Climate Change Rajan Menon Russia-Ukraine

Why the War in Ukraine Is a True Act of Madness

Rajan Menon, only recently back from Ukraine, lays out just why that war qualifies right now as a true act of madness on Planet Earth.
Chernihiv, Ukraine. [Oleksandr Ratushniak / UNDP Ukraine]

By Rajan Menon | TomDispatch

Washington’s vaunted “rules-based international order” has undergone a stress test following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and here’s the news so far: it hasn’t held up well. In fact, the disparate reactions to Vladimir Putin’s war have only highlighted stark global divisions, which reflect the unequal distribution of wealth and power. Such divisions have made it even harder for a multitude of sovereign states to find the minimal common ground needed to tackle the biggest global problems, especially climate change.

In fact, it’s now reasonable to ask whether an international community connected by a consensus of norms and rules, and capable of acting in concert against the direst threats to humankind, exists. Sadly, if the responses to the war in Ukraine are the standard by which we’re judging, things don’t look good.

The Myth of Universality

After Russia invaded, the United States and its allies rushed to punish it with a barrage of economic sanctions. They also sought to mobilize a global outcry by charging Putin with trashing what President Biden’s top foreign policy officials like to call the rules-based international order. Their effort has, at best, had minimal success.

Yes, there was that lopsided vote against Russia in the United Nations General Assembly, the March 2nd resolution on the invasion sponsored by 90 countries. One hundred and forty-one nations voted for it and only five against, while 35 abstained. Beyond that, in the “global south” at least, the response to Moscow’s assault has been tepid at best. None of the key countries there — Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa, to mention four — even issued official statements castigating Russia. Some, including India and South Africa, along with 16 other African countries (and don’t forget China though it may not count as part of the global south), simply abstained from that U.N. resolution. And while Brazil, like Indonesia, voted yes, it also condemned “indiscriminate sanctions” against Russia. 

None of those countries joined the United States and most of the rest of NATO in imposing sanctions on Russia, not even Turkey, a member of that alliance. In fact, Turkey, which last year imported 60 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, has only further increased energy cooperation with Moscow, including raising its purchases of Russian oil to 200,000 barrels per day — more than twice what it bought in 2021. India, too, ramped up oil purchases from Russia, taking advantage of discounted prices from a Moscow squeezed by U.S. and NATO sanctions. Keep in mind that, before the war, Russia had accounted for just 1% of Indian oil imports. By early October, that number had reached 21%. Worse yet, India’s purchases of Russian coal — which emits far more carbon dioxide into the air than oil and natural gas — may increase to 40 million tons by 2035, five times the current amount.

Despite the risk of facing potential U.S. sanctions thanks to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), India also stuck by its earlier decision to buy Russia’s most advanced air-defense system, the S-400. The Biden administration eventually threaded that needle by arranging a waiver for India, in part because it’s seen as a major future partner against China with which Washington has become increasingly preoccupied (as witnessed by the new National Security Strategy). The prime concern of the Indian leadership, however, has been to preserve its close ties with Russia, war or no war, given its fear of a growing alignment between that country and China, which India sees as its main adversary.

What’s more, since the invasion, China’s average monthly trade with Russia has surged by nearly two-thirds, Turkey’s has nearly doubled, and India’s has risen more than threefold, while Russian exports to Brazil have nearly doubled as well. This failure of much of the world to heed Washington’s clarion call to stand up for universal norms stems partly from pique at what’s seen as the West’s presumptuousness. On March 1st, when 20 countries, a number from the European Union, wrote Pakistan’s then-prime minister Imran Khan (who visited Putin soon after the war began), imploring him to support an upcoming General Assembly resolution censuring Russia, he all too typically replied: “What do you think of us? Are we your slaves… [Do you take for granted] that whatever you say we will do?” Had such a letter, he asked, been sent to India? 

Similarly, Celso Amorim, who served as Brazil’s foreign minister for seven years during the presidency of Luis Inacio “Lula” de Silva (who will soon reclaim his former job), declared that condemning Russia would amount to obeying Washington’s diktat. For his part, Lula claimed Joe Biden and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky were partly to blame for the war. They hadn’t worked hard enough to avert it, he opined, by negotiating with Putin. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed Putin’s actions on the way NATO had, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, provocatively expanded toward Russia’s border.

