Ukraine 's Tragic Theatre: "End of Post -Cold War Era?"
Major summits across the globe continue to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to increasingly support Ukraine's sovereignty . These include the UN General Assembly; President Biden’s State of the Union address to the US Congress; the Emergency EU parliament and parliamentary sessions of the EU, Germany, UK; the consolidation of NATO’s unity including Finland and Sweden, and in partnership with the US focusing on deterrence and defense without conditions; and the Regional groups of the CARICOM Community and the African Union, among others. At the time of writing, there are planned meetings of the UN Foreign Affairs Council and the G7 with the likely announcements of additional sanctions against Russia as well as Belarus.
Ukraine’s display of strength of its nationalism and the defiant war leadership of its President Zelenksy are among the amazing features of the country’s resilience against Putin’s nuclear threat and intent to take control of all Ukraine. The preoccupation from the summits across the globe is finding the formula to stop Russia from further aggression and countering Putin’s insistence on the need to “denazify Ukraine” which is a illegitimate attempt to undermine the sovereign rights of a state with implications for the survival of democracy worldwide. Among the questions: Does Russia’s brutal assault now raging on Kyiv and Kherson signal the end of the post Cold War era? With widespread calls for investigations of war crimes by the International Court of Justice in The Hague materialize? What will it take to abate the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and aggression by the Russian state to create genocide?.
There has been a wide array of reports on 'the Ukraine tragic theatre'. This Blog has identified some that provide informed lessons learned from the history of wars and future prospects of reforms to global governance. Among them is an excellent analysis by Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, now a resident scholar at UWI. He refers to the frightening parallels of mindsets between Hitler and Putin as well as between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “Both were preceded by the bloodless invasion and annexation of adjoining territory — Austria by Hitler in 1938 and Crimea by Putin in 2014. Both were claimed to be justified in order to counter what was perceived to be a security threat — the “encirclement policy” by Britain, according to Hitler, and the presence of NATO forces in central and Eastern Europe, according to Putin” See Beyond Russia’s invasion of Ukraine -
Putin’s speeches prior to the invasion clearly help to place in perspective that the invasion of Ukraine constitutes the most serious challenge to global peace and security since Hitler’s campaign to conquer Europe in the late 1930s. In this regard, Golding’s conclusions are pertinent. Putin's obsession with Russia restoring the power and influence formerly held by the Soviet Union; he cares little about being branded a pariah; and has total disregard for international law. His haunting question is worth much consideration "Could this be a signal to other countries that seek to assert claims on other sovereign territory. China’s eyes on Taiwan and those of Venezuela on Guyana come quickly to mind.”
In the Atlantic, February 19, 2002, Tom McTague revealed the possibility that Putin’s next steps in Ukraine may be predicated on the assumption of slippage in America’s global leadership, especially after the debacle in Afghanistan. He graphically describes how the West today, is trapped between an old world that no longer exists and a new one that has yet to fully take shape. “This realization of how little has changed in terms of the fundamental anchor of European security applies to Europe’s “big three” as well. Each of these powers—Germany, France, and Britain—is playing a role coordinated by Washington. Germany as economic leverage, France as diplomatic lead, Britain as the intelligence and military hawk. "Although each might have minor quibbles with the American approach, they have all largely stuck to their script.” But there is a difference. In an extraordinary statement to the Special Session of the German Parliament, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a one time increase of 100 billion euros ($113 billion) for defense spending of more than 2 percent of Germany’s economic output annually on defense. See what the Ukraine Crisis reveals about American Power.
Putin’s miscalculation is evident in the thrust of Biden’s State of the union address and the sequence of more recent events in NATO , EU and most of the Global community. They have so clearly demonstrated USA’s pivotal role in Europe and a more global unified position on Ukraine through ‘careful and conciliatory diplomacy’. The biting and widespread nature of economic sanctions including coordinated fiscal policies, export controls and planned high tech takeaways for a post fossil future development are major signals for the reemergence of vibrant multilateralism that even includes Switzerland and Monaco. Putin’s isolation is like a self inflicting wound. But there are several ironies.
UN Security Council in need of Radical Change
One irony is the United Nations General Assembly rare emergency session to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine while members of the UN Security Council met to discuss the humanitarian effects of the crisis after Russia vetoed a resolution deploring its actions. This situation highlights once again that the veto power of the Security Council’s five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — is a major stumbling block to peace. It means in this case, the U.S. and its allies can impose sanctions only through a “coalition of the willing.” A Brookings op ed March 3 by Kendal Dervish and Jose Da Campo, aptly justifies the need to change the system: “the fact that an increasingly illegitimate and ineffective Security Council lies at the heart of today’s multilateral system is all the more unfortunate given the growing range of threats to peace and security. These include not only conventional acts of aggression of the sort the world is witnessing in Ukraine—and which could yet escalate to nuclear exchanges—but also other security threats posed by new technologies”. This means advocating radically for changing the way the Security Council operates, by adding a clause to Article 27 that would allow a large double majority—representing, for example, at least two-thirds of member countries and two-thirds of the world’s population—to override a veto.
The Possibility of a China-Russia Alliance
Another irony is, that by tacitly backing Putin, Xi has all but confirmed Western hawks’ greatest fears about an authoritarian arc stretching from St. Petersburg to Shanghai, harking back to the Sino-Soviet alliance of the 1950s. Stronger Beijing-Moscow ties, simply provide democratic rivals— US and Europe — a rallying point together with a consolidated and coordinated NATO. Foremost in Xi’s mind might be what the Ukraine crisis means for his desire to recapture Taiwan, the self-ruling island that broke from the mainland following China’s 1945-49 civil war, and whose unification he has repeatedly called “the great trend of history.”
Russia and the Pervasive pursuit of Domination
Ironically, one of the most philosophically poignant evaluation of the Russia-Ukraine issue was presented by Martin Kimani, the Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nations. He explicitly linked the colonial history of his own country to that of Ukraine in a speech to the Security Council on February 7. He drew a parallel between Africa and Ukraine locating deep historical, cultural and linguistic bonds of people across their borders that they had no role in drawing. “The Ukrainians as with many families, including my own, have been split across the Russia-Ukraine border. “These separations are largely accidents of history, one of the lasting effects of the collapse the Soviet Union. But this sense of kinship, cannot justify invasion: “We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.”
Conclusion: Zelensky rising star in the Global Theatre
War in Ukraine escalated by the Russian leader in an unacceptable manner has led to an estimated one million of refugees from Ukraine escaping especially to Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova. But the people of Ukraine are showing that principles of freedom and democracy are worth fighting for and its national anthem “Ukraine has not yet Perished” is at the top of the charts in Europe and elsewhere. Putin is no doubt enraged by Ukraine’s affirmation of the liberal democratic project. Yet, of all the ironies is President Volodymyr Zelensky astutely honing his skills as an actor and comedian and communications savvy to galvanize the national Ukraine spirit and sway global audiences. With unprecedented grit and determination he has transformed the imagery of his leadership into an unlikely champion for Ukrainians and the World.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.