin has repeatedly stressed upon the fact that Neo-Nazi elements have penetrated deep into the Ukrainian State structure. This assertion might sound a bit far-fetched, but there are some elements of truth and fact in it also. The Azov Battalion is a far-right wing militia, based in Mariupol (Ukraine) formed to combat Russian separatist forces in the region and Donbass. It is well known and documented that they had committed heinous war crimes like mass looting, illegal detentions and torture (according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Several OHCHR reports state that the Azov Battalion conducted grave Human Rights violations in the Donbass region in 2014-15. Some elements of the Azov Battalion are known to infamously use Nazi symbols and propaganda material. In 2014, the Azov was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine, and since then the Azov members have been serving as soldiers in the Ukrainian National guard. Thus, this makes Ukraine a party to Neo-Nazi elements and ideology that whole of Europe had fought against in the 2nd World War.          

This article is in no way trying to justify Putin’s military adventurism and expeditions in any way, but on the contrary denounces Russia’s aggressive actions which have resulted in a humanitarian crisis. But the reasons behind this war need to be discussed in detail, failing which an amicable and acceptable solution to the problem would remain unachieved. Russia’s actions portray a strong sense of imperialist nationalism. Russia is currently an autocratic, undemocratic, capitalist power (it is no longer the socialist Soviet Union - a fact many of my Leftist friends tend to forget conveniently) where successive elections have been marred with allegations of widespread State-backed rigging in favour of the current dispensation led by Vladimir Putin. Putin’s strong ultra-nationalist image is also portrayed to the internal audience to distract the multitudes from the real issues of high inflation, stagnant growth, unemployment, inequality in the society (since disintegration of the Soviet), Covid mismanagement. Civil liberties, press independence, freedom of speech and political opposition have been under constant attack in Russia. Now coming back to the war, this conflict has actually become a war between two imperial powers – NATO and Russia for one-upmanship where Ukraine and its citizens have become pawns. The NATO is trying to strengthen its grip over Ukraine as an ally country to dump its weapons and Russia is trying to militarily transform it into its Satellite State.

Russian military expedition in Ukraine is basically the first instance of a sovereign country invading another sovereign country in Europe since the 2nd World War. Cities after cities have been destroyed, besieged, bombed and starved by the Russian army. War crimes like bombing the Mariupol hospital and hostile takeover of nuclear plants are being committed by the Russian Army.

Last week, Russian forces indiscriminately attacked and fired upon Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – the Zaporizhzhia plant, which could had led to a nuclear catastrophe larger in scale than Chernobyl 1986 resulting in radioactive destabilization in whole of Europe. Civilian establishments have been under missile bombardment since the beginning of the war. As stated earlier, more than 3.5 million Ukrainians have become refuges and are currently living in temporary camps in the neighbouring Baltic States, Poland, Romania and other countries, and this number is multiplying everyday as we speak. Shortages of food, medicine and drinking water have plagued the battle-torn nation of Ukraine. Humanitarian and refugee crises of unimaginable proportions (not seen since the 2nd World War) are being played out in Europe. Students and professionals from across the globe are still stranded in Ukraine amidst these scenes of destruction, waiting to be rescued and evacuated. The humanitarian corridors (set up as a result of consultations between Russia and Ukraine) aimed at evacuation purposes are being fired upon resulting in these evacuation routes becoming dysfunctional.

Ukraine war
Figure 2 : An aerial view of civilian establishments destroyed by Russian missiles in the settlement of Borodyanka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine (Image courtesy: REUTERS/Maksim Levin)

The Western media’s role in reporting this war and public opinion formation has also been highly biased and skewed in nature. In the same way, Russia’s dictatorial and autocratic manner of crushing widespread internal protests and dissent against the war has been undemocratic and degrading to say the least.

The West’s efforts at de-escalating tensions before the war and during it have been far from satisfactory (barring French President Emmanuel Macron). The US President Joe Biden and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been crying war rhetoric for far too long which has contributed more towards escalations rather than defusing the situation. Even during the war, the roles of the US and its allies have been provocative to say the least (like promises of dumping more weapons into Ukraine rather than trying to negotiate things). There has to be comprehensive tripartite talks and negotiations involving Russia, Ukraine and the West. Ukrainian neutrality, a halted NATO expansionism and withdrawn Russian military should be the goal going forward if we want a stable and peaceful geo-political solution to this crisis. Imperialist designs of both the West and counter-military expeditions of Russia need to be rebuked and resisted by the International media.