Many other countries simply preferred not to get sucked into a confrontation between Russia and the West. As they saw it, their chances of changing Putin’s mind were nil, given their lack of leverage, so why incur his displeasure? (After all, what was the West offering that might make choosing sides more palatable?) Besides, given their immediate daily struggles with energy prices, debt, food security, poverty, and climate change, a war in Europe seemed a distant affair, a distinctly secondary concern. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro typically suggested that he wasn’t about to join the sanctions regime because his country’s agriculture depended on imported Russian fertilizer.

Leaders in the global south were also struck by the contrast between the West’s urgency over Ukraine and its lack of similar fervor when it came to problems in their part of the world. There was, for instance, much commentary about the generosity and speed with which countries like Poland and Hungary (as well as the United States) embraced Ukrainian refugees, having largely shut the door on refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. In June, while not mentioning that particular example, India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, highlighted such sentiments when, in response to a question about the European Union’s efforts to push his country to get tougher on Russia, he remarked that Europe “has to grow out of the mindset that [its] problems are the world’s problem, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problem.” Given how “singularly silent” European countries had been “on many things which were happening, for example in Asia,” he added, “you could ask why anybody in Asia would trust Europe on anything at all?”  

The West’s less-than-urgent response to two other problems aggravated by the Ukraine crisis that hit the world’s poor countries especially hard bore out Jaishankar’s point of view. The first was soaring food prices sure to worsen malnutrition, if not famine, in the global south. Already in May, the World Food Program warned that 47 million additional people (more than Ukraine’s total population) were going to face “acute food insecurity” thanks to a potential reduction in food exports from both Russia and Ukraine — and that was on top of the 193 million people in 53 countries who had already been in that predicament (or worse) in 2021.

A July deal brokered between Ukraine and Russia by the U.N. and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did, in fact, ensure the resumption of food exports from both countries (though Russia briefly withdrew from it as October ended). Still, only a fifth of the added supply went to low-income and poor countries. While global food prices have fallen for six months straight now, another crisis cannot be ruled out as long as the war in Ukraine drags on.

The second problem was an increase in the cost of both borrowing money and of debt repayments following interest rate hikes by Western central banks seeking to tamp down inflation stoked by a war-induced spike in fuel prices. On average, interest rates in the poorest countries jumped by 5.7% — about twice as much as in the U.S. — increasing the cost of their further borrowing by 10% to 46%.

A more fundamental reason much of the global south wasn’t in a hurry to pillory Russia is that the West has repeatedly defenestrated the very values it declares to be universal. In 1999, for instance, NATO intervened in Kosovo, following Serbia’s repression of the Kosovars, even though it was not authorized to do so, as required, by a U.N. Security Council resolution (which China and Russia would have vetoed). The Security Council did approve the U.S. and European intervention in Libya in 2011 to protect civilians from the security forces of that country’s autocrat, Muammar Gadhafi. That campaign, however, quickly turned into one aimed at toppling his government by assisting the armed opposition and so would be widely criticized in the global south for creating ongoing chaos in that country. After 9/11, the United States offered classically contorted legal explanations for the way the Central Intelligence Agency violated the Convention Against Torture and the four 1949 Geneva Conventions in the name of wiping out terrorism.

Universal human rights, of course, occupy a prominent place in Washington’s narratives about that rules-based world order it so regularly promotes but in practice frequently ignores, notably in this century in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was aimed at regime change against a country that posed no direct threat to Russia and therefore was indeed a violation of the U.N. Charter; but so, too, was the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, something few in the global south have forgotten.

The War and Climate Change

Worse yet, the divisions Vladimir Putin’s invasion has highlighted have only made it more difficult to take the necessary bold steps to combat the greatest danger all of us face on this planet: climate change. Even before the war, there was no consensus on who bore the most responsibility for the problem, who should make the biggest cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, or who should provide funds to countries that simply can’t afford the costs involved in shifting to green energy. Perhaps the only thing on which everyone agrees in this moment of global stress is that not enough has been done to meet the 2015 Paris climate accord target of ideally limiting the increase in global warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade. That’s a valid conclusion. According to a U.N. report published this month, the planet’s warming will reach 2.4 degrees Centigrade by 2100. This is where things stood as the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference kicked off this month in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

As a start, the $100 billion per year that richer countries pledged to poor ones in 2009 to help move them away from hydrocarbon-based energy hasn’t been met in any year so far and recent disbursements, minimal as they have been, were largely in the form of loans, not grants. The resources the West will now have to spend just to cover Ukraine’s non-military needs for 2023 — $55 billion in budgetary assistance and infrastructure repairs alone, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky — plus soaring inflation and slower growth in Western economies thanks to the war make it doubtful that green commitments to poor countries will be fulfilled in the years to come. (Never mind the pledge, in advance of the November 2021 COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference, that the $100 billion goal would be met in 2023.)

In the end, the surge in energy costs created by the war, in part because Russia’s natural gas supplies to Europe have been slashed, could prove the shot in the arm needed for some of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide and methane to move more quickly toward wind and solar power. That seems especially possible because the price of clean energy technologies has declined so sharply in recent years. The cost of photovoltaic cells for solar power has, for instance, fallen by nearly 90% in the past decade; the cost for lithium-ion batteries, needed for rechargeable electric vehicles, by the same amount during the last 20 years. Optimism about a quicker greening of the planet, now a common refrain, could prove valid in the long run. However, when it comes to progress on climate change, the immediate implications of the war aren’t encouraging.

According to the International Energy Agency, if the Paris Agreement’s target for limiting global warming and its goal of “net zero” in global emissions by 2050 are to prove feasible, the building of additional fossil-fuel infrastructure must cease immediately. And that’s hardly what’s been happening since the war in Ukraine began. Instead, there has been what one expert calls “a gold rush to new fossil fuel infrastructure.” Following the drastic cuts in Russian gas exports to Europe, new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities — more than 20 of them, worth billions of dollars — have either been planned or put on a fast track in Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. The Group of Seven may even reverse its decision last May to stop public investment in overseas fossil-fuel projects by the end of this year, while its plan to “decarbonize” the energy sectors of member countries by 2035 may also fall by the wayside.

In June, Germany, desperate to replace that Russian natural gas, announced that mothballed coal-fired power plants, the dirtiest of greenhouse-gas producers, would be brought back online. The Federation of German Industry, which opposed shutting them down well before the war started, has indicated that it’s already switching to coal so that natural gas storage tanks can be filled before the winter cold sets in. India, too, has responded to higher energy prices with plans to boost coal production by almost 56 gigawatts through 2032, a 25% increase. Britain has scrapped its decision to prohibit, on environmental grounds, the development of the Jackdaw natural gas field in the North Sea and has already signed new contracts with Shell and other fossil-fuel companies. European countries have concluded several deals for LNG purchases, including with Azerbaijan, Egypt, Israel, the United States, and Qatar (which has demanded 20-year contracts). Then there’s Russia’s response to high energy prices, including a huge Arctic drilling project aimed at adding 100 million tons of oil a year to the global supply by 2035.

U.N. Secretary-General António Gutteres characterized this dash toward yet more hydrocarbon energy use as “madness.” Using a phrase long reserved for nuclear war, he suggested that such an unceasing addiction to fossil fuels could end in “mutually assured destruction.” He has a point: the U.N. Environment Program’s 2022 “Emissions Gap Report” released last month concluded that, in light of the emissions targets of so many states, Earth’s warming in the post-Industrial Revolution era could be in the range of 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100. That’s nowhere near the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious benchmark of 1.5 degrees on a planet where the average temperature has already risen by 1.2 degrees.

As the Germany-based Perspectives on Climate Group details in a recent study, the Ukraine war has also had direct effects on climate change that will continue even after the fighting ends. As a start, the Paris Agreement doesn’t require countries to report emissions produced by their armed forces, but the war in Ukraine, likely to be a long-drawn-out affair, has already contributed to military carbon emissions in a big way, thanks to fossil-fuel-powered tanks, aircraft, and so much else. Even the rubble created by the bombardment of cities has released more carbon dioxide. So will Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction, which its prime minister estimated last month will cost close to $750 billion. And that may be an underestimate considering that the Russian army has taken its wrecking ball (or perhaps wrecking drones, missiles, and artillery) to everything from power plants and waterworks to schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings.

What International Community?

Leaders regularly implore “the international community” to act in various ways. If such appeals are to be more than verbiage, however, compelling evidence is needed that 195 countries share basic principles of some sort on climate change — that the world is more than the sum of its parts. Evidence is also needed that the most powerful countries on this planet can set aside their short-term interests long enough to act in a concerted fashion and decisively when faced with planet-threatening problems like climate change. The war in Ukraine offers no such evidence. For all the talk of a new dawn that followed the end of the Cold War, we seem stuck in our old ways — just when they need to change more than ever.

Copyright 2022 Rajan Menon


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Rajan Menon, a TomDispatch regular, is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations emeritus at the Powell School, City College of New York, director of the Grand Strategy Program at Defense Priorities, and Senior Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace at Columbia University. He is the author, most recently, of The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.

19 comments

  1. Humanity long ago gave up on God. The Spirituality of unity, and oneness with God gave way to the human ego, which promotes separation, dividing everything into smaller and smaller bits and pieces, and as a result humanity has been slowly collapsing under the weight of internal stress and conflict. Issues are created which give rise to conflict, and we no longer look at our similarities and praise each other’s divinity with a greeting of Namaste. Instead, we look at each other with contempt and in some cases hatred, all as a result of the ego manifesting the illusion of separateness. We need to focus on our spirituality to realize that God is within each of us, and that we are equal. And that the most important thing about being human is our ability to think, reason, express love and compassion, as well as being able to empathize. This is what unites all of us. As a result it turns out only a few people stand by the separation doctrine as a means of controlling the masses. We no longer need a government. Nor do we need a Military. We can live peacefully and set an example for all. Killing and war will be out of the question. This is what is meant by an advanced humanity. WHen there is no more war.

  2. Ugh – more of the same. Was the US stupid to poke the Putin hornets nest? Does the world have every right to resent US hegemony? Is war a terrible idea in light of the impending climate crisis? Yes! So the conclusion is that under the cover of these terrible realities, one must turn the other way at attempts to destroy a nascent democracy. Clearly Putin was biding his time waiting for the opportunity to invade a “non-country”. He turned a non-provocation into an imagined threat (a common human tactic to justify an unjustifiable action.)

    By the way, the belief that the world will do anything substantial to address climate change is naive. People won’t take the hamburgers out of their mouths long enough. Meanwhile the clearcutting of the world to support animal agriculture, the biggest threat to climate catastrophe, goes on without a peep from the pearl-clutchers.

    The fact is that simple westspaining for Ukraine doesn’t add to solving the world’s intractable problems. I saw no solutions proposed in the article – just finger wagging.

    1. “By the way, the belief that the world will do anything substantial to address climate change is naive. People won’t take the hamburgers out of their mouths long enough.”

      Wow!! Spot on! This says it all! This sums up the popular/corporate “environmental” movement.

  3. We need a socialist revolution and internationalism instead of separate nation states fighting each other and wasting lives and material. The invasion by Russia was a bad move, but the United States deliberately provoked this reaction and has been provoking Russia and China since the fall of the Soviet Union. Capitalism is the most evil, inefficient, and malign system ever devised.

    1. True regarding capitalism. But the US did not “provoke” a reaction. Putin was looking for a provocation and would settle for anything.

    2. @Carolyn L Zaremba

      It is obvious that you never had the “pleasure” of living in a “Socialist ” country subject to the” dictature of the proletariat”. !

  4. An interesting article. Wordy, handwringing, and wide-ranging. Fortunately Menon’s article can be summarised very concisely: nobody in the world has any responsability for anything whatsoever bar Western countries.

    Those can and should be pilloried for being anything but perfection. In this respect voicing wordy but confused and misleading claims on e.g. energy substitution are par for the course.

    Just so we know where we stand. Thank you so much, Mr. Menon.

  5. “Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was aimed at regime change against a country that posed no direct threat to Russia and therefore was indeed a violation of the U.N. Charter; but so, too, was the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, something few in the global south have forgotten.”

