Imperial power

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 28, 2022

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeWhen Russian troops invaded Ukraine last week, it set in motion the possibility of another major transformation in the European political and economic order.

Russia launched its attack from Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus, across its eastern frontier with Russia, and in the south from Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. Such a move suggests that more than the annexation of Ukraine is at stake.

In 1922, Russia and Ukraine were founding members of the Soviet Union. In 1991, the Soviet Union crumbled and Ukraine became an independent nation. This retaking of Ukraine by Russia is part of Vladimir Putin’s larger ambition to reassemble the Soviet Union—“the need”, as he said in his Monday-night speech “to right perceived historical wrongs suffered by Russia over the centuries at the hands of the West”. (The New York Times, February 25.)

Putin has never accepted Ukraine as a sovereign state. He claims he invaded Ukraine to defend the Ukrainian people who have been victims of the “Kyiv regime”, and to “demilitarise and to de-Nazify Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Russian-speaking Jewish president of Ukraine, denied Putin’s claim. He responded: “How can a people who gave eight million lives for the victory over Nazism support Nazism? How can I be a Nazi? Tell that to my grandfather, who went through the whole war in the Soviet infantry, then died a colonel in independent Ukraine.”

In 1994, Russian troops invaded Chechnya and took the capital city of Grozny in March 1995. During this war with Chechnya approximately 100,000 people died and more than 400,000 were forced to flee their homes during the same period. Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided at the dissolution of the Soviet Union and became a critic of President Putin, supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Gorbachev’s contradictory position vis-à-vis Crimea speaks of the deep Russian feeling of imperial greatness.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was the result of a deeply rooted ideological position. He believes Ukraine has no right to exist, hence his desire to bring the country under Russian rule or sphere of influence. It reminded many observers of the 1941-1944 period when Nazi Germany and the Axis powers occupied Ukraine. These painful memories led President Zelenskyy to call on his citizens to take up arms and resist the forces that invaded their country “just as they did against fascist Germany”. (Financial Times, February 25.)

Putin also feared NATO’s expansion. The Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, formerly a part of the USSR, joined the European Union and NATO. Both Ukraine and Georgia were slated to become members of NATO eventually. Putin noted that all the nations that declared independence from the Soviet Union were “ticking time bombs” infected with the “virus of nationalist ambitions”. (FT, February 25.)

With the occupation of Ukraine, Russia would extend its military power to the borders of several NATO countries. Steven Erlanger writes: “If Russia succeeds in taking over Ukraine and keeping bases in Belarus… its forces will extend from the borders of the Baltics and Poland to Slovakia, Hungary and northern Romania, making it significantly harder for NATO to defend its eastern flank.” (NYT, February 25.)

Most of the leaders of the Baltic countries that joined NATO fear that once Putin is finished taking care of business in Ukraine, “his attention will turn to countries in NATO facing him”. (FT, February 22.)

While many observers of international affairs believe the Russians (and certainly the Chinese) feel chafed under US hegemony, they never expected Putin to make such a bold move. They thought he would engage in more economic moves to transform the status quo than use such naked military power.

Many young Marxists saw Russia as a peace-loving country that respected the territorial integrity of states and right of nations to select their own leaders. After all, Russia has always portrayed itself as the protector of world peace, who fought against the dreaded excesses of a moribund capitalist order led by the United States.

Maybe we were young and impressionable, but many saw the USSR as the country that would herald in a new beginning in world affairs. Even those who bought into the Marxist narrative about the USSR being the guiding ideological power of a new world order always believed that Moscow was a peace-loving country that upheld the territorial integrity of states and the right of a people to elect their own leaders. Anton Troianovski, reporting from Moscow, noted: “Many Russians had bought into the Kremlin’s narrative that theirs was a peace-loving country and Mr Putin a careful and calculating leader.” (NYT, February 25.)

Many people refused to see the fallacy of that position. Even after Alexei Navalny was poisoned by a nerve agent, subsequently imprisoned for challenging Putin, and his organisation banned from taking part in parliamentary elections, they still believed there was some hope for the Russian system.

It has been reported that over the last two years Putin became an isolated man, a more aggravated and a more emotional person. Gleb O Pavlovsky, a close adviser to Putin until they fell out in 2011, reflected on Putin’s present behaviour. He wrote: “Putin’s become an isolated man, more isolated than Stalin was.” (NYT, February 25.)

We cannot be certain why people do what they do and what drives them to such criminal actions, but no one in his/her correct mind should accept Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. We know that he wishes to reunite the old Soviet Union, but one wonders at what cost he chooses to do so.

By the time you read this article, Putin may have gobbled up Ukraine. May the Ukrainians make him pay for his imperial ambitions and ill-considered actions.

9 thoughts on “Imperial power”

  1. Nuclear war & Putin
    The spectre of nuclear is very real today. The breaking up of all Russian financial, economic connections globally is one of the high risk manoeuvres by NATO members. These severe sanctions will hurt Russia but will also put Putin nuclear option on the table in a very real way.

