“Mariupol. Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity.” These are the words with which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky literally sent a message to the West in dismay on Twitter.
On his part, Ukrainian Defense Minister Dmytro Kuleba charged: “Russia continues holding hostage over 400,000 people in Mariupol, blocks humanitarian aid and evacuation. Indiscriminate shelling continues. Almost 3,000 newborn babies lack medicine and food. I urge the world to act! Force Russia to stop its barbaric war on civilians and babies!”
The head of the UN Children’s Fund expressed “horror” over the reported destruction of a maternity hospital.
Reports from opposed sides in a war put aside, there have been developments unfolding in the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine worth chewing the cud on in respect of the status of our 21st Century world we live in today and claim to be more responsive to the basic, social, economic and political needs of humanity — the right to life being paramount.
A quick snapshot into Russian-Ukrainian history could be of some help. Put very briefly, on December 8, 1991, President Mikhail Gorbachev traveled to Minsk where he met leaders of the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine. He signed an agreement that broke the two countries away from the U.S.S.R to create the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The agreement read, in part: “The Soviet Union as a subject of international and geopolitical reality no longer exists.” Weeks later Belarus and Ukraine were followed by eight of the nine remaining republics which declared their independence from the U.S.S.R.
On Christmas Day, 1991, he resigned saying: “We’re now living in a new world. An end has been put to the Cold War and to the arms of race, as well as to the mad militarization of the country, which has crippled our economy, public attitudes and morals.” With that, the mighty Soviet Union had fallen. That was the last time the Soviet flag flew over the Kremlin in Moscow. What collapsed was the Soviet Union that was supposed to be “a society of true democracy” but it was no less repressive than the czarist autocracy that preceded it.
Against the Putin invasion of Ukraine mirror, is the Cold War over? It isn’t. If anything, it looks like the world is headed for the Cold War II – if not already there via Ukraine. It is now clear that the fall of the Berlin Wall did not mean the end of the West-East conflict in all the Cold War manifestations. Otherwise, what message does one get from the Ukraine President Zelensky’s post on Twitter pleading with the West? Does this not imply the presence of the East and, therefore, the Cold War atmosphere?
What about the arms race? Isn’t it more live today? What are the much reported talks within talks on nuclear agreements all about? In the current Ukraine-Soviet crisis, there have been reports/fears of Putin turning to nukes. We are told that in stock already there is enough ‘stuff’ to wipe out the whole world.
Why has Putin invaded Ukraine? He says he wants to rid the country of fascism and has warned any country trying to get in his way of being ready “to face the consequences”. This invasion, if anything, has made the ‘united’ world stand divided in many ways.
At home, his people are divided. Here is a former KGB executive operative who has turned into a politician and has paved his way to remain a president well into the year 1932. He has had no mercy for his adversaries. Now he pretends to be fighting fascism. The Russian economy is not doing so well as to be engaged in the luxury of expanding political influence beyond borders. What he has done could not be called a decision of his people. It is personal. Conservatives and hardliners, including the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, support him for “regaining Russia’s lost glory”. Putin holds that Ukraine is still part of Russia.
At the United Nations level, what Putin has done is culpable. But when it came to the question of instituting sanctions, UN member countries like Belarus, Turkey and China differed. The three are like birds of a feather with Putin’s Russia.
The Belarus case is clear. According to the UN rights office (OHCHR) report, the Belarusian government continues to crackdown on political opponents, civil society, journalists and lawyers with no sign of any of the perpetrators being held to account.
While the story of Turkey reads very much the same, the country has a special relationship with Russia intertwined with the West and East ties. Both Turkey and Russia have fought on opposing sides in the Syria war, for example, but they have been engaged in a big S-400 missile business.
Turkey has sold drones to Ukraine but this is not an issue for invader Russia so long as the wider interests of weakening the US and its allies in NATO is being taken care of. Despite arming the other side in the conflict, Turkey has also hosted talks between Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers.
With its own human rights violations side of the story in respect of a Muslim minority group, China is a big speculator in the crisis.
Africa indigenous knowledge says: “Chenye mwanzo hakikosi mwisho”, meaningwhat has a beginning must have an end. I am not a military expert. According to globalfirepower.com Russia’s 2021-2022 active military personnel strength stands at 850,000 compared to Ukraine’s 261,000. If Putin went by this ratio to chart his invasion success speed, the reality on the ground proved him wrong. Ukraine has in place alternative means of raising the number of active military personnel to match or exceed the Russian figure.
If Putin wins the war and installs the pro-Russia president, he will have to bear the cost of rehabilitating all that he has destroyed. Is the Russian economy able to undertake this task without making enemies at home? The war is already said now to have created about two million internally displaced persons and more than 1.7 million refugees. How will he synchronize his address to both situations?
If he loses the war, he will become part of the story of Americans in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Could Ukraine turn out to be Putin’s Afghanistan? Will Putin go down in world chronicles under the section of the Hitlers? Time will tell. How does the world read his reported destruction of a maternity hospital and a school of children with special needs and civilian residential areas? What is ‘fascist’ about these facilities?