Containment Doctrine Revisited

 

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has deeper ramifications for the post WWII world order. Coincidentally, the adventurism reflected in Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a territory of a neighboring Ukraine has occurred at a time when the international community looks forward to view in retrospect, the hundredth anniversary of the bloodiest war of the century.

Christopher R. Hills, the dean of political science, Harvard University has succinctly remarked in his project-analysis essay “The end of world order” that the bedrock of the foreign policy embraced by the global leaders in the aftermath of the II World War (1939-45) has crumbled following accusation of a nation state’s sovereignty by another powerful neighbor.

The doyen of American foreign policy George F. Kennan, who is widely considered to be the main architect of West’s containment policy of Cold War era, has been quoted by Robert Skidelsky in his latest article “Kennan’s Revenge” carried by project-analysis. Kennan in 1996 commented that NATO’s   expansion into former Soviet territory was a “strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions”. This demonstrates the fallacy of western policy vis-à-vis Russia, which has also contributed to Putin’s revanchist approach in its dealing with Ukraine.

Moreover, at some quarters it has been  stated by some analysts that the 1994 Budapest Memorandum signed by the U.S. UK ,Russia and Ukraine, that led to abandonment of substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons of Ukraine, has motivated the present leadership of Russia to infringe upon the sovereignty of the neighbor. Then in 1994 Ukraine decided to accede to the Treaty on the Nuclear Nonproliferation of the Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state. Following commitment by the west, especially the U.S. to the protection of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and political independence, Ukraine had remained assured of security. This commitment from the western countries has not been fulfilled as seen in their ineffective response to Putin’s flagrant violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity.

Understandably, no coercive action against Russia can be approved from the United Nations Security Council because of Russian possession of veto power.  It makes one surprised however, to know that even the UN vote by the General Assembly on March 27 last concerning Ukraine crisis could not be supported by America’s closest ally in the Middle East.  A former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Itamar Rabinovich has discussed Israel’s Ukraine Dilemma thoroughly in a recent essay (project-analysis), which shows how America has become weaker in international affairs failing to garner even its most reliable partner’s support in UN.

The UN General Assembly resolution 68/262 on crisis in Ukraine was not supported by Israel for no other reason than that it decided to compromise on its adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter only not to antagonize a powerful country Russia, which has been a strong backer of Syria in latter’s protracted civil war with immediate impact on Israel’s security.

It would be propitious to recall the famous UNGA resolution 2625(XXV) of 24 October 1970, which has been referred to in resolution 68/262 and deserves scrutiny at a time when a UN member like Israel shows disregard for UN’s cardinal principles in its lack of support for demanding protection of a fellow nation’s territorial integrity. The resolution 2625 has approved the Declaration of Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the UN. One of the most important principles emphasized in UN’s Charter (Article 2) is that no territory of a State shall be the object of occupation by another State resulting from the threat or use of force, and that any attempt at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a State or country or at its political independence is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter.

Judged against the above principles contained in resolution XXV (24 October 1970), the behavior of Russian leader with regard to Ukraine is completely in contravention of Charter of the UN. Russia’s Putin may try to justify the annexation of Crimea on the basis of so-called referendum in the disputed territory of Ukraine conducted last month. It needs to be borne in mind that the results of above referendum were foregone conclusion as Russian-speaking communities were then encouraged to vote for secession.

The recent developments in Ukraine cannot be disregarded as trivial. Such events carry ominous significance for many other smaller nations that have contiguous borders with mighty neighbors. Nepal may not be an exception to this albeit our democratic government is encouragingly effortful to cultivate balanced bilateral relationships with her powerful immediate neighbors.

While Russia has been imposed economic sanctions by the western countries for its questionable behavior in connection with interference with her neighbor’s territorial integrity, its president Vladimir Putin has displayed Cold War-like reaction by announcing that gas giant Gazprom could start demanding advance payment for the energy supplies to Ukraine. This seems to be Russia’s evidence of further intimidation against a neighbor that relies heavily on it for the supply of energy. Nepal as a dependent of energy supplies has to face a similar situation off and on. We have to blame our own imprudent and unsustainable policies concerning petroleum products.

According to George F. Kennan, his containment doctrine was wrongly interpreted in the past. He has reemphasized that political and economic accommodation rather than military build ups would make containment policy more sustainable.

He has been quoted saying that under the popular banner of democracy and human rights, the west actively sought to pry the ex-Soviet countries from Russia’s orbit. Kennan cites the NATO membership of former Soviet republics like Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as an act of imprudence on the part of the U.S. and Europe.

His advice to the policy makers in the west that they (U.S. and EU) should engage themselves in finding out the means to work with Russia is undisputable and it behooves on all stakeholders to realize that increasing confrontation rather than advancing collaboration with Russia would lead to further chaos not tranquility. The containment policy of last century is still relevant.

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