    Ukraine has been at war against it’s over 8 million ethnic Russian population in the eastern Donbas and surrounding areas for last 8 years. USA & NATO posed a direct treat to Russia in their enhanced military co-operation/alliance with Ukraine regime, an anti ethnic regime USA deliberately elevated and helped to seize power violently in 2014, a regime that immediately rescinded the equal respect for Ukraine’s Ethnic Languages & Cultures legislation, in a clear signal to the huge ethnic Russian population in Eastern Donbas and surrounding areas that they were not going to be a respected part of the new western backed Ukraine, of course they rebelled to protect their families rights. USA knew they would, so we must accept that USA deliberately elevated an anti ethnic regime into Kiev in 2014 knowing it would serve as a means to an end to divide and rule a previously neutral and multi ethnic peaceful Ukraine and pivot it effectively against Russia through a coup and new anti ethnic regime laws that provoked an internal anti ethnic Russian civil war in the Donbas, a war which has mostly murdered ethnic Russians, a war which USA has armed for 8 years ‘assisting’ Kiev as it bombarded, murdered, raped, tortured, kidnapped and terrorized the Slavic peoples of Eastern Ukraine.

    USA NATO where practically training and building the enhanced military alliance in Ukraine in all but signature, and Zelensky was welcoming it having abandoned the 2015 Minsk Peace Accords and his 2019 western Ukraine presidential elections clear mandate promise to make peace. This very real military alliance was a growing reality and it would have brought in weapons like hyper-sonic missiles that can attack Moscow in 5 minutes in a first strike, effectively holding a gun to Moscow’s head, Russian security hobbled = Russian sovereignty over.

    Unlike in Iraq invasion, the Ukraine/USA/NATO military alliance posed a real direct threat to Russia, Iraq posed no direct threat to USA or UK. But USA’s western media salivated ‘Shock and Awe’ strategy bombed Iraq and decapitated its civilian and military command in the first 3 weeks before USA troops ever set foot among Iraq population, causing a horrendous civilian ‘collateral damage’ that was by CIA’s own estimates 10x times more than the ratio of Russia’s ‘special operation’ in Ukraine during it’s first months. It other words Russia has tried ten times harder and lost far more soldiers trying to minimize their neighbor’s civilian casualties. But if this war continues to be hyped on steroids by USA NATO weapons and other anti Russian eastern European NATO weened states covertly sending 1000s of soldiers converted into Ukrainian uniforms, and other USA UK special op terror attacks on Crimea and Nordstream ect. Russia will and perhaps now is changing strategy from its ‘special operation’ and will begin to fight this as a full War, more like USA did right from the start with poor Iraq. Russia will not lose this war because it can not afford to and it has all means to over match Ukraine no matter how many weapons USA NATO want provide to use it’s poor Ukrainian conscripts to fire at and try ‘weaken Russia’. Russia has only been limited by its own restraint.

    As poor pope Francis had to point out himself (because the Western Emperor has no moral clothes and like Count Dracula can cast no self reflection) that the obvious truth after 8 years of ethnic war against Donbas and with a growing military alliance aimed 5 minutes from Moscow, they should not have provoked Russia. Russia introduced Glasnost, signed the Minsk peace accords, continued to offer diplomacy, but USA and some NATO nations and the anti ethic elements ruling the Ukraine regime refused diplomacy and implementation of Minsk peace accords. USA had deliberately strategised the provocation of this conflict and so they will not yet support its peaceful resolution.

    If Russia retreats from Donbas who would protect the millions of ethnic Russians? For 8 years no one protected them while USA & NATO weapons and conscienceless legitimization protected Kiev’s anti ethnic laws and war against the Donbas Republics. Now they are made part of Russia the war is over, it just remains for USA to allow it to end and the new ethnic borders be drawn in ceasefire. After attacking the majority of Donbas people for 8 years and only offering anti ethnic laws and domination as an alternative the Ukraine regime has lost all right to rule the ethnic Russian people and the land where they live.

    The sooner this war realises the new ethnic peace land divide to be resolved and accepted, then the dying might end and lives properly protected and respected on both sides can resume to build again. Your article has truth in it, but the focus is blurred and far too polite and modest at best about mentioning USA’s foundational instigation in the origins of this tragic war for last 8 years.

