Gerald J. Nyerere
Russia’s military aggression towards Ukraine led to unspeakable loss of lives and destruction and has been grave breach of International Law and despicable invasion of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine
However it has been clear that NATO’s further expansion could have led to crisis.
Ted Galen Carpenter in his article in The Guardian regarding this crisis, wrote: “It would be extraordinarily difficult to expand NATO eastward without that action being viewed by Russia as unfriendly. Even the most modest schemes would bring the alliance to the borders of the old Soviet Union. Some of the more ambitious versions would have the alliance virtually surround the Russian Federation itself.” I wrote those words in 1994, in my book Beyond NATO: Staying Out of Europe’s Wars, at a time when expansion proposals merely constituted occasional speculation in foreign policy seminars in New York and Washington. He added that expansion “would constitute a needless provocation of Russia”.
What we can observe regarding legal system of Ukraine, until 8 June 1995, Ukraine’s supreme law was the Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Ukrainian SSR (adopted in 1978, with numerous later amendments). On 8 June 1995, President Leonid Kuchma and Speaker Oleksandr Moroz (acting on behalf of the parliament) by then signed the Constitutional Agreement for the period until a new constitution could be drafted.
Ukraine’s first constitution since independence was adopted during an overnight parliamentary session after almost 24 hours of debate of 27–28 June 1996, unofficially known as “the constitutional night of 1996.” The Law No. 254/96-BP ratifying the constitution, nullifying previous constitutions and the Agreement was ceremonially signed and promulgated in mid-July 1996.
According to a ruling of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the constitution took force at the moment when the results of the parliamentary vote were announced on 28 June 1996 at approx. 9 a.m. Kyiv Time. Ukraine was the last of the post-Soviet states to adopt its own constitution. On Constitution Day 2018, President Petro Poroshenko remarked that the 1710 Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk is the predecessor of Ukraine’s current constitution. On 7 February 2019, the Verkhovna Rada voted to amend the constitution to state Ukraine’s strategic objectives as joining the European Union and NATO.
The President of Ukraine, Mr Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy was born in 25 January 1978. He is a Ukrainian politician, former actor and comedian who is the sixth and current President of Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy grew up as a native Russian speaker in Kryvyi Rih, a major city in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast of central Ukraine. Prior to his acting career, he obtained a degree in law from the Kyiv National Economic University. He then pursued comedy and created the production company Kvartal 95, which produces films, cartoons, and TV shows including Servant of the People, in which Zelenskyy played the role of President of Ukraine. The series aired from 2015 to 2019 and was immensely popular. A political party bearing the same name as the television show was created in March 2018 by employees of Kvartal 95.
Zelenskyy announced his candidacy for the 2019 Ukrainian Presidential Election on the evening of 31 December 2018, alongside the New Year’s Eve address of President Petro Poroshenko on 1+1 TV Channel. A political outsider, he had already become one of the front-runners in opinion polls for the election. He won the election with 73.2 per cent of the vote in the second round, defeating Poroshenko. Identifying as a populist, he has positioned himself as an anti-establishment, anti-corruption figure.
As President, Zelenskyy has been a proponent of e-government and unity between the Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking parts of the country’s population. His communication style heavily utilises social media, particularly Instagram. His party won a landslide victory in a snap legislative election held shortly after his inauguration as President. During his administration, Zelenskyy oversaw the lifting of legal immunity for members of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recession, and some progress in tackling corruption in Ukraine. Critics of Zelenskyy claim that in taking power away from the Ukrainian oligarchs, he has sought to centralise authority and strengthen his personal position.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised to end Ukraine’s protracted conflict with Russia as part of his presidential campaign, and attempted to engage in dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr Zelenskyy’s administration faced an escalation of tensions with Russia in 2021, culminating in the launch of an ongoing full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. Zelenskyy’s strategy during the Russian military buildup was to calm the Ukrainian populace and assure the international community that Ukraine was not seeking to retaliate. He initially distanced himself from warnings of an imminent war, while also calling for security guarantees and military support from NATO to “withstand” the threat. After the commencement of the invasion, Zelenskyy declared martial law across Ukraine and general mobilisation. His leadership during this crisis has won him widespread international admiration, and he has been described as a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Ukraine and NATO
Relations between Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) started in 1992. Ukraine applied to begin a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2008. Plans for NATO membership were shelved by Ukraine following the 2010 presidential election in which Viktor Yanukovych, who preferred to keep the country non-aligned, was elected President. Amid the Euromaidan unrest, Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014. The interim Yatseniuk Government which came to power initially said, with reference to the country’s non-aligned status, that it had no plans to join NATO. However, following the Russian military invasion in Ukraine and parliamentary elections in October 2014, the new government made joining NATO a priority. On 21 February 2019, the Constitution of Ukraine was amended, the norms on the strategic course of Ukraine for membership in the European Union and NATO were enshrined in the preamble of the Basic Law, three articles and transitional provisions.
