Ambassador Alam Brohi talks about a curious factor
Proxy War – Casually dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans that enhance his boyish looks, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has pursued the NATO leaders from Bucharest to Vilnius for his beleaguered country’s membership of the military alliance. The success has so far eluded him. He is not daunted by his failed attempts. Seemingly, the European allies including Washington DC are indisposed towards his desperate pursuit, understandably to not incite the Russian monstrosity. The European leaders, buoyed by the collapse of the Soviet Umpire, wanted to encircle the white bear within its geographical bounds. But it has roared back.
The giant neighbour, provoked by the Eastward expansion of EU and NATO, is determined to reverse modern history to reclaim Ukrainian territory. Russia has been chronically an expansionist power threatening the security of the European continent. Dependent on its exports to the European States, it has always lacked the economic capacity to sustain its status as the superpower of the Eurasian region. Historically, the Nordic and Baltic States have always taken the brunt of Russian expansionism. The collapse of the Soviet Union afforded the Baltic States to come out of the ironclad possession of battered Russia.
The fear of encirclement combined with its innate desire for regional power status prompted the Russian attack on Ukraine. The muted reaction of the EU to the annexation of Crimea worked as an encouragement to Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, he miscalculated the resistance of the Ukrainian leadership and the reaction of the US-led Western world this time around. All strategic experts expected a lightning victory for Russia. The Comedian-turned-politician President Zelenskyy proved all strategic calculations wrong. He turned his people into a brave and resilient nation fighting the invaders tooth and nail. The war, to the chagrin of the Russian leaders, has instead turned into a drawn-out war of attrition, and ostensibly the NATO’s proxy war against Russia.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine cannot be condoned. The inviolability of frontiers and the sovereignty of a country are guaranteed by international laws and conventions as followed by the UN since World War II notwithstanding the provocative circumstances. Having said this, the US-led Western countries don’t seem keen to devise a way forward to bring this war to an end. They seem interested in bleeding and weakening Russia strategically and economically supplying more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine and tightening economic and financial sanctions on it. They want Ukraine to become the Waterloo of Russia. Conversely, the Russian leadership would carry the war to some logical conclusion or at least to a face-saving point. While aiming to bring the Kremlin to its knees, the Western world would get Ukraine destroyed supplying all sorts of weapons to prolong the war without any NATO boots on the ground. The Ukrainians are plainly left with two options – either keep on fighting or accept the tutelage of Russia. They will fight. The Russians have failed to break their will.
The Vilnius Summit has come out with the Israel model aid to Ukraine. Israel has a renewable ten-year aid package of financial assistance from the US which comes about some $3.5billion a year. The cumulative US economic, financial and military aid to the Jewish State from 1946 to February 2023 is estimated at US$270bn. The Israel model will ensure continuous political, diplomatic, economic, financial and military aid to Ukraine. Currently, Ukraine is the highest recipient of Western economic and financial aid. This economic aid would continue even after the cessation of the war to ensure the security and reconstruction of a country like Israel. Apparently, this seems the least bad option if the immediate membership of NATO like that of Finland is not forthcoming.
However, there is a stark difference between the situations surrounding Israel and Ukraine. Israel is a nuclear state with no neighbour having this capability. This makes conventional attacks on Israel almost impossible. The US has been deterring Iran and Saudi Arabia from acquiring nuclear technology. The regional states posing some security threat to Israel have already been reduced to the pale shadow of their former economic and strategic clout. Israel has already emerged as a formidable regional power with the US coaxing the regional monarchies to recognise it. The Ukraine is not nuclear while its colossus neighbour has a large nuclear stockpile and would not be averse to use them if the war takes an adverse turn. Ukraine’s security lies in its membership in the NATO alliance. The economic and financial aid without the strategic cover of NATO would not guarantee the security of the beleaguered country.
Secondly, Ukraine is located in Europe enjoying the security cover of NATO under clause 5, and thereby feeling secure under the extended US nuclear deterrence. This is particularly so about the non-nuclear European States. The Expansion of NATO to Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Finland was to alleviate the security apprehensions of these countries and deter them from acquiring nuclear capability. The US has bilateral Security arrangements with Israel and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and with Japan and other countries in East Asia. In the presence of the NATO alliance in Europe, it would be odd for Washington DC to agree to a bilateral security arrangement with Ukraine. Even the European allies would not approve of such an arrangement.
Like Sweden, Ukraine has to wait for NATO membership. Some European leaders have shown reservations over the membership of Ukraine. Obviously, the ‘Unanimity Clause’ in the NATO charter is the stumbling block. The European leaders prefer pouring weapons and money into Kyiv instead of NATO membership with a view to not inciting the Russian monstrosity. There is also no unanimity over the Swedish membership. Turkey is reported to have opposed Sweden’s application. There is no immediate chance of any change in the NATO charter. The Ukrainians have to put up with the Israel model of economic and financial aid while pursuing their objective of NATO security coverage. They are caught in an intractable situation. The Weekender