Ukraine may be far away but effects of war with Russia are all around us

Oleg Kotenko, the Commissioner for Issues of Missing Persons under Special Circumstances uses his smartphone to film the unidentified graves of civilians and Ukrainian soldiers in the recently retaken area of Izium, Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. [AP Photo]

Russia has made good its threat and annexed some parts of Ukraine.

It’s an echo from the past when conquering new territories was normal and a road to heroism.

The regions include Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. They neighbour the Black Sea and the strategic waterway into the Mediterranean Sea. That could make Ukraine landlocked.

Annexing new land could be a great consolation for Russia after failing to get into Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and installing a new regime - what seems to have been the intention of the invasion.

My hunch tells me Russia will declare the end of the special operation (not war in Russia) after this annexation. Lawyers can explain to us the difference between annexation and land grab.

The crowd at Kremlin as the annexation was being signed gave away another reason for invasion, to shore up political support. Wars have traditionally made leaders popular to win polls. Remember Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands war?

But they can also backfire, such as the US war in Vietnam and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The annexation will make it hard for Ukraine to keep fighting in ‘Russia’. It could also help Russia mobilise soldiers to defend the ‘prize’. The location of new land, it’s industrialisation and adjacent farmlands can be sold as a trophy to citizens of Russia. Remember colonialism and the large plantations?

Declaring an end to the operation will end the war under Putin’s terms. It could be sold as a defeat of the West. Russia could argue they not only stopped the West from expanding east through NATO, but actually expanded Russia westwards. Russians at home will celebrate the addition of new territories to their motherland. That rhymes with Russian history and national psyche. Russia expanded by taking over new territories over the years. They include the Arctic, Georgia, Siberia, Baltic states and parts of the Ottoman empire.

Expansionist

There is more evidence of Russian expansion; the 70 years of communism. The Soviet Union was made up of several republics, diverse in religions, creeds and cultures. They must have been forged together by force. That’s why they won their independence after the end of the Cold War.

We argued repeatedly that Russia has never come to terms with the end of the Soviet Union, referred to by Ronald Reagan as “the evil empire”. And it seems we never learn from history, Soviet Union was a marriage of convenience. Why would the new ‘empire’ incorporating Ukraine work?

The same applies to marriages where partners marry out of convenience such as public image, and not because their hearts are overflowing with love.

Annexing more land from Ukraine follows annexation of Crimea in 2014. The argument given for taking over new regions is that they are settled by Russian speakers. That is a reason to worry, there are many other countries with significant populations of Russian speakers. Will they be the next victims?

Ukraine may be far away, but what’s happening there reverberates across borders. Will other countries be tempted to grab land with pretext that they have kin  is in the neighbouring countries?

The economic fallout is what has affected us most. And it seems the worst is yet to come. The interruption of gas supplies to Europe could raise the price of oil and gas as winter approaches. Who is mysteriously cutting off gas supplies to Europe? Is that meant to divert the attention from the annexation?

From far, Russia is controlling our lives, our economies and even the way we vote. Noted how fuel prices became an issue in our polls? What would have been the key issues during the campaigns if the price of fuel had not gone up? Would that have affected the results?

Even developed countries can’t escape the Russian economic levers. Have you noted energy has become a hot potato in the United Kingdom? Noted the opinion polls that put Labour ahead of Conservatives? 

Bigger issue

It will become a bigger issue as winter approaches. Remember it takes years to develop alternative energy sources. We shall not shift to electric cars overnight. Dams take years to build for hydros. Visit one  of the countries that go through a winter to understand why energy is being used as geopolitical weapon.

Clearly, Russia has rattled global economics and politics, and we can’t discount her in our planning. Ukraine is far away, yet so near, in our pockets and our national planning.

Where do go from here?

The sanctions against Russia don’t seem to have worked as expected. There seems to be some leakeages, with China and India being too quiet. Did I hear someone say Kenya could buy oil from Russia?

The west, read NATO, seems helpless against nuclear-powered Russia.  We can only hope this war will soon end, but we are sure by the time it ends the world will be different.

It is interesting that the world, with all its advances in technology, is now held hostage by age-old nationalism.

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