Shuddhashar stands in solidarity with the Ukrainians as we watch with horror the Russian invasion of their country. With this destructive and entirely unprovoked assault, Russia is aggressively seeking to destroy Ukrainian’s democratically elected government and the people’s own rights to independence and human dignity.
Further, such flagrant violation of the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation has put global peace and security at great peril. This illegitimate war waged by Putin will only delay humanity’s efforts to address issues that are far more important and urgent. The world has only begun to recover from the onslaught of a pandemic; there are mounting challenges on the climate front that need to be immediately addressed; and countless citizens around the world are struggling. Yet, we find ourselves to be powerless spectators of this man-made crisis as Putin runs roughshod over international laws that ban attacking sovereign states and human rights doctrines that forbid targeting civilians.
The situation that has unfolded in the past weeks was decades in the making. Yet, the world keeps pretending that it didn’t see it coming. The minor Western sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014 have only emboldened Putin. The war we are witnessing today has been raging on for eight years on the Eastern flanks of Ukraine; it has only escalated in recent days. For eight years, the world kept ignoring the fact that Russia had been chipping away at Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Germany decided that it was a good idea to collaborate with Russia on the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea natural gas pipeline project. Germany, with its rigid ideological opposition to nuclear technology despite current scientific knowledge about the safety and usefulness of atomic energy, opted to collaborate with a dictatorship instead of harnessing a sustainable energy source. Great Britain continued to allow the Russian oligarchs — Putin’s closest allies — to exploit its banking sector and housing market to launder their dirty money. Meanwhile, while former President Donald Trump keeps seeking inspiration from Putin in his mission to transform the United States into an oligarchy, President Biden finds himself dealing with a reluctant domestic audience and unpredictable allies who cannot maintain a united front even in during a serious situation such as this.
Had the sanctions currently being considered or implemented been instead imposed back in 2014, it might have been possible to deter Putin from the full-scale invasion we are witnessing today. Instead, after eight years, Putin is more dangerous and unpredictable than ever. He has denied Ukraine’s right to exist; he rejects the Ukrainian national identity. Putin’s actions threaten the sovereignty of the Baltic states and other former Soviet Republics. His recent rambling speeches indicate that he is increasingly getting paranoid and losing touch with reality. It is understandable for a country to be worried about the prospects of its neighbour joining the world’s most powerful military alliance. But there is no justification for trampling upon its sovereignty and for declaring its democratically elected government illegitimate.
The international community cannot allow Russia to go unpunished for this heinous act. We must realize that Russia’s actions could set a precedent for other authoritarian states, which could emulate Russia in their attempts to resolve international disputes. This situation bodes ill for Asian nations currently in territorial disputes with the authoritarian Chinese state over the South China sea. It particularly concerns Taiwan, which faces an existential threat from China. To impede Russia, sanctions should be targeted against the orchestrators of the attack, including Putin, who should find life difficult every time they interact with the outside world.
The West needs to address its double standards as well. It needs to ask itself why a military alliance formed during the height of the cold war is still relevant in today’s world? It needs to answer for its lack of outrage when its allies violate other nations’ territorial integrity. Consider how Israel is chipping away at Palestine’s territorial integrity, how it keeps occupying the Syrian territory of Golan Heights, and how the Saudi-led Alliance continues to bombard Yemen.
After the horrors humanity witnessed in the two world wars, in Cambodia, in Vietnam, in the Balcan region, and the recent horrors unfolding in Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, and Yemen, we deserve a world where military alliances are rendered obsolete. We need a world in which international disputes are no longer resolved through military means.