A year after the Ukraine operation, Western apathy has destroyed the world order
One lesson that can be drawn is that any country which seeks to safeguard its territorial integrity and retaliate based on palpable, measurable, and imminent threats that are contrary to American objectives will be penalized.
It’s been a year since the Russian special operation in Ukraine was authorized by President Vladimir Putin. The decision came amid Western adamancy that NATO expansion toward Eastern Europe was inevitable despite the imminent threat such expansionism poses to Russian territorial sovereignty. The truth is that even after a year, NATO has refused to budge from its security-centric, reductionist outlook, which constitutes existential and palpable threats to Russian security. Amid the ongoing turmoil, the Kiev regime with its NATO umbrella has equally remained defiant and allowed neo-Nazi operatives such as the Azov Battalion, which are hellbent on destroying the very foundations of the Russian Federation, to conduct operations with impunity. The operation has continued unabated in 2023 as thousands of lives are lost, millions are displaced, and cities stand decimated. As aptly stated by the leader of the British band Pink Floyd, Roger Walters, however, the Ukraine War was not unprovoked.
As one year has passed, it is easy to lose sight of the enabling factors leading to the special operation. The truth is that the genesis of the war lies solely with NATO’s historical expansionist ambitions into Eastern Europe. At the 2008 Bucharest summit, Ukraine and Georgia, former Soviet states, sought to gain membership in NATO despite repeated assurances from Western European and American leaderships that NATO would not expand eastward toward Russia. Fast forward to 2013, then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to pay heed to the senseless securitization of Eastern Europe from NATO in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union and opted for stronger ties with Russia, which prompted regime change engineered by pro-Western militias that resulted in the downfall of the Yanukovych government. Russia responded by annexing Crimea, which resulted in the war in Donbass.
The series of events that are a prelude to the mayhem witnessed in Ukraine in 2023 reveals one striking, recurring feature. NATO, led by the United States, reneged on its pledges to not expand eastward. Hence, from Russia’s perspective, dealing with Volodymyr Zelensky's regime in Kiev, which tilted toward the United States for its foreign policy prerogatives, proved to be problematic, and as a defensive and preemptive measure, Russian forces were mobilized in 2021. During the second mobilization along the Ukrainian border, President Putin demanded that the United States and NATO enter into a legally binding agreement that prevents countries from joining the military alliance and remove multinational forces from Eastern European states. Yet, none of the security guarantees were met.
For greater context, the Kremlin’s decision to announce a special operation in February 2022 coincided with the Zelensky regime’s far-right, neo-Nazi Azov Battalion continuing to fight pro-Russian forces in the Donbass region since 2014. With Russia unjustly cornered, the only response left from Moscow would be to attack and pressurize the Zelensky administration to change course over its sponsorship of right-wing terror against Russians.
Making sense of the enabling factors that have ensured the war’s continuity is also important. The ensuing bombardment took a massive casualty toll as approximately 7,199 civilians were killed, while Russian forces endured 14,000 losses. Widespread displacement and a refugee exodus into Europe have plagued a world that was already grappling with the pernicious economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as supply-side shocks, rising oil prices, countries suffering from rising sovereign debt, and a debilitating health crisis. With widespread humanitarian catastrophes unfolding before the international community in 2022 and cities ranging from Mariupol, Kiev, Bakhmut, Odessa, and Kharkov being grounded to rubble, the ideal response from the American-led NATO alliance should have been to call for de-escalation, strategic restraint, and resumption of dialogue to allay Moscow’s legitimate security concerns. Instead, arms sales to the Kiev regime increased exponentially knowing that since February 2022, abundant assistance was provided by the Biden administration to the rogue Zelensky regime.
Since the start of the Biden administration, the US has not only established itself as the single largest provider of military assistance to Ukraine by committing $27.4 billion and an additional $9.9 billion in 2023, but along with NATO, it has imposed severe sanctions on Russia. This strategy constitutes a quintessential hegemonic power play where the world is being divided into pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian camps with little room for neutrality or sanity to prevail. Sanctions are aimed at economically stifling Russia with an expected contraction of 15% of its GDP and wiping out 15 years of its economic gains on the cards. This includes punitive measures adopted on Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution while also prohibiting Moscow from making debt payments and preventing FDI inflows.
One lesson that can be drawn is that any country which seeks to safeguard its territorial integrity and retaliate based on palpable, measurable, and imminent threats that are contrary to American objectives will be penalized. This is a complete disruption of the international order which should be ideally anchored in principles of equity, justice, and non-discriminatory approaches to all member states of the United Nations. It is hence, unsurprising that the majority of the countries in Africa and Asia as well as regions such as the Middle East have refused to isolate Moscow despite EU lobbying efforts. The President of Senegal, Macky Sall for example, claimed that the EU’s sanctions on Russia will only threaten the import of grains and fertilizers into Africa.
A year on, the consequences of Western apathy toward Russia have destroyed the international world order.