February 28, 2022
With the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin is attempting to set a new narrative of a lost republic. What used to be an independent and sovereign states, is turning to tartars under the force of a leader, willing to take it by force and return it to the geopolitical status of the former Soviet Union. This latest move by Putin, brushed aside the fact that those former union members were separate states before formation of the USSR.
The move to resuscitate the old Soviet geopolitical space couldn’t be clearer, when Putin said he thinks the breakup of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century. He even wrote that Ukrainians and Russians are one people.
Recently, he said in a speech that he believes Ukraine should not be a separate state. He claims that Ukraine is a part of imperial Russia based on history and as a result, should remain so despite its current existence as an independent nation. These statements are clear indications the Russian leader plans to redraw the old map by using force as a check on former Soviet states yet to join NATO.
The reasons for Putin’s invasion are clear: (1) the quest for dominance, (2) territorial expansion and, (3) threat of NATO. In 2014, Russia took Crimea and now Donetsk and Luhansk the two separatist regions. Putin has since unilaterally declared those regions independent, while Russian armies have encircled the nation and striving to take Kyiv, the state capital. Putin claims that after the break of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia was promised NATO would not expand to countries of Eastern Europe that were part of the former Soviet Union but the United States and its NATO allies have said they made no agreement to the effect.
For Russia, the idea that Ukraine, a strong hold of the Soviet Union with historic links to Russia, would join NATO was a red line. “No Russian leader could stand idly by in the face of steps toward NATO membership for Ukraine. That would be a hostile act toward Russia,” that was Putin’s warning to U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns, who is now director of the CIA, in the weeks leading to NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit.
The Russian leader believes an expansion of NATO is a threat to Russia’s hegemony in the region, a factor that drives his desire to maintain a grip on Ukraine, in contradiction to the interests of the leadership in Kyiv. Since Ukraine revealed its desire to join the alliance, the position of NATO has been that it has an open door for any qualified nation that wants to be a member. The followings are what Russia is demanding from the United States according to a recent article by the Council on Foreign Relations, published by Pbs:
Treaty with the United States
The draft treaty contains eight articles, some of which call for tight restrictions on U.S. and NATO political and military activities.
- Article 4 calls for NATO to end its eastward expansion, specifically, deny future membership to ex-Soviet states, such as Ukraine. It would also ban the United States from establishing bases in or cooperating militarily with former Soviet states.
- Article 5 would block both signatories from deploying military assets in areas outside their national borders that “could be perceived by the other party as a threat to its national security.” Heavy bombers and “surface warships of any type” shall refrain from deploying outside the party’s national airspace or territorial waters to areas where they could strike the other’s territory.
- Article 6 calls for parties to confine their deployments of intermediate- and short-range, ground-launched missiles to their own territories, and only in areas where they could not strike the other’s territory.
- Article 7 would block the parties from deploying nuclear weapons outside their respective territories and would require related nuclear weapons infrastructure in third-party countries to be dismantled.
Agreement with NATO
The draft agreement has nine articles, including several that call for dramatic military concessions from the transatlantic alliance.
- Article 4 would effectively divide NATO’s Western and Eastern European membership. It would ban NATO countries that were members of the alliance as of 1997 (a grouping that excludes nearly all eastern members) from deploying military assets to “any of the other states of Europe” in excess of what those members had deployed by 1997. Such deployments could only take place “in exceptional cases” and with Russia’s consent.
- Article 5 would forbid the parties from stationing intermediate- and short-range, ground-launched missiles in areas that could strike the other parties.
- Article 6 would restrict NATO “from any further enlargement,” including admitting Ukraine.
- Article 7 would ban NATO members from conducting any military activity in Ukraine, as well as in other Eastern European states and those in South Caucasus and Central Asia.
The above demands by Russia to rein in on NATO’s expansion, has been questioned by analysts who consider it overbroad and a nonstarter as it tends to control what the US and NATO can or not do about membership and as a result, intended to be dismissed by Western powers. Moreover, the belief is that Kremlin made those requests in “bad faith” knowing Russia intends to escalate its military activities in Ukraine. The idea that NATO allies would concede to Putin’s demands seems ludicrous as there was no plan by NATO to accept Russia’s ambiguous demands. While the US does not benefit from Ukraine’s membership of NATO, it reserves the right to consider such desire for inclusion. With the invasion now in motion, world powers must respond to create a check on future violations of territorial borders.
Here is where the West/United States maintain interests and the reasons both must respond to the incursion:
(1) in 1991 after severance of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited a stockpile of nuclear weapons and in exchange for giving it up, it was promised security and protection against future threats to its territorial integrity… Russia supported the move and encouraged Ukraine to give up the arsenal. At the time, Moscow did not want a neighbor with weapons of mass destruction, just as the U.S. rejected same in Cuba. If Ukraine were a nuclear power, Russia wouldn’t have invaded.
