The Russian invasion of Ukraine has set in motion developments that will have long term implications on European and world affairs. A full-fledged military operation on such a big scale mounted by Russia, whatever may be the provocations and perceived security threats, is not the way to resolve issues. An immediate ceasefire and recourse to diplomatic talks and negotiations must be undertaken.
Two important factors
There are two important factors leading to the situation that need to be taken into account. The first are the developments that have taken place since the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
The CPI(M) had always maintained that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was founded by US imperialism, post-Second World War, to intensity the Cold War and to militarily confront the Warsaw Pact alliance formed by the USSR with its allies, the East European socialist countries. NATO was the military arm of the ideological war against socialism during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact ceased to exist following the disintegration of the USSR. Hence, there was no rationale for the NATO to continue. It ought to have been dissolved when the very reason for its existence ceased. In fact, as early as in January 1992, the Political Resolution adopted at the 14th Congress of the CPI(M) had noted: “While the Warsaw Pact stands dissolved NATO is intact and worked unitedly in the Gulf War. The NATO powers have decided to modify their strategy and build up a rapid reaction force for speedy intervention consisting of troops of all member countries.”
Further, the resolution called upon “the world peace forces to demand major and rapid steps by US imperialism and its allies to shut down its world-wide military bases, stop producing new weapons, cut down drastically on conventional forces, while negotiating further reductions in and elimination of nuclear weapons. The world peace movement must be strengthened to achieve these aims.”
US imperialism, with its desire to strengthen its global hegemony, post cold war confrontation, chose not only to retain the NATO but to further strengthen it and use it for military operations across the world, particularly in Europe and Central Asia. Instead of disbanding, US imperialism hastened the eastward expansion of NATO negating an assurance given to Gorbachev post USSR dismembering. In 1990, NATO had 16 members. In 1999, Poland, Hungary, and Czech Republic joined. In 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined. In 2009, Albania and Croatia joined. In 2017, Montenegro and North Macedonia joined and in 2021, Bosnia and Herzegovina joined. Thus, except for Ukraine and Georgia, almost all East European countries joined the NATO stationing 1,75,000 NATO troops on Russia’s borders. In 2008, Russia proposed a European Security Treaty on the principle that no country shall strengthen its security at the expense of security of others. This, however, was rejected. Ukraine’s entry into the NATO was rightly seen by Russia as an aggressive move threatening Russia’s security.
Last December, Russia proposed security guarantees between Russia and NATO members suggesting: (a) no further NATO expansion (b) no assault weapons on Russian borders and (c) return to 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. Rejecting this, US encouraged an anti-Russia power grouping in the Ukraine and engineered a coup in 2014. Subsequently, NATO infrastructure started growing in Ukraine without Ukraine formally joining the NATO.
Putin and Russia saw these hostile developments as threatening Russia’s security leading to its current military actions and invasion. Hence, this is a war essentially between Russia and USA/NATO. Ukraine is the theatre where this war is being waged.
Greater Russia revanchism
The second factor is the fact that Putin pursuing his revanchist project of restoring Greater Russia considers Ukraine as its integral part. To a large extent, Russia’s history, religion etc had all spread from the lands that are part of Ukraine today. Both, Russia and Ukraine, for centuries, had intertwined history. The western part of Ukraine is largely Catholic while the eastern part is largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian and east speaks Russian. Putin, pursuing this revanchism, in his address to the Nation on February 21, 2022, put the onus of the creation of separate Ukraine on the Bolsheviks calling present-day Ukraine as “Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine”. He puts the blame on the scientific and democratic Leninist principle, followed post-October Revolution, of the right of nations to self determination up to secession, announced in 1922 and incorporated in the 1924 USSR Constitution. Putin further continues to characterise this as the “original sin” that led to the rise of nationalist forces in the former Soviet Republics. Clearly, what he is articulating in this tirade against Lenin and Bolsheviks lamenting that with the triumph of the 1917 socialist revolution they defeated imperial Tsarist vision of Greater Russia. Seeking to restore this is an unattainable goal in today’s world.
Ceasefire and restore peace
It is absolutely essential to stop further escalation that can have horrific consequences for world peace. The unleashing of forces that promote confrontation can snowball into conflicts of global dimension. This must be prevented at all costs. An immediate ceasefire and Russian withdrawal is essential. Under these circumstances, it is essential that the NATO stops its further eastward expansion. NATO must stop deployment of lethal weapons and missile systems on Russia’s borders threatening its security. Ukraine must remain a neutral sovereign State not permitting the stationing of NATO missiles and other weapon systems posing security threats to Russia. The existing NATO infrastructure in Ukraine must be dismantled.
Talks must continue to ensure peace
Talks between Russia and Ukraine have begun. But the first round has not resulted in any breakthrough. Both sides have agreed that talks will continue. The next round has now been announced to take place. Meanwhile the war continues to take its unfortunate toll. In order to ensure that talks will lead to tangible progress towards establishing peace and security it is essential that participants are enlarged to include all involved parties, particularly USA and NATO.
Government of India must speedily evacuate all Indians
It is a great tragedy that a 21-year old Indian student, Navin Shekharappa, died when hit by shelling in the city of Kharkiv. India collectively expresses its deepest condolences. India has a proud past record of evacuating tens of thousands of Indians in similar situations whether during the Gulf war, Libyan crisis or elsewhere.
Government of India must with single minded focus evacuate all Indians on a war footing.
Sitaram Yechury is General Secretary CPI(M).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK