The Soviet Union, of which Russia was the dominant part, like the United States, has played an important role in the politics of modern Guyana. Many in Guyana have a residual sympathy for Russia. Some equate that sympathy with positive sentiments for the regime of Vladimir Putin, ignoring the fact that the unmistakable tenor of authoritarian and oligarchical rule that pervade it is contrary to the sentiments that most Guyanese have fought against and now hold dear. Apart from its undemocratic features, President Putin maintains close relations with the most rightwing figures and regimes in Europe that are not only similarly authoritarian in nature but are racist and Islamophobic in practice. But Russia deserves some consideration over and above the nature of its government and the quality of its ruling class and foreign associates. This consideration should not in any way justify or support its devastating war on Ukraine, launched in violation of international law and rightfully condemned worldwide.
The Defence Planning Guidance for 1994 to 1999 by the US Under Secretary for Defence for Policy, Paul Wolfowitz, published in 1992 and which became known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, incurred much criticism when leaked. Much of it was rewritten but it proposed: “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed by the former Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defence strategy and requires that we endeavour to prevent any hostile power form dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.” This doctrine was disavowed in the US and criticized by Russia. All the evidence since the early 1990s show that US security policy in Europe was guided by the Wolfowitz Doctrine, namely the extension of NATO to the doorsteps of Russia, despite Russia’s persistent objections and in the face of criticisms of numerous US international relations experts, including Henry Kissinger, who warned that NATO’s expansion will incur hostility from Russia and poses dangers for peace and stability in the region.
I have reviewed in a previous article NATO’s invitation to Georgia and Ukraine to apply for membership that led up to the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and Russia’s invasion and dismemberment of Ukraine in 2014. I did not mention the US’s withdrawal from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 by the supposedly Russia-friendly Trump Administration. This treaty was signed in 1987 by Gorbachev and Reagan and banned short and medium range, land-based, missiles between ranges of 500 and 5,500 kilometers. It had provided thirty years of security and stability in Europe. Russia begged the US for talks as to its alleged concerns about Russia’s violations. But amidst suspicions that the US’s withdrawal also had an eye on China’s military expansion, the US declined talks. It could well be that the removal of all constraints by the US and NATO from the deployment of missiles targeting Russia precipitated the invasion of Ukraine at this time. Putin spoke about this issue, among others.
Russia’s invasion and Ukraine’s resistance were alleged to be miscalculations by Russia, although one should take Western news media reports and analyses with a heavy dose of salt. But one would not be mistaken if one concludes that Russia’s economy and military, like Ukraine’s, would suffer monumental setbacks by the invasion from which it will take many decades to recover. A cynical mind might well contemplate that the war affords the US and its allies and opportunity, which they have seized, at the expense of Ukraine, to weaken Russia to such an extent that it would be hard to recover, if at all. Reflecting this sentiment, the headline in one story in Al Jazeera quoted President Zelensky as saying the war will “cost Russia for generations.”
Writing in Al Jazeera, Mirwan Bishara, a former Professor of International Relations stated: “ But suddenly, the United States poured cold water on the hopes of any diplomatic solution. US President Joe Biden labelled his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, ‘a war criminal’.…in a clear attempt at undermining the negotiations, which Washington considers superfluous. By demonising Putin as a ‘war criminal’, Washington made it clear that it will accept no compromise as long as the Russian leader rules over the Kremlin, and is ready to continue the fight against Russia….The hawkish American position may further dissuade Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and disincentivize President Putin for whom any peace deal would only be meaningful if it involves the lifting of the US/Western sanctions. Squeezed between the Russian and American maximalist positions, Zelenskyy is left with little or no room for diplomatic manoeuvring.” One is tempted to ask the cynical question: Is the intention behind the prolongation of the war, at the expense of Ukraine, the permanent disablement of Russia, a much-strengthened NATO on its borders, with no limitation on the arms it can deploy? Will this not lead to another war, just as it led to this one. The lessons of the Treaty of Versailles after World War 1 appear to have been forgotten.