Russia’s Aggression and the Annexation of Crimea: Five Years After – Prof. Toba Alabi | GOVERNMEND

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The future of any nation hangs precariously on the quality and commitment of its teachers. The phenomenonal transformation and development of the Western nations is predicated on the top priority accorded the education infrastructure and the credibility of the human resources that are saddled with the impartation of knowledge in those nations.
The United Nations recognises the centrality of education to the transformation of humanity by recommending that nations devote 26 per cent of their annual budgets to the education sector. This is where the underdevelopment of Nigeria springs from. Nigeria has the highest rate of out of school children all over the world with overwhelming majority in the northern part of the country. It is therefore not difficult to fathom why the country is backward and as a matter of fact even retrogressive. For months on end, the tertiary institutions are shot down owing to industrial unrest occasioned by chronic under-funding which is again the result of massive stealing of the country’s resources by the ruling class. In all ramifications, Nigeria is an incredible oxymoron and a palpable metaphor for anything bizzare, queer and a palpably criminal. Quite unlike what was obtainable in the first decade after independence in many African countries, the Nigerian educational architecture has undergone severe negative metamorphosis, resulting in Incessant school closure, prolonged strikes, decayed infrastructure, chronic under-funding and deteriorating outputs. Listen to or read a piece written by some of the Nigerian University graduates today one would be sorry for the future of education in Nigeria. This was not the situation in 1965 when the University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan was rated the fourth in the Commonwealth of Nations.
This morning before embarking on my daily walk, I listened to the news on BBC and it was the fifth year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. While putting on my canvass I resolved to interogate the crisis in the Crimean Peninsula. Immediately my mind went back to my higher school days and I remembered Mr. Ilori, my history teacher, teaching the Crimean War of 1853-56. Ilori was a fantastic teacher. He told us of the geography of the Crimean Peninsula, the complex dynamics of the politics of the area, its power configuration, the causes, course, the belligerent forces, the armistice and the terms of the Treaty which ended the war. By all standards, Ilori was an incredible phenomenon, giving us all these details without looking at his notes. The following day when I consulted my textbook, A History of Modern Europe by Peacock, the Ilori’s positions were confirmed in the book.
A partinent question is: how did Cremea with an overwhelming Russian population become part of Ukraine? With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was formed as a sovereign state in 1991 and most of the peninsula was reorganized as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , while the city of Sevastopol retained its special status within Ukraine. The 1997 Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet partitioned the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet and allowed Russia to continue basing its fleet in Crimea. Within this context, both the Ukrainian Naval Forces and Russian’s Black Sea Fleet were to stationed in Sevastopol. Ukraine elongated Russia’s lease of the naval platform under the 2010 Kharkiv Pact in exchange for further low natural gas cost.
In February 2014, following the 2014 Ukrainian political crisis that toppled the Ukrainian President , Viktor Yanukovych , pro-Russian separatists and Russian Armed Forces took over the territory. A controversial and unconstitutional referendum took place in Crimea on the issue of re-unification with Russia. Majority voted to be reunited with Russia. Ever since, Crimea has been an eternal part of Russia.
Territorial expansionism and military aggressions are parts and parcel of the international system and boring platitudes and moral grandstanding will always be met with total failure. Before embarking on any act of expansionism and military actions abroad two incontrovertible imperatives and conditions must be met. The first is to strictly calculate the potential gains from such an action and ensuring that the benefits would far outweigh the losses-if any. And the second is to have credible deterrence to insulate your actions from likely negative consequences from your adversaries and foes.
I submit without any fear of contradictions that any nuclear power today can embark on any act of military aggressions without punitive consequences from the world powers. In 1979, the Soviet military tanks moved into Kabul and with all the United States propaganda, stayed in Afghanistan for ten years. Four years later in 1983, Ronald Reagan moved in the American forces to Grenada to topple the communist government in that country without any adverse consequences. Since 1967, Israel has held on to the Arab occupied territories even in the face of scores of UN resolutions mandating the Jewish state to withdraw. About seven years ago the Russian forces came in to aid of the Syrian government and it became absolutely impossible for the US and the West to topple the government of Alasad after seven years of civil war.
But Saddam Hussain, an irascible and irrational Iraqi leader, invaded tiny Kuwait and made it the 19th province of Iraq in 1990. Then, after series of cruise and perishing II missiles, steel bombers, B-52 bombers and many torpedoes from the American submarines had dealt devastating blows on Iraq , not only did Saddam relinquish Kuwait, he was toppled by the American forces and he ultimately faced the gallows that put an to his life and his sponsor of radical Islamic terror attacks across the world.
This is where the thesis of the Realists and Realpolitik will always hold sway in international affairs. As for the lamentations of the US and the West, they will always remain that as Crimea has come home to roost for ever.
Four years ago in one of my PhD classes while discussing the import and utility of the Realist approach, I asked my students what they thought would happen if the United States invaded Abuja and the American marine forces occupy the place. What I did I get? A lot of emotional responses. Nigeria would fight back and defeat the American forces like it was defeated in Vietnam. The United States would regret its actions. The United Nations would impose sanctions on the US as a result of their military aggression. But when I told them that nothing would happen beyond noise at international fora they were uncomfortable with my position. Imagine! A nation that could not defeat Boko Haram in ten years would defeat the American forces! A heavily disunited and atomistic nation would defeat the American guided munitions and extremely deadly weapon systems! A wishful thinking and a monumental academic delusion! Today, Nigeria, the global capital of poverty and with the highest out of school children in the world and the highest cases of tuberculosis in Africa, is arguably, the most vulnerable nation on earth to any external aggressions.
What then is the lesson from the Russia’s aggression in the Crimen peninsula? Simple. In international affairs, might is still very right. The strong will always dominate the weak. Weak nations of the Third World are of no consequence in global power calculus. And finally, religious sermonising , morality, sentiments, emotions and ethics are ridiculous distractions in international politics. This is the nature of the contemporary global system.

Source: Toba Alabi is Professor of Political Science and Defence Studies.

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