News & Views
AFTER two years of peace agreement, low intensity war in Ukraine continues whereby 5000 more people have been killed during this period. The agreement between Russia and Ukraine was based on 13-point plan that called for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire and the quick withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front. It granted Kiev control over its border with Russia on condition that Ukraine would change its constitution and grant the separatist regions near Russia special status and interim local self-government by end of 2015. But none of these conditions was met and the agreements have been repeatedly extended as international powers hoped to end 33-month war. According to AFP report by Dmitry Zaks, “dominant nationalist and populist forces in Ukraine’s parliament are against granting special status or autonomy to rebels for fear they would play second fiddle to Russia.”
NATO defence ministers had met in February 2015 to sign off on a network of command centres in Eastern Europe to reinforce the region by creating rapid reaction force and to new regional headquarters to meet any threat from Russia, as well as a bigger rapid reaction force and two new regional headquarters. Then NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had said the measures, part of the alliance’s response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, amounted to “the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence” since the end of the Cold War 25 years ago. Ministers had also discussed growing concerns within NATO about Russia’s nuclear strategy and indications that Russian military planners may be lowering the threshold for using atomic weapons in any conflict. There were indeed other flashpoints, but involvement of the US and the West vis-à-vis Russia in Ukraine was considered a prelude to the Cold War II.
However, they made it clear that “NATO will not intervene in Ukraine but will bolster the defences of eastern allies who were under Moscow’s domination for four decades until 1989.” Then U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had told the meeting that Washington would provide staff officers as well as technical and logistical expertise to the six command centres in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the three Baltic states to organise reinforcements for those countries in an emergency. Though NATO vowed not to intervene, but the preparations spoke volumes about their intent. Will some erstwhile European colonial powers ever curb their vaulting ambitions to be once again the arbiter of peoples’ destinies abroad? Have they got to keep on this wild goose chase only to throw into turmoil the unfortunate nation they intervene on one pretext or another and plunge the world in greater disorder and chaos?
It is not just the Ukraine they have pushed into turbulence; they have been on this rank adventurism quite too often not in the distant past. Their maddening geopolitical and strategic designs and regime change projects made Libya and Syria slipping down and down in a quagmire. One wonders over the outcry of the West that they all are indulging in so hypocritically and so unabashedly over the Ukrainian crisis. In fact, they have had the pioneering role in stirring the crisis. It was their incitement, prompting and their money that had triggered the massive street protest in Kiev that finally led up to the ouster of Ukrainian present Viktor Yanukovych. Had Ukrainians been left alone, they would have sought the way out of the imbroglio precipitated by deposed president Viktor Yankovych’s walkout from the deal of trade association with EU and join instead Russia-led customs union.
Of course, President Putin’s skirt is not clean either. No sophistry whatsoever can help him to demonstrate innocence in the saga of Crimean Peninsula’s secession. In the venture, Russian agent-provocateurs were definitely involved. But with what face, the western capitals slap him for what they themselves had been engaged in over a year in Ukraine so blatantly by providing funds and material support? Illegitimacy against illegitimacy has become rule of the thumb there. After Russia had annexed Crimea in March 2014, President Barack Obama and European leaders had slapped toughest sanctions on Russia’s energy, arms and finance sectors in retaliation to Russian involvement in Ukraine. Among the entities targeted were Bank of Moscow, two other state-owned banks and defense companies including United Shipbuilding Corp. The European Union plan had prohibited new arms imports and exports halting the export of sensitive technology to Russian military users.
European countries that rely on imported Russian oil and natural gas for their energy needs had earlier been reluctant to impose more than symbolic sanctions against Russia. In fact, the crisis was of their own making, as their stooges saddled in Kiev were illegitimate rulers and out and out usurpers. Russia under Putin wants to recover its lost prestige and influence in Eastern Europe. Russian pride and interests were severely injured, and certainly more than in 2008 when Georgian shelling on South Ossetia, provoked by the West, killed several Russian peacekeepers. Russia then fought a war and so it did again in Chechnya, what is said, to protect the ethnic Russians living there. Russia appears to be determined, at least as of now, to cut a slice off Ukraine and annex it because illegal regime has been put in place after removing elected head of the state.
Having that said, liberation from this fraudulent order is now the crying need of wretched Ukrainians. Even now these adventurists can show some mercy and sit with the Russians and their own Ukrainian stooges as well as independence-declaring Russian-speaking Ukrainian leaderships to decide the formation of a federal Ukraine with maximum autonomy to the federating units. Anyhow, the Russian-Ukrainian border remains open wide enough for the Kremlin to send in tanks and other weapons to assist separatists. The deal succeeded in limiting scope of clashes to specific hotspots, but unless clauses of agreement with regard to autonomy to federating units are implemented, war would continue, which could engulf entire region. It is therefore important that conditions of agreement are implemented by both sides in letter and in spirit.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.