As I write today, March 2, I am quite aware that by the time this article is read the situation would have changed significantly, with so many things happening at the same time. I must compliment CARICOM for strongly condemning the military attack and invasion of Ukraine and to call for immediate and complete withdrawal of Russia’s military presence. They called it what it was, a military invasion of a sovereign country. I say this because it befuddles me that our Prime Minister in his ‘private letter’ to President Putin saw it fit to repeat Putin’s classification of his involvement in Ukraine as a ‘special military operation’. But our UN ambassador also refers to Russia’s ‘special military operation’ while most of the world, including CARICOM, see it as an invasion.
But call it what you will, what was the purpose of this special military operation? To “demilitarize and de-Nazify” Ukraine; to protect people who were subjected to bullying and genocide! Ukraine a country of over 40 million people had moved away from Russia and has been building a democratic society with a president who is indeed Jewish. President Putin claimed that Russia could not feel safe because of threats from modern Ukraine. It appears to me that the only threat was from a democratic Ukraine serving as an example to Russia’s people, remembering that there are large numbers of Russians living in Ukraine and many Ukrainians with families in Russia. Granted too, and this is a reality, some countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union have moved to become members of NATO as with Ukraine that has been trying to gain membership in that body. This might or might not happen, even though what is happening there now could make it a possibility.
Russia by its military action has antagonised even some of its friends. The Czech Republic and Hungary that had in the European Union been expressing pro-Russian sentiments have strongly condemned this recent action. Not only has the President of the Czech Republic called for harsh sanctions but he said that “It is necessary to isolate a lunatic.” Hungary also condemned Russia’s action and said that it was standing with the Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. At the meeting of the UN Security Council, China did not vote against the resolution condemning Russia, but instead abstained.
What stood out for me since Russia’s invasion was the resistance of the Ukrainian people. While hundreds of thousands have already left the country there are many and I am dealing specifically with women, young people and even elderly people who have decided to stay and join the large numbers of volunteers. One of the things about this ‘war’ is that the technology brings it right to our living rooms, allowing us to follow the brave resistance of the civilians. We have seen Ukranians unarmed standing in front of Russian tanks, getting them to halt and fire their bullets into the air. It has become obvious that many soldiers were not aware of their mission.
Those who knew expected to be warmly welcomed by a population waiting to be liberated! While the Ukranians have been able to slow down and to halt some of the operations of the Russian forces, they are really no match for Russia’s “40 mile long column of tanks and combat vehicles.” Putin seemed to have underestimated not only the resistance of the Ukranians but the kind of support they are getting world- wide.
The Ukranian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian, has risen to the challenge and has been able to win the overwhelming support not only of the Ukranian people but of countries and people worldwide. He clearly told the US president that what he wanted was not a ride out of the city but ammunitions. He vowed to stay with his people and resist.
What Russia has done is to strengthen NATO and to heighten the nationalism of the Ukranians who are prepared to resist any attempt of control by President Putin. But the ‘special operation’ is yet in its early stages!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian