How It May Have Been Possible to Avoid Ukraine Invasion?

Ukraine Peace
Stop the War Coalition and CND march through London for peace in Ukraine. Photo credit: Stop the War Coalition

Several persons whose commitment to peace and justice is well-established have argued that while the USA and its western allies were obviously wrong in taking several provocative actions against Russia, nevertheless Russia should have avoided the invasion of Ukraine.

These analysts agree that western steps such as constantly pushing NATO eastwards in breach of previous promises, assisting the 2014 coup in Ukraine, instigating and arming neo–Nazi groups to attack Russian language speaking citizens of Ukraine and accentuating such provocative actions in 2021-22 were wrong and provocative, but despite this Russia should not have attacked Ukraine, as this further damaged world peace, and instead Russia should have explored and adopted other policy options.

Now what could have been these other policy options? Unfortunately the analysts who have argued for this have been generally short of making specific suggestions that could have effectively protected essential Russian security interests as well. Nevertheless this question of alternative possibilities is an important one for world peace, and hence should be explored. Such discussion can be fruitful for suggesting alternative course of action in future conflict situations also.

One stand that can be taken is to just make a sweeping statement that in present day conditions of a very troubled world, no war or invasion is justified. This can be called a very noble statement, and if Mahatma Gandhi was in a leadership role he would have opted for this, regardless of consequences. But in a more practical world, this question should be posed in a somewhat different way—could Russia have protected its most essential and legitimate security interests without invading Ukraine, regardless of past and continuing provocations of USA/UK/NATO/Ukrainian neo-Nazis?

In order to increase these possibilities of addressing its essential concerns without even thinking of an invasion, Russia would have needed more favorable international conditions compared to what is the present day unfortunate reality.

Russia made repeated efforts in the past to draw wider attention to the various provocations and to the fact that certain red lines exist which should not be crossed in order to avoid wider and dangerous escalation. However these did not receive adequate attention, either from the involved governments, or from the UNO or even from the media.

If adequate attention had been given and remedial actions had been taken, then there would have been no need of any invasion and in probability there would have been no invasion.

However as provocative actions in breach of past promises were continuing, Russia faced the prospect that attacks on Russian speaking citizens would intensify further, Ukraine with its long border with Russia would become a NATO member and would remain in a condition of increasingly high hostility with Russia with highly destructive NATO weapons being placed here quite close to Moscow. The question is how long Russia should have just lived quietly with this, whether this would have been acceptable to the people of Russia and whether this would be in their best interests? The leaders of Russia are after all elected by their people to protect their interests and cannot segregate themselves from this responsibility.

All these factors should be considered while trying to get an honest answer to the question—was the invasion avoidable?

The Minsk Accords were the most discussed step to sort out the problems before these became too serious. However very senior western leaders have stated openly that through these accords they were just giving Ukraine adequate time to be better armed. Where does this leave Russia? Whom should it trust in its quest for protecting its interests?

So what we can say is that while the option of entirely avoiding invasion is certainly the most noble option for world peace, in order for this to become practical, effective and more likely, the international community, the UNO and media also need to improve significantly in their commitment to peace and justice to address serious problems and concerns at an early stage.

Without justifying the invasion in any way, it can be stated certainly that if some genuine concerns of Russia repeatedly voiced had been addressed at an early stage, the invasion is unlikely to have taken place.

So instead of the one-sided discourse on this issue which dominates western countries and demonizes Russia endlessly, there should be more discussion on how legitimate concerns of Russia were irrationally and arrogantly ignored by the west, leading to accentuation of problems, something which has been very convincingly argued by several western diplomats and experts as well.

This would be helped also by a more sympathetic assessment of what has been happening in Russia in recent years. Instead of only talking of autocracy or adverse news, for a change why not ask if Russia has achieved something positive. Many people will be surprised to see the UN data which tells us that for the latest year 2021 the child mortality rate was 5.1 in the Russian federation, while it was 6.2 in the USA. Hence Russia has been able to achieve a lower child mortality rate despite being confronted with very difficult conditions.

If we see this data for the period 2000-2021, then in the USA this declined from 8 in year 2000 to 6.2 in 2021, while in Russia this declined from 20 to 5.1, a very significant reduction. In the case of infant mortality (or mortality under 1 year of age per 1000 births), according to Macrotrends data, the infant mortality in Russia declined in a big way from 19 in 2000 to 4.8 in 2023, while during the same period infant mortality in the USA declined from 7.2 to 5.4, so that Russia which had been far behind the USA surged ahead of it.

In the case of maternal mortality rate or MMR (reported per 100,000 births), according to UN data, from year 2000 to 2020, this declined very significantly in Russia from 52 to 14, while that of the USA actually increased from 12 to 21. Thus during this period, according to UN data, Russia was recording a very big decline of 6.66% per year while the USA was recording not a decline, but instead an increase of 2.88% per year in maternal mortality rate.

According to Macrotrends data, from 2000 to 2017, the maternal mortality rate of the Russian Federation declined from 56 to 17, while this rate increased in the context of the USA from 12 to 19.

During 2000-2019 according to UN data the life-expectancy in the Russian Federation increased significantly from 65.3 years to 73.2 years. According to Macrotrends data, this increase was from 65.4 in 2000 to 72.98 in 2023.

The increase of income or GNI per capita in Russia during this period was very significant—from $1710 in year 2000 to $4450 in 2005 to $9980 in 2010 to $11,610 in 2021. On the contrary when the Russian economy was acting much under western influence earlier during year 1991 to year 2000, there was a huge decline from $3440 to $1710.

The literacy rate for the Russian federation is over 99% while that for the USA is lower.

The Human Development Index of Russia has improved from 720 in 2000 to 822 in 2021.

Thus as far as the welfare and progress of the people of the Russian Federation is concerned, the progress of Russia during the last two decades has been quite remarkable, although much more remains to be done for democracy and human rights, for environment protection and peace, for reducing inequalities in a big way and improving the overall development model.

Without ignoring the real problems, if a more sympathetic and informed understanding of Russia and its concerns is attempted by the people of western countries in particular, this would be helpful to reduce misunderstandings caused by irrational demonization, in turn paving the way for friendship and better understanding and ultimately for peace. As President John Kennedy had stated, trying to understand the perspective of your adversary improves the prospects of peace. In the present context if people of western countries have a better understanding of the genuine security concerns of the people of Russia as well as what they have been trying to achieve in the middle of many difficulties and hurdles, this will certainly contribute to better understanding.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders.


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