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Vladmir Putin

24.02.2022 Featured EXPLAINER: Why Putin’s Attack on Ukraine Could Mean World War 3

Published 24th Feb, 2022

By Daniel Ojukwu

In the early hours of Thursday, the Russian military launched an offensive against Ukraine with land support from Belarus.

This came minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine, claiming Russia was invited by the Donbas Poeple’s Republic.

In a live broadcast before the first explosions were heard in Ukraine’s major cities, Putin cited part 7, Article 51 of the United Nations charter as valid grounds for recognising the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent breakaway states.

Putin warns the world against interfering

In his address, Putin told the world that Russia was interested in protecting the “people who, during eight years, suffer from abuse and genocide from the Kyiv regime”.

Article 51 of the UN charter gives countries the right “to engage in self-defence, including collective self-defence, against an armed attack”.

What does this mean, and how does this apply to Russia? Is Putin right when he said attacking Ukraine is a form of defence according to the UN charter?

COMPLICATED INDEPENDENCE OF RUSSIAN-SPEAKING UKRAINIAN STATES

It is impossible to consider the charter without first considering what ‘countries’ Putin referred to as “suffering abuse and genocide” in his statement on Thursday.

The Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic are two countries on the east of Ukraine that are only recognised as countries by each other and Russia.

Both regions are part of Ukraine in the eyes of 192 of the UN’s 193 member states, but Russia relies on a May 11, 2014 referendum as enough backing for its stance.

In 2014, a Ukrainian revolution was held after Viktor Yanukovych, former Ukrainian President, chose bailout funds from Russia against a partnership with the European Union.

He was eventually exiled from the country, and now lives in Russia. What followed after the rejection of Yanukovych’s leanings towards Russia was an unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine (which was dominated by Russian speakers).

Referendums for Donetsk and Luhansk to breakaway as independent states followed, and the majority of residents voted in support of the move. The referendums became known as the 2014 Donbas status referendums.

Although the Ukrainian government, France, US and other states dubbed the referendum as unconstitutional, on February 21, 2022, Russia became the first UN member state to recognise both countries as independent.

Explosions map recorded Thursday morning shows Luhansk and Donetsk spared by Russia

COULD THIS BE WWIII?

The crisis between Russia and Ukraine has dominated the Russia-led United Nations Security Council meeting for the past few weeks.

Joe Biden, US President, has been vocal since early signs of Russian threats began to surface, but there have been no combat actions taken yet by the US military.

If 192 UN states refuse to recognise Donbas, why then is Russia confident of winning and averting a potential world war?

The answer is in North Korea and China. Since the rumour of an invasion began to spread, many countries have imposed sanctions against Russia. The US, UK, Turkey, France and other countries have sent military support to aid Ukraine’s territorial defence.

However, China has openly condemned the sanctions, accusing the US of propaganda.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday, accused the US of creating “fear and panic” over the crisis in Ukraine.

“On the Ukraine issue, unlike the U.S., which keeps sending weapons to Ukraine, creating fear and panic and even playing up the threat of war, China has been calling on all parties to respect and pay attention to each other’s legitimate security concerns, work together to solve problems through negotiations and consultations, and maintain regional peace and stability,” Hua said at a daily briefing.

Like Russia, China has for many years attempted to gain control over Taiwan, a move strongly criticized by the US.

In the event that Russia succeeds in its quest to liberate Donbas, China will get the much needed push it needs to claim Taiwan.

With Russia and China occupying the second and third spots in the ranking of best military forces in the world, only behind the US, Russia is well positioned to fight in the event that US troops interfere.

The rivalry between North Korea and the US is well-documented, and the Asian country could be dragged into the war if Russia exploits his relationship with them.

GERMANY, NORD STREAM 2 AND OIL PRICES

When Germany decided to support Ukraine with 5,000 defence helmets, it cracked a joke the world is still laughing at till today.

For most part, the European nation had been quiet on the issue, choosing instead to observe neutrality in the face of the impending world crisis. This, one can assume, was because they have an agreement to pay Russia billions of dollars for natural gas it would supply through the Baltic Sea.

The project, dubbed ‘Nord Stream 2’, was, however, suspended on Wednesday as Germany’s only major move against the Russians.

That decision sent oil price up and down on Wednesday, going as high as $100 per barrel and down to $91 per barrel.

With more countries gaining interest in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, international trade may be threatened and more funds may go into the battlefield.

If Putin is unable to secure surrender from Volodimir Zelenskyy, Ukraine President, the Russian offensive may last for longer, and more civilians may suffer.

In the previous world wars, allies and unaffiliated countries were drawn into the war willfully and forcefully, as was the case with the US in 1941. This time, the integrity of the UN is under threat, and as a direct replacement of the league of Nations, it is not farfetched to imagine its member states engaging to restore peace in Ukraine by any means possible.

Putin has already threatened former member states of the Soviet Union, and these countries need no more motivation to help protect Ukraine’s sovereignty, but this may also be enough reasons for other countries to jump to Ukraine’s side.

For those like China and North Korea with intentions of dominating other countries, they may fancy being on Russia’s side. In effect, whether countries go to battle guns-blazing or choose to throw in ammunition, one way or the other, the world is on edge.

Published 24th Feb, 2022

By Daniel Ojukwu

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