NATO’s expansionist and imperial designs across the globe need to be resisted, because the world has seen the kind of humanitarian crises that has been created due to it in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine (just to name a few in an unending list of victim countries). In Palestine, an entire country lives in inhuman conditions under the illegal blockade of Gaza by Israel, without the West even batting an eyelid. This is the kind of Western hypocrisy which also needs to be rebuked and criticized.

The civil society has a very important role in this regard. The Anti-War civil society movements are of utmost importance. Just as anti-war movements in the US during the Vietnam War were a watershed moment in anti-imperial struggles, in the same way anti-war protest images from St. Petersburg (in Russia) have been the highlight in the present resistance against the war. The autocratic and repressive Russian administration has arrested thousands but still sane anti-war voices continue to pour out of the Russian civil society.

The World was slowly limping out of a 2-year pandemic period, when this war has started creating havoc. War in any part of the globe creates crisis of food, shelter, healthcare facilities across the region, which slowly percolates into the entire world leading to higher starvation rates, increased poverty figures, unemployment and displacement. The poor and the working class are hit the most.      

Amongst all the dark clouds hanging over us, there have silver linings and rays of hope emerging in the last few days. Russia-Ukraine negotiations have started in Turkey and are appearing to move in the right direction. The West should look into Russia’s genuine security concerns and on the other hand Russia must immediately halt its military attacks and advances. The solution to this grave crisis can only be sought through comprehensive dialogue between Russia, Ukraine and the West. Ukrainian neutrality along with its future security has to be guaranteed by one and all. Rehabilitation of destroyed Ukrainian establishments, resources have to be pre-empted and taken up as an immediate priority. NATO must stop its eastward expansion and imperialist designs. Russia should also release all prisoners of war (PoW) from Ukraine. Russia should also do more in the areas of Freedom of Speech, civil liberties and release its arrested anti-war protestors and activists. Sane and sensible actions from all sides aimed at de-escalation can save this world from further destruction and catastrophe.

RESIST NATO’S IMPERIALISM AND RUSSIA’S MILITARY CONQUESTS. LET PEACE WIN.

“When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, it loses its social perspective. There is something about a war like this that makes people insensitive. It dulls the conscience. It strengthens the forces of reaction, and it brings into being bitterness and hatred and violence.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Related:

Russian TV Staff says "no to war",  quits on-air 

Ukraine invasion: Racist reportage, yet little mention of racism in Ukraine?

Plight of Ukraine’s Muslims amidst the Russian Invasion

 

The Ukraine-Russia Conflict and NATO’s Imperialist Expansionism

“I appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because you are too exhausted to fight, but because War is bad in essence” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Ukraine
An old 2019 image of a Russian girl and a Ukrainian boy with their respective national flags have gone viral. Seemingly this image has got nothing to do with the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, but the main aim of this article is to denounce war and promote peace and love, thus nothing can be stronger as an image than this picture.


The ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine, that began due to the Russian military expeditions in the Sunflower country, has its causes deeply ingrained in the post- Cold War era geopolitics of Europe and the world at large.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the world saw the initiation of a uni-polar and hegemonic global power system, with the core of power concentration lying entirely with the United States of America and its Western allies.

On February 21, 2022, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin unilaterally announced Russia’s official recognition of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic of Eastern Ukraine as free, sovereign and independent States. These regions of Donbass have been under separatist control for a better part of the last 6 years (primarily since Russia’s aggressive annexation of Crimea in March 2014). Following this announcement of recognition, the Russian President on February 24, 2022, ordered a “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine aimed at “De-Weaponisation and De-Nazification” of the ex-Soviet State. Thus the Russian tanks, aircrafts, missiles, heavy artillery and troops started rolling into Ukraine initiating the biggest geo-political crisis since the end of World War II. Since the start of Russia’s military expedition, more than three weeks have elapsed, and humanitarian crises of gigantic proportions have started engulfing Europe (and slowly the entire world). More than 3.5 million Ukrainians (official figures) have fled their native land and taken refuge in Poland, the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania leaving behind relatives, loved ones, homes, establishments, memories and trails of tears. Everyday thousands are seen stranded on roads leading to Western Ukraine and the borders. Food, fresh drinking water, medicine supplies have dried up. Relentless bombardments of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities and suburbs have not only caused enormous destruction of property but have also shattered a million civilian aspirations and dreams. But, if we look in detail into the causes of the conflict, we would see the reasons are partially ingrained in the expansionist and imperialist geo-political policies of the last three decades.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) came into existence in 1949 at the end of the 2nd World War and the beginning of the Cold War. This military strategic alliance which initially started with the US and UK (and later some their Western allies), started rapidly expanding into Eastern Europe following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is widely perceived that the erstwhile US Secretary of State James Baker had famously said “Not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with the erstwhile Soviet supremo Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, as a part of a plethora of assurances regarding long-term Soviet security and sovereignty given by the West to the Soviet throughout the German unification process of 1990. But the West went back on its promises and a fierce NATO expansion started in the last decade of the millennium.

First, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (all members of the Warsaw Pact) were admitted into NATO on March 12, 1999. The next round of expansionism includes all the Baltic States - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia along with Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia on March 29, 2004. The next round of expansionism included Croatia and Albania on April 1, 2009 and the process continued with Montenegro on June 5, 2017 and North Macedonia on March 27, 2020.

“Intensified Dialouge” status is conferred upon NATO aspirant nations whose membership applications are being scrutinized and are under serious consideration. Ukraine and Georgia (both former Soviet states and countries with extensive borders with Russia) have been accorded this status. On the March 10, 2018 NATO added Ukraine in the list of NATO aspirant members, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia.

Thus, the military influence of NATO which had already reached Russia’s backyard, was now on the verge of expanding into countries with vast borders Russia. This imperialist expansionism of NATO is not only threatening Russia’s long-term security interests but also the geo-political stability and peace in the region. It is known to all that the US starts installing military hardware and outposts in NATO countries in the name of defence strengthening purposes. Due to these developments, what has transpired is that the US and Russia (the world’s largest nuclear powers) are getting poised directly at each other militarily in East Europe. The only solution for defusing and de-escalating these armaments was to have a neutral buffer zone in East Europe between the NATO countries and Russia. But NATO’s imperial policies have nearly done away with all of the original neutral zones barring Ukraine. In recent years, following the Euromaidan Revolution of 2013 (in which a highly unpopular pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown), Ukraine has moved a lot closer to both the European Union (EU) and the NATO. This coupled with the impending threat of Ukraine’s pending NATO membership seems to have rattled Russia’s security concerns significantly.

Nato

Figure 1 : Map displaying NATO’s expansionist drive | Courtesy: https://mronline.org/2019/01/02/is-russia-imperialist

President Putin has repeatedly stressed upon the fact that Neo-Nazi elements have penetrated deep into the Ukrainian State structure. This assertion might sound a bit far-fetched, but there are some elements of truth and fact in it also. The Azov Battalion is a far-right wing militia, based in Mariupol (Ukraine) formed to combat Russian separatist forces in the region and Donbass. It is well known and documented that they had committed heinous war crimes like mass looting, illegal detentions and torture (according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Several OHCHR reports state that the Azov Battalion conducted grave Human Rights violations in the Donbass region in 2014-15. Some elements of the Azov Battalion are known to infamously use Nazi symbols and propaganda material. In 2014, the Azov was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine, and since then the Azov members have been serving as soldiers in the Ukrainian National guard. Thus, this makes Ukraine a party to Neo-Nazi elements and ideology that whole of Europe had fought against in the 2nd World War.          

This article is in no way trying to justify Putin’s military adventurism and expeditions in any way, but on the contrary denounces Russia’s aggressive actions which have resulted in a humanitarian crisis. But the reasons behind this war need to be discussed in detail, failing which an amicable and acceptable solution to the problem would remain unachieved. Russia’s actions portray a strong sense of imperialist nationalism. Russia is currently an autocratic, undemocratic, capitalist power (it is no longer the socialist Soviet Union - a fact many of my Leftist friends tend to forget conveniently) where successive elections have been marred with allegations of widespread State-backed rigging in favour of the current dispensation led by Vladimir Putin. Putin’s strong ultra-nationalist image is also portrayed to the internal audience to distract the multitudes from the real issues of high inflation, stagnant growth, unemployment, inequality in the society (since disintegration of the Soviet), Covid mismanagement. Civil liberties, press independence, freedom of speech and political opposition have been under constant attack in Russia. Now coming back to the war, this conflict has actually become a war between two imperial powers – NATO and Russia for one-upmanship where Ukraine and its citizens have become pawns. The NATO is trying to strengthen its grip over Ukraine as an ally country to dump its weapons and Russia is trying to militarily transform it into its Satellite State.

Russian military expedition in Ukraine is basically the first instance of a sovereign country invading another sovereign country in Europe since the 2nd World War. Cities after cities have been destroyed, besieged, bombed and starved by the Russian army. War crimes like bombing the Mariupol hospital and hostile takeover of nuclear plants are being committed by the Russian Army.

