Friday, 20 May, 2022

Only Putin Can End This War

A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

Only Putin Can End This War
A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

Though President Putin was denying the possibility of attacks on Ukraine for the last few months, but in a television address on 24 February 2022, he declared that Russia could not feel ‘safe, develop and exist’ because of constant threat from Ukraine. Soon after, Russian warplanes started bombing on major cities and establishments as well as attacking airports and military headquarters. Changing his earlier tone, Putin has also said that his goal is to protect the people subjected to bullying and genocide, and ‘demilitarisation and de-Nazification’ of Ukraine.

It is normal if someone raises the question about the authority of President Putin’s responsibility of ‘demilitarisation and de-Nazification’ or protecting people from genocide in Ukraine, even if there is any. There are other countries, Ukraine is there, but nobody has yet complained as such. Russia (a permanent member) is capable enough to raise this issue, if it exists at all, at the United Nations. How Putin’s Russia can interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine, a sovereign state that was separated from the USSR more than thirty years back? Was there any threat from Ukraine that made Russia to attack Ukraine? Or, was it only an assumption of Putin that made him so crazy to invade Ukraine? It seems the common people of Russia will not agree with Putin’s aggression policy.

This is not the first time Russian force has entered into Ukraine’s territory. When the pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had to flee the country in February 2014, Russian troops crossed into Ukraine and took over the control of Crimea within a month. The crisis heightened ethnic divisions, and two months later, pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine. Violence became a regular practice in that area between Russia-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military. In view of the ongoing political chaos, in February 2015, France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine attempted to broker a cessation in violence through the Minsk Accords. But, due to the lack of both party’s sincerity, the said agreement failed to produce any such significant outcomes.

On the contrary, in April 2016, NATO announced to deploy four battalions in Eastern Europe, who would rotate through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to deter possible Russian aggression elsewhere in Europe, particularly in the Baltics. Furthermore, two US Army tank brigades were deployed to Poland in September 2017 for strengthening the NATO force. Even, in October 2018, Ukraine joined the US and seven other NATO countries in a series of large-scale air exercises in western Ukraine. There is no doubt, Ukraine, being a sovereign state, has full freedom to decide his foreign policy equations. Russia or any other countries cannot interfere. But assuming Ukraine’s induction in NATO or going for any special agreement with EU to be a possible threat for Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry, in December 2021, issued a set of demands that included a ban on Ukraine entering the NATO and reduction of NATO’s troops in the Eastern Europe. However, those demands were rejected by the US and other NATO allies. Furthermore, Russia was warned of retaliation if Ukraine is invaded, including economic sanctions.

Russian force has already invaded a number of cities and establishments and the invasion would continue further, might be until the whole country comes under the control of Russian force. As planned by Putin, Russian force might complete their invasion of Ukraine within a week or two. Though there are talks (including at the international level) for a ceasefire, but only Putin can say how successful these efforts would be to persuade him to agree.

Ukraine’s current population is 43.3 million. According to the UNHCR, by the 1st week of March, over 1.7 million people have fled the country to neighbouring countries Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and even Russia. Besides, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced within Ukraine. The number of casualties has crossed a few thousands. The future course of the war would only define the scale of Russian atrocities and destruction in Ukraine.

Considering the situation of the crisis, including the role of the USA and other NATO members, we may think of the following probable scenarios: (1) If Ukraine ensures that it will not join NATO, then that declaration might speed-up the ongoing talks between Russia and Ukraine for a common agreeable solution, including decision on ceasefire. (2) Russia will set-up a pro-Russian government (even a military government) and until such a government is installed, Russian military will not vacate Ukraine. (3) It would be a great mistake, if Putin continues the war. In that case, the war might turn into different forms with outside supports, including arms and ammunition. The Ukrainians, who know their country well, might follow smaller group attacks on Russian forces, like guerilla warfare (we had in 1971) and the fight will continue till the country is liberated from Russian occupation. Therefore, President Putin has to rethink how long Russian force will stay in Ukraine. (4) Putin might, after taking control of the whole Ukraine, split the country, as Donetsk and Luhansk. (5) If President Putin has any intention in his mind to attack other neighbouring countries, particularly any NATO member, the situation will certainly turn into a world-wide catastrophe. (6) Any UN initiative would be workable, if that is supported by majority members, including five permanent members. The EU has been supporting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council following the attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by Russian force. Anyway, we should not forget that Russia, the invader, is a permanent member of the UNSC. And considering that reality, the UN might not be able to take any steps against Russia. (7) Though there is least possibility of using of any nuclear weapons, but if that happens, one can imagine the severity and consequences the world people will have to face.

We observe a very positive development in Russia recently. Russia's second-largest oil firm, LUKOIL, has called for an end to the conflict in Ukraine. Its Board of Directors, expressing its deepest concern about the tragic events in Ukraine, has called for immediate termination of the armed conflict. LUKOIL, also expressing its sincere sympathy for all victims of the tragedy, has strongly supported a lasting ceasefire and a settlement of the problems through negotiations and diplomatic ways. We believe, understanding the severity of the crisis, the civil society of Russia, particularly the peace-loving people, would pressurise their government to stop Putin’s war-game as destruction and killings never bring peace and development for a country. There remains also the possibility of anti-war demonstrations on the streets across Russia as well as Ukraine.

However, if Russian force is seen returning back immediately, it might be either the entire invasion was a kind of showing the Ukrainian government that ‘listen to Russia, otherwise you have to face such consequences and none can protect you’, or as a result of the diplomatic negotiations.  

When the whole world is going through the Covid-19 pandemic and continuously fighting to save the people from its devastation for the last two years, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has certainly added further tension. Nobody likes to see people sufferings anymore. The people of Bangladesh believe in peace and non-interference in any country’s internal affairs. We sincerely expect that a peaceful resolution of this conflict will come out soon. We also hope that President Putin will understand the value of human lives as well as importance of peace and will thus stop his war-game. Please, let the people of both Russia and Ukraine live together as best neighbours, and if there are problems solve those through talks and discussion with open mind and friendly intention for a better future of the two peoples.


The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary