The Ukrainian conflict teaches us the truth about survival in the world
By Idrian Burgos, Contributor
A year has passed since Euromaidan, the unexpected Russian invasion of Crimea and the current situation in Eastern Ukraine. A ceasefire brokered several months ago has been periodically punctured, though it has stabilized to an extent. Lives have either been lost at the hands of Kyiv’s and Moscow’s fighters or fled the affected places. Both buildings and livelihoods have been smashed to debris. The elections held on each side are apparently only going to reinforce the division further.
What this conflict teaches us is a fact that has been present since recorded history, a fact that is sometimes followed and often ignored by larger military and sociopolitical forces, especially smaller forces “of good” resisting larger forces “of evil.” It is the fact that in any conflict, one can only rely on oneself.
The crisis has vindicated the realist theory of global relations. Realism argues that in an uncertain and anarchic world where there is no high authority to enforce global rules and regulations, countries can only rely on themselves and their capabilities—often of a military kind—to enforce their goals; this also includes forming strategic alliances. Here, we see this realized in three ways. First, a geographically large country, possessing an imperial history, nuclear armaments, and a key natural resource—not to mention a desire to reclaim its “great power” heritage—can simply push its way on a smaller country without too much uproar as long as it is done strategically and carefully. Second, the more powerful and influential bloc of countries, what is usually described as “the West, can be prevented from executing stronger action by domestic opposition, much of it originating from said large country. Third, the smaller country, as well as its neighbouring smaller countries, realize that it cannot fully rely on said bloc for its security and sovereignty.
Perhaps the worst mistake the Euromaidan people made during and since their revolution was to tie their anti-Russian uprising to the West. It is indeed a good thing to fight for a more accountable and effective government, an economy less dependent on its larger neighbour, a more independent foreign policy, and a more assertive national sovereignty. However, it would be wrong to find a permanent guarantee for all of these things from the European Union. The problem with has two sides. On one side, its relatively decentralized structure and its inability to make a single consensus among its members concerning certain issues hamstrings it from executing more decisive action in Ukraine’s favour. On the other, its liberal universalism of the economy, culture, and society endangers the maintenance of Ukrainian identity and independence.
If there are any true freedom fighters in this war, it would be those political, military, and social organizations that recognize that true freedom comes from one’s own country, not from outside. Those that mostly depend on their country’s natural and man-made resources in resisting the bigger foe. The only problem with these organizations is their confusion of “country” with “ethnicity,” something that has to be corrected. In addition, the formation of a non-EU alliance of Central/Eastern European countries to resist Russian influence is an excellent idea.
In any conflict where a country’s existence is at risk, maintaining their autonomy from larger, outside forces is the important factor. The further pursuit of their campaign, plus the enactment of necessary changes for the campaign’s benefit, can drive the invaders out and ensure national existence.