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Iraki: What next after Russian invasion of Ukraine?

Ukrainian servicemen stand guard on a road in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022. [Reuters]

A few weeks ago, I asked on this space if we should worry over Ukraine, then be threatened by Russia.

The drums of war were beating, till the war started on Thursday as predicted for months. Russia had said it would not attack Ukraine.

Then a strategic distraction, it recognised the two Ukrainian regions with lots of ethnic Russians. That was the pretext to send Russian troops to help the kith and kin.

The two regions have been simmering since 2014 when then Ukrainian President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych lost power.

Russia could not take that lying down, she annexed Crimea, part of Ukraine and ensured the eastern part of Ukraine was never stable.

Why was Ukraine attacked after eight years? What next?

First, why is the Western media referring to Ukraine as European? Doesn’t Europe not end in the Ural Mountains? Did our geography tell us an untruth?

That could be reinforcing the anger over the Russian attack and unifying the European countries.

After all, one of the consequences of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine is reviving the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

But this body is unlikely to stop Russians in Ukraine. It’s another question why the West should use an economic response to military attacks. Why are the Western countries saying their soldiers will not fight in Ukraine? The country, it seems, is alone.

The West is avoiding directly confronting Russians for several reasons. Russia has a home advantage and the leading world power, America, has shown her unwillingness to be the world’s policeman by withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Did that embolden Russia? Remember not much was done to Russia after annexing Crimea.

There is no doubt Russia suffers from the hangovers of the Soviet Union, by then a countervailing force to the US. Does she want to roll back history? This hangover might be the dark cloud hanging over Europe.

If Russia takes over Ukraine, most likely replacing the current regime with a pro-Russian one, what stops her from going further west into old members of the Soviet bloc that have lately joined NATO?

Recall one of Russia’s demands is for Ukraine not to join NATO.

Russia sees that as too intrusive and threatening her security - just like the Old Soviet Union stationing missiles in Cuba in 1961.

The Western countries did not make matters any better by openly sending weapons to Ukraine.

Stationing more troops in Europe may have alarmed Russia. Why is China so silent in this crisis? A dress rehearsal for Taiwan?

We can ask why Russia has so much interest in Ukraine and not other former Soviet republics.

One, it has been repeatedly stated that Kyiv is the origin of the Russian religion, the Orthodox Church. Such a spiritual component is very portent in such conflicts. We stated earlier that Ukraine’s strategic location by the Black Sea, which is open all year, is another Russian attraction.

But the ferocity of the Russian attack leaves lots of questions. Could there be other factors beyond Ukraine joining NATO?

Why did Russia secure Chernobyl, the scene of a nuclear accident in 1986? Does Ukraine have other weapons we are not aware of?

By attacking Ukraine, will other former Soviet republics fear and toe the line, falling into Moscow’s orbit?

Remember Russian troops helping save the government of Kazakhstan in January? And Belarus?

What next after the Ukraine invasion? A friendly regime will most likely be restored in Ukraine and “peace” will return.

The fear of being “Ukrained” will keep lots of countries in the Russian orbit. Remember Russians fighting in Chechnya? North Ossetia earlier? Russians have been active in the Sahel and North Africa, specifically Libya. Is Russia determined to become a superpower again?

We could stretch the truth and add that by attacking and subduing Ukraine, Russia is exorcising the ghosts of withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1989. Russia could achieve its geopolitical objectives through the Ukrainian war, but at what cost?

Sadly, Ukraine had been ruled by Russians indirectly till 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. The economic consequences will be felt beyond Kyiv and Moscow.

The immediate one is a rise in oil and gas prices. That will affect even spectators like Kenya. We are eagerly awaiting energy price reviews in March. The Nordstream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany has not been commissioned. Yet it’s winter when demand is highest.

Another gas pipeline passes through Ukraine to Europe and could be affected by this war.

Ukraine has rich and fertile farmlands, growing lots of wheat and other crops. It produces 16 per cent of the world’s corn and 12 per cent of its wheat, says pbs.org.

It’s the largest producer of sunflowers in the world. Ukraine is often called the breadbasket of Europe.

War will shock off these supplies, leading to the price rise. A combination of high food and fuel prices leads to a spike in inflation. Remember prices were rising before the Ukraine war as economies recovered from Covid-19 induced contraction.

Countries will respond to rising inflation by raising interest rates. This could contract the economies already ravaged by Covid-19.

I recently bought cooking oil made from sunflower imported from Ukraine. I am certain we import some wheat from Ukraine.

We can’t escape the long shadow of the Ukrainian war. What is Russia’s end game? There will be sanctions on the country but their effectiveness is likely to be limited. Russia has turned to former Soviet republics and China as her major trading partners.

Europe’s dependence on Russian energy could blunt the sanctions, too. I expect Kyiv to fall anytime and have a regime change. Then a gradual withdrawal of troops will begin. Then a cloud of fear will hang over Europe.

When will it disperse and who will disperse it? Finally, while politicians achieve their objectives, civilians and their innocence are the collateral damage. Expect a wave of refugees into countries bordering Ukraine.

Those who like watching action movies now know the truth. They better desist. And when we thought we had finally confronted Covid-19 through mass vaccination, the Ukraine war comes along. When will citizens of Earth enjoy their time on this small planet?