Oscar van Heerden | Ukraine, Russia and SA: The non-sensical proxy war of the G7

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that Russia would be beaten.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that Russia would be beaten.
John Moore, Getty Images

In case some were wondering why President Ramaphosa's administration got an invite, besides being a diverse economy and one of the largest in Africa, we are also a reliable partner in global affairs and many countries value and appreciate that of us, writes Oscar van Heerden

These past few days saw the most developed economies meeting under the banner of the Group of 7 (G7,) where critical matters were discussed concerning climate change, energy concerns, food security and in no small measure the war in Ukraine. In fact, President Zelensky of Ukraine connected via teams to tell the G7 leaders that he wants three things:

  1. More sophisticated weapons are needed. Ground-to-air missiles among others to be able to thwart Russian air attacks. Evidently, this is to feed the insatiable greed of the Military-Industrial Complex which is the biggest beneficiary of this ongoing conflict.
  2. Harsher sanctions are needed against Russian oil and gas. 
  3. The war must end before the winter. 

The reason for why the war must end before the next winter sets in are rather simple. Russian military forces are acutely well equipped with fighting in sub-zero conditions and other nations are, well, not. The second reason is of course that a number of European countries are going to feel the chill of winter given the fact that there simply won't be sufficient oil and gas for heating in these countries. They might not want to admit it, but they are reliant on Russian gas for most of their survival. French President Macron already indicated at the G7 meeting that his country is taking a beating and. unless oil is made available from other parts of the world, it will be devastating for the French. Germany raised similar concerns.

Ukraine narrative fiction 

It seems to me that the narrative that Ukraine is putting up a worthy fight and is able to hold the Russians back is all fiction. The reality, according to a New York Times article, we are told that more than 20 countries are actively involved in a proxy war against Russia. According to the article, the Central Intelligence Agency, NATO, numerous special forces from a number of EU countries, Australia and Canada are all having boots on the ground in Ukraine. Actively lending support to ensure that Russia is kept at bay from Kiev and other areas. 

The question I ask myself then is, what is this obsession with having to deal with the Russian bear? After all, this is a country that made similar if not more sacrifices during the war to destroy Nazi Germany. Twenty-million Soviet soldiers perished in that war to make damn sure that the genocide of millions of Jews was halted. And they, together with the other allied forces, succeeded in this mission, so why have they become the arch-enemy of the West? 

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After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it was Russia that conceded and returned sovereignty to many countries in the Eastern Bloc, including East Germany. Of course, some may argue the Russians had no other option, but this argument is akin to some apartheid diehards saying that they could have still continued fighting well post-1990 here in SA. And yet, after all this sacrifice on the part of the Russian state and its people, they must be seen as the enemy.      

Perhaps we must read John Steinbeck's book with the same name, and ask who is Ethan Allen Hawley in this sordid affair? Could it be that the USA is the protagonist seeking to remain successful in a world where seemingly the only way of gaining that success is to engage in illegal acts? You decide!

Change in world order 

What I know is that this conflict is leading toward a change in the world order as we know it. It was all good and well when Allied forces went up against small mediocre countries such as Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. But a great power such as Russia, a nuclear power at that, with the levels of oil and gas as it has, you will find that this is not a conflict that is likely to end anytime soon unless the various players come to the table and talk. Soon, China, India and Brazil will take a side and, somehow, I don't think it's going to be in line with the Western powers. They can see the bullying tactics and the manipulation of industry and companies towards the Russians and they are telling themselves the West can do this to me too.  

ALSO READ | Cyril Ramaphosa: BRICS partnership has great value for South Africa

Alternative global financial systems are being developed and countries such as Iran and Argentina are applying for membership to the BRICS grouping. Geopolitics, as we know it, are fast-changing, all because of this conflict. So, as the Western alliance plays chicken with Russia to see who will flinch first, we in Africa will remain on the receiving end. Still being manipulated by the former colonial powers and investment promises to ensure that votes go a certain way at the UN general assembly.  

So, for those that scoff at South Africa's stance towards this war and the fact that they refuse to blindly condemn Russia, at least they are taking a stance and that's why SA gets invited to gatherings such as the G7. In case some were wondering why President Ramaphosa's administration got an invite, besides being a diverse economy and one of the largest in Africa, we are also a reliable partner in global affairs and many countries value and appreciate that of us. They might not always agree with us though.

So, as Shakespeare once foretold, this is our winter of discontent. Who will eventually usurp power and end all unhappiness? Somehow, I don't think it's going to be those fighting a proxy war. And like in Richard III, many will die and suffer the consequences of this war.

- Dr Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He is currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Fort Hare.

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