Russia’s invasion of the independent Republic of Ukraine on February 24 and the substantial damage to lives and property that the inconclusive 30-day war has caused in the heavily outgunned and outnumbered latter country, have been universally condemned. Quite rightly, because Russia and particularly its autocratic President Vladimir Putin mounted the largest land offensive since World War II against its hapless neighbour-nation without sufficiently arguing his case in the United Nations General Assembly.
For the ‘unprovoked’ invasion of its neighbour republic, the US and the West have imposed unprecedented economic and financial sanctions against Russia. Its hard currency reserves with IMF and International Bank of Settlements have been frozen, and Russia’s lucrative crude oil and liquid natural gas supplies to Europe severely disrupted. These sanctions are likely to deeply hurt the general Russian populace.
Nevertheless, it’s not entirely true that Russian aggression against Ukraine was unprovoked. For the past several years, President Putin had repeatedly warned Ukraine — which until 1991 had been integrated in Russia’s precursor United Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) aka Soviet Union — against signing up with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), an anti-Soviet coalition of Western countries established by the United States in 1949, to protect European nations against the threat of westward expansion of Russia under the USSR banner. However during the past 30 years after the USSR imploded in 1991, several former Soviet republics including Estonia, Latvia, Hungary and Poland which neighbour Russia, became NATO member nations. Evidently imminent NATO membership of Ukraine, which for several centuries was a constituent unit of Russia, was the last straw for President Putin. As he observed in a video which has mysteriously disappeared from social media, how would the US react if Russian troops and missiles were sited on the Canada-US or Mexico-US border?
The answer is provided by America’s Monroe Doctrine (1823) which declares that stationing of troops or armaments by European or other nations on the soil of any country in the North and South American continents is an act of war against the US. It’s pertinent to recall that in 1962 when the USSR sited missiles in Cuba, President Kennedy blockaded Soviet warships heading for Cuba and nearly triggered a nuclear war. In the circumstances, the continuous expansion of NATO to ring-fence Russia with member nations violates the norms of natural justice and equity.
The terms and conditions of a durable peace in Eastern Europe are self-evident. The US should unilaterally abrogate all NATO memberships of former USSR republics on condition of their territorial integrity being guaranteed by the United Nations, and Ukraine should withdraw its NATO membership application. This will enable a face-saving Russian withdrawal from Ukraine on terms and conditions already conceded by Ukraine’s President Zelensky. President Putin not unjustifiably believes that Russia is entitled to a Monroe doctrine equivalent which prohibits foreign troops and bases in its backyard.
Also Read: Ending Russia-Ukraine war: A solution