    1. Antonio Carty,
      Thank you for your excellent comment. The Obama, Biden, Clinton, Nuland coup in Ukraine in 2014 which created the opportunity for the Nazi Azov Battalion et. al. to murder nearly 14,000 Russian speakers in the Donbas Republics, a horrifying result of the US interference. The coup took out a democratically elected president and installed puppets of the US/NATO. The US government’s goal, after dragging Russia into a war that it could no longer ignore, was regime change in Moscow.
      The US cries over the poor Ukraine refugees, never acknowledging they created the situation. If they hadn’t interfered, the war would be over by now. However, Porochenko said plainly the Minsk Accords were never intended to be fulfilled.
      NATO claims to be a defensive organization when in fact it is extremely aggressive, being controlled by the US. It also should have been disbanded short after the end of WWII. The war-mongering US will someday get its just comeuppance. It can’t be soon enough.
      By the way, Putin (unlike all our presidents) did not invade illegally according to International Law. The threat was creeping ever closer until Putin finally said he had to deal with the Nazis killing Russian-speakers, free the Donbas from cruel rule, and prevent the further expansion of NATO to his last border, which would eventually bring a war into Russia by the US/UK/NATO.

  6. @Antonio Carty

    (1) As far as I am concerned, your sweeping and incendiary claim that: “Ukraine has been at war against it’s over 8 million ethnic Russian population in the eastern Donbas and surrounding areas for last 8 years.” needs an enormous amount substantiation before it can be accepted as a basis of further discussion.

    What part of this claim is simply Russian propaganda designed to somehow legitimise the view that Russia has a claim on the sovereignty of the former USSR states?

    (2) Furthermore, do you realise that this ‘blut und boden’ (blood and soil) theory is precisely what Nazi Germany put forward to legitimise its annexation of the Sudetenland and the consequent dismemberment oc Czecho-Slovakia? Are you really certain you want to support its re-use by Russia?

    Does your reaction mean that you stand behind the implication that international law governing the sovereignty of states stops being applicable in the face of ethnic minorities?

    (3) Even allowing for Russian institutional paranoia, there is no plausible justification for the position that NATO and the US constitute a ‘threat’ to Russia simply because they offer the Ukraine collaboration. You know perfectly well that for yeas and years NATO has held off on Ukrainian membership of NATO for fear of offending Russian sensitivities.

    Given Russia’s actions (unprovoked and illegal invasion of a sovereign neighbouring state under the pretext of ‘protecting ethnic Russians’) it is unreasonable to ask of its neighbouring states not to seek shelter with NATO. As e.g. Finland and Sweden did. And the Baltic nations. And Poland.

    (4) All this about ‘protecting ethnic Russians’ seems no more than a transparent pretext for projecting Russian power. As evidenced by the Russian occupation of the Crimea. This has nothing to do with ‘protecting people’, but everything with annexing the Sebastopol naval base there plus the remnant of the Soviet Balck Sea fleet.

    The ‘millions of ethnic Russians’ in the Donbas form an ethnic minority which will be protected excellently well within the Ukraine, which is after all a democracy that is free of a corrupt and repressive state apparatus like what Russia is. Despite the cynical Russian strategy of pressurising all ethnic Russians to move to Russian territory as the Russian army is kicked out of pieces of the Ukraine in order to create a humanitarian problem that it could use to support its territorial claims.

    1. See my reply to Antonio Carry above. It answers some of your questions.

      Also, you must realize the Crimea was not “annexed” by Russia. How can Russia annex a place Russia has occupied/owned since 1773? How can it invade a place where 20,000 naval troops already reside? Clinton and Obama actually thought they could take Crimea and make it another goddamn US military base. Arrogance all be the US downfall. And it can’t come soon enough.

      1. So Russia “occupying” Ukraine disqualifies Ukrainian sovereignty? A silly game of “dates- manship”. Pick a date randomly from history to as proof of anything.

      1. @Rob Roy
        On 24 February 2022 Russia troops entered Ukraine. That is the beginning of the present war. There is absolutely no justification in international law for invading another country because it may at some future occasion enter an alliance with other countries ( which is the sovereign prerogative of any country and specifically recognized as such even by Russia in the Russia NATO Founding Act of 1997).

  7. The commentary here largely represents a proclivity towards focusing myopically on issues of personal concern (in this case, the justification or lack there of for Putin’s Ukrainian war), at the expense of the inarguably more important issue of global ecological collapse (which this article vastly understates by focusing on climate).

    I wish our species were more capable of comprehending pervasive existential crises, but we’re much more geared towards parochial concerns.

  8. @Rob Roy

    “[…] Also, you must realize the Crimea was not “annexed” by Russia.”

    Nothing of the sort my dear boy. The Ukraine became a sovereign country under international law in 1991 in the collapse of the USSR, _including_ the Crimea. Wresting control of part of a sovereign nation’s territory by military means, as Putin’s Russia did, constitutes annexation.

    Sorry, but that’s just the way it is and even wishing very hard doesn’t make that go away.

    “How can Russia annex a place Russia has occupied/owned since 1773?”

    Ah, if it’s education you seek I can assist you. You can start with this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine#History . You will find it quite informative, especially on how the territory now occupied by the Ukraine has had a checkered past and a tumultuous history. Interesting parts are e.g. around 1648 the Cossack Hetmanate came into being and existed until 1764 while fighting in extensive uprisings with the Polish King.

    We further read that: “The Hetmanate’s autonomy was severely restricted since Poltava. In the years 1764–1781, Catherine the Great incorporated much of Central Ukraine into the Russian Empire, abolishing the Cossack Hetmanate and the Zaporozhian Sich, and was one of the people responsible for the suppression of the last major Cossack uprising, the Koliivshchyna. After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 1783, the newly acquired lands, now called Novorossiya, were opened up to settlement by Russians. The tsarist autocracy established a policy of Russification, suppressing the use of the Ukrainian language and curtailing the Ukrainian national identity. The western part of present-day Ukraine was subsequently split between Russia and Habsburg-ruled Austria after the fall of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795. “.

    In short: the Russian autocracy had been suppressing, splitting, and handing over parts of, the Ukraine for quite some time.

    Ukrainian nationalism was alive and well and persisted in its struggles with Russian occupiers in the 19th century, as evidenced by:

    “The 19th century saw the rise of Ukrainian nationalism. With growing urbanization and modernization and a cultural trend toward romantic nationalism, the Ukrainian intelligentsia committed to national rebirth and social justice emerged. The serf-turned-national-poet Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861) and political theorist Mykhailo Drahomanov (1841–1895) led the growing nationalist movement. While conditions for its development in Austrian Galicia under the Habsburgs were relatively lenient, the Russian part (known as Little Russia) faced severe restrictions, going as far as banning virtually all books from being published in Ukrainian in 1876. ”

    Even then the Russian occupation was characterised by oppression and suppression of free speech (in this case books). History does seem to repeat itself.

    But there was still more suffering in store for Ukrainians at teh hands of the USSR at the hands of Stalin:

    “However, as a consequence of Stalin’s new policy, the Ukrainian peasantry suffered from the programme of collectivization of agricultural crops. Collectivization was part of the first five-year plan and was enforced by regular troops and the secret police known as Cheka. Those who resisted were arrested and deported to gulags and work camps. As members of the collective farms were sometimes not allowed to receive any grain until unrealistic quotas were met, millions starved to death in a famine known as the Holodomor or the “Great Famine”, which was recognized by some countries as an act of genocide perpetrated by Joseph Stalin and other Soviet notables.

    Following on the Russian Civil War, and collectivisation, the Great Purge, while killing Stalin’s perceived political enemies, resulted in a profound loss of a new generation of Ukrainian intelligentsia, known today as the Executed Renaissance.”

    See that? Gulags, genocide, and mass starvation. That’s what the Ukraine suffered at the hands of, once again, Russia.

    We go on to read:

    “As part of the so-called parade of sovereignties, on 16 July 1990, the newly elected Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine; after a putsch of some Communist leaders in Moscow failed to depose Gorbachov, outright independence was proclaimed on 24 August 1991 and approved by 92% of the Ukrainian electorate in a referendum on 1 December.”

    There, Ukraine was made independent by the USSR and its independence was approved by the population.

    That establishes the Ukraine de jure and de facto as a sovereign state on 24 August 1991.
    For that it follows that both Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and its invasion of the rest of the Ukraine are illegal under international law.

    “How can it invade a place where 20,000 naval troops already reside? ”

    What is your reasoning here? If you have troops somewhere (in the Sebastolpol Naval base mainly) then you suggest it’s Ok to annex the surrounding lands fro hundreds of miles around? Really?

    “Clinton and Obama actually thought they could take Crimea and make it another goddamn US military base. Arrogance all be the US downfall. And it can’t come soon enough.”

    All I see in these words is an example of particularly irrelevant remarks floating on a bucketfull of malice and hatred.

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