KAMPALA – While addressing an anxious distressed American nation and the world in general, President Joe Biden vowed in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to check Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Biden declared that in the face of the threat posed by Russia, he and all members of Congress, whatever their political differences, are joined with an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny. He asked lawmakers crowding the House chamber to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainians.
No doubt it was a notable show of unity after a long year of bitter acrimony between his ruling Democratic coalition and the Republican opposition.
Joe Biden’s full hour speech was split between attention to war abroad and worries at home reflected the same balancing act he now faces in his presidency.
He must marshal allied resolve against Russia’s aggression while tending to local problems back home in America ahead of the midterm elections which will place his administration so far on a weighing scale.
In his speech, Biden highlighted the bravery of Ukrainian defenders and a newly reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and cripple Russia’s economy through sanctions. He expressed fears that unless the world united as one, Putin’s aggression would escalate and cause more chaos to the whole world.
Russia has previously rejected the use of the term war or even invasion in reference to his actions on Ukraine. By end of 2021, Putin had successfully put off a leaked report he was planning to invade Ukraine, but then he tore up a peace deal and unleashed what Germany called “Putin’s war”, pouring forces into Ukraine’s north, east and south. In a pre-dawn TV address on 24 February, 2022 Putin declared Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” because of what he claimed was a constant threat from modern Ukraine. Putin He claimed his goal is to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide and aim for the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. This statement has a direct connotation to Germany where Hitler caused the death of thousands of innocent people. However, there are no reported cases of genocide in Ukraine. Putin’s dislike for people with a Jewish background could have a hand in the current senseless war that could attract alliances to the detriment of the world.
Putin has frequently accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists, ever since its pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in 2014 after months of protests against his rule. Russia then retaliated by seizing the southern region of Crimea and triggering a rebellion in the east, backing separatists who have fought Ukrainian forces in a war that has claimed over ten thousand lives. Then Mr Putin scrapped a 2015 peace deal for the east and recognized areas under rebel control as independent. Russia has long resisted Ukraine’s move towards the European Union and the West’s defensive military alliance, NATO. Announcing Russia’s invasion, he accused NATO of threatening their historic future as a nation. It appears Russia has been treating Ukraine as their colony and want the status quo maintained.
Now, warplanes have bombed major cities, and Russian forces have seized control of the key southern port city Kherson. His actions so far have claimed lives and destruction of property. Russian’s leaders stand accused of shattering peace in Europe. What happens next could jeopardize the continent’s entire security structure and even escalate to other vulnerable continents like Africa. Ahead of the invasion, Russia’s public focus was always on the areas held by Russian-backed rebels in the east. But that changed when President Putin recognized their independence. Not only did he make clear he saw them as no longer part of Ukraine, he revealed he backed their claims to far more Ukrainian territory. The self-styled people’s republics cover little more than a third of the regions of Donetsk of Luhansk and the rebels covet the rest.
Meanwhile, as Biden was delivering his speech, Russian forces were busy launching more attacks on Ukraine, having bombarded the central square of country’s second-biggest city and Kyiv’s main TV tower, killing at least five people. Many historical sites such as the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial was also damaged. The double standard exhibited by the west speaks a different language from what they have been preaching. One would be right to conclude that they actually fear Russia; or is it Putin. By air, land, and sea, Russia has launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, a European democracy of 44 million people. Its forces are bombing city centres and closing in on the capital, Kyiv, prompting a mass exodus of refugees into the neighbouring countries. .
Meetings called so far with a view of coming up with a lasting solution on the war have left NATO members and the European Union sharply divided on what course of action to take. It was during one of the meeting that Ukraine’s leadership appealed desperately to the West to help stop Russian jets from raining bombs on their country. Western allies believe levying more sanctions on Moscow would be the best solution to weaken their economy which is already in turmoil. NATO on the other hand has so far rejected calls for a no-fly zone. Its chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would not intervene in the conflict over fears of a direct clash with Moscow that could spiral into a nuclear war. In the alternative, Stoltenberg proposed that the only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter planes into Ukraine’s airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes.
Biden announced that his Government was in agreement with the decision made by Canada and the European Union and he would do the same in banning Russian planes from its airspace in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. He also said the Justice Department was launching a task force to go after Russian oligarchs, whom he called “corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime. It appears the world has forgotten that Russia is bordered by 14 countries such as, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, and Ukraine. It also shares maritime borders with Japan, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States.
