Mr. Vladimir Putin, and to a large extent Russian citizens are longing for old glory and respect worthy of world power, which faded away with the fall of Soviet Union. Russia was gradually cornered by the West by absorbing the newly independent republics into EU and NATO. Ukraine , which has large ethnic Russian population, turned out to be the last straw. Ukraine debacle raises some interesting questions;
Was the West overzealous in encircling the Russia by taking in some former Soviet republics in EU and NATO and making Russia impatient and nervous about its security?
Would any other country, with the same military power and veto power in UN’ have behaved differently than Russia under similar circumstances?
How it will impact future world affairs and alliances?
Did the West lost a golden chance of bringing Russia into Western style democracy and a free market economy?
I think the West overplayed their hand by having some former Soviet republics, even some financially bankrupt, join the EU and NATO. It not only made Russia nervous but some of these republics have become a financial burden on EU and hardly has any capacity to contribute much militarily to NATO. What is the purpose of having these former Soviet republics join the EU/NATO except warding off Russia? If the objective was to have a democratic independent governments in these countries, it could have been achieved by helping them by economic trade and building democratic institutions without having them join the EU/NATO. It would have lured even Russia more towards the Western Democratic values and free market economy rather than scaring it away.
Ukraine is the most corrupt, both morally and financially, country which the EU was trying to bring in its fold. This time the Russia did not buy the assurances by the West that Ukraine will not be asked to join the NATO. Although Russia’s annexation of Crimea is a condemnable act, but it is not entirely baseless as the West has us believe. Crimea was part of Russia and given to Ukraine in 1954 by a Ukrainian, Soviet President Khuruchiev. Before that, it was allied to Ottoman Empire and was cleansed of Tartars in Stalin era. Russia’s use of aggression and force in Ukraine is no different than what we have seen , especially in the last few decades, USA , EU and allies used in violating the sovereignty of other free and independent countries. Our credibility in this regard is on thin ice.
Our strategy to lure these former Soviet republics, including morally corrupt and financially bankrupt republics, join EU/NATO has been self-defeating. Russia was already a fading military power and our extension of NATO was un-necessary. We are also forgetting that the present Ukraine Government has some ultra-extreme far right nationalists in its ranks. These are like the Freedom Fighters of Afghanistan who later became terrorists. Mr. Kenan Malik writes about these elements in one of his article;
“While the overthrow of Yanukovich was clearly no fascist putsch, the new government is, nevertheless, disproportionately influenced by the far right. Representatives of two neo-fascist parties, Svoboda and Pravy Sektor, now occupy seven ministerial posts, including that of deputy prime minister and national security.
Svoboda (‘freedom’) is a party that traces its roots to a Second World War partisan army allied to the Nazis and, till it rebranded itself in 2004, was known as the Social National Party. It is part of the far-right Alliance of European National Movements, whose members include the British National Party, Jobbik, the Hungarian neo-fascist, anti-Semitic organisation and the French Front National. Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok has denounced in parliament the ‘Muscovite-Jewish mafia’; in 2005 he published an open letter calling for the government to halt the ‘criminal activities’ of ‘organised Jewry’, which was working to commit ‘genocide’ against the Ukrainian people.”
We are at crossroads where the West needs the Russia and China’s co-operation to resolve difficult issues like Iran and Syria. It is possible that it will be start of new world order where Russia will turn toward East and Asia, courting China and India and other Asian countries. But West’s economic as well as military power will be hard to ignore. Economic power will count more than Military power. China is hesitant to openly support Russia because of its economic ties to West. This hesitancy will stop other countries, like India, also to openly ally with Russia against the West.
Ukraine will become the West’s problem, unstable with financial and ethnic problems as Eastern Ukraine still has large Russian population. If Ukraine joins the EU, it will further alienate Russia and it will hunker down with old ways. Financial sanctions will bite Russia, but it will bite Europe also which depends on Russian gas reserves. Russia with significant Military power and Veto power in UN, can still make West’s life hard and difficult in world affairs by acting as a spoiler, and some other aggrieved countries may join Russia to settle their own scores.
If the aim of the West was to spread democracy and free market economy in the former Soviet Republics and Russia, it may have hit a brick wall due to short sighted and testosterone driven policy of having these former soviet Republics join NATO. Soft power of ideas would have achieved better results in the long run than current power dependent policies of the West.