    Russia has had a long enough history with nuclear weapon even exposing their own soldiers to radiation poisoning in the early experiments. Russia possess over 6,000 nuclear weapons. They have developed hypersonic missiles to deliver these nukes in the shortest amount of time. They also tested one of the highest yielding nuclear weapon, the Tsar.

    Coming out of a Soviet era communist system, the mindset of Russians is to obey their leaders without questioning their judgment. Unlike western thinking where leaders collaborate. Putin has shown that he is not a collaborative leader. He acts out of expediency. That makes him a very dangerous man. He has identified NATO as Russia enemies. He has on several occasions reminded NATO that Russia is a nuclear armed nation.

    The world to some extent is underestimating Putin. But one must remember Russia history and its impact on Putin mindset.

  2. I was a bit confused reading this article from Our Dear Professor.. It read like something out of the NewYork Times and Dem..
    One would expect the Professor to present a view from/for Africa and Africans globally.. You would think it’s why the Express gave him a space in their paper..
    The NeoNazi factor did not take too long to raise its ugly head.. Professor.

    BBC: Nigeria’s government has condemned reports that its citizens, and those of other African countries, have been stopped from leaving war-torn Ukraine.
    Isaac, a Nigerian man trying to get into Poland, said border staff told him they were “not tending to Africans”.
    “We’ve been chased back, we’ve been hit with police armed with sticks,” he told the BBC.

  3. This is a disappointing piece from Cudjoe.

    Putin was pushed into a corner, sorely provoked by US/NATO eastward encroachment toward Russia. He was quite right to view it as a threat. Ukraine allowed itself to be used as a means of US/NATO force projection against Russia. Putin and Lavrov put forward legitimate demands to the West for various security guarantees, including that they abide by promises made in that regard back when Germany was reunified and the Warsaw pact collapsed. Those demands were dismissed out of hand. What else was he to do?

    It is the US/NATO that is on the wrong side of history. The US made over 300 treaties with the indigenous peoples of America, ALL of which they broke, as they broke their documented promises to Russia. Why should Putin wait until US/NATO force projection AT ITS BORDER would render Russia completely at US/NATO mercy? Putin calculated correctly and bravely that to ensure its own security and independence it had to demilitarize Ukraine.

    The US did the same with Cuba in 1962 when they instituted a naval blockade of Cuba — an act of WAR in fact — and forced Kruschev to remove those Soviet missiles from Cuba. Everyone cheered Kennedy then. Deservedly so IMO. Why is Putin now condemned as “Mad Vlad” for doing the equivalent today?

    The difference: the Western media’s mastery of the art of whipping up hysteria and with staggering hypocrisy, “manufacturing consent.”

    Cudjoe has been taken in.

    Btw, I see our esteemed PM cozying up to Iran, an enemy of the US/NATO. I imagine he is looking for buyers for a certain refinery that is up for sale. Yes he and TT have that right in principle. But the reality is that such an arrangement would be unacceptable to US, and therefore it would be unwise. That used to be called realpolitik. Not every “right” in the abstract may in practice be wisely exercised. Ukraine’s “right” to choose to join with US/NATO likewise is not one that it should ever have sought to exercise. Putin and Russia will simply not have it. They will go nuclear if they must to prevent that from happening. That’s realpolitik. US/NATO over-reached. They have made one broken promise too many. And I am not and never was any kind of Marxist.

    Cudjoe must surely be aware of these nuances. But has chosen to regurgitate Western propaganda. I am didappointed.

  4. “The difference: the Western media’s mastery of the art of whipping up hysteria and with staggering hypocrisy, “manufacturing consent.”

    Cudjoe has been taken in.” ……….Yoruba

    We, in this region are very susceptible to news that are flavored for European and American consumption and are naive in terms of how it affects us. There is power in the use of words and the meaning they convey by those reporting them. Such is the nature of media and how it imparts stories for consumption and intake. Much of what is reported as ‘News’ is the eyewitness’ summarized perception or targeted revision of the topic being reported.

    History has shown that many of our soldiers from the Caribbean fought in the Second World War. While we know how much we lost from those ventures, it gives us little or no indication the benefits derived from our participation. Democracy is like a double edged sword. On one hand it boasts of freedom and the other it tailors information at the desire of those who control it. Here, we have adopted that style in how information is disseminated to the public. Locally, our media stories reflect more of editors’ choice in content rather than the capturing of facts that reflect the substance of the topic at hand. Two recently reported stories by our media are reflective of this style.

    Story One: Recently, the Coast Guard was called upon to defend the country against obvious human trafficking of illegal
    immigrants entering the country by unregistered boats. The highlight of that encounter ended in the unfortunate death of an infant brought on board by one or more of those entering the country illegally, but you would be hard pressed to get the story in that version from the media. The media reported the story as though the Coast Guard acted as a policemen, killing an infant, thus making it a story about careless shooting by the Coast Guard. In fact, the story became more political than a legal defense of our borders.

