Russia and Ukraine

Russian game plans, if any, were left high and dry following the 2014 invasion of Ukraine. This was ensured by the international community’s reaction to this daring and remarkable piece of transnational piracy by the incumbent leadership of the Kremlin. As an analysis of this situation we must, therefore, refer in some detail to the summary of the reaction to evaluate the consequences. I have no doubt that had it not been for the compendium of reactions of the world’s other leading countries, the contemporary history of the world may well have followed a different course.
Let me also say at the outset that Putin’s political and military manoeuvres were, to say the least, questionable, and despite the fact that he has probably emerged as the World’s strongest man in the legal sense possessing more powers than any other individual, he has been rendered meaningless by historical precedents of this nature.
For the Americans this kind of behaviour is unacceptable, since it generates a self-propelling automation that they find it impossible to deal with. Moreover, it puts the US at a huge disadvantage. Since the exit of the former Soviet Union by the withdrawal of the Russians from international forums, US had been used to accomplishing everything by a policy of unilateralism. This has forced Washington to go back to a system based of collectivism once again which is evident from the actions of the US. They are now relying on other states as well, something proved beyond any shadow of doubt by the making of a collective war machinery based on the participation of well over thirty one regional countries for dealing with the sudden upsurge of the Islamic state—-but there too Washington is suffering from the after effects of this war fiasco that was ushered in by the then American President in 2002 in Iraq. It seems strange that the world’s single most military based entity has erred enormously by its mega actions. This is most significant since it affects the main Middle East locality, once thought to be exclusively of US concern.
With these words, a prelude to the ensuing discussion, we can proceed directly to some of the salient features of the Ukraine crisis.
While President Putin of Russia was responsible for this gross unlawful act of usurpation over a year ago, in the UN Security Council, in session for the seventh time, the Western powers had 13 votes in the 15 member Council. Throughout the Ukraine Crisis, the European union display of its unity is just of memorable proportions——it proved once again the dependence of Washington on the intellectual lead in all such matters of crucial nature on the lead provided by the heart of this Union, namely UK, France and Germany.
Russia vetoed a Western-backed resolution condemning the Crimea referendum at a UN Security Council emergency vote on Saturday April 14, but more interestingly China abstained, isolating Moscow further on the Ukraine crisis. Losing the Chinese support in this manner over this act of glaring misadventure by Moscow, shook the very basis of the current trend at the UN and elsewhere of the trend of international voting in important transnational events.
China often backed Russia in the Council, especially on Syria-related matters, and Western powers presented its abstention as the best possible outcome from the seventh UN emergency session since the crisis began. “Russia, isolated, alone and wrong, blocked the resolution’s passage,” US ambassador Samantha Power told the council. “This is a sad and remarkable moment in the contemporary history of this subject.”
Thus Russia became the first major power to be totally isolated at the UNSC.
There are a few more newsworthy matters that can be referred to. “Russia alone in refusing to affirm sovereignty of Ukraine,” tweeted US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, as Ukraine accused Russian forces of invading a South-Eastern region of the country that neighboured Crimea. Thanking the UN for its efforts, Kiev warned the world that the situation on the ground had suddenly turned from worse to awful.
A word may be said about the language used in this debate as well. The Security Council session, which lasted more than an hour, degenerated into the usual recriminations between Western powers and Ukraine stacked up in one corner, and Russia in the other. China also echoed her usual stance in this meeting when its Ambassador explained the reason for its lack of a positive vote by saying that she defended Crimea’s referendum as necessary to fill the “legal vacuum” that arose “as a result of an unconstitutional coup d’etat in Ukraine.” He later singled out Ukraine for “going beyond” permissible rhetoric, France for failing to mention alleged killings in Russian-speaking Ukraine and the United States for its “PR.”
US diplomatic movement against Russia, however, has continued. The BBC reported last March that the EU sanctions against 21 officials were to remain in effect it. The US said it had targeted seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers and four Crimea-based separatist leaders with financial sanctions for undermining “democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine”. Officials included Sergei Aksyonov, the acting leader of Crimea; Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian Deputy Prime Minister, and Valentina Matviyenko, Head of the Upper House of the Russian parliament. The EU sanctions in 2014 came hours after Crimea’s parliament declared the region an independent state, following the controversial referendum which officials say overwhelmingly backed leaving Ukraine.
The government in Kiev has said it does not recognize the results. Russia had earlier proposed the formation of an international “contact group” to mediate the crisis and seek changes in the constitution that would require Ukraine to uphold military and political neutrality. So in a nutshell this is the present position in Ukraine, and it shows the establishment of a status quo which remains unrecognized by the powers that have the ability to physically control the outcome of the events over there.
The overall picture therefore is bothersome for the relevant powers, to say the least, however, things are far from satisfactory for even other nations who are not directly involved. The Islamist coalition that includes Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusrat Front has taken over one of the last government strongholds in Western Idlib province, activists say.
So in effect what does this signify? In its simplest interpretation what this means is that no one really knows for sure how things will eventually turn out there in the contemporary international relations, the plight of some nations is manifest, whereas some have had the traditions of mega-sovereignty thrust upon them by circumstances well beyond their own control.

The writer is barrister at law (US and UK), senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and professor at Harvard University.

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