Ukraine: Putin's war — a briefer

Ukraine: Putin's war — a briefer Featured

SINCE December when Russian troops were massing at Ukraine's borders, social media was inundated by requests for prayers anointing Zelenskyy as the good guy and Putin, the devil incarnate. These supplications accelerated as Russian troops crossed over.

In the Philippines, half a globe away, our prayer warriors were occupied storming heaven imploring the divine providence to intercede in Ukraine's favor with incantations of Oratio Imperata with the same fervor as Catholics did against Covid. The charming thing about Filipino Catholics, Christians and "born again" is their propensity to "oratio imperata" everything, from natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and even the 1986 People Power uprising. This one-prayer-fits-all is very convenient for the cultural habits of Pinoys' "bahala na ang Panginoon," implying fatalism, leaving to the almighty the pretext of trusting the Lord to solve all problems.

Prayers will not help Ukraine now. Putin is unfolding his endgame pursuing what to him is in the best interest of Mother Russia — an altogether justifiable response to what America and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have been doing all along.

Just imagine NATO with its short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) at the borders of Russia. How was it different when Khrushchev in 1962 stationed missiles in Cuba just outside America's borders? Kennedy drew the line then as Putin similarly has drawn the line now. NATO's overture to Ukraine after the USSR's collapse is tantamount to Putin's Red Line that America and the West have long crossed. Online prayers were never asked when America and NATO in essence actually provided a casus belli for Putin's acts.

Fall of USSR

To put these developments in proper perspective, it is necessary to look back at the recent history of Ukraine and Russia. One could go back centuries to the time from 1187 to the 1600s when Ukraina began to take shape. But the more appropriate time period for our purposes was during the intervening years of 1989-1992 at the dissolution of the USSR. The collapse started on Premier Mikhail Gorbachev's watch when the USSR loosened its grip on the Eastern European countries (Soviets) composing the USSR, allowing them multi-party elections that began a slow process of democratization. This led to destabilization of communist control and the ensuing momentum caused the greatest modern symbol of communist Soviet hegemony to fall — the Berlin Wall. America, the USSR's greatest Cold War rival was not exactly gloating on the sidelines. Nevertheless, this was a humiliating blow to the hardline Russian communist elite — though the Russian people and the freed Soviet republics welcomed Gorbachev's reform agenda and subsequently President Boris Yeltsin's rapid economic reforms.

Rise of a despot

One who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall was a KGB apparatchik, an undercover spy in East Germany named Vladimir Putin. The aftermath was chaotic for Russia that lost 15 of its Soviets and 2 million square miles of territory, including the second biggest after Russia itself — Ukraine. This was seen as the century's greatest geopolitical disaster, ushering in political and economic chaos in part caused by unfamiliarity of capitalist concepts introduced after decades of socialism. This tectonic shift in the economic paradigm brought to the surface the shady part of capitalism — graft and corruption, pervading all levels of bureaucracy. Putin came at the right time during Russia's metamorphosis. From a KGB master spy, he entered politics, went up the political ladder in 1991 as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Putin only understood too well the private capitalist game and began to create his own network involving his own set of wealthy friends; assigning them lucrative government contracts, unauthorized use of city government coffers; collaborating with various crime organizations purportedly to regulate the gambling industry and accumulating funds overseas through money laundering. It is alleged that Putin's political umbilical cord was intertwined with his old KGB security network of displaced officers, corrupt politicians and even crime syndicates making him the darling of the oligarchy. This cabal propelled him to national politics in 1999 when the politically weak President Yeltsin appointed him prime minister of Russia. This gave Putin, a fierce Russian nationalist, a springboard to regain Russia's glory in the next two decades.

NATO and Warsaw Pact

A predominantly Christian Orthodox non-Islamic country, Ukraine was one of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union from its 1922 founding until its collapse in 1991; whereupon it reverted back to a status as an independent republic. It was the biggest and the most populous after Russia itself and the USSR's westernmost border.

Here the complications begin as it played footsies with the arch enemy of Russia — the US-led NATO. Established in 1949 after WW2 by 12 Western European nations, NATO expanded to 30 allies bolstered by erstwhile members of the USSR's similar alliance — the Warsaw Pact, a collective defense treaty established in May 1955 during the Cold War, composed of seven socialist republics of Central and Eastern Europe. Dominated by Russia, the Warsaw Pact was meant as a balance of power to NATO. But the bloc began to unravel upon the collapse of the USSR. East Germany withdrew upon its reunification with West Germany, followed by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as did the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Revolution of dignity

Ukraine's relationship with Russia has always been complicated even beyond 1922. In 2013, large-scale protests erupted, known as Euromaidan, against President Victor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a popularly supported political association and free trade agreement with the European Union. These protests turned violent and continued for months, resulting in Yanukovych's ouster, who then fled to his patron, Putin. In response, Putin considered the new interim Ukraine government illegal. The protest turned into a full-scale revolution giving Putin the alibi to annex Ukraine's southern peninsula of Crimea and recognize the Russian-sponsored separatists states of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the southeast collectively known as the Donbas region.

In 2016, the UN General Assembly condemned the annexation, "...the occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine — the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol."

America and its allies countered with wimpish economic sanctions, unwilling to go to war in Ukraine's behalf. NATO's castration set the stage for Putin's second act.

The road to war

For Putin, Ukraine was "...tied to Russia by bonds of faith, family, politics and a millennium of common history." (Simon Shuster, Road to War) Putin's closest Ukrainian friend, Victor Medvedchuk, the leading voice for Russian interests in Ukraine, controls the biggest political party opposition in parliament. Over the past year, that party has come under attack. Medvedchuk was charged with treason and placed under house arrest. Days after President Joe Biden's inauguration, President Zelenskyy took Medvedchuk's TV stations off the air, depriving Russia of its propaganda outlets in the country. His assets were seized, among which was the crown jewel of the Medvedchuk family, the pipeline that brings Russian oil to Europe. The US embassy in Kyiv and America applauded the move. Huge mistake!

Thus, on Feb. 24, 2022, Putin made his move.

Read 930 times Last modified on Wednesday, 09 March 2022 11:51
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