Russia-Ukraine crisis: A failure of diplomacy and negotiations?

Since the later part of 2019, shockwaves from Covid-19 pandemic have been experienced in global economies and the world is yet to recover from the economic downturn. In the past 3 months, there has been an accumulation of troops, tanks, and rockets by Russia on the borders of Ukraine.

Why was Russian military build-up going on in parallel with diplomatic initiatives to enforce the country’s “red lines”? Kremlin had warned NATO towards the end of 2021 that the alliance would have crossed a Russian “red line” if it expanded its military infrastructure to Ukraine. In fact, Russia had accused both Ukraine and NATO of exhibiting a destabilizing behaviour extending to the Black Sea.

But as far back as mid January 2022, President Joe Biden of the USA warned that Vladimir Putin would “move in” on Ukraine. By February 18, Biden was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that Putin had made up his mind to invade Ukraine within days and attack the capital Kyiv. A pity, you may say.

So, frantic diplomatic moves, negotiations and sanction threats were applied by the US and the European Union (EU) to prevent an attack on Ukraine by Russia. But unfortunately, these measures including an unprecedented US-led “information warfare” proved inadequate to prevent what eventually happened in the early hours of Thursday 24 February 2022.

Advisories have been issued by many countries to their nationals in Ukraine to leave the country. We hope that Nigerians residing in Ukraine have been evacuated by relevant authority and are back in Nigeria. Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has severed diplomatic ties with Russia as his country faces a large scale military assault. Both military and soft targets in Ukraine are under attack.

Russia is unperturbed by sanctions as you may recall that the country has been living under sanctions for many years. Russia has struck Ukrainian cities with missiles and its troops deployed across its borders. International relations experts are of the opinion that Russia has the resources sufficient enough to maintain its financial system in the light of sanctions and external threats.

For instance, Russia has accumulated US$635 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves, and supplies a third of Europe’s gas, according to international media reports. But considering the nature and character of warfare, foreign exchange reserve and mineral resources are necessary but not sufficient to win a war.

The human element is very key in determining who wins a battle and why. Putin is a dictator, while the West led by the US are diplomats. A dictator that wants to fight war must be confronted with superior military firepower. Though sophisticated defence equipment and arms may be supplied, the final issues of victory and defeat will be determined by the man who uses them.

We only know the beginning of this attack on Ukraine, but no one can predict accurately what will happen in the next few days and weeks. The war may linger for months. No one knows when and how Russia’s attack on Ukraine will end!

No one prays for a prolonged combat because of its implications on global security and economy. It is always not easy in warfare to select and maintain an aim as a principle of war. Though, there are reports that Putin knew that the US and NATO would not intervene to fight alongside Ukraine and he has warned that no country should intervene.

Truly, NATO officials and some European leaders had publicly ruled out the possibility of intervention on the grounds that Ukraine is not a member of the NATO. Perhaps, NATO could have activated its Article 5 if Ukraine was a member of the alliance. Russia had presented demands to the USA and NATO which included calls to block Ukraine from ever joining NATO and to remove all military infrastructure and alliance which the West had placed in Eastern Europe since 1997.

Russia’s demands were rejected. But the demands, according to a military analyst, were to be a trap for the West. Outright rejection of Moscow’s demands was used by Putin as evidence that Russia’s opponents had rejected diplomacy and that he had no choice but to take matters into his own hands.

At the time of writing, President Joe Biden was having a virtual close-door meeting of heads of G7 – a group of the seven most advanced countries. The meeting was to chart a course of action that would enable the US and its allies provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said sanctions “may not be enough to deter an irrational actor.”

This author agrees with the British Prime Minister. One can see that meaningful dialogue and diplomacy with Moscow did not yield any positive fruits. Even if a very tough package of sanctions was delivered against Russia, will it change the tide of events? It is doubtful because Russian forces have invaded Ukraine by land, air and sea.

The aim of the invasion according to Putin, is to “demilitarize and de-nazify” Ukraine. A Ukrainian military plane was shot down while some soldiers have surrendered. Two Russian civilian cargo ships were hit by a Ukrainian missile strike in the Sea of Azov, causing casualties. Ukraine’s Chernobyl power plant and Hostomel airfield have been captured by Russia. The Russia-Ukraine crisis has exacerbated disruptions to global energy supply. Oil prices have jumped on Thursday 24 February, 2022, with Brent rising above US$ 105/barrel of crude oil. This is happening for the first time since 2014 when Russia seized Crimea.

Oil tankers are avoiding Russian crude oil. Russia relies on tankers for about two-thirds of its crude oil exports. This means that any prolonged disruption to shipping would be more serious. Russia is a major producer of gas which is used to generate electricity, a major component of aluminium production. Meanwhile, gas prices have risen since tension escalated and this has led to output cuts in Europe leaving consumers scrambling for energy supply.

Russia’s action against Ukraine will have long-lasting consequences for Europe. China understands Russia’s legitimate concerns on security issues. Perhaps, that was why China had earlier called for the “formulation of a balanced, effective and sustainable security mechanism” in Europe via dialogue and negotiation. As Russia -Ukraine tension heightens, US, European and China’s stocks in value have fallen in prices.

Russia, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, that occupies the presidency of the Council has invaded Ukraine. Amid Ukraine invasion, Germany has taken measures to boost cyberattack defence to Poland. And it is ready to provide massive help to Poland in case of an increase in refugee influx.

As world leaders hold meetings, Russia has recognized the “independence” of two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine that have been fighting Ukrainian government forces for 8 years. Without any delay, friendship treaties have been signed allowing Russian forces to be deployed there and the establishment of military bases.

The signing ceremony was preceded by a long speech in which Putin argued strongly that Ukraine was an artificial country that “never had a tradition of genuine statehood.” Putin alleged that these regions are now a US puppet and a springboard for NATO aggression against Russia.

It will go down in the annals of military invasion that frantic diplomacy, sanctions threats and “information warfare” have proved impotent to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps, a mix of military pressure and diplomacy would have halted Putin’s adventure in Ukraine. Thank you.

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