It is obvious that the Ukraine and Russia conflict has a complex history, with various factors contributing to the tensions between the two nations. Some of the causes are remote and some are immediate.
By the time the Russia invaded Ukraine it never foresees any difficulties, President Putin and his Red Army had premonition of overrunning Ukraine within a twinkle of an eye to send strong signals to other former members of Soviet Socialist Republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussian (now Belarus), Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia (now Kyrgyzstan), Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia (now Moldova), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan who have gone their separate ways since moribund collapse of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to be wary of it powers and capacity to do and undo if any one of them cross the agreed red line by joining it traditional enemies, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) champion by the United States.
Historically, Ukraine was once part of the Soviet Union, and many Ukrainians have a shared identity with Russians. Language similarities and intermarriage have ensued among these autonomous republics.
However, following the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine sought to establish its independence and national identity like others that made up the old USSR. This has caused tension with Russia, which sees Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence, which must be conciliated and kept at arm’s length to fortify itself against the existential threat of NATO, which is inimical to Russia’s diplomacy and diplomatic relationships with other countries.
The realisation that Crimea, a region in Ukraine, has a large Russian-speaking population and was historically part of Russia. The removal of the pro-Russian government in 2014 by violent sustained protest, which made the Ukrainian parliament vote to remove the former President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, from office by 328 votes to 0 (about 73% of the parliament’s 450 members), infuriated Russia, and this prompted the annexation of the Crimea region.
All Ukrainian entreaty and diplomacy to reverse the Crimea proved abortive. The action was widely condemned by the international community and has contributed to the ongoing tension between the two nations.
By all intents and purposes, “standing with Ukraine’s” mantra against Russia is not enough; rather, we should seek restoration, harmony, and enduring peace among these two warring nations
Of great importance are the energy resources, which are one of the opaque causes of this war. Russia is a major supplier of natural gas to Ukraine and Europe. It is noted that disputes over pricing and delivery have aggravated tension between the two nations. In order to tame Russia, Ukraine made overtures elsewhere to seek gas by reducing its reliance on Russian gas.
Equally, the urge for political alignment to free herself from old bonds tilted Ukraine to align itself with Western nations, including joining the European Union and NATO. Of course, this unholy alliance is perceived by Russia as a threat to its interests. Apparently, the Ukraine-Russia conflict is the result of a complex combination of historical, geopolitical, and economic factors.
Thus, to forestall Ukraine’s alliance with enemies, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 23, 2022. Fourteen months after Russia invaded Ukraine, there has been no victor and no vanquished yet from both angles, and as the war is ongoing, the casualties and losses are huge.
Based on a conservative estimate, the Associated Press reported that the war has caused at least $137.8 billion worth of damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure as of December 2022. According to the Kyiv School of Economics, almost 150,000 residential buildings, over 300 hospitals, and more than 3,000 schools and universities were damaged or destroyed.
The international community has supported the war with a chunk of change, to the tune of billions of dollars. The U.S. has spent $78 billion and is still spending. The total commitments to Ukraine from European Union member nations and EU institutions were $59 billion; the United Nations and other international institutions have committed $14 billion, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel).
According to the United Nations refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), based on figures provided by national governments, about 8.1 million refugees fled for safety from Ukraine after the Russian invasion. The number includes more than 5.2 million in over 40 European and central Asian countries, including nearly 1.6 million in Poland, over 880,000 in Germany, and nearly 2.9 million in Russia, where they hibernate.
Similarly, the aggressor’s (Russia’s) human and material losses are unquantifiable. As of March 11, 2023, Russia has lost 159,010 troops. A total of 18 Russian warships and other vessels; 6351 vehicles and fuel tanks; 3468 battle tanks; 2491 artillery systems; 2109 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones; 495 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS); 304 fighter jets; 289 attack helicopters; 907 cruise missiles; 258 anti-aircraft weapons; 6782 armoured patrol vehicles (APVs); and 244 special equipment items have been destroyed by the Ukrainian military since the war began on February 23. These are the indicative estimates of the Russian loss based on the record of the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war up until now. On a daily basis, the war statistics are changing.
By all intents and purposes, “standing with Ukraine’s” mantra against Russia is not enough; rather, we should seek restoration, harmony, and enduring peace among these two warring nations. It is for this reason that during the temporary ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia last November, General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, saw an opportunity for negotiations and admonished that. ‘When peace can be achieved, seize it,’ but amazingly, the United Nations, the U.S, NATO, the European Union, and their allies refused to seize the window of opportunity of dialogue and negotiation to end the war, rather, their action and inaction is fueling and stretching the crises beyond the tipping point.
Russia as an aggressor has suffered immense loss, but not as much as Ukraine, whose substantial part of the country has been reduced to rubble. In the meantime, we should all bury our pride and prejudice and call for a ceasefire and peaceful resolution of the conflict that takes into account the interests and concerns of both sides. The conflict can be resolved through diplomatic talks and negotiations. This can involve the United Nations and other countries (the U.S., the European Union, and its allies for Ukraine, and China, Iran, India, South Africa, and others for Russia) mediating between Ukraine and Russia to find a peaceful solution. It is important to change the narrative, or the perspective, on both sides. This can involve promoting understanding, multiculturalism and tolerance, reconciliation and forgiveness, and acknowledging past wrongdoings.
Bello, a social commentator, writes from Canada.