Lessons African nations should learn from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – International Affairs Expert, Prof Nwoke

Professor of History and International Studies at the Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Prof Chibuzor N. Nwoke, has said that the Russia, Ukraine war should be a  great lesson to leaders of African nations, who are appendages of neocolonial powers.

In an interview with VINCENT KALU, Nwoke, a former Executive Director at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), noted that just as Ukraine had so much hope in America to defend them in this war, African leaders should know these super powers are only interested in exploiting the natural resources in their territories and would be abandoned in times of troubles.   

What can you tell us about the cause of this Russian-Ukraine war that is making the world jittery?

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Recall that at the end of the Second World War, we had what was called a world order that was substituted by two barely equitably matched balanced powers – USA and USSR.  The later led the Eastern bloc, while the former led the Western bloc in what I call inter imperialist struggle for control of resources, influence and territories. This was known as the cold war. While the USSR formed the Warsaw pact to facilitate its imperialist agenda, USA formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Somehow, USSR was later dismantled and was left with what is now known as Russia. It is interesting to note that these two imperialist rivals had framed out several agreements between themselves forbidding each other from expanding too close to each other’s borders in order not to cause serious security threats to each other.

We must recall where back in 1962, when Russia placed a military outpost in Cuba and America under President Kennedy was going to bomb life out of Cuba and America has not forgiven Cuba to have allowed that thing to happen. What I want to draw out is that there were these tacit agreements between these two great powers not to come too close to their borders. Then we introduced somebody called Vladmir Putin, a former KGB agent, who is now the president of Russia. Nevertheless, despite the agreements between the two hegemonies that NATO from the west side of the West would not expand into Russia’s backyard, NATO nevertheless moved in with several member nations now bordering Russian’s heartland. Since 1997, 14 countries that closely border Russia have joined NATO. Apparently disregarding the standing agreements not to come too close with NATO expansion, the USA seems to be behind the scene encouraging countries to join NATO, arguing that it is their independent sovereign democratic rights to join on their own volition. This is the crux of the matter as Russia would not accept that and this is what is happening in Ukraine today.

Was this war avoidable?

If the super powers had acted in rational logical ways, it could have been avoidable. If the super powers were not double standard players and dubious dealers, it was quite avoidable. I gave you the background that they had an understanding not to do this and that between themselves. If every super power had behaved itself, it would not happen. But of course, international politics won’t go that way because there are lies, double standards and all sorts of calculations that are going into the deal. America that is behind Ukraine has its hands very dirty in several other places like Syria, Libya, Iraq on trumped-up charges of weapons of mass destruction. Without this subtle and not so subtle mischief by the great powers, the war could have certainly been avoided.

Ukraine thought that America would swiftly rise to defend them immediately Russia attacked them, but we have not seen this happen. Why?

This is the interesting angle.  I find the so called sanctions by America under the present circumstance funny; sanctions that are not particularly targeted at the head of the aggressor (apologies to Russia). The sanctions are so lame. Biden has been so careful not to do the financial swift on Putin. That begins to tell you that there is a game there among criminals which you also find in Nigeria’s politics. They come and pretend that they are fighting themselves and the next moment you see them sitting together and drinking wine in their privacy. That sanction thing tells a lot about the genuineness of all of this. A country like Ukraine and its leader are in the middle of it all. This is just the dirty game of international politics playing out. Ukraine rightly assumed that US would come immediately and then finished up the war within days and then Russia would run back, but it has not happened that way. Ordinary Ukrainians who have not carried guns before are carrying guns and are in the streets trying to help themselves out. Your question is apt. The US has the capacity to do that and stop Russia, but the answer lies in the dirty nature of international politics.

What lessons does it teach other countries, especially powerless ones with close ties to the super powers?


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Let us focus on our continent and our country, Nigeria, where you have puppet leaders and comprador elements that run African countries, who are appendages of neocolonial powers. They should learn that at the end of the day, they are on their own; they should know that these people do not have their interest at heart and that they are just stogies and elements of exploitations of resources in their territories – gold, copper, uranium, diamond, etc. They should know that is what the super powers are interested in, and that when the chips are down they would abandon them. That is the lesson, but are they paying attention, I doubt.

Can we say what is at play is a motor park diplomacy, where issues are settled based of fights, and the one able to intimidate the other gains control of the motor park?

This is their style. I can remember I started calling the whole relationship, inter imperial rivalry. It is almost akin to 1884. What did they do in Berlin? They sat down carved out borders for Africa arbitrarily and they said let us not be fighting over this territory, Portugal take this one; UK take this one, etc and so they settled. This is really their nature, all of these brandishing guns are just superficial, and it’s not real. That explains the nature of USA response in this situation, giving financial sanction when people are dying and guns are booming. We would have thought that there would be gun for gun and bomb for bomb, but the contrary was the case. Don’t be surprised that pretty soon it would be over and they know how to settle in the future. We are not privy to those secret agreements that they have, but there is something like that. Every once in a while this thing sparks with a little bit of break in the agreement and we now see a scenario like this that is unfolding. It will be over soon.

What position should Nigeria take?

Just look at the attitude of Nigeria’s Foreign Service to the pitiable condition of Nigerian students over there. As usual, it is totally unorganised, uncoordinated, and unintelligent. To start with, where is the citizen’s diplomacy? What has Nigeria got to offer in a circumstance like this, what kind of power are you? We used to call ourselves a regional power; African this and that. Are we still there? Nigeria’s Foreign Service is very weak. The blunt answer to your question is just nothing; we are not reckoned with, and that is part of our problem.  Our leadership has made it so, unfortunately.

You made mention of sanctions, do you think any form of sanction can deter a determined Putin?

The only sanction that will make sense to Putin is for America, as said earlier that Ukraine had expected them, directly or indirectly,  to give Putin a fight. When this thing was building up, I said is it possible in international relations by this time to smuggle Ukraine directly into NATO, because there they have it as a proviso, if you attack one of us we consider it that you attack all of us and they come at you. That would have been a strategic decision, and of course if Russia heard about it, it would think twice before brazenly moving in. Putin has described NATO as America’s foreign policy instrument. After all, the funding mostly comes from them. I didn’t expect financial or economic sanctions. I expected some military kind of action that will face Russia. (Not that I’m on the America’s side.) Russia historically has a good reason to do what they are doing in Ukraine.

Is it not a question of balance of fear and balance of terror that America hasn’t made the expected move to attack Russia or defend Ukraine?

That was how the so called cold war evolved. But then, they were able to do all of that with agreements – you, do this number of nuclear things, likewise the other and they were moving on. In international relations, America doesn’t have to go directly and start shooting, but there is something you first do – a show of force, brandishing the military hardware that you have to remind Russia your capacity and capability. When it sees that, it may think twice. If the situation is further provoked they can do a few skirmishes here and there. None of that was done and you are telling me about financial sanctions. The only people who are bound to be affected by the sanctions are the ordinary people and they would find a way of surviving. Putin is a very intelligent international person, he must have reckoned with all these calculations before he took on what he is doing. They can’t threaten him with tepid financial sanctions.