Making Sense of the Ukrainian Crisis
Published: Mar 02, 2022 07:41 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

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Russia's special military operation in Ukraine in late February is very much likely to reshape the international strategic landscape. All parties are vying for the upper hand in this game-changing moment. The situation in Ukraine has led to a new round of considerable rethinking and debate across the world.

In the ensuing global debate on the Ukrainian situation, many wonder what China has to say. 

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stated China's five-point position, which boils down to two essential elements: Number one, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be upheld, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries respected. Number two, differences must be resolved through dialogue and negotiation. Everything happens for a reason. Attending to the root is the only right way to solve any issue once and for all. 

This is actually China's consistent foreign policy, a commitment that stands the test of the time. 

War is never a good solution. As we feel for the Ukrainian people, it is also imperative for us to get to the bottom of this crisis.

The West focuses mostly on the current operation launched by Russia. Few are asking the real question: why and how did things get to this point?

The Ukrainian crisis on the surface is about Russia and Ukraine. If you look a bit closer, you may come to realize that it is essentially between Russia and the United States. As pointed out by Thomas Friedman, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, "America and NATO aren't innocent bystanders (in this crisis)" .

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States for some time appeared to have embraced Russia with open arms. Russia, on its part, had also tried quite many means to get along with the United States and NATO.

However, NATO's five rounds of eastward expansion have approached the border of Russia. Ukraine, once joining NATO, could be home to weapon system deployed by the United States. This would be the geopolitical equivalent of a knife to the throat for Russia. So Russia's response would hardly be a surprise to the United States.

Moreover, the United States keeps providing all kinds of military equipment to Ukraine, and the latter is indicating its intention to develop nuclear weapons.

To back down and await its doom or to stand up to fight. For Russia, this is a do-or-die decision. 

Putin already gave his answer — to respond in kind, with brute forces, to US overbearance. In the words of Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, former UN independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, the United States and NATO over the years have broken international law so often that "precedents of permissibility" have been set for Russia. 

For people with commonsense of history and international relations, it's not hard to see that for the United States, Ukraine is nothing more than a pawn to contain Russia.

As early as in 1997, George Kennan, or "the Father of Containment", presciently admonished that "expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era". In 2014, Dr. Henry Kissinger publicly warned that if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it should not make a choice between the East and the West and must not be either side's outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them and not join NATO. Unfortunately, these words were lost on American decision-makers.

Former US congresswoman and 2020 presidential election candidate Tulsi Gabbard made things abundantly clear in a recent interview. She said that President Biden could end this crisis and prevent a war with Russia by doing something very simple: guaranteeing that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO. But the US would not make that promise to stop the war, because military actions on the part of Russia would give the Biden administration a clear excuse to levy draconian sanctions against Russia, and the military-industrial complex reaps enormous benefits from this. It is the people of the United States, the people of Russia and the people of Ukraine who bear the brunt.

In a TV address, President Zelensky said dejectedly, "We have been left alone to defend our state". "Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don't see anyone. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? Everyone is afraid." He added. The cruelty of international politics is laid bare. A pawn is always dispensable.

Every life matters. The people have been awakened. They don't deserve to be sacrifices of geopolitics. What has happened and what is unfolding before our eyes proves time and again that it is only when common, comprehensive security is guaranteed that there will be durable, sustainable security for all. It is high time that relevant parties got more sober-minded strategically.

The author is a current affairs commentator based in Beijing.