Roots of Ukrainian crisis must be addressed to find the peace

Photo from EPA/EFE: Russian soldiers on an armoured vehicle heading into Ukraine

Contributed by Joe Montero

Everyone will agree that the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces is a terrible development. People have already died and more will do so. There will be political and economic damage that will last well past the present conflict. It would have been much better if this hadn’t happened. But the reality is that this is not the way it has gone.

Blaming the Russians and denying the history of what led to the present conflict will not remove the conditions behind the present situation. Yet this is exactly what the west is doing.

Nobody considering this in depth will stoop to explain it away as merely the result of Vladimir Putin’s personal ambitions and Russian empire building. But in a climate of war propaganda, this is exactly what is being done, and there are all sorts of people falling for it.

The truth is that there are good reasons why Russia feels threatened. Under the effective command of the United States, NATO used the fall of the Soviet Union to expand to the east and along Russia’s border. Nuclear weapons, as well as more than a million troops were stationed along or near the line. Russia wants this threat to its national security reversed.

NATO’s expansion to the east is aimed at Russia

Leave all this aside and consider how the United States and other nations would react under a similar threat. Honesty demands putting political prejudices aside. This is not a matter of whether one likes Putin or Russians but of honestly conceding that no nations, whatever its political character, no nation will accept it. Could anyone say that if there were more than a million hostile Russian troops pressing on the borders of the United States, it would not bring forth a military response?

Then there is Ukraine. It is not a lie but a fact that the name is Russian for borderland. This is territory historically contested, and at times been incorporated into other European States. The main ones are Poland and Germany.

Then there was the loss of up to 30 million Russian lives during the Second World War German invasion. This remains alive in the Russian consciousness.

Fast forward to the US and west’s backed armed coup led by the openly pro-Nazi Azov Brigade, forcing the elected President, Viktor Yanukovich, to flee for his life and the imposition of an approved government incorporating the Azov Brigade linked political party called Svoboda, the decedents of the pro-Nazi collaborators during World War Two.

Russian speakers were victimised, their language was removed as one of the official state languages, and the teaching of the Russian language in the education system stopped.

The United States and Western nations supported the armed coup and subsequent developments, which inevitably did a great deal to further destabilise the situation. It is under these conditions that the breakaway majority Russian Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk begun to break away. Most of those who live in these areas want to be reunified with Russia.

Photo by the AP/BBC: Members of the Azov Brigade wearing modified Swastika armbands outside parliament during the 2014 coup

In 2014 and 2015 there were the Minsk Agreements, where a deal was worked out to stop the fighting. Key to this was the granting of autonomy to Luhansk and Donetsk. Although agreed to at the time, both were later rebuffed by Kyiv and Washington, and they went on to give further military support to the Azov Brigade and its supporters.

Russell Bentley, a US citizen who now lives in Donetsk just miles from the frontlines, has provided a compelling description of the situation there.

It‘s the failure of the Minsk Agreements that led to the Russian recognition of the Peoples Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR) on 21 February and the subsequent military action. This is after 8 years of waiting and diplomatic effort and ongoing provocations.

Now that matters have gone to the brink, it is imperative that there is a return to diplomacy.

That both Russia and Ukraine have agreed to enter peace talks is a positive development. Better to do this late than never. Unfortunately, the West has so far distanced itself from this. Let’s hope there is soon a change of heart.

Part of any successful end to conflict would be a compromise that enables Ukraine to continue as an independent nation, in exchange for agreeing to no NATO in Ukraine and the independence of the break away regions.

There remains the matter of halting of NATO’s expansion along and near Russia’s borders and reversing it, if the tension in the region is to be reduced, and this is in the interests of the whole planet. There is nothing to be gained by drawing the world into a potential war between nuclear armed powers and everything to lose.

The world can no longer be dominated by the old powers under United States supremacy. This is not a bad thing. The new emerging order is one where there is far less domination by one camp, and therefore much more balanced conditions to resolve differences that might arise.

The trouble is that the legacy of supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism, and concepts like Western superiority and exceptualism have not yet died off and infects even some of those who claim to be against all of this.

It is time to embrace change.

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