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Russian invasion of Ukraine looks so much like the US invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and proxy wars in Syria and Libya. But to hear Western leaders and media condemn President Vladimir Putin for his actions one wonders at the level of hypocrisy flying around. They lambaste Putin for invading a sovereign country as if the countries they destroyed were not sovereign states.

In fact many Western politicians and journalists in their comments have shown that they deem those countries as inferior and their people lesser beings to “Europeans with blue eyes and blonde hair”. Senior correspondent of a US TV outlet, CBS News, while reporting from the Ukraine capital Kyiv went so far as to state: “this isn’t a place, with due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that have seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too, — and city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.” And for all their claims of upholding freedom of expression and democratic values, Western governments have banned Russian TV news channels, RT and Sputnik, as well as their associated platforms.

President Putin’s concern about NATO expansion into Ukraine to point missiles at his country is understandable. But unleashing of military might on an independent country is not only regrettable but inexcusable. Hundreds of people, civilian and soldiers, have been killed; at least a million people, mostly women and children, have been forced out of their homes to find refuge in neighbouring countries. Russian forces have occupied the second largest city, Kharkiv, and are relentlessly pounding Kyiv and several other cities. President Putin has made clear his intention to “continue the uncompromising fight against militants of nationalist armed groups.” In a recent telephonic conversation with his French counterpart, he said, he would carry out his operation “to de-Nazify ‘Ukraine’ to the end”.

The people in the embattled country are putting up stiff resistance. But no one knows where it all will stop. Whilst Russian aggression is unforgivable, it could have been avoided had the West given Putin the security guarantees he sought of letting Ukraine remain neutral.

Whatever the shape of things to come, ultimately the two sides will need to sit across the table and resolve the conflict. They have already held two rounds of talks, though without reaching agreement on any substantive issue except for creation of humanitarian corridor and delivery of foods and medical help to civilians. Another round is to be held soon. Meanwhile, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the West to send more military aid to Kyiv. That will only prolong the conflict. More sensible is his ask that Putin sit down with him for direct talks. “I need to talk to Putin. The world needs to talk to Putin. There is no other way to stop this war”, he said the other day.

The prescient words of American statesman Henry Kissinger offer an insight as to why the conflict accrued and how can it end. This is what he wrote in his 2014 article on the then Ukraine crisis: “Far too often the Ukraine issue is posed as showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them. … Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding US values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of US policymakers.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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