At the June 2021 Brussels Summit, NATO leaders reiterated the decision taken at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Ukraine would become a member of the Alliance with the Membership Action Plan (MAP) as an integral part of the process and Ukraine’s right to determine its future and foreign policy, of course without outside interference. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at that time stressed that Russia will not be able to veto Ukraine’s accession to NATO “as we will not return to the era of spheres of interest, when large countries decide what smaller ones should do.”
According to polls conducted between 2005 and 2013, Ukrainian public support of NATO membership remained low. However, since the Russo-Ukrainian War and Annexation of Crimea, public support for Ukrainian membership in NATO rose greatly. Since June 2014, polls showed that about 50% of those asked supported Ukrainian NATO membership. Some 69% of Ukrainians want to join NATO, according to a June 2017 poll by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, compared to 28% support in 2012 when Yanukovych was in power.
In November 2013 thousands of people in Ukraine staged protests in capital, Kyiv at President Victor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an Association Agreement between Ukraine and European Union (EU). Some 10,000 demonstrators carried Ukrainian and EU flags chanting “Ukraine is Europe” were protesting as Mr Yanukovych who was attending an EU Summit in Lithuania cited pressure from Russia for his decision. A smaller rally in Kyiv voiced support for President Yanukovych’s decision. EU leaders meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania warned they would not tolerate Russian interference in the bloc’s relations with former Soviet republics. Victor Yanukovych said then he still intended to sign agreement but there were “several crucial” steps left to be made.
Mr Yanukovych’s decision to walk away from the EU deal brought thousands of protesters onto streets of Kyiv and western city of Lyiv. Opposition leaders called for large-scale protests. EU leaders said in the statement that they “strongly” disapproved of Moscow’s pressure on Ukraine not to sign – while Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU for the problem. EU Council President then, Herman van Rompuy said the parties had been “really close” to signing the Association Agreement but added; they needed to overcome pressure from abroad. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel said the door would always remain open for Ukraine.
In February 2014, protests in Ukraine resulted in “The Revolution of Dignity” also known as the Maidan Revolution that took place in Ukraine at the end of the Euromaidan protests, when a series of violent events involving protesters, riot police, and unknown shooters in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv culminated in the ousting of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.
In the same February and in March 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. This event took place in the aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and is part of the wider Russo-Ukrainian War.
During 22–23 February 2014, Russian president Vladimir Putin convened an all-night meeting with security service chiefs to discuss the extrication of the deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. At the end of the meeting, Putin remarked that “we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia”. On 23 February, pro-Russian demonstrations were held in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. On 27 February, masked Russian troops without insignia took over the Supreme Council (parliament) of Crimea and captured strategic sites across Crimea, which led to the installation of the pro-Russian Sergey Aksyonov government in Crimea, the conducting of the Crimean status referendum and eventual declaration of Crimea’s independence on 16 March 2014. Russia formally incorporated Crimea as two Russian federal subjects— the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol on 18 March 2014. Following the annexation, Russia escalated military presence on the peninsula and leveraged nuclear threats to solidify the new status quo on the ground.
Ukraine and many other countries condemned the annexation and consider it to be a violation of international law and further brought complexity in Russian-signed agreements safeguarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the 1991 Belavezha Accords that established the Commonwealth of Independent States, the 1975 Helsinki Accords, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances and the 1997 Treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. It led to the other members of the then G8 suspending Russia from the group and then introducing a first round of sanctions against the country. The United Nations General Assembly also rejected the referendum and annexation, adopting a resolution affirming the “territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders”. The UN resolution also “underscored that the referendum had no validity, cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea” and called upon all states and international organizations not to recognize or to imply the recognition of Russia’s annexation. In 2016, the UN General Assembly reaffirmed non-recognition of the annexation and condemned “the temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine—the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”.
The Russian government opposes the “annexation” label, with Putin defending the referendum as complying with the principle of self-determination of peoples.
Thinking through the Ukraine crisis
As Ted G. Carpenter put it in his article of The Guardian of 28 February 2022, “It would be extraordinarily difficult to expand Nato eastward without that action’s being viewed by Russia as unfriendly. Even the most modest schemes would bring the alliance to the borders of the old Soviet Union. Some of the more ambitious versions would have the alliance virtually surround the Russian Federation itself.” Mr Carpenter as he said wrote those words in 1994, in his book, Beyond Nato: Staying Out of Europe’s Wars, at a time when expansion proposals merely constituted occasional speculation in foreign policy seminars in New York and Washington. As Mr Carpenter stressed, that expansion “would constitute a needless provocation of Russia”.
