Reflections

Of Russia’s old territories and new ones. 

Opinion piece by Lavani Khosa
On that fateful day of 26th of December 1991 Soviet Union dissolved to what became 15 independent states that govern and run themselves. That would be easy on paper but like an old lover Russia is haunting and stalking its former lovers.
Out of the divorce settlement, Russia became a 17 million square meter land with a population of 140 million, and everyone walked away with less land per square meter per person. The free market system was introduced and replaced the socialist system.
Georgia, Chechnya, Crimea and now Ukraine have been pursued and courted, others relented, others opted for the old ways of dealing with an angry and paranoid ex-lover, take the fight to the street and let the world into your personal life. For Ukraine it got public support, sympathy and has also been receiving assistance with armaments and so o  from the West.
The current situation between Russia and Ukraine exemplifies the above in its true form and practices, before we dig in, let’s go back and check others who did the same and came out disappointed and won some of their battles with old enemies and current lovers.
United States of America joined World War 2 much later. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, which was a harbour in Honolulu, Hawaii. Around this time Hawaii was not part of the United States, the process was still 18 years away.
Though the distance between Hawaii and USA was 3219 kilometres, the USA thought that was an attack on them. On August 6, 1945, they dropped an atomic bomb at Hiroshima which instantly killed 80 000 Japanese.
Today Japan boasts 3rd biggest economy in the world with 125 million population, and they owe the success mainly to the USA, with guaranteed investments, trade deals, and believe in US protection against China, Japanese are the whites of Asia.
Back to Russia, someone alluded, if you look at Russia through the lenses of USA in the 1990’s you get the wrong picture, but look at Russia through USA in the 1890s, then you will have the perfect picture of what the world is dealing with. This was the USA during the railroad revolution, Wall Street was gaining its own traction, and capitalism was its early childhood development.
Soviet Union allowed Capitalism that gave birth to Oligarchs, who through political connections went and bought old state-owned industries and made a killing out of them. Along the way they decided to push Vladimir Putin to be its president in 2000.
Putin once said the collapse of the Soviet Union was biggest geo-political disaster of the 20th century, and he believes majority of the countries that used to belong to the Soviet Union were not supposed to leave in the first place, he has been cutting Ukraine like butter under the hot knife. Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk already belong to Russia.
Putin also feels like Ukrainians are originally Russians, and they should belong to the motherland. And he will do anything to get it done. He has nuclear heads to back himself and the world and particularly the US knows it.
UN, EU, NATO are doing everything to avoid the war by supporting Ukraine through food, war equipment, moral support and financial support.
China in line with its foreign policy decided to be neutral understandably owing to the fact that it is part of Brics. South Africa as well decided not to vote in the UN General Assembly, still do business with Russia even after the world said Russia is a lousy lover and must face sanctions.
This put South Africa in a difficult position, they also didn’t vote when the UN General Assembly sat in New York. All the above, meant a lot of things, sanctions against Russia, oil price rising, as Russia provides around 30% of it to the world along with natural gases.
At macro level this put SA petrol prices above the roof, and at R21,95 at the current prices which is already too high, economists, political observers, and commentators predict it might reach R40,00 per litre in the not so distant future. At micro level, South Africa is dealing with a lot of challenges, and this will add more to its issues and problems beyond its control.
South Africans like other developing countries are dealing with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine with a cautious approach, for now it’s working but in the long term it might backfire, Western countries have taken a stand and feel like Russia is committing human rights violations, human slaughter, and Putin deserves to be in the International Criminal Court in Brussels, Belgium.
Was Putin justified to attack Ukraine, maybe, maybe not. But what happened in 2014 with Crimea might have given him more confidence and bravado to pursue the most difficult and challenging task, NATO and everyone slept when Russian soldiers treated Crimea like a separatist unwanted child. Russia is currently out of swift which controls bank transactions, most businesses and Russians are under sanctions, the question is how long will Russia be able to stomach all these economic sanctions?
As the war continues, Ukraine is holding on, NATO is pushing for dialogue to end the war. And they are 3 options that might come out of it. Ukraine can be divided into 2 with Donetsk, Luhansk, Odessa, and Crimea belonging to the east and Russian controlled, or whole Ukraine neutralised like Switzerland and Austria did like before to neutralise France and Germany respectively. This will entail that they play as buffer between 2 major superpowers. Last option Russian’s protests may topple Putin like Arabs Springs which toppled Mubarak, Gaddafi, and other Middle East countries leaders.
Does Russia want to do to Ukraine what USA did to Japan, South Korea, Germany, and others? Where they decide the course of history by forcing everyone to apply capitalism and succeed, or is Ukraine another Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan in waiting?
Like Dickens said in the Tales of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. As we wait.
Edited by Masingita Mkhawana. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and not those of the Flair Magazine ZA and its publisher.
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