Eye of the Needle
R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
March 4, 2022
Ukraine: Overshadowing all else

The world, still reeling from the crippling effects of the Covid pandemic, has been thrown into a further tailspin as a result of the Russian military aggression against neighbouring Ukraine and its implications for peace and progress in the world. The resulting military conflagration not only threatens world peace but seems to be bringing the world closer to a nuclear war than it has been for six decades now with Russia announcing that it has put its nuclear arsenal on “high alert”.

While at the governmental level, the world has overwhelmingly condemned the Russian action in deploying its military juggernaut against Ukraine, there is still much confusion in terms of global opinion on the crisis. There are basically two reasons for this, first a lack of understanding, especially in countries like ours, of the historical context of the conflict, and secondly, the overwhelming influence of the western media on molding global opinion on the situation.

There is no doubt that Russia has violated the hallowed international principles of respect for the sovereignty of nations, political independence, non-interference and respect for international law by its action in taking military action against Ukraine. Yet it is equally true that one cannot ignore its well-founded concerns about its own safety given the clear evidence of encirclement by NATO. However, its military response to that threat cannot be justified, particularly given the implications for world peace.

This was made clear by the Resolution of the Special general assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday.

One hundred and forty-one nations, including ALL the CARICOM states, voted in favour of the Resolution which not only deplored Russia’s action, but also called for it to cease the use of force against Ukraine, its unilateral withdrawal from Ukrainian territory and urged the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Four countries, North Korea, Syria, Belarus and Eritrea joined Russia in voting against the Resolution, indicating Russia’s isolation on the issue. Significantly though, 35 nations abstained, many of them while not supportive of the Russian action, nevertheless were unhappy at the failure to mention the security concerns of Russia. China was among 13 Asian abstentions, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador made up the four abstentions from the western hemisphere, but it was Africa which provided the large bloc not in support of the Resolution with 17 nations abstaining. Such concerns therefore cannot be ignored.

Interestingly Armenia was the lone European nation to abstain.

For us in CARICOM and St Vincent and the Grenadines in particular, the Ukrainian issue cannot be a matter of simply regurgitating what the international media tells us, we have to look at it both from our own interests and also how it relates to the hallowed principles of the United Nations’ Charter. As small, very vulnerable states, the principle of non-aggression is critical for us for such military action is always launched by militarily stronger nations against weaker ones. Indeed, we had our own experience in Grenada in 1983, the military might of the USA deployed against a tiny, small island state.

In addition to the threat to world peace, including the possibility of nuclear war, there are the economic effects which we are already beginning to feel. Starting with the immediate price rises such as for oil and its spill-off, the global capitalists are once more going to grab the opportunity to further enrich themselves at our expense. Much – needed resources will be diverted to Ukraine as the USA and its major European allies try to take advantage of Russia’s isolation and Ukraine’s vulnerability to try and gain strategic control of valuable resources there, much as was done after the Second World War.

We have to be careful then about our responses. Thus, why were individual CARICOM states rushing to issue statements when a CARICOM statement was already issued? However, it is reassuring that all CARICOM states voted in unison on the UN Resolution. But internally, there are those in some countries, including ours, who are mistakenly attempting to use the Ukrainian situation to gain political capital.

This is really sad for on matters like these which will affect us all, it is critical that we not only identify common national interests but work in unison to advance them. It is important that on such global issues, our respective Parliaments identify national interests and not for some mistaken political figures to try to be choir boys for big-power interests.

In this regard, I am truly disappointed with statements by the local Opposition on the matter. First, before even seeing the contents of PM Gonsalves’ letter to the Russian President, there were attempts to influence public opinion negatively. In this, Opposition Leader Dr. Friday once more demonstrated how much he is behind the times, in referring to the letter as one to “Ralph’s pen pal”. Not only was this a false prejudgment as the contents of the letter revealed, the use of the outmoded term “pen pal” speaks volumes.

He went on without any sound basis to call for the repatriation of our students in Russia, as though they were under threat.

This political backwardness manifests itself on the ground with continued efforts to paint PM Gonsalves as a “Russian puppet” to the extent that there are NDP operatives encouraging the outrageous allegation that “Ralph wants to send Vincentians to fight in Russia”. I can say this because my opinion was sought on the issue. Can’t we do better than that?

Our vote on the UN Resolution makes it clear where we stand. Is there any objection to this? We must know where our national interests lie and not be in the echo chambers on “His Masters Voice”.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.