Why Vladimir Putin has already lost this war
What was not publicly known during Balkans conflict was that, Bill Clinton’s administration had already made fateful NATO’s advance during 1990s that included some former Warsaw Pact countries. The administration would soon propose inviting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to become members, and the US Senate approved adding those countries to the North Atlantic Treaty in 1998. It would be the first of several waves of membership expansion.
Even that, first stage of these advances provoked Russian opposition and anger. In her memoir, Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, concedes that “Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his countrymen were strongly opposed to enlargement, seeing it as a strategy for exploiting their vulnerability and moving Europe’s dividing line to the East, leaving them isolated.”
Strobe Talbott, then US Deputy Secretary of State, similarly described the Russian attitude. “Many Russians see NATO as a vestige of the cold war, inherently directed against their country. They point out that they have disbanded the Warsaw Pact, their military alliance, and ask why the West should not do the same.” It was an excellent question, and neither the Clinton administration nor its successors provided even a remotely convincing answer.
George Kennan, the intellectual father of America’s containment policy during the cold war, perceptively warned in a May 1998 in his New York Times interview about what the Senate’s ratification of NATO’s first round of expansion would set in motion. “I think it is the beginning of a new Cold War,” Kennan stated. ”I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.”
He was right, but US and NATO leaders proceeded with new rounds of expansion, including the provocative step of adding the three Baltic republics. Those countries not only had been part of the Soviet Union, but they had also been part of Russia’s empire during the Czarist era. That wave of expansion now had NATO perched on the border of the Russian Federation.
Moscow’s patience with NATO’s ever more intrusive behavior was wearing thin. The last reasonably friendly warning from Russia that the alliance needed to back off came in March 2007, when Putin addressed the annual Munich security conference. “NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders,” Putin complained. NATO expansion “represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”
In his memoir, Duty, Robert M Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense in the administrations of both George W Bush and Barack Obama, stated his belief that “the relationship with Russia had been badly mismanaged after [George HW] Bush left office in 1993”. Among other missteps, “US agreements with the Romanian and Bulgarian governments to rotate troops through bases in those countries was a needless provocation.” In an implicit rebuke to the younger Bush, Gates asserted that “trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching”. That move, he contended, was a case of “recklessly ignoring what the Russians considered their own vital national interests”.
The following year, the Kremlin demonstrated that its discontent with NATO’s continuing incursions into Russia’s security zone had moved beyond verbal objections. Moscow exploited a foolish provocation by Georgia’s pro-Western government to launch a military offensive that brought Russian troops to the outskirts of the capital. Thereafter, Russia permanently detached two secessionist-minded Georgian regions and put them under effective Russian control.
Western (especially US) leaders continued to ignore Russia’s concerns, however. The Obama administration’s seemed to weigh in Ukraine’s internal political affairs in 2013 and 2014 to see demonstrators overthrow Ukraine’s elected pro-Russia President, was the single most brazen provocation, and it caused tensions to spike. Moscow immediately responded by seizing and annexing Crimea, and a new Cold War was underway with a vengeance.
Could the Ukraine crisis have been avoided?
Events during the past few months constituted the last chance to avoid a hot war in Eastern Europe. Putin demanded that NATO provide guarantees on several security issues. Specifically, the Kremlin wanted binding assurances that the alliance would reduce the scope of its growing military presence in eastern Europe and would never offer membership to Ukraine. He backed up those demands with a massive military buildup on Ukraine’s borders.
What is to be done for lasting Peace in Ukraine and in Europe?
Emmanuel Macron whom his country, France is heading the European Union (EU) Presidency, phoned Mr Putin early March 2022 to demand Putin ends the offensive. He urged the Russian leader to stop all strikes against civilians, preserve civilian infrastructure and provide safe access to key roads, especially south of Kyiv. As was reported by the Financial Times (FT) of 2nd March 2022, The Elysee said Putin “confirmed his willingness to pursue these three points.”
As was reported by the FT, according to Kremlin, Putin told Macron that settlement was possible “only if Russia’s legitimate security interests are unconditionally taken into account”. That included recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea, the peninsular it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and “demilitarising” and “de-Nazifying” the Ukrainian state. Dominic Raab, the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister, said the war in Ukraine “could be a long haul and will do everything we can to achieve our goals of making Putin fail”.
Sanctions and bringing Russia to the Negotiations
As reported in the ABCNews recently, in near-unison, the United States, the 27-nation European Union and other Western allies on 25th February 2022 announced a round of punitive measures against Russian banks and leading companies and imposed export controls aimed at starving the country’s industries and military of semiconductors and other high-tech products.
From the U.S. to Western Europe and Japan, South Korea and Australia, nations lined up to denounce the Kremlin as the outbreak of fighting raised fears about the shape of Europe to come. The invasion initially sent stocks slumping and oil prices surging on fears of higher costs for food and fuel.
The West and allies showed no inclination to send troops into Ukraine — a non-member of NATO — and risk a wider war on the continent. But NATO reinforced its member states in Eastern Europe as a precaution against an attack on them, too. “Make no mistake: We will defend every ally against any attack on every inch of NATO territory,” said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
In the meantime, countries began taking steps to isolate Moscow in hopes of forcing it to pay so high a price that it changes course. President Biden, for now, held off imposing some of the most severe sanctions, including cutting Russia out of the SWIFT payment system, which allows for the transfers of money from bank to bank around the globe. Ukraine’s President called for Russia to be cast out of SWIFT, but the U.S. has expressed concern about the potential damage to European economies.
Top Biden administration officials including the Secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury briefed members of the U.S. Congress in unclassified calls on 24th February 2022. “This is going to be a long battle that requires a sustained action and unity,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, after the session with Senators. The Senator said there was agreement that Congress “stands ready to provide whatever additional resources are needed” as the U.S. supports the Ukraine military and backs the Ukrainian resistance. More funding may be needed from Congress.
Many lawmakers have pushed for the toughest sanctions possible on Russia to stop the invasion. The Senator said there’s a recognition “we can continue to build” on those President Biden has already announced. EU leaders held an emergency summit and agreed on sanctions that cover, among other things, the financial, energy and transport sectors and various Russian individuals. In a statement, the leaders said the measures will have “massive and severe consequences” for Russia.
In a clear defense of Moscow, China “called on parties to respect others’ legitimate security concerns.”
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that “all parties should work for peace instead of escalating the tension or hyping up the possibility of war” – language China has consistently used to criticize the West in the crisis. China went further and approved imports of wheat from Russia, a move that could reduce the impact of Western sanctions. Russia, one of the biggest wheat producers, would be vulnerable if foreign markets were closed off.
The possible repercussions extended well beyond economics and geopolitics. The Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worried that the crisis will further distract global attention from helping the world’s least vaccinated continent fight COVID-19.
In New York City, a projection artist is projecting “Stand With Ukraine” and the country’s flag on a wall of the United Nations headquarters. The artist, David Forsee, says he decided to do this because he’s “a concerned person who doesn’t want to be surrounded by nukes.”
On China’s Daily, Xinhua-News of 2nd March 2022, reported that, as the first round of negotiations produced no tangible results, delegations from Russia and Ukraine are expecting the second round of peace talks.
As Xinhua reports, while the two sides agreed to continue their negotiation process, the world is overwhelmed with handling the spillover from the military conflict, amid the sharp rising prices of gold, oil and agricultural futures, among others.
In the face of the heightened geopolitical tensions, China, together with many other countries and international organizations, has been calling on Ukraine and Russia to broker a solution through negotiations while preventing the conflict from further escalating or even getting out of control.
Though the first round of negotiations ended without clear breakthrough, Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation, said “Most importantly, we agreed to continue the negotiation process.”
Commenting on the negotiations, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China has always supported and encouraged all diplomatic efforts that are conducive to the peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis and welcomes the launch of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
China hopes that the two sides will continue the process of dialogue and negotiation and seek a political solution that accommodates reasonable security concerns of both sides, serves common security of Europe and is conducive to lasting peace and stability in Europe, the spokesperson added.
Also Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in early March held a phone conversation at request with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Wang said that the situation in Ukraine has changed rapidly, and that China laments the outbreak of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and is extremely concerned with the harm to civilians.
Regarding the current crisis, China calls on Ukraine and Russia to find a solution to the issue through negotiations and supports all constructive international efforts conducive to a political settlement, said Wang.
As the fighting continues to expand, the top priority is to ease the situation as much as possible to prevent the conflict from escalating or even getting out of control, especially to prevent the harm to civilians as well as a humanitarian crisis, and to ensure the safe and timely access of humanitarian aid, he said.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg stressed recently on continued diplomatic efforts to solve the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
He called for an immediate stop of the conflict in Ukraine and insisted the engaging of diplomatic efforts, among others.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday, March 1st 2022, also called for efforts to end the conflict.
Gerald J. Nyerere
Founder and CEO
Muhunda Resources Limited
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