The war unleashed on Ukraine on February 24 in addition to the conquest and annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and sponsoring of secessionist war of the ethnic Russians in Luhansk and Donetsk for the past eight years was supposed to end in a few days. This has not happened because the Ukrainians have decided to fight for their country’s honor and independence to the surprise of President Vladimir Putin. Putin had thought his forces would, after a few days of fighting, be welcomed with flowers to KIYV where he had hoped to either install a puppet president or just annex the country and remove a troublesome president of a country which he said was historically part of the Russian Romanov Empire and later USSR. He apparently forgot that the other 14 so-called independent states of the former USSR were also formerly part of the Russian Empire or maybe he has plans to conquer and incorporate them into his future Russia. His reading of history ought to have led him to the conclusion that like other empires, whether the British, French, Spanish Turkish or Portuguese, the Romanov Russian Empire and its successor USSR have expiry dates.
Like other constituent parts of the USSR, Ukraine has a right to independent existence while sharing with Russia common history and language and the orthodox Christian religion along with its unique Catholicism. The fact that Ukraine could not be easily conquered has led to unintended consequences. The first is the crystallization of Ukrainian nationalism and national identity and the second is the worldwide shortages of grains particularly wheat and barley and also vegetable oil particularly sunflower oil which Ukraine exported to the countries of the Middle East and Africa including our own Nigeria. Ukraine also exported these products to Europe and Asia. Russia also was a major exporter of fertilizers to the whole world particularly to Europe and Africa but the European and American sanctions placed on Russia has made it difficult for the country to trade with most parts of the world.
Europe was largely dependent on Russian gas and oil which are now under various sanctions. In the application of the various European and American sanctions which were aimed at destroying the Russian economy, those sponsoring these sanctions are invariably scoring own goals at home. Initially the Russian Roubles lost almost a half of its value but it has regained its strength and even gained against the western currencies when Russia insisted that those still buying Russian gas and oil like for example, the largest economy in Europe, Germany, should pay Roubles rather than dollars or Euros. Furthermore Russia’s cutback on imports largely from Europe, the USA and Canada has thereby conserved its foreign exchange. Scarcity of wheat and vegetable oil in particular in Europe and to a certain extent in America has led to rising inflation which is spreading to countries all over the world leading to food riots in Sri Lanka and may possibly lead to the same scenario in the Middle East and Africa. Perhaps this is why in recent time, President Putin met online with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz and the French President Immanuel Macron to consider the possibility of lifting the Russian Black Sea blockade of the Ukrainian port of Odessa where millions of tons of wheat are rotting in silos waiting to be exported overseas. If this meeting leads to positive results, this may open the door to finding a way to ending this intractable conflict in Europe with damaging effect on global peace and consequent damage to the global economy.
President Putin embarked on this cruel destruction of lives and property of a weaker neighbor in the belief that Ukraine was planning to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and that extension of NATO’s borders to Russia would be inimical to Russian security and was therefore unacceptable. Now that the Ukrainian president has openly embraced neutrality and forsworn joining NATO, one would have expected the war to end with a bang but the war aim now seems to be the division of Ukraine and the annexation of Luhansk and Donetsk and permanent annexation of the Crimea. Perhaps Ukraine would be forced to accept Russia’s annexation of these conquered territories but this will lead to permanent enmity of whatever is left of Ukraine against Russia with the irredentist desire to regain these territories back in future. The other major unintended consequences are the intentions and indeed the applications of formerly neutral countries of Finland and Sweden, Russia’s neighbors to the West to join NATO. If successful, NATO’s boundary with Russia will stretch by almost a thousand kilometres especially with Finland which has a history of fighting Russia and possessing reputedly the best artillery guns in Europe and with experience of arctic warfare. These two countries accession to NATO if Turkey’s opposition to Finland’s membership can be overcome will strengthen NATO more than before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sweden and Finland which were formerly neutral have now abandoned neutrality to alignment with the West on permanent basis. Neutrality is totally different from non-alignment. Non-alignment means deciding to take sides in international issues on the basis of all things considered whereas neutrality is fixed and almost permanent not getting involved and not given to consideration of all factors that weigh against one position or the other. This is the position Sweden and Finland have more or less been forced to abandon by Putin’s war on Ukraine. It’s a big decision for these two formerly peaceful democratic and economically successful countries now finding themselves tied to the apron strings of a military organization led by the USA with which they were previously not always comfortable.
The unintended consequences of this unwanted, unwarranted and unnecessary war may make leaders of powerful countries like the USA, China and Russia to be careful in the future before unleashing their powerful armies on countries they disagree with whether near or far from them. It is not only in the matter of war that leaders need to be extremely careful; this also applies to political decisions they make in peacetime in their countries. The Nigerian leadership at all levels at this critical time of their country may want to learn that in the affairs of man, things may not always pan out as leaders plan for after all leaders are not gods but men.