• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Why did Russia choose to attack Ukraine now?

Here are things Nigeria may be losing from Russia, Ukraine conflict

With a bumbling comic actor who left a television show to play president as opponent, an America in disarray at home engaged in a national brawl over nose masks, Europe vulnerable to a wilting winter and surging gas prices and a pile of cash at the bank of Russia, never before has the stars aligned for the Kremlin to bully the world.

On the first day of the attacks, Ukraine lost 40 soldiers. By dawn Thursday, Russian forces had invaded Ukraine through the northern forests, eastern plains, and along the southern coasts- land sea, and air.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy, according to military analysts, is to hit Ukraine from all sides, capture the capital and call it a day. By sunset Thursday, Russian special forces and airborne troops have captured the Chernobyl nuclear plant and are already marching on Kyiv, the capital city. The Ukrainian President said on Friday that 137 people including civilians and military personnel have been killed. 70 military targets including 11 airfields, a helicopter, and 4 drones have been destroyed.

While Ukrainian soldiers have managed to shut down a couple of Russian airplanes, thousands of Ukrainian citizens have fled cities and taken refuge in bomb shelters and underground train stations. Males between the ages of 16-60 are being prevented to leave Ukraine and are currently being mobilised for military duties.

In a war with Russia, Ukraine never stood a chance. But with Volodymyr Zelensky as president, the odds are heavily stacked against Ukraine.

The 44-year old Ukrainian president, a television actor who played the role of a school teacher pressed to become president on the strength of a viral video condemning corruption. In a tale of television imitating life, he actually ran for President and won over 70 percent of the vote in the second round.

When it came to governing, Zelensky soon discovered that he is way in over his head. His government officials were mostly people he knew from his theatre days, corruption accusations have flared up over road contracts many say were overinflated. Economic growth is muted and Zelensky is forced to realise real life is much different from drama.

Zelensky signaled as recently as Tuesday that he didn’t expect Russia to mount a full-scale invasion. “The Ukrainian side believes that a broad escalation on the part of Russia will not happen,” the president said in a release even as troops were taking positions in his country and Western governments were warning that Russia would invade.

Grossly inexperienced, the Ukrainian president lost valuable time to get his military in defensive positions, draw up a strategy to defend the civilian populace, and all but assured that the Russian army will march on into Kyiv on the second day of fighting. He kept urging world leaders for military assistance as he kept appealing to Russia to see reason.

On Friday, his defense ministry urged citizens to throw Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs) at the invading army rolling in with tanks and rapid-fire machine guns, which is about as effective as going into a sword duel armed with a toothpick.

Analysis shows that the Russian calculation that invading Ukraine during the government of Zelensky, would have little downside may just be on the mark.

A weakened West

America’s self-appointed role of the worlds’ moral police is faltering in the face of internal disarray, political polarisation at home, and its own poor record of invading countries under false pretense. Its main political parties – the Republicans and Democrats – are fighting about everything from wearing face masks to what to teach kids in high school.

Despite America’s posturing, Putin is taking a page out of its playbook. Deliver shock and awe in the form of the latest military hardware, move in on the capital from all flanks, seize the government house and force a regime change. Then install a puppet who will pay for the war.

Within the last two decades of America’s military misadventure in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, Russia and China had quietly built up their arsenal, beefed their economies, and acquired technological prowess unimagined 20 years ago.

Read also: Russia – Ukraine conflict: What you need to know

Putin has rebuilt the Russian military, modernised and expanded Russia’s nuclear arsenal, revived and expanded Russian intelligence services and activities, took control of Russian media outlets, consolidated state industries, and crippled political opposition to his United Russia party and made elections easily rigged.

During this time, America had gone from electing a black man as president to intensifying the shooting of unarmed young, black men on its streets by police officers. It elected a feckless New York real estate billionaire as the president who hastened the wrangling at home while vowing to end wars abroad.

This leaves Western governments with the option of only sanctions which is fast becoming a blunt tool.

The economic sanctions so far listed by European and American governments have targeted financial institutions, members of Russian governments, wealthy Oligarchs whose support Putin relies on to maintain power, and even the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. These include travel restrictions, asset freezes, constraining the ability to access financial markets in the West, and trade restrictions. Russian airlines have also been banned from landing in the UK.

However, Russia has a buffer of over $630bn in foreign reserves, huge reserves of oil and gas, access to the Chinese market, the world’s second-largest economy, and is still selling weapons to India and gas to Europe.

Russia may yet be inured to the effect of sanctions, this is why Zelensky has called on Western governments to block Russian access to the Swift platform which enables banking transactions, freeze Russian Central Bank assets in the West including Putin’s assets and stop buying Russian oil and gas. The danger for the West is that there is no telling Russian response to these kinds of extreme sanctions. It is, after all, a nuclear power.