Russia’s state of mind over Ukraine


For those who are not aware of the history of Russia, it is probably difficult to understand what that country is doing on the border with Ukraine such that imminent war is feared.

Real or imagined, Russia seems to believe that its national security is facing a clear and present danger of encirclement by countries hostile to it.

Russia has, throughout its long history, believed that Europe was opposed to and determined to contain it. The Russians have also nurtured the view that Europeans regarded them as ethnically, culturally and technologically inferior and so they have struggled to catch up with Europe from the time of Peter the Great (1672-1725) and Catherine the Great (1739-1796). Neither have they forgotten the failed invasions of Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century and the incursion of European armed forces after the Leninist Revolution in 1917.

All this was a long time ago, but there are people alive who remember the devastation and loss of lives when the Germans invaded during World War II. That is why the Russian armies raced across Eastern Europe and got as far as Berlin before the Allies.

After World War II, Russia transformed into the Soviet Union (USSR) and had a vast buffer zone of Communist states between itself and Western Europe. This security zone allowed the Soviet Union the time to develop nuclear weapons, catching up to the US in 1949. These developments started the mutual fear of each other known as the Cold War.

Americans may not understand this state of mind because, apart from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, and the 9/11 terrorist attack, the US mainland has never been invaded.

Ukraine, after World War II, was absorbed into the Soviet Union and gained its independence in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union when it declared itself a neutral State. The Russians want to prevent Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union.

This is a real possibility because of NATO membership in the countries around Russia. Membership of NATO has been expanded since the implosion of the Soviet Union to include Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. These countries joined NATO to be protected from Russia. It is the same reason that Ukraine may want to join NATO.

It is important to note that the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s, which kept the Socialist Bloc divided during the Cold War — when China refused to accept the tutelage of the Soviet Union — appears to be receding. Since the Ukraine imbroglio there has been the beginning of a China-Russia rapprochement.

Of course, Ukraine is a big catch, and that could be playing in the minds of both sides. The second-largest country in Europe after Russia, Ukraine has significant natural resources, including iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulphur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber and an abundance of arable land.

Whatever the real motive, Russia feels encircled, and that makes it dangerous. The US and NATO might wish to consider signing a pact with Russia aim at guaranteeing the neutrality of Ukraine.

From Jamaica Observer