Having followed intensely the Europe-NATO-Ukraine-Russia security crisis for several weeks, it was sad, but not surprising, that Russia a few days ago sent troops—for peacekeeping—to Eastern Ukraine to take control over the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk provinces with 2.3 and 1.5 million people, respectively, with sizeable numbers of pro-Russian people, many with Russian as their mother-tongue. Although Ukraine and the West, certainly the US, see this as an invasion, the separatists have already received assistance from Russia, including in personnel, during the several years’ war-like conflict. Thus, it is an extension and deepening of what already was there. The Minsk Agreements that were signed by Ukraine, Russia and the separatists, were meant to allow Ukraine to pass rules and laws for greater autonomy for the Ukrainian provinces, in understanding with Russia. Alas, little happened in that direction. The Ukraine state, with poor democratic traditions and lack of will to help Eastern Ukraine, must take part of the blame for today’s situation.

Many observers would say that the West, with the US and NATO in the front seat, and also with the EU and other European countries, have rather fuelled a negative development than being helpful in de-escalating it and finding ways for constructive dialogue. NATO seems to have given Russia unrealistic demands and has not tried to see issues from a Russian perspective, considering that the Ukraine region has at least since the time of the Soviet Union been a part of the Russian interest sphere and culture. One wonders why the issue of Ukraine, saying it wants the right to apply for NATO membership, has been placed so categorically on the agenda, even when such a possibility would be many years away, if at all realised. One wonders, too, what hidden agendas the West has in the sad conflict.

Russia’s interests are easier to see, even without agreeing with them. First, we should realise that Russia wants Crimea to stay a part of Russia, especially considering its nuclear and other military bases there, hence wanting NATO at an arm’s length. The West probably doesn’t really believe that Crimea will be returned to Ukraine, but they keep demanding it, using sanctions to underline it; even Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has recently said he doesn’t see it ever happen. I would suggest that Russia today regrets the way Ukraine was separated from the Soviet Union in 1990, indeed made into a single state. The three Baltic States were also separated after the fall of the Soviet Union, but they are small, with a total of about six million people, and are not perceived as a threat. Besides, they are now NATO and EU members. Their history and culture are more Finnish and Scandinavian than Russian, yet, also with Russian settlers.

Belarus is a former Soviet Union ‘left-over’ country whose geo-political place is unclear—as long as the Russia-Europe divide exists. It is not unlikely that Belarus, with about 10 million people, becomes annexed by Russia, as a country or republic; it is less likely that Russia lets it become ‘another Ukraine’. Belarus, sometimes called the ‘last dictatorship in Europe’, has stayed loyal to Russia, but that may not last after the president, still at the helm since 1992, Alexander Lukashenko. Again, let us remember that Ukraine is a big country with a population around one-third of Russia’s own population.

I have criticised NATO and the West, and also Ukraine, yet, Ukraine is the country suffering most now. The West criticises Russia, and they stated a few days ago that it was Russia alone that should be blamed for the current crisis, which may escalate. The NATO secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was certainly wrong when he said that, having no self-insight, and he also closed most, if not all, avenues for dialogues and talks with Russia. I believe the US understands better some of the key aspects of the conflict, although not quite indicating it. The US has the essential Monroe Doctrine (from 1823 and updated in 1883 and 1933), de facto allowing it to police the whole of Latin America. The Monroe Doctrine is still active, restricting powers that are not American-friendly from establishing themselves at USA’s borders. A reference can be made to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when Russia was denied close cooperation with Cuba 90 miles from the US, and the world was at the brink of a nuclear war.

If we look at NATO and defence in broader terms, we must also admit that NATO could not do much in fighting the corona pandemic, or having made us prepared for such an eventuality, which should also have been part of the mandate for an organisation meant to keep people safe. NATO’s enormous and growing budget is a shame on the alliance and all its members and partners. In our time and age, we must think differently about security and international coexistence. More than that, security also has to do with climate change, a green future, migration, development in the world’s poorest countries, nuclear disarmament, creation of a world with more equal collaboration, including minorities, and more. NATO’s work should have little to do with F35 fighter jets and the development of more and more cruel weaponry to murder, maim, and destroy manmade and natural resources. Alas, the largest NATO member’s economy, the US, thrives and survives because of the military industry. That even destroys the soul of the people of that land and all of us. And Russia, it should be included in a dialogue with more democratic countries, and it should be assisted to move faster on the route to democracy. Our children and grandchildren will blame us for having been warmongers and pursuing the wrong security agendas for more than two generations, yes, in particular NATO and the West, but also Russia. Can we turn around when there is still time?