Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: resistance and aggression in one drinking jar.

“Look, if you remove your [300,000] troops [from east Germany] and allow the unification of Germany in NATO, NATO will not expand one inch to the east.” – US Secretary of State James Baker talking to Gorbachev in 1990. Russia has begun shelling Ukraine, with casualties.

When a bigger country begins to shell a smaller country first, we use the word “aggression”. In this case, easily, based on recent events, Russia would be adjudged the aggressor. But there is a twist. In 1990, US Secretary of State James Baker promised the leader of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev that if the USSR dissolved, NATO will not expand “one inch” eastwards — the exact situation the Russians had resisted for decades. In 1991, the USSR official dissolved ending the Cold War [read about it to understand].

To reinforce the importance of not taking diplomatic gestures at face value, Russia has been surrounded since then.

NATO presently has 30 members: the first 12 joined in 1949; 2 in 1952; 1 in 1955; 1 in 1982; 3 in 1999; 7 in 2004; 2 in 2009; 1 in 2017; and 1 in 2020. Between 1991 when Baker made his promise that “if you remove your [300,000] troops [from east Germany] and allow the unification of Germany in NATO, NATO will not expand one inch to the east”, and today NATO has registered 11 new members. Two of the members are Estonia and Latvia. They are right on the borders of Russia and former USSR countries. Then it was raised that Ukraine – the second most powerful USSR state should join NATO. It is almost like a gun held to the head of the Russians and invariably makes Russian aggression a form of resistance to Western expansionism. But only as far as geopolitics is concerned. Ukraine is a sovereign nation. This brings me to the second face of the war. Another reality to consider. Ukraine and Russia had been one country once with its capital in Kiev. It was ruled by Volodimer the Grand Prince. Fatefully, both Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukrainian President) and Vladimir Putin (Russian President) are named after the same person. Then Russia became powerful and dominant, most prominently over Ukraine. 1 in 6 Ukrainian is Russian. 1 in 3 Ukrainian speak Russian as a native language. Putin also said Ukraine and Russia are one. “Holy Rus”, he declared. In 1994 — after the collapse of the USSR — an agreement was signed in Budapest. During the agreement, Ukraine swapped Cold War-era weapons — 176 IBMs, 1249 nuclear warheads, 44 strategic bombers, 700 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, and 2000 tactical nuclear weapons — for a guarantee of Ukrainian security and sovereignty. Ukraine, under sit-tight leaders, remained allied with Russia. But in 2014 the last Russian puppet leader, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted by the people in the massive EuroMaidan protests.

That was the beginning of the conflict. Putin’s Russia and the minority Russian-speaking population in Ukraine were angry over Yanukovych’s ouster. Russia had lost its puppet. It began escalating. Gradually, starting with Crimea, Russia began chipping away at Ukraine. Then rebel separatists (back by Russia) began an onslaught against the Ukrainian state in the Russian-speaking Donbas region. They took the struggle to a crescendo when they dropped the Malaysian Airline Flight carrying 298 people in 2014. Ukraine cracked down on the separatists. The Russian military moved in, in full capacity. It is important to note that Donbas — Lugansk and Donetsk — was an artificial creation of the Russian Empire. That Ukrainians speak Russian as a major language points at ugly, beastly stories of colonialism.

Putin’s claims about the ones of the Ukrainians and Russians are like the British claiming ones with Nigerians and Ghanaians based on shared colonial history and use of the English language. Ukrainian was forcefully “Russified”. Catherine the Great in the 18th century ordered the population of the region with ethnic Russians and the ban the Ukrainian language. In 1930, Joseph Stalin caused the deaths of millions of Eastern Ukrainians through orchestrated famine and then he repopulated the area with Russians.

The Tartars in 1940 were replaced by Russians. Eastern Ukraine speaks Russian because it was ethnically cleansed for economic reasons; solid minerals and fertile land. 70% of the people of Ukraine reject the claim that they are one with Russia; 72% consider Russia a hostile state; over 33% are ready to fight Russia to death; over 21% are ready to resist peacefully; 67% want to join the European Union; 59% wants to join NATO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was an open critic of Russia and won the presidency with a massive majority of votes — up to 73%. Putin, effectively, is an expansionist imperialist. He is also a politician using nationalist sentiments to solidify his position.

By invading Chechnya, he raised his approval ratings. Later he occupied Crimea and now Ukraine.

Whatever you make of this is up to you.

Ojo, Aderemi

Ibadan, Nigeria.


Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: @RealOjoAderemi


Ojo, Aderemi is a Historian, teacher, public speaker, writer, politician, and community organiser. He was trained at the University of Ibadan and was President of the Students Union.

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