WORLD: Ukraine is the hapless proxy victim of Russia-NATO geopolitical rivalry – By Mohamed Hamaludin

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

Nothing can justify the loss of lives, injuries and destruction of property and infrastructure which Russia is inflicting on Ukraine. It is difficult to grasp the fact that this mighty army can be wreaking such havoc and forcing millions to flee to neighboring countries just because it can. And there is not much other nations can do to retaliate in support of Ukraine, apart from imposing economic sanctions against the aggressor, because Russia is already rattling its nuclear saber.

Russia’s autocratic leader Vladimir Putin does not care about world opinion and the toll which the sanctions are taking on his country’s economy. He is obviously driven by geopolitics, the primary determinant for relations among nations going back to at least the invasion and occupation of small states by powerful ones sometimes thousands of miles away during the days of “colonialism.”

The colonial powers wanted to secure economic gain from their adventurism and occupied small nations and brutally suppressed their peoples to facilitate the exploitation. The result was the annexation of distant small states, resulting in fancy terms such as the British this, the French that, the German this, the Italian that, the Dutch this and so on.

The aftermath of World War II ushered in a new division of the world and a reordering of geopolitical reality reflected in new spheres of influence, with the United States and its allies, on one side, and the Soviet Union and its satellite nations on the other. The U.S. and its allies created mechanisms such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for military security and arrangements for economic security. The Soviet Union had its Warsaw Pact and the Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (COMECON).

That reality dominated the global order through the 45 years of the so-called Cold War, with world governance balanced precariously on nuclear weapons based on the understanding that a World War III would lead to “mutual assured destruction,” as the late Donald Brennan of the Hudson Institute put it, shortened, aptly, to MAD.

The global order was disrupted when the Soviet Union collapsed on Dec. 26, 1991, leaving the U.S. as the only real superpower, with thousands of nuclear weapons, and the former Soviet Union reverting to just Russia, initially in disarray but with its own nuclear arsenal intact. Several former Soviet Union satellite nations declared independence and – most significantly – many of them sought and obtained NATO membership, including some close to Russia. This new geopolitical reality allowed NATO to establish bases in its adversary’s backyard — something which the U.S. refused to countenance when the Soviet Union started to station missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from Florida.

Putin, a senior member of the KGB, the former Soviet intelligence service and later head of its successor the Federal Security Service (FSB),has been openly outraged for years at the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of the Soviet empire and the approach of NATO to within hailing distance, giving the Western military alliance a geopolitical advantage which he deems unacceptable. It has meant that his ambition for restoring Soviet glory to Russia is butting against NATO’s policy that an attack on any member-nation, anywhere, is considered an attack on all members.

But he could attack Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, and Putin has been insisting that it does not seek membership. He did not get such a guarantee from the current, pro-Western Ukraine government headed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He probably decided to invade now because he miscalculated NATO’s resolve to do everything possible to aid Ukraine short of NATO-Russia war. Putin saw how former President Donald Trump weakened the alliance, even threatening to pull the U.S. out of the group. But current President Joe Biden has been able to strengthen the group and mobilize world opinion against the unjust invasion.

Still, it is obvious that Putin is committed to seeing the aggression to the end and is unlikely to withdraw his forces before achieving his objective  and he obviously does not want a repeat of the fiasco that befell his beloved Soviet Union during its 1979 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

So, short of a coup in Russia to end the invasion, there are many more days of agony ahead for the 41 million people of Ukraine. It is conceivable that Putin could lay waste to that country to enforce his demand for regime change, as he did to Chechnya to suppress separatist rebellion. He could also be expected to step up his nuclear arsenal rhetoric. That is a reality which Americans have to face, that World War III can be triggered by Putin’s determination to solve his geopolitical showdown with NATO, using Ukraine as the proxy.

But while Putin’s war has drawn global condemnation, Russia is not the only country which has exercised military power for geopolitical purposes. The United States, for example, has invaded or interfered in the affairs of at least a dozen small countries to force regime change.

The U.S. invaded Puerto Rico in 1898, the Philippines (1899), Haiti to discourage a slave revolt at home (1915), tiny Grenada (1983), Iraq using the pretext of a lie peddled by the British(2003) and Afghanistan (2001). The U.S. also supported coups, including to overthrow democratically elected leaders, in Nicaragua (1911), Iran (1953), Venezuela (1958), Brazil (1964) and Chile (1973) and tried several times to kill Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and sponsored the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. The U.S. also colluded with Britain to force out of office a pro-Soviet Union, pro-Cuban government in then British Guiana.

Of course, it was all in interest of the United States, intended to advance the policy of keeping wars away from the homeland. But whether it is Russia in Ukraine or the United States in any number of countries, the fact remains that, as a Swahili proverb asserts, “When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.”

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a column for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com

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Comments

  • Kman  On 03/13/2022 at 1:37 pm

    America reminds me of the priest who says ‘ do as l say, not as l do’.
    The world needs to get off the American dollar standard and get back to the gold standard.

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