Augustine C. OhanweTuesday, April 15, 2014




hen writing about conflict situations, emotion can easily overpower reason. Under such state of mind, the brain will be quick to pass a verdict that will later be disowned when the actual centrifugal and centripetal political variables that shaped the conflict introduce themselves. E.O.Eke’s political dissection of the Ukrainian situation on the above subject matter paid extraordinary attention to primordial sociological ingredients revolving around linguistic and ethnic cleavage. He thereafter used them to construct a legal query on Russia’s action in Ukraine, and exported his argument to Nigeria and Africa even though the political configuration that generated the events in Ukraine differ markedly from those in Africa. In doing so doing, he refused to capture the geopolitical factors bending the wind and riding the crest of realist tidal wave.

He however made an important point when he acknowledged Russia’s security concerns. In his own words, ‘….Crimea is very close to Russia and of strategic important to its black sea fleet. Therefore the anxiety of Russia over a pro-Western Ukrainian government is understandable.’ He got it right. Security of a state is viewed as vital in any country’s constitution and in the conduct of foreign policy. Only a tree can remain passive when its life or existence comes under threat, but not so with animals and human beings. A nation can go to war when its survival as a sovereign state is at stake. Regrettably, along the line, Mr. Eke unwittingly refused to strengthen that vital point but preferred to redefine the security as a back burner issue, and thereafter entered into the province of international law, using it and other sociological factors to produce a non sequitur.

He states, ‘Besides security concerns the development n Ukraine …… raises serious question about the validity of international agreement, sovereignty, due process and nationality.’ Like I stated earlier, we are dealing with issue involving geopolitics and Real politics not only in Ukraine but the entire Balkan. When I assert that geopolitics is the main driving force in Ukraine, I would like to disassociate myself from the type of geopolitics expressed in Social Darwinism. I would also distance myself from Hitler and his disciples’ concept of geopolitics, a term they transformed into political metaphysics to be used as an ideological weapon in the service of national aspiration of Germany. I am using the term in the contemporary political understanding to sell the idea on how geographic space, Strategic factors, power and national interest stand behind international politics between Russia and the United States.

It is worthy of note that geopolitical warfare, when executed by a Realist can be dangerous because he does not bow or respect international norms or laws on sovereignty, particularly in a grave situation when national interests are at stake. It’s unfortunate but real. That’s what we are experiencing in Ukraine. Politics is not a morality play. E.O. Eke’s expression of shock concerning the ongoing Ukrainian imbroglio makes him look like a fresh tenant in the field of realist political permutation. When you play with harmful insects, you must learn their rules; otherwise their behavior will surprise you.

The US and its NATO allies might not endorse Russia’s military foray into Ukraine. But it seems to me that in private, they will not fail to offer Russia their horrified admiration for its swift move and surgical operation in Ukraine with no recorded casualty and fatality despite the fact that many Ukrainian battalions were on ground in Crimea. I toe this line of analysis because history has informed us that Russian tanks are untamed. Its tanks activities in Bulgaria in 1956 and Georgia in 2008 leave one with messy and scary picture. In Ukraine the picture is different.

Russia and the US are playing political chess in Ukraine, and we all know that when two elephant are battling, it is the grass that suffers. History has also shown us that whenever a major power moves a piece on the chessboard, its enemies would interpret such move and respond according to threat perceived. For instance, when Hitler and his Nazi party composed their national anthem, with the words, ‘Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles’ (German, German above all nations), an anthem that was based on the classical music composed by Haydn, Britain was alarmed. Winston Churchill knew immediately that Hitler has a dangerous design up in his sleeves. In response to it Britain sang, ‘God Save the King’, after which it got prepared for Hitler’s next move. Such type of action and reaction are happening in Ukraine between the US and Russia.

