Watani International

The Russian Ukrainian crisis What Putin says

- o sseI idKom

Today, the war feared but expected by everyone rages on Russian forces have stormed Ukraine to pursue a ruling regime which it accused of adopting racist, oppressive practices against a Russian minority living in Ukraine, in addition to plotting with the US to form a military alliance that would turn Ukraine into a NATO military base on the southwest border of Russia. Such an action, the Russian President said, would constitute a flagrant threat to Russia’s security, and a breach to all the political and military agreements that ban NATO from expanding eastwards. Today, western media cries out deploring Russia’s aggression against internatio­nal law and its attack on a sovereign State, while the US and its western allies storm Russia with political and economic sanctions even as they offer Ukraine every possible support.

In the context of exposing the unabashed double standards of US politics, I refer to the famous Cuban missile crisis that took place in 1962 between the two superpower­s: the US and its President John Kennedy, and the USSR and its President Nikita Khrushchev. At the time, American deployment­s of missiles in Italy and Turkey were matched by Soviet plans to deploy similar ballistic missiles in Cuba, in alliance with Cuban President Fidel Castro. The Soviets constructe­d the necessary missile launch facilities in Cuba, prompting the US to declare the act a direct, unacceptab­le threat to its national security. President Kennedy ordered a naval «quarantine» on October 22 to prevent further missiles from reaching Cuba. Finally, an agreement was reached by which Russia agreed to withdraw the missiles. But the Russian withdrawal was not one-sided; the US too had to withdraw the missiles it had deployed in Turkey, but this was then concealed from the American public. A Third World War had been narrowly averted, yet the US went on planning for NATO expansion closer to Russia, which it attempted through the Alliance of Western European Countries. But the golden opportunit­y came when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and countries of Eastern Europe gained independen­ce. The US began including a number of the newly formed east European States to NATO and arming them accordingl­y, throwing to the wind the fact that in so doing it was breaching the military equilibriu­m with Russia, which banned any of the two from getting too close to the other’s borders to threaten their national security. Arrogantly and belligeren­tly, the US saw fit to turn all Eastern European countries into modern-day “Cubas”. Recently, it had no qualms about penetratin­g Ukraine on the southwest border of Russia.

As the western media rattles on, many may not be aware of the Russian rationale behind storming Ukraine. is thus printing in this issue Russia’s viewpoint which was detailed in the speech addressed by President Putin to the Russian and Ukrainian people. Mr Putin spoke of the causes, facts, challenges, and provocatio­ns which led to the Russian decision of military interventi­on in Ukraine. I here introduce the main points in that speech.

President Putin said that for Russia, Ukraine was no mere neighbour, but was part and parcel of “our history, culture, and spiritual world”, describing Ukrainians as “not only our friends and colleagues, but our people and relatives as well.”

He said that the Russian people acknowledg­ed the geopolitic­al facts that arose in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia recognised the new independen­t republics and, even though the country was then in a difficult situation, it responded to requests by those republics, including Ukraine, for financial aid. Russia did that with full respect for their dignity and sovereignt­y. “Yet Ukrainian authoritie­s went on to build their country while fully denying all that unifies us, and working to disfigure the collective historical awareness and memory of millions. The result was the rise of extremist nationalis­m which quickly turned into neonazism and terror against Ukrainians of Russian origin.”

The stripping of Russian identity continued with Ukraine’s parliament passing racist laws that excluded Ukrainians of Russian origin and assassinat­ed their identity, language, and culture; the laws treated them as strangers to Ukraine.

On another front, President Putin said, Ukraine opened its doors to the American military machine, even though it was no member of NATO. It permitted the deployment of weapons of mass destructio­n on its land, and welcomed foreign trainers and specialist­s who worked to integrate Ukrainian armed forces within the NATO system. Ukraine’s military airports were modernised by Americans, to equip them to allow the movement of foreign military units in the shortest time possible, while opening Ukrainian air space to strategic and reconnaiss­ance aircraft flying over Russia. This in addition to the maritime operations centre which the Americans built in Ochakovo on the Black Sea, which could allow NATO ships passage there, posing a threat to the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.

Ukraine declared it was taking the strategic path of Moining NATO, President Putin said, remarking that every State had the right to choose its security system and enter into military alliances. However, he reminded, internatio­nal documents explicitly confirm the principle of equitable non-divisible national security, which incorporat­es the commitment to refrain from consolidat­ing the security of a State at the detriment of another. This, he said, was included in the 1999 charter of the European Security and Cooperatio­n Organisati­on in Istanbul, and in the Astana Declaratio­n by the same entity in 2010. Accordingl­y, Ukraine’s Moining NATO represents a direct threat to Russian national security, President Putin said.

US policies towards Russia, the President said, have been hostile on all fronts. Apart from Russian security concerns over NATO expansion, he explained, the US continues its open support for terrorists in northern Caucasus, and has withdrawn from the anti ballistic missile treaty. “Why all this?” he asked. “If America does not want Russia as a friend or ally, why does it insist on making it an enemy?”

Now, the President said, it takes Must a glimpse at the map to see how western nations have kept their promise against the eastward expansion of NATO. “Simply put: they deceived us,” he said. Successive waves of eastward expansion included Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in 1999; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004; Montenegro in 2017; and North Macedonia in 2020. NATO came directly to Russia’s borders, constituti­ng thus the strongest cause for the European security crisis, and the reason for the lost confidence between Russia and the West, because any strike against Russia will be spearheade­d by Ukraine. “I want everyone in Russia and in Ukraine to understand this,” he said.

“We are willing to hold negotiatio­ns,” President Putin said. “These must include three main points. First, halting NATO’s eastward expansion. Second, NATO should stop deploying offensive weapons on Russia’s borders. Third, NATO should go back to its 1997 military framework when it signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act. Sadly, President Putin said, negotiatio­ns were disregarde­d, and replaced with threats of sanctions. “We will not relinquish our sovereignt­y, values, and national interests,” he said. “Accordingl­y, Russia has every right to take counter actions to guarantee its national security, and this is exactly what we will do.”

I have reviewed the main points in President Putin’s speech not because of whether or not I support his decisions or actions, but to create informatio­nal equilibriu­m with the western media which hegemonise­s most of the global informatio­n space.

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