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Cubanizing Ukraine

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Kwame Nkrumah, the former president of Ghana (a country which was then a newly decolonized country trying to find its way towards the overwhelming yet necessary path of democracy) once said, “The forces that unite us are intrinsic, and are greater than the superficial forces that superimpose us.” Sadly enough, this 20th century quote still remains relevant. For the past few weeks, there’s been an atmosphere of fear all around, where on one hand, Indian parents are waiting for their kids to return from Ukraine, and on the other hand, the international community is grappling to showing its complete resistance to Putin’s freak show. 

But where is this coming from? This newly escalated war is not new, rather it is the culmination of a series of events which started back in 1946, when the former allies; USSR and USA, entered into a major power tussle. Now , this antagonism was not the usual one which included bombs and missiles, (that did form a part of the developments, but weren’t the essence of the war.) but one of ideology. Our founding fathers surely did leave behind a legacy for human beings to defend their points of view, but Uncle Sam and the communist Soviet took that a bit too seriously, and rather took that up a notch.

This period of a Cold War of ideologies and a quest for dominance through their respective political systems, that is, capitalism for the US and communism for the USSR, lasted for a lot of time, from 1946-1989. Perhaps this was not only the longest war between two such powerful nations in history, but also one of the very few which have had an effect even during contemporary times. What was hurt, towards the end of 1989 was not just the Soviet economy, but rather its global image and the failure of its ideology. That was surely a hard one. Thankfully for the logic of deterrence after the second world war leading to arms control, it didn’t escalate into a full blown war.

So profound, was the Soviet’s helplessness at that point, that its President Mikhail Gorbachev during 1990, had to rely on the US Secretary of State’s words that NATO would not expand its alliance towards the east, and he had no option but to acquiesce to the same. However, it wasn’t a big surprise when in 1999, NATO began to expand again. Though, it cannot completely be called an unfair move, because all the NATO did was that it simply offered the European nations to join its alliance. It never pressured any of them or invaded them. This augured well for the US, because it led to 14 former Soviet nation states joining the NATO, which was obviously bound to trigger the old ego battle between the two frenemies again. 

In this whole war of ideas, There was one island nation that was completely snatched of its identity as a sovereign state;Cuba. Being an ally of the USSR, its close proximity to the states made it nothing more than a parking hub for Soviet arms, and a defence point for the US .Similar has been the sentiment with Ukraine, which is increasingly being seen as the new Cuba. Now, for making a point to the US, Mr.Putin decided to go down that road again. 

This conflict was, although, triggered not now, but back in 2008 itself, when NATO encouraged Ukraine and Georgia to join its alliance, which led to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in the very same year via the Russian dominated areas of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. An invasion on Ukraine was also bound to happen, which is reflected by the same happening in 2014, with the annexation of Crimea. 

Sadly for Mr.Putin, one of the major reasons due to which he is bound to lose this war, is because, its attempt to regain prominence as a world power is stemmed in his desire to make Russia the new USA. But that is unrealistic anyway, because the reason for US’s victory in the Cold War and subsequently, its emergence as a superpower, was not merely its weapons, missiles, or an expression of military prowess. Rather, it was the liberalism that it stood for. Despite the fact that it has been a hypocrite on many occasions like the Iraq invasion,the 9/11, etc.

It has, over time, gained its stature by emerging as a hub of opportunities, as a land that is liberal enough to take criticism and to accommodate immigrants from all over the world to accentuate its own profits, instead of wasting tons of long greens on arms to forcefully occupy other countries, as an agenda. Its existence is rooted in the idea of liberal democracy and open market capitalism, which is bound to occupy the centre stage as the most preferred form of polity, definitely the best form of government one can wish for (although the same may be debatable when it comes to capitalism per se). Long gone are the days when communism and inveterate socialism could turn heads.

What Mr.Putin also doesn’t realise is, that this fragmented approach to power isn’t going to help anyone. Many experts pointed out, that even if Russia invades Ukraine, it will not be able to hold any stability of dominance there, because of the biggest factor of all, its people. Even if the Russian beaurocrats make a place for themselves in Kiev, There are going to be hundreds of Ukrainian civilians out in their windows with their rifles, ready to defend their nation.More than anything , it is impossible for any foreign force to colonise a place whose people are extremely intolerant from the very beginning. Not just the people of Ukraine, but thousands of aware citizens of the world, who are out of their homes, in front if their respective parliaments, ready to fight, for not just the lives of the Ukranians, but for the idea of sovereignty, integrity, and tolerance. The spirit of the people is what the essence of politics and progress is. History is testimony to the fact that nothing can stand in the way of the will of the people.

Coming to the most contentious part, the position of India in the Security Council. I was indeed saddened by the abstention on the part of India on the resolution brought forward by the US and Albania. This was coupled by anti-war protests in India that I fully support. But it is valid to consider the fact that India cannot afford the risk. It finds itself torn between its need to defend its stature as the largest democracy in the world, having also seen the clutches of colonialism and the fact that it can understand the socio- economic ramifications of the same. But the whole problem arises because of China. With the still ongoing tensions on the LAC, India cannot afford beef with the US, because it needs to maintain the relevance of the Quad in order to counter China. But equally important is its equation with Russia, which is necassary to have a sense of security of mediation in case the issue escalates any further. However, there also lies the risk of us making a mistake like the one Nehru made despite Patel’s constant caveats. Russia and China are not true friends , and Russia may abandon us the way it did during the 1962 war, when it openly proclaimed that it would support its Chinese brothers rather than its Indian friends, also subsequently delaying the shipping of much needed arms to India during the crucial time. 

The Indian citizen today, feels torn. Should we defend our own territorial integrity first, or should we follow what Germany is doing? It sacrificed the Nordic Stream 2 pipeline with Russia,which will lead to a number of economic losses for Germany,that is heavily dependent on Russia for oil, not to mention the price of oil being nothing less that $100 a barrel. But it stood up for its cause, because it sees in Putin the same madness Germany saw not long ago in one of its own dictators! However, one must also acknowledge that Germany is militarily and politically more secure than India is, having the security of being a NATO ally to be the biggest of all. India has a tricky neighbourhood too, which raises its costs for taking such actions. 

With the current scenario continuing to change every few hours, it waits to be seen how the world deals with this disaster. Hopefully, the will of the people will prevail, and neo- colonialism will be resisted.

By: Kovida Bhardwaj, a Law Student.

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