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War for ideological supremacy in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

A few days ago, after weeks of speculation, Russia finally declared war on neighbouring Ukraine in what is evidently an unprovoked invasion.

The genesis of this invasion can be traced back to 1991.

For centuries, Ukraine was part of the Russian empire and after the fall of this empire, it became part of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

During this period, the country was governed by the Communist Party of Ukraine, which was a branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Like all countries within the USSR, Ukraine was a one-party state.

This all came to an end after the fall of the Berlin Wall that effectively ended the Cold War and led to the collapse of the USSR.

In 1991, Ukraine declared its independence from the USSR and began to build strong alliances with the West.

By the turn of the millennium, many other countries that had been part of the USSR had established relations with the West and some, such as Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Romania, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Lithuania, became members of the European Union.

These countries also joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) — an intergovernmental military alliance of European and North American countries.

Nato has historically been accused of using its military might to undermine democracies across the world.

In Africa, the organisation played a central role in the removal and assassination of former Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi — a move that plunged what was once one of the most prosperous African countries into civil war and economic ruin.

While it now operates in an ideologically unipolar world that is anchored on the capitalist mode of production, Russia, which was historically the biggest country in the USSR, has always sought to maintain a great degree of its Soviet ties.

This became particularly amplified with the election of president Vladimir Putin in 2012.

Putin, a staunch critic of the West, is opposed to the expansion of Nato in Eastern Europe, arguing that its intention is to create a Western wall around his country.

This would restrict Russia’s access to the Black Sea — where Russia has a massive fleet.

In response to what he deems an onslaught by the West, Putin has, over the years, sought to expand Russian territory through the annexation of lands.

This was achieved in the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, which led to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War.

The Russian government not only annexed Crimea, it also gave support to separatists and recently, recognition of independence to separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, in Ukraine.

Ironically, the same Russia that is supporting separatists in Donbas brutally attacked and killed separatists in Chechnya — a constituent republic of Russia that had, for many years, sought its independence.

The Chechen War claimed between 25,000 and 50,000 casualties — many of them Chechen civilians.

After the invasion of Russia in Ukraine, in 2014, the newly elected Ukrainian government decided to forge alliances with the EU.

By 2017, Ukraine and the EU had established an association agreement that saw open markets of free trade between the two, as well as visa-free travel for Ukrainians within the EU.

Significantly, Ukraine is prioritising membership into Nato, which Russia deems a direct threat to its own national security and sovereignty.

For many, particularly in the developing world, the war in Ukraine is justified by the historical aggression and military dominance of Nato.

But for others, the war is nothing more than Putin’s attempt at breathing life into the dead idea of the USSR.

Whatever side of the fence one sits on, one thing is a fact: in a war, no-one wins.

And as the affects of the war are felt across SA in rising fuel and food prices, one thing is clear: war anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere.



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