Mar 02,2022 – JORDAN TIMES ‘ Michael Jansen
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is undoubtedly the most serious conflict faced by Europe in the post-World War II world and the US and European reaction is, understandably, Eurocentric. Europeans, including US citizens of European stock, see Ukrainians as other Europeans and consequently condemn the invasion of Ukraine while shrugging off US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ukrainians who are fighting and dying are heroes; Afghans and Iraqis who resist are branded “terrorists”. There is European outrage over Ukrainian victims and empathy for refugees but Afghan and Iraqi casualties and refugees are dismissed as citizens of “uncivilised” countries.
The Ukrainian government has, opportunistically, exploited memories of elderly Westerners who survived the world war as well as views of subsequent generations who have been fed a diet of films about triumphant resistance to the Nazi hordes.
For Britain, in particular, satellite television coverage of Ukrainian women and children sheltering from Russian bombs and shells in underground train tunnels evokes images of Britons huddling together in London’s tube stations during the 1940-41 Nazi blitz.
Bright explosions lighting up the night sky against a background of multistoried buildings create feelings of vulnerability. In at least one case, the explosions broadcast on social media were of Gaza during Israel’s blitz last May. But borrowing horror stories and images is common practice in wartime campaigns for hearts and minds.
In war, Napoleon said, the spiritual is three times the value of the material. He was, of course, referring to the motivation of soldiers engaged in battle. This maxim also embraces populations under attack and their allies.
The Ukraine drama has propelled this medium sized country onto the world scene, reestablished US dominance in the West, restored the trans-Atlantic connection between the US and Europe, revived Nato, and driven Russia, the West’s longstanding antagonist, into a corner.
Cornering Russia has prompted President Vladimir Putin not only to invade Ukraine but also escalate by standing up some of his country’s rockets carrying nuclear weapons. This is first time this has happened since the 1962 crisis over the installation of Soviet/Warsaw Pact nuclear weapons in Cuba led to a confrontation with the US, which considered this deployment an existential threat. After days of tense discussions Russia removed the weapons.
The US and its allies have responded to Putin’s order by providing Ukraine with weaponry and funds, urging Kiyv to stand firm when compromise might be wiser and piling sanctions on Russia. These developments have deepened the alienation and isolation which provoked the Kremlin to wage war against the projected extension of Nato’s reach to its borders with Ukraine and Georgia.
Instead of harking back to images of World War II, the US and Europe should have learned the lesson of the Cuban missile crisis and discouraged Nato’s recruitment of Ukraine as this is seen in Moscow as a threat against Russia, as Russian nuclear warheads on Cuba were seen as a threat against the US.
But this was not considered by the desperate prime movers of the campaign against Russia. US President Joe Biden needs a “Victory in Europe” as his approval rating has sunk to 37 per cent, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was close to ouster over “party gate”, gatherings at his home and office during a period of strict COVID lockdown. “Partygate” is no longer an issue.
EU members France, Germany, and Italy resisted being dragged into the escalating confrontation and tried to promote dialogue. This failed as the US-UK verbal build-up peaked while Russia deployed troops along Ukraine’s border and, eventually, Russian troops and tanks invaded Ukraine which has unwisely continued to insist on joining Nato and the European Union.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians, mainly women and children, have crossed into neighbouring countries, Poland, Moldova and Romania, while men between 18-60 have been detained to serve in Ukraine’s armed forces. The refugees have been welcomed, provided with food, medicine and clothing, and housed. The EU intends to grant them three-year visas before they need to apply for asylum. However, racism rules.
White, Christian European Ukrainians are treated with respect by fellow Europeans but black and brown citizens of this region, Africa and Asia have suffered segregation and rejection. Thousands of African students fleeing the war find they are not allowed on trains or buses to borders. When trying to enter Poland, in particular, they were refused and abused by immigration officials until their embassies sent staff to the border to meet citizens with transport.
More than 20,000 Arab students, from Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, remain trapped in Ukraine as no arrangements have been made for their evacuation and their embassies have closed. Since Poland and Hungary vehemently refused the settlement of Syrian, Afghan and Eritrean war refugees in 2014-15, it is not known whether European countries will accept them as they have Ukrainians. All are fleeing the same war.
It is significant that the majority of Arab countries did not condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and do not support the harsh US/NATO/EU sanctions regime. Sanctions are expected to inflict collateral damage on countries and inhabitants of this region. Damascus relies on Moscow to provide air cover and logistics for the Syrian army in its battle against Daesh and armed takfiri groups. If Russia withdraws, Syria could face another major conflict which could de-stabilise the crisis-ridden Levant.
Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen depend on exports of Russian and Ukranian wheat, which accounts for 30 per cent of the global supply. Lebanon and Yemen rely on Russia for oil. To diversify arms suppliers, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates purchase weaponry from Russia while Riyadh and Moscow cooperate to ensure a stable supply of crude at a price below $100 a barrel. The Saudis have made it clear this cooperation will continue.
Finally, leaders, commentators and citizens have long been alienated by the US and Europe for their constant, destructive intervention in regional affairs. The unprovoked 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq on the basis of lies about Baghdad’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction deepened longstanding mistrust of the US and the West. Its foundation is their refusal to confront and sanction Israel for its attacks on Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, and illegal colonisation of Palestinian and Syrian territory.
Arab public opinion is as important as in the European West. In its June 2021 Survey of Arab Youth, the 13th annual poll, 72 per cent of Arabs between 18-24 from 17 countries considered Russia an ally, 26 per cent as an enemy; 57 per cent said the US was an ally, 41 per cent an enemy; and 88 per cent saw Israel as an enemy, 11 per cent as an ally.