Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been brutal and deadly, there is no doubt about it. But who is really to blame for this mess that is destroying a country and killing thousands? The narrative being spun by the US and European press is that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is solely to blame. A crazed dictator wanting to reconstruct an imperial Russia.
But if you dig deeper, you will find that perhaps it is possible to understand why Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine over a month ago. The repeal of a law protecting minority languages in Ukraine after the 2014 Maidan protests in Kiev, stripped the protections that minority groups in Ukraine had to protect and allow the use of their languages. Inhabitants in the areas on the border with Russia, speak Russian and Ukrainian, and some people on the western border of Ukraine speak Hungarian, Moldovan and Romanian.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern this January that the Ukrainian state language law requires that Ukrainian be used in most aspects of public life, leaving Russian speakers at a distinct disadvantage.
“Article 25, regarding print media outlets, makes exceptions for certain minority languages, English, and official EU languages, but not for Russian. Ukrainian authorities justify this by referring to the country’s European ambitions and ‘the century of oppression of… Ukrainian in favor of Russian,’” says HRW.
National security concerns are often cited as justification for why Russian is no longer a protected minority language in Ukraine, even in areas where Russian speakers are a substantial number, like in towns that border Russia, and in Odessa, the Black Sea port founded by Catherine the Great.
But the real reason that Putin was alarmed and worried enough to invade Ukraine was because of the West’s attempts to get Ukraine to join the European Union and eventually the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance led by the United States and set up after World War II for the protection of western Europe from a communist Soviet Union.
John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, has long been warning that aRussian invasion of Ukraine was a possibility with the West’s efforts to pull Ukraine into its orbit.
A realist, Mearsheimer says that the West has repeatedly poked the Russian bear in the eye, what with the fast expansion of NATO eastwards from 1999 onwards, despite the US and Russia having agreed that NATO would not reach beyond a unified Germany. Albania (2019), Bulgaria(2004), Croatia (2009), Czech Republic (1999), Poland (1999), Hungary (1999),Romania (2004) and the Baltic states (2004) were quickly added to NATO, encircling Russia with American-aligned governments.
Mearsheimer has been talking about a possible invasion of Ukraine by the Russians since 2016, (see video above) and blames Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky for flirting with theWest and subsequently provoking the invasion and destruction of Ukraine. To have avoided that, the Ukrainians should have declared themselves neutral, and vowed to not join NATO. And they should not have removed legal protection of theRussian language in the country.
Zelensky announced this week that Ukraine in ceasefire negotiations with the Russians, has offered to declare itself neutral if the Russians stop the war and withdraw. It remains to be seen how sincere the Ukrainians are being, and whether or not Putin will trust them enough to withdraw.