After Stalin had invaded Berlin, its next item on the agenda was to conquer and bring the entire Eastern Europe under its domination. It was a frightening chess move in which the United States responded quickly by offering Marshall Plan coupled with free and generous financial assistance for the reconstruction of war-torn Europe. The Soviets responded with Zhdanov Doctrine. The Doctrine upheld that the US Marshall Plan was bait – that the US was using the aid to perpetuate global domination via American imperialism. Russia, according to the Doctrine was poised to relegate fascism and imperialism to the dust bin of history, while giving democracy its right place. Chess game and responses are part and parcel of international politics. It is pertinent to mention that without the United States ingratiating with the political establishments in Ukraine, dancing tango and engaging in political smooching with them, the event in Crimea could not have occurred.

What is transpiring in Ukraine is not surprising, but what may be shocking, as Mr. Eke has expressed, is the Realist method of operation, a modus operandi which does not play by the rules particularly, concerning the sanctity of sovereignty. Although viewed as awful, such action did not start and will not end with Ukraine. I will buttress my point by listing some historical events when certain powers had circumvented the international law governing sovereignty in pursuit of their national interest.

Art 2(4) of the United Nations Charter asks all UN members to ‘refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’. It is because of the issue of territorial inviolability that’s many commentators on Ukrainian situation are alarmed and had questioned the rationale behind Russia’s action in Crimea.

In 1956, President Nasser of Egypt blockaded the Suez Canal, a vital sea lane for Western nations. The action was unacceptable to foreign powers. France and Britain mounted an Anglo-French invasion of the Suez on the basis of protecting their citizens deemed trapped in Egypt. They defended their action before the emergency meeting of the General Assembly, claiming that they did not infringe the sovereignty of Egypt but were there to protect their nationals.

After the demise of Patrice of Lumumba, Congo became a veritable vortex of hell. Belgium sent troops to Congo to protect her national and other Europeans. In this action, one can deduce how racial sympathy took ascendancy over the inviolability of Congo’s sovereignty. Like Britain and France in the Suez issue, Belgium argued that its action had no political underpinning and should not be misconstrued for aggression.

The United States used the same argument in its military intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965, and in 1975, the US combined aerial attack with the launching of 200 Marines to secure American merchant vessel, Mayaguez and its crews from detention by the Cambodian authorities in the Cambodian territorial water.

An Air France aircraft left Tel Aviv en route to Paris. Its passengers were mostly Israelis. Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine high jacked the plane and forced it to land at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. When they threatened to kill the Israeli passengers if their prisoners demand was not met, Israel did not procrastinate on how to respond. Sovereignty of the Ugandan space was out of equation. They knew that the slightest delay in securing their nationals will result in their citizens being reduced to mince meat in the hands of their captors. On July 4, 1976, Israel landed paratrooper s to rescue crews and passengers of the high jacked plane.

Did not Britain, under Prime Minister Thatcher go to war with Argentina over English speakers resident in the geographical space of an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean? The war was over the protection of Islas Malvinas/Falkland and its inhabitants.

When Nigerian settlers in Equatorial Guinea came under constant harassment and violent attacks during the reign of Macias Nguema, Nigeria did put diplomatic pressures to compel the policy makers of that country to reverse their action. When diplomacy failed, President Babangida sent warships and two aircrafts to Equatorial Guinea’s territorial waters and air space to protect Nigerians in that country.

Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) did the same in Liberia. When Charles Taylor of Liberia engaged in systematic persecution of ECOWAS citizens resident in Liberia whose countries formed the ECOWAS force. Naval craft from Nigeria with personnel from there as well as from Ghana Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo assembled in Sierra Leone to enter the territorial water of Liberia in order to protect nationals from ECOWAS member states.

Self defense, as enshrined in Art 51 of the UN Charter seems to enjoy ever expanding definition. It is not limited to defending one’s citizen resident in one’s sovereignty from external attack as many might think. Its broad definition includes the defense of one’s nationals resident in another sovereign state too, when they come under persecution or violent attack. And when diplomatic pressure on the persecutors to reverse their policy fails, the nation whose citizens are being persecuted deserves the right to invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter of self defense. This becomes imperative because nationals of a state are the most important of its constitutive element and national of one state who are within a territory under the jurisdiction of another state are entitled to treatments which tally with the standard as stipulated by international law

The legal protection which sovereignty enjoys is designed to protect it from ‘legally unwarranted acts’. The fact that sovereignty is inviolable does not bestow it with any immunity from ‘legitimate acts of violence’. Sovereignty should not therefore be mistaken for a mask behind which massive violation of human right is perpetrated with impunity.

