Russo-Ukraine war is hitting citizens the hardest￼
Russia and NATO “playing chicken”
On February 24, Russia launched a three-point full-scale invasion of Ukraine. More than a million people have already fled Ukraine in response to the fighting. In addition, thousands of Russian citizens have been detained for protesting the war. The West has imposed severe economic sanctions against Russia that have had catastrophic effects on the Russian people, and have led to the crash of the ruble. NATO, whose presence in the region is part of what precipitated the attack, has increased its military presence once again in countries near Ukraine. The fighting has been ongoing for over a week. Russia has captured several critical points in Ukraine but has yet to take the capital of Kyiv, as the Ukrainian military has held the city.
The conflict in Ukraine has been growing since the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia. In 2021, satellite images showed Russian troops and military equipment gathering on the border; speculations of an invasion went on for a period of time. Moscow released demands stating they did not want Ukraine to be able to join NATO and wanted NATO’s increased presence near Russia to end. The West refused the demands – and on February 21, Putin formally recognized Donetsk and Luhansk, areas officially recognized as being part of Ukraine but that have been controlled by pro-Russian groups since 2014, as independent states. Putin initially claimed that he moved troops into Ukraine in order to keep the peace in those regions and protect Russians.
“I think any fair assessment of how we got to this place would have to account for the history [that] over the last 30 to 40 years has developed that clearly places responsibility both on the ruling class in Russia and the ruling class in the West,” said Tyler Shipley, a professor of society, culture, and commerce in the Department of Liberal Studies at Humber College. “The fact that NATO has been so aggressively trying to push to Russia’s borders, including in places like Ukraine where, since 2014, the state has been pretty deeply infiltrated by neo-Nazi and fascist movements and organizations. Supporting that kind of estate and actively try[ing] to build up a sort of military presence there exacerbated a conflict that was brewing for a long time,” Shipley said.
“Now, that doesn’t mean that Russia […] and Putin and the oligarchy in Russia doesn’t bear responsibility. I mean, they just invaded another country. What we should be trying to do as we watch this is to [ask if there is] any side here that represents working people, average people, normal people? And my answer to that is no. On the one side, you have the capitalist class in Russia. And on the other side, you have the capitalist class in the West aligned, with, you know, a small elite in Ukraine.”
NATO’s response to the conflict has been to support from afar. They have not gotten involved on the ground, but several countries have sent support. The United Kingdom has sent military equipment, Canada has sent millions of dollars as well as weapons, which it has cynically described as “lethal aid.”
The Russian ruble has been hobbled in the global market, several major Russian banks were removed from the SWIFT banking system, and the new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that was due to become operational soon was shut down. The greatest impact of these sanctions has been on the Russian people. Putin has declared the sanctions to be an act of war from the West and reiterated that his goal was to defend Russian-speaking communities in the Ukraine and “demiliartize and de-Nazify” Ukraine so it no longer poses a threat to Russia. The West dismissed this a baseless reason for the attack and has proceed with the sanctions and threatening Russia from afar.
This back and forth has continued and the conflict has seen continual escalation despite several attempts at talks. When asked if he saw the conflict potentially escalating to outside of the Ukraine, Shipley said “I don’t know that there is the political will, even in America, to support what would be a massive conflict. A conflict with Russia will be different from the conflicts that the West has engaged in the past, say, 20 or 30 years, where the West had overwhelming military dominance. For instance, the war in Afghanistan was always an occupation. It was never a war. It was a full-on occupation, and the resistance was never going to dramatically affect people in North America. A full-on war with Russia would have an impact in North America that is different from what previous wars have had.”
Shipley added that “I think that they might back down at a certain moment. I think that Putin might back down, or this might be one [situation] where both sides decide it isn’t the right time, but you also never know, like you can never predict when one of these games of chicken is going to get taken too far and taken past the point that people can back down. That’s exactly the danger of the game that NATO’s been playing,” he said. “I think you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes, and that’s what has happened here. Both Russia and the West have been playing a stupid game, which is to escalate and aggravate and provoke the other about Ukraine, and now people in Ukraine are suffering as a result of that.”
As of March 4, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has requested talks with Putin, but nothing has happened yet. Russia has continued its assault, and satellite images have shown a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy advancing towards Kyiv. Due to weather, the convoy has been delayed, but it is still moving. Attempts at ceasefires haven’t worked, and as of March 2, 241 citizens have been reported killed, with the actual number likely being much higher. Many Russian attacks have hit highly populated areas. Some experts are concerned with Russia’s reliance on artillery, cluster munitions, and rockets, as they have devastating consequences for the civilian areas Russia has been targeting.
There is no way to predict if this game of power that the West and Russia are playing will further escalate the fighting or if one of them will back down at some point. But it is evident that once again, common people and citizens are paying the price of their governments’ aggression.