Whereas the rest of the neighbours may play a dormant role now, my fear lies with China and North Korea. The day these two monsters will come out directly or indirectly to support Russia, the world will be set ablaze and no one will be able to extinguish that fire. That is the reason why I partly agree with the NATO leadership not to take any emotional decisions. On Feb. 28, as Russia became an international pariah, the Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik shared a message of strength with its 11 million Weibo followers. The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Sputnik said, said Russia still had friends in the world, especially “a real giant” like China. That is not a statement to take lightly, China could be in bed with Russia and I promise the world will not like the consequences of that alliance.
When all is said and done, it is now crystal clear that Russia is seeking to seize the big cities and overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government. President Zelensky said he had been warned “the enemy has designated me as target number one; my family is target number two” Russia’s stated aim is that Ukraine be freed from oppression and “cleansed of the Nazis”. Under this false narrative of a Ukraine run by fascists since 2014, Mr Putin has spoken of bringing to court “those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians”. His long-term ambitions for Ukraine are unknown. He denies seeking to occupy Ukraine and rejected a United Kingdom accusation in January that he was plotting to install a pro-Kremlin puppet. One unconfirmed intelligence report says he aims to split the country in two. He faces stiff resistance from a deeply hostile population, but he has shown he is prepared for anything.
As of today, fighting is still ongoing and the Ukrainian President is in fear for his life and that of his family, he may soon resign and seek refuge in another country more so that many countries are only giving lip service to him. On the other hand, thousands have since died and a lot of property destroyed. The cities are on fire akin what happened in Syria. Russia’s onslaught has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to flee across Ukraine’s borders. Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Slovakia while the EU suggests more than seven million people could be displaced.
NATO could be right on their fears of confronting Russia. Putin has already put his nuclear forces on high alert, days after threatening the West not to stand in his way, with “consequences the like never seen” Such scenes are horrifying for the entire continent, witnessing a major power invading a European neighbour for the first time in decades. Recalling the Cold War, Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of Ukraine battling to avoid a new iron curtain closing Russia off from the civilised world. For Europe’s leaders, this invasion has brought some of the darkest hours since World War Two. France’s Emmanuel Macron has spoken of a turning point in Europe’s history, while Germany’s Olaf Scholz has warned that “Putin wants a Russian empire”.
Both Russia and Ukraine people were not prepared for this war, it took many by surprise. The invasion was rubber-stamped by a largely unrepresentative upper house of parliament which action has prompted anti-war protests and many media houses such as Dozhd and Ekho Moskvy have been switched off air to keep the world in the dark of what is happening. NATO’s defensive alliance has made clear there are no plans to send combat troops to Ukraine itself but has deployed several thousand troops in the Baltic states and Poland and for the first time is activating part of its much larger rapid reaction force. However, NATO member countries have provided weapons and field hospitals and the European Union, for the first time in history is ready to buy and send arms and other equipment. In all this, one would be asking a question, what is the purpose of the arms, is it not to kill and to destroy property.
In the meantime, the European Union, United States of America, United Kingdom, Japan and Canada are cutting off key Russian banks from the international Swift payment network, which allows the smooth and rapid transfer of money across borders. On the other hand, European Union, United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada have shut off their airspace to Russian airlines. Similarly, Personal sanctions are being imposed on President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by the European Union, United Kingdom and United States of America while over 351 Russian Members of Parliament are being targeted by the European Union.
To further cripple Russia’s economy, Germany has halted approval on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline, a major investment by both Russia and European companies. Similarly, Russia’s state-run media Sputnik and Russia Today, seen as a Kremlin mouthpiece, are being banned across the Europe and the Russian city of St Petersburg will no longer be able to host this year’s Champions League final and the Russian Grand Prix will not take place in Sochi. Still in the world of sports, the International Paralympic Committee has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing, and has expelled them from the Games in Beijing. All the above are good avenues through which Russia would have earned billions of dollars but that is now history. Who then is funding their luxurious fight and for what purpose.
Putin has not only demanded that Ukraine never join Nato but that the alliance turns the clock back to 1997 and reverses its eastward expansion. One of the conditions set by Putin is that he wants NATO to remove its forces and military infrastructure from member states that joined the alliance from 1997 and not to deploy “strike weapons near Russia’s borders”. That means Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
Putin has previously claimed that modern Ukraine was entirely created by communist Russia and is now a puppet state, controlled by the West. It was his pressure on Ukraine not to sign an association treaty with the EU in 2013 that sparked the protests that ousted its pro-Kremlin president.
In President Putin’s eyes, the West promised back in 1990 that NATO would expand “not an inch to the east”, but did so anyway. However, NATO claims it is a defensive alliance with an open-door policy to new members, and its 30 member states are adamant that will not change. It seems the war is just beginning.
Author, Roger Wadada Musaalo is a Lawyer, human rights activist, researcher, and politician
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