• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria, Ukraine, USSR and the West (1)

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Up to a couple of years ago Ukraine seemed to have been at peace with itself and its neighbours. There were admittedly some political hiccups, no worse than in most democracies. Ukraine was one of the few countries that had a female president (Yulia Tymoshenko). Like in most countries where women become presidents or prime ministers, there was an element of dynastic re-arrangement which brought the lady up. She was unable, for reasons too complex to go in here, to retain her hold on power; she called for an election and was severely beaten by Viktor Yushchenko.

Ukraine has not been a model of democracy. Many repressive actions followed President Yushchenko’s victory. The new president felt the future of his country lay in sustained neutrality but paying due respects to Russia, the big bear as a neighbour. Those who for geopolitical reasons do not like Russia tried to turn ANY country neighbouring Russia into an anti-Russian country. The EU (European Union) and the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) stepped up their propaganda in Ukraine against Russia. In doing so, the secret services of the West mobilized fully to cause daily demonstrations against an elected government and an elected president, weakened by indecision, corruption and ineffectiveness. Carrots were dangled before opposition from Brussels and Strassburg. The president was to know no peace as weeks of demonstration followed, fully supported by the US which actually sent a top State Department officer to Ukraine to support the ousting of a democratically-elected government and president.

All attempts by the West to destabilize Russia stem from the belief that an unstable Russia is a weakened Russia and a weakened Russia is good for the West and, therefore, the world. This was the same policy pursued in Estonia, Latvia by the West against Russia. Consistency is not always a positive element in foreign affairs – hence the phrase most often used in criticizing nations in foreign affairs is a lack of consistency; the use of double standards. Those so accused have a legitimate answer, that their activities are governed by the necessity of national interest.

When Russia (then USSR) wanted to plant missiles in Cuba, the US was willing to go to war to prevent such an eventuality. The US has a policy of sanctions against Cuba for over 50 years because Cuba dared to be different within the US sphere of influence – Cuba is less than 80 miles to the US. Guantanamo Bay is situated in half of the island of Cuba. Cuba and Guantanamo Bay are on the Caribbean Island. Guantanamo Bay is a US military base, yet the US would not allow Cuba escape sanctions despite the fact that the majority of Latinos in Florida are Cuban. Even as recent as 2014, one could not buy a Cuban/Havana Cigar in the US. Recently, President Obama made a move to remove sanctions against Cuba imposed since 1961.

I accept that there are many who would disagree with my interpretation of the US foreign policy. I am naïve enough to believe that since the US had nuclear bases surrounding the (USSR) Russia, that country should not be denied the right of planting its own missiles in Cuba. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Foreign policy, of course, does not operate along the lines listed above. In most cases, the strong impose their will on the weak. Russia was relatively weak and the US government got away stopping it from making the US uncomfortable by having a nuclear base in Cuba.

Even before the end of World War II, it was evident that each of the superpowers, the US and the USSR, would try to bend world opinion and actions in its favour. The US could do anything to weaken the USSR and its successor state, Russia, and vice versa. The argument about nuclear weapons – who can have it and who cannot – is based on a similar thesis: the US we can trust; Russia, Iran and Pakistan we cannot. Israel, Britain, France we can trust, but no one else. The argument has never been that having weapons that can obliterate the world over 100 times by the US and Russia should never be owned by one or two countries; rather, the weapons are so dangerous that no one would have them. These weapons are continuously minitualised with more available payload capabilities. One day ISIS would have a nuclear bomb!

Back to Ukraine. I saw on CNN a top officer in the US State Department sitting and chatting with demonstrators against the elected president of Ukraine. The policy, as stated earlier, is that anything that weakens Russia is good for the US. In the end, the elected president fled to Moscow and a new government and president were elected without the support of the Russians who live in the East or others in Crimea.

We have seen the scant respect the West pays to democratically elected governments whose hue they do not like – Libya, Venezuela, Bolivia, Egypt, West Bank-Gaza. The president of Ukraine was removed because the West felt that he was a Russian puppet. But what about the rights of Russians in Eastern Ukraine? A war has been going on there for the past six months; that war has led to the downing of a commercial flight, killing over 200 people. The West has imposed economic sanctions on Russia to bring it to its knees. Those sanctions have hurt Europe – and have been devastating for Russia – although there is no conceivable effect on the US.

The other day I was thinking of a situation where the rest of the world could impose sanctions on the West’s unprecedented adventurism, especially in Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan. No one has the power to do so. True. But may this not be at the bottom of Islamic radicalism – that a people feel so badly treated and poor that they resort to inhuman behaviour in order to gain the attention of the world? It is a preposterous suggestion or view and “totally reject it”. But the West must tread carefully on their propensity for military, diplomatic and economic adventurism. Most of the world is on the side of the West, but power brings about obligations and responsibilities, the most important being when not to resort to power and when to resort to dialogue.

Patrick Dele Cole