How do Articles 2(4) and 5 of the UN Charter relate to the Ukrainian scenario? The situation in Ukraine which led to Russian military intervention is a complex one. First, Ukraine is geographically situated in Russia’s backyard and events brewing there could have domino effect on Russia. Second, Russia’s Black Fleets are in Crimea, and are vital to Moscow’s security. Third, there exist over 22 million Russia speakers in Ukraine. After the exit of President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia alleged that the new interim government in Ukraine turned an artificial blind eye on gangs of organized radical who meted out violent attacks to the Russia speakers in Ukraine. This development led them to seek protection from Moscow. Even though these Russians are within the sovereign state of Ukraine, their human right violation would evoke ethnic sympathy. Crimea is undeniably pro-Russia, and would not far better in a pro-West Ukraine. Finally, Ukraine is in a political romance with the US, and that sort of relationship could metamorphose to Ukraine being welcomed to the family of NATO, meaning that NATO could, when its admission is completed, station nuclear arsenal in Ukraine. Again Ukraine’s membership into NATO will shift the strategic balance in Europe. It will sound a dead gong of the residual hope of Slav Union composed of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In sum, the vortex of Russian calculation rests on the premise that a pro-West Ukraine will not auger well for the security of Russia. The above could be defined as a virtual umbrella beneath which resides a myriad threatening factor that frighten Russia and compel it to trample upon international norms for its survival.

Putin feels it falls under his administrative purview to defuse such designs for Russia’s survival, contrary to Mr. Eke’s assertion that he did it to ‘secure hold on power ….’. In analyzing Putin’s intervention in this way, Mr. Eke is implicitly stating that Putin substituted Russia’s institutional decision making with personal fiat. But that’s not the case. He was empowered by the Russian parliament to use force to protect Russia’s national interest. He acted in order to put a wedge to what he perceived as NATO’s expansionist propensity near its territory. Putin feels that Russia is being encircled. In 2008, Georgia was on the agenda for admission into NATO but eleven European states including France and Germany opposed its entry. Had Georgia been admitted, followed by Ukraine, Russia will be entirely encircled and might go the way of Cartage in the event of Third World War or war between Russia and Ukraine, a NATO member.

Literarily, Russia is writing a new constitution in the post-Soviet space. Its activities will not be limited to Ukraine. Apart from Ukraine, another hot and contentious spot Russia is likely to project its power and inject element of realism is in the Arctic region. Its action in this region will be based on geopolitical calculation. Besides the Arctic being rich in oil and gas deposits, Russia will, for security reason, curtail the influence of NATO members such as Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States from the region. Russia bestrides the Arctic like the Colossus. And President Putin has ordered his military to beef up military presence in that region as a red flag to the nations who claim jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic.

Russian students had once, during their interaction with President Putin, asked him to cooperate with other states to make the Arctic Region a free zone in order to protect the environment. Putin was alleged to have turned down the proposal. Putin informed the gathered students that his policy in that region is dictated by the presence of the Americans there. He added that the presence of the US missile carrying submarine in the Arctic is a threat to Russia’s security. Putin views the Arctic as vital for Russia’s economy and security. He told Russian students that ‘Experts know quite well that it takes US missiles 15-16 minutes to reach Moscow from the Barents Sea’. Barents Sea is a part of the Arctic that is close to Moscow. In September last year, a Russian navy squadron is said have accompanied a nuclear-powered cruiser when it paid a visit to the archipelago because of its vital strategic importance to the Arctic shipping lane.

To assert itself as the landlord and ward off other countries from the Arctic, Russia, in 2007 staked a symbolic ownership of the region by lowering a canister with Russian flag attached to it on the ocean floor from a submarine stationed at the North Pole. When members of the Greenpeace, thirty in number, staged a protest at a Russian oil platform in the Arctic, Russian security personnel arrested them. They were later released on bail after spending two months in a Russian jail. Tension is accumulating in the Arctic region, and when it explodes, will definitely dwarf what is going on Ukraine.