(2) the sovereignty of a state is well grounded and supported under international law. It is the right of every nation to join and form alliances with interested parties. Why would Putin tell Ukraine to forgo NATO when Ukraine is a sovereign state? Russia is a nuclear state, what threat does Ukraine pose to it?
(3) historically, United States plays active/meaningful roles in global affairs. In fact, when it fails to act, it is criticized for not helping the vulnerable. Russia versus Ukraine is asymmetrical warfare, the case of a superpower against a weaker nation. In such situations, other powerful nations must respond to avert humanitarian, refugee crisis and loss of lives.
(4) there exists a precedent, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia all part of the former Soviet Union are now members of NATO and the EU so, why should Ukraine be different or ignored if it wants to form an alliance?
The facts are Putin does not want Ukraine to draw closer to Western Europe. He’s asking NATO to pull back weapons and troops from all countries in Eastern Europe that have joined the alliance since the break of Soviet Union, including the Baltic states of Poland and Romania; how possible is that when those countries are sovereign states with well-defined borders?
As Putin embark on the journey to return the glory days of the Soviet Union, the current invasion seems to be generating outcomes the Russian leader does not want. Nations in the region now believe joining the EU and NATO is important to deter Russia’s aggression. Majority of Ukrainians now agree they must join NATO, while Sweden and Finland are considering membership despite threat by Moscow. Germany just announced it would increase its defense spending, while President Biden has moved to dispatch fighter aircraft, attack helicopters and infantry to the Baltic states, including a 7,000-strong armored unit to Germany. NATO for the first time activated a 40,000-member rapid response force, drawn heavily from the alliance’s non-U.S. members. It is clear what Putin doesn’t want is happening, NATO will expand in Europe.
The Russian leader miscalculated by ignoring the fact that, invading a country is one thing, while occupying it is another. If his goal is to take control of Kyiv and install a puppet government that would bend to Moscow, he may be in for a surprise. Ukraine is now a war zone, such a government will lack global legitimacy and the opposition in Ukraine, will rise to its demise, giving the possibility of a full-blown civil war. Russia may overwhelm Ukraine but, it must also expect insurgency and urban warfare by citizens taking up arms. Moreover, despite Russia’s military might, Ukraine is winning the information warfare as the rest of the world continues to sympathize with the nation.
With sanctions now imposed on Russia and the leadership in Kremlin, Russia may begin to see a disintegration of its economy before long. Major Russian banks are now cut off from swift. The US has removed Russia’ central bank from dollars transactions and Switzerland a usually neutral country, has adopted the sanctions imposed by the EU, meaning, the invasion may end up a strategic economic failure for Putin. With Russian flights now banned from US and European airspace, there is no doubt that If the sanctions are properly targeted and they begin to bite, the country may experience an uprising by citizens strangled by adverse effects of sanctions and unable to leave Russia, a threat to Putin’s presidency.
The idea that China will fill the economic vacuum for Russia as floated by some, is wishful thinking. The percentage of Russia’s trade with China is minimal at about 21.9% compared to its trade with the United States and the rest of Europe. Moreover, the world trades in U.S. dollars, more than 80% of Russia’s daily foreign exchange transactions and half its trades are conducted in U.S. dollars. A depletion of Russia’s reserves and trade restrictions on its banks means its relegation to a third world economy before long. And besides primary sanctions on Russia, there will also be secondary sanctions on any nation that trades with Moscow in violation of the imposed trade restrictions.
World powers must take heed to ensure Putin is brought to order. If the Russian leader gets away with current situation, it would set a precedent that any nation can invade another with impunity. He did it in Abkhazia Georgia, Moldova, Chechnya and now Ukraine. Failure to act may one day give China the effrontery to invade Taiwan.
Russian forces are targeting major cities in Ukraine. An independent state with more than one thousand years of history is now in disarray because a more powerful nation chose to invade. With refugees and the displaced flooding European cities of Poland and Romania, it is clear the post-World War II peace agreement now has a crack and in jeopardy. Putin has opened a can of worms; this is unparalleled warfare in which a powerful nation attacks a weaker but sovereign state. In Ukraine, world powers must act to curb future aggression by punishing a war of choice, based on false pretexts.
Adeyemi Oshunrinade is an expert in law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ Constitutional Law-First Amendment, ‘Criminal Law-Homicide’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available on Amazon. His incoming book ‘Medical Malpractice in Health Law’ is slated for publication. Follow on Twitter @san0670.