    Story Two: Recently, the Prime Minister went to Doha, in the United Arab Emirates to attend a meeting of oil producing nations on oil production. The media reported the story as though the Prime Minister went to DOHA. To begin with, how many people are so informed as to who or what is DOHA? . Most readers hardly know that there is a country named UAE, far more a capital called DOHA. The media failed to mention purpose so The Opposition picked up on the story and in their Monday Night campaign rally tells us (the informed and un-informed) that the Prime Minister went on a vacation where he sleeps in the most expensive hotels, eat caviar, and enjoying the best life had to offer, while leaving us here to struggle with crime and other ills of society.

    Both stories reported by the media were short on full truths.
    When important information is deliberately left out, the story takes on a dimension that barely resembles truth but cannot be construed as lie. This, in my view is how we are being duped by
    local media. They tell the truth but NOT the whole truth.

    What we need in this region is authors and storytellers like the world renowned Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She tells her story
    in unadulterated truth and honesty .


    In viewing her presentation of stories, even those who perpetrated and misrepresented truths cannot help but admire
    facts the way she presents them.

    1. I think we are not thinking of what ‘may’ be happening behind the scenes in Our Dear Professor’s life..
      ‘They are trying their best to sell this Ukrainian thing.. but there is a problem, NeoNazism and African/Black people..
      Who do you get to deflect from this Azov issue?

      They came for Madagascar.. but she abstained.. we wait to see the price Madagascar will pay for it..


      Stay strong Professor.. this is our moment..

    2. Thank you Kian. I see they have not fooled you at least…

      What is the saying? You can fool ALL the people some of the time, SOME of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool ALL the people ALL the time!

      We the NEGRO have been in a monkey-pants for some time, but we are now waking up to the tricks of the adversary, and fewer and fewer of us are falling for their tricks.

      Ramk too is right. Ukraine is not the sweet, defenseless puppy they’re made out to be, as our NEGRO brethren are finding out when they try to cross the border to safety.

      1. They want us to believe that there are two blocks of nations,
        one controlled by the West, sometimes described as democracies or Western lead and Soviet lead, sometimes aligned with Russia, China North Korea etc. Notwithstanding ideologies, racism remain the constant by which they deal with independent nations that are not of European stock. It could not be more pronounced than the treatment of non-white peoples who were fleeing Ukraine from Russian tyranny. Inspite of the fact that they were all escaping this tyranny, the Ukrainians found time to discriminate about who were more worthy of escaping based solely of skin color.

        The Soviet bloc are militaristic, Eurocentric and patriotic to their creed and race. The so called Western Alliance who brandishes the sword of democracy are no more friendly to the non-European block of nations. History is rife with their ruthlessness of destroying civilizations that were not of their choosing and replacing with their notions of God and majesty.
        In their conquest for sovreignty and power, destruction of those they conquered was their method of superiority. Asia, Africa and the Americas were all conquered with the blessings
        of royalty and the Papacy. Today, they are no less brutal. The tool that they employ is ‘diplomacy’, which means they have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. The only exceptions to that rule is of course is racism. It is the one constant that the European always employ to prove ‘superiority’ and it is always the trigger for conflict wherever they go.

        Both blocs use and practice racism to their advantage and there is no middle ground in dealing with either of these blocs.
        At one time there was a bloc called the ‘non-aligned’ bloc of countries famously led by the late Admiral Josip Tito who challenged both idealogies. India, China and Africa used to be aligned with that bloc but there was never a true alliance. They are represented in the United Nations today by using ‘the abstention’ vote to demonstrate their non-alignment.

        There is a formidable group of Latin-Americans domiciled in the United States that maintains the blockade of Cuba and Venezuela from being a part of the American States. Their intransigence to that blockade is being tested because in order for NATO and the West to be successful in filling the gap of the proposed Russian embargo of oil they need to convince the Maduro regime of getting Venezuelan oil to fill the void.
        That means ‘your enemy is not your enemy’ in this time of need.

        This leads me to our beloved Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar. She has used every means possible to un-dignify the Rowley’s government approach of non-alignment towards
        Venezuela. She is rigidly pro-American towards Venezuela and has even gone so far as to recognise Guido as president (which is foolish). She recently used the Coast Guard’s incident where an infant died to criminalize our defence forces, just to show how much she is aligned with American foreign policy. All of this while forgetting our dependence on Venezuelian Oil to boost our local oil production. That is like cutting off your nose to spoil your face. This also shows the naivette of the Opposition Leader when it comes to foreign policy . We live in complicated times. Today’s friend can be tomorrow’s enemy and yesterday’s enemy can become today’s friend – that is the real world. When we elect leaders, we must be sure they understand not just local thinking but that of our neighbors, international friends and those who may not be akin to us as well. THAT IS THE WORLD TODAY.

  5. In the UNC government 2010-2015 . The then T&T representative to the UN had a sit down with the daughter of the the far-right leader for France, Jean Marie Le Pen , when he was confronted with this he claimed “thought she was a journalist seeking an interview” as if T&T is that high up the Totem pole that out of the blue journalist with seek an audience with him. My point being that these people are not fit to govern T&T and they are not even trying to make an effort to make them selves suitable for office.

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