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Demystifying the Russian Aggression against Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin

Security and survival are the two most vital needs of every nation

By Isa Mohammed 

The Russian aggression against Ukraine is not surprising at all to pundits of power politics in international system. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea despite global outrages and condemnations.

Security and survival are the two most vital needs of every nation. These vital elements determines how states behave in the International system. Russian or Putin action is based on this premise. However, Ukraine too feel is not safe with an aggressive old bully neighbor.

The problematique is would Russia feel safe with an uncooperative neighbor inviting opponents close to its or would Ukraine accept the imperial Russia’s interference and domination in its internal and foreign policy objectives?

This idea or principle is rooted in realism. The realist believed in power politics and the International system is anarchical. To survive as a nation you must be ready for cinflict, war, fight, and form alliance at all times. Machiavelli (1532), argued that “Politics has no morals” a leader can achieve national interest at all cost.

Russia is the largest country in the world with 17, 000 Sq Km2 representing 11 percent of world land mass. Its literacy level is 99.7 percent. It has an active combatant of 900,000 and over 2 million reserves army. It is 4th biggest military in the world. Putin has deployed 150,000 troops to occupy Ukraine on Thursday February 24, 2022.

Ukraine is the largest in land mass in Europe with 44 million people and 160,000 military power. It has been enjoying and relaying on Western powers. Ukraine is very strategic to Europe and gate way to penetrate Russia. Sovereignty of States is condition by factors that are guided by international law.

Russian in a historical lense is loosing much power and influence since after three epochs. First, Russia after the WW II emerged victorious despite its lost of 25 million soldiers. The Cold War period weaken Russian expansionism both ideologically and economically. Secondly, the collapsed of Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), that was active 1922-1991 made Russia a more weaker global power.

This was better explained by American scholar Francis Fukuyama in his award winning book: The End of History and the Last man theory, 1992. Even though, Huntington wrote another critique of End of Ideology in Clash of Civilization in 1996.

What Moscow is doing is “Coercive Diplomacy” or “Gunboat Diplomacy” it is outright disregard of “Pacta Sunt Servanda” to force Ukraine in order to achieve three goals; stop Ukraine from joining NATO, force a regime change through coup or exile the president and the renegotiation of the Minsk Agreement I & II of 2014 & 2015 in Belarus.

The dilemma and conundrum of the Minsk Agreement is that Ukraine want to use it to suppress dissent by Seperatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions while Russia want to seize the opportunity to forced Ukraine to concede its powers. Hence, the political and military 13 points agreement of Minsk was not fully implemented.

The strength of Russia lies in its military power, its strong allies China and India, and its 40 percent energy supplies to Europe among others. While its weaknesses are not having control on many special global agencies and organizations in the world; UN, NATO, EU and most part of the developing world.

The Russian revolution of 1917, 1941 victory in WW II and 1991 USSR balkanization shapes her foreign policy. It is the securitization perspective as developed by Copenhagen School. Who defines a security issue or threat. Moscow sees Kyiv as betrayer deceived by Western powers with propaganda, corruption and historical revisionism. This is the crux of the matter.

Moscow believes that Washington has invaded Iraq in 2003, Belgrade 1995, Libya in 2011 and supported Syrian rebels in 2011 all in efforts to advance its national interest. This has spurs Putin to perceived domination and military imperialism by the West led by America.

Putin (2021) averred “are we deploying missiles near the United States border? No, we are not. It is the United States that has come to our home with its missiles and already standing at our doorstep”

Zelensky (2022) “Russia cannot stop Ukraine from getting closer to NATO” A membership of NATO request is in the table since 2010.

The paradox is that both countries aims at higher security interest for their survival. The world lives in two poles: competition and Conflict. While the initial poles were cooperation and consensus. This situation guides any negotiation among nations.

There is existential threat. Russia sees this as a concerns it and allies and propelled Putin to order special military operation on Kyiv. While the world militarily moved from the uni-polarity to multi-polarity this century. Economically globalization makes tye world a singularity.

There will be no Nuclear War due to Geneva Convention of 1949 and collateral damage it would have on both parties. Moreso, Ukraine is not a member of NATO which means no direct NATO Intervention but only assistance.

NATO invited Ukraine to join in 2004 while Russia kicks and felt it was a long term plan of aggression towards it national security interest by the West. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have joined the 30 NATO member-states against Russian national interests. NATO has promised to send 40,000 ground troops to maintain peace.

To resolve the conflict, a mediator is needed. Initially it was French President Macron but it may be another third party now. An authoritative or professional mediator to help broker peace. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the best suited for this.

The sanctions against Russia will be both symbolic and real. However, Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the sanction will have quick impacts. Globalization will have both negative and positive impacts in implementing the sanctions.

Implications of the biggest conflict in Europe after WWII include; a thousands of deaths in days and weeks to come, humanitarian crisis of 5 million refugees and IDPs.

The short term impacts will be; the rise of oil prices, cyber attacks, military build up on red alert, and the long term impacts will be arms race, cyber warfare, sanctions, and alliances and balance of powers in the International system.

Putin is a powerful and dangerous president in the world for his approach to issues as a former intelligence officer of KGB & FSB. Zelensky is a comedian and TV star without much experience in global politics and it’s dynamics.

The politics has now shifted to United Nations Security Council, Russia has already vetoed the resolution with China and India boycotting. So far, street fighting has started with Ukraine arming 18,000 volunteers. The conflict is not actually a total war by Russia for an aggression to coerce Kyiv to reconsider it foreign policy plan.

Isa Mohammed,
26.02.2022.

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