There is no respite in sight in the Ukraine war. Death and destruction are slowly but steadily destroying Ukraine; Russia is adamant about establishing its hegemony around its periphery. The US and European countries use Ukraine to advance their geostrategic interests at the cost of Ukrainian lives. For Russia, Ukraine proved to be a hard nut to crack, and for Ukraine, its desire to join NATO or the EU turned out to be too expensive, a nightmare.
For the US and its NATO allies, continuing war means more problems for Putin, including the decline of the economy and a dent in the Russian prestige as a military power. It is inferred that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could be another Afghanistan for the Russians. The net gainers would be the American military-industrial complex, always looking for conflicts to fill in its coffers. The US has allocated $ 40 billion for Ukraine, which would certainly be used to supply American weapons to the Ukrainian forces. It is a real challenge for the developing countries to react to the emerging situation posing a dire challenge to world peace.
The immediate consequences of the Ukraine war are ominous; the rising energy prices and wheat shortages have already started showing a negative impact by affecting the overwhelming majority of the world. American and European sanctions against Russia may have impacted the Russian economy. Still, the Europeans are not immune from the negative fallout due to rising energy prices on which the whole of Europe depends, somewhere between 40 percent to 90 percent.
The Ukrainian crisis has exposed another stark reality about the double-faced policy of the West. While the Ukrainian migrants to Europe have been treated humanely and are given the visitors status with the permission to work, the Syrian, Afghan and African refugees faced the worst kind of discrimination at the hands of European governments. Many unlucky refugees died at the European shores or due to the harsh winters while crossing the European borders. Indeed, it was sheer racist attitude of Europe that the rest of the world should notice and make their stand clear when responding to the American’s or its allies’ request for support to condemn Russia or comply with their economic sanctions.
There is an endemic tussle between Russia and Europe over influence. The end of the cold war could not change the European outlook despite Russia’s endeavour to come closer to Europe. On the contrary, NATO’s eastward expansion compelled Russia to reconsider its view of Europe. Meanwhile, NATO’s membership increased from 12 to 30 in two decades. With the addition of each former eastern European country, the tensions between NATO and Russia have increased.
Ukraine is of particular importance. It represents strategic depth for Russia and serves as a barrier preventing Western expansion. Therefore, Russia drew the red line to warn the US and EU that their eastward drive would have consequences. Once the US and EU ignored the Russian demarches, the latter had to respond with military might. However, the fierce resistance offered by the Ukrainian forces must be an eye-opener for President Putin.
There is no denying that the majority of the Ukrainians do not want to be part of the Russian strategy. They are more inclined toward the West, or the West has succeeded in showing the divine path to the Ukrainians to pursue western values and join the EU/NATO. Even if Russia wins the war and manages concessions from Ukraine not to join NATO or the EU, the hostility between the two countries is likely to continue in the foreseeable future.
The manner in which the US and allies manoeuvred to isolate Russia, and by extension China, has been quite visible; it is equivalent to pushing the world to a renewed cold war. But before the world plunged into the cold war, the US-led effort at the UN General Assembly, in which 141 countries supported the US-sponsored resolution condemning the Russian invasion, also saw five votes against and 35 abstentions. In comparison, 12 countries absented from the voting. Those who abstained or absented were no less significant as they included China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Africa, Egypt, Mexico, and Brazil. Almost half of the African countries abstained. In terms of population, more than 70 percent of the globe did not support the American sponsored resolution.
This trend shows that the US and allies cannot take the support of the developing countries for granted. It has also become evident that Russia and China have substantive support from the developing world. Equally important is the political and economic clout of these countries, due to which many developing countries did not support the American drive to condemn Russia.
China is a world economic power, while Russia holds 35 percent of oil and gas reserves apart from possessing massive military prowess. India may have come closer to the US, but it is aware of its vulnerabilities in the neighbourhood if it antagonizes Russia and China. Pakistan has maintained a neutral stance on the Ukraine war. While Pakistan may prefer a peaceful negotiated solution to the crisis, it cannot side with the western countries’ contention to which it does not subscribe.
It is not limited to Pakistan alone. Those not following the western line give the Americans and Europeans a clear message that their conduct in international relations has created more tensions than democratically addressing problems. Secondly, the West will have to introspect that on the pretext of fighting terrorism or introducing democracy, many countries were attacked and destroyed by the champions of democracy under the leadership of the US. Iraq was ruined without finding weapons of mass destruction. Syria has been turned into the rubble on the pretext of establishing democracy. Together in Afghanistan and Iraq, approximately 900,000 people have been killed by the US with no accountability.
Naturally, the world, especially the developing countries, will have to chalk out a common strategy to protect their interests. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) should come forward and make common causes, demand the immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, and call upon US/EU to stop the expansion of NATO in Europe. Pakistan or other countries should ask the West why they have to be part of the European schemes and side with their stance when the latter disregards the independence and sovereignty of developing countries with impunity.
Note: This article appeared in BOL, dated 20 May 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.