Last week, Russian forces indiscriminately attacked and fired upon Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – the Zaporizhzhia plant, which could had led to a nuclear catastrophe larger in scale than Chernobyl 1986 resulting in radioactive destabilization in whole of Europe. Civilian establishments have been under missile bombardment since the beginning of the war. As stated earlier, more than 3.5 million Ukrainians have become refuges and are currently living in temporary camps in the neighbouring Baltic States, Poland, Romania and other countries, and this number is multiplying everyday as we speak. Shortages of food, medicine and drinking water have plagued the battle-torn nation of Ukraine. Humanitarian and refugee crises of unimaginable proportions (not seen since the 2nd World War) are being played out in Europe. Students and professionals from across the globe are still stranded in Ukraine amidst these scenes of destruction, waiting to be rescued and evacuated. The humanitarian corridors (set up as a result of consultations between Russia and Ukraine) aimed at evacuation purposes are being fired upon resulting in these evacuation routes becoming dysfunctional.

Ukraine war
Figure 2 : An aerial view of civilian establishments destroyed by Russian missiles in the settlement of Borodyanka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine (Image courtesy: REUTERS/Maksim Levin)

The Western media’s role in reporting this war and public opinion formation has also been highly biased and skewed in nature. In the same way, Russia’s dictatorial and autocratic manner of crushing widespread internal protests and dissent against the war has been undemocratic and degrading to say the least.

The West’s efforts at de-escalating tensions before the war and during it have been far from satisfactory (barring French President Emmanuel Macron). The US President Joe Biden and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been crying war rhetoric for far too long which has contributed more towards escalations rather than defusing the situation. Even during the war, the roles of the US and its allies have been provocative to say the least (like promises of dumping more weapons into Ukraine rather than trying to negotiate things). There has to be comprehensive tripartite talks and negotiations involving Russia, Ukraine and the West. Ukrainian neutrality, a halted NATO expansionism and withdrawn Russian military should be the goal going forward if we want a stable and peaceful geo-political solution to this crisis. Imperialist designs of both the West and counter-military expeditions of Russia need to be rebuked and resisted by the International media.

NATO’s expansionist and imperial designs across the globe need to be resisted, because the world has seen the kind of humanitarian crises that has been created due to it in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine (just to name a few in an unending list of victim countries). In Palestine, an entire country lives in inhuman conditions under the illegal blockade of Gaza by Israel, without the West even batting an eyelid. This is the kind of Western hypocrisy which also needs to be rebuked and criticized.

The civil society has a very important role in this regard. The Anti-War civil society movements are of utmost importance. Just as anti-war movements in the US during the Vietnam War were a watershed moment in anti-imperial struggles, in the same way anti-war protest images from St. Petersburg (in Russia) have been the highlight in the present resistance against the war. The autocratic and repressive Russian administration has arrested thousands but still sane anti-war voices continue to pour out of the Russian civil society.

The World was slowly limping out of a 2-year pandemic period, when this war has started creating havoc. War in any part of the globe creates crisis of food, shelter, healthcare facilities across the region, which slowly percolates into the entire world leading to higher starvation rates, increased poverty figures, unemployment and displacement. The poor and the working class are hit the most.      

Amongst all the dark clouds hanging over us, there have silver linings and rays of hope emerging in the last few days. Russia-Ukraine negotiations have started in Turkey and are appearing to move in the right direction. The West should look into Russia’s genuine security concerns and on the other hand Russia must immediately halt its military attacks and advances. The solution to this grave crisis can only be sought through comprehensive dialogue between Russia, Ukraine and the West. Ukrainian neutrality along with its future security has to be guaranteed by one and all. Rehabilitation of destroyed Ukrainian establishments, resources have to be pre-empted and taken up as an immediate priority. NATO must stop its eastward expansion and imperialist designs. Russia should also release all prisoners of war (PoW) from Ukraine. Russia should also do more in the areas of Freedom of Speech, civil liberties and release its arrested anti-war protestors and activists. Sane and sensible actions from all sides aimed at de-escalation can save this world from further destruction and catastrophe.

RESIST NATO’S IMPERIALISM AND RUSSIA’S MILITARY CONQUESTS. LET PEACE WIN.

“When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, it loses its social perspective. There is something about a war like this that makes people insensitive. It dulls the conscience. It strengthens the forces of reaction, and it brings into being bitterness and hatred and violence.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Related:

Russian TV Staff says "no to war",  quits on-air 

Ukraine invasion: Racist reportage, yet little mention of racism in Ukraine?

Plight of Ukraine’s Muslims amidst the Russian Invasion

 

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