While the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 went down and took with it the 289 passengers onboard with no survivors, fingers are being pointed from all sides. While Putin has hurled the blame on Ukraine, claiming that the incident took place within its airspace, President Obama has minced no words while saying, “Evidence suggests that the plane was shot down by Ukrainian separatists”. Pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, according to the US version, have used Buk missiles to shoot down the civilian plane and they cannot use such highly-sophisticated weapons in the absence of help from experts. Samantha Power, the US envoy to the UN, has said, “We cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel”.
This exchange of blame is just a beginning as these comments are based on initial intelligence-based assessments. To determine what actually happened, a thorough international investigation will have to be carried out. More blames regarding the ‘tampering with evidence’ and ‘allegations without proof’ are likely to ensue. But the incident has re-emphasised the volatility of the situation that emerged after the violent change of regime in Ukraine.
Given the 200 years of Russian engagement in Ukraine, its influence over the strategically important state is significant. Losing such an important state, which was formerly a part of the USSR to the West, was too much for the Russians to digest. As the time passes, new dimensions, many of them unintended and unpredicted, are adding up to the crisis. Ukraine’s territorial integrity has already gone, further territorial adjustments will follow as ethnic Russians of the eastern regions are not willing to be ruled by Kiev any more. The shooting of the Malaysian airliner, causing causalities which include people from multiple nationalities, has internationalised the crisis, which so far was predominantly a regional one. More sanctions on Russia will further deteriorate its relations with the West, whom Russia accuses of having instigated the crisis at the first place. Meanwhile, enhanced international pressure that seems to have been built by the Western media will further push the Bear to the wall.
This brings us to the larger issue: the West’s policy of interference. This policy has consequences which augur not so well for world peace and stability. Firstly, with a more assertive Russia under Putin back on world stage, and a relatively weaker US, shadows of the Cold War appear to be creeping in again.
Secondly, the pattern of outcome all over the world, be it Eastern Europe, the Middle East or South Asia, is strikingly similar. The West’s interference, with the US having the lead role, be it in the form of direct intervention or covert support, in existing states is creating new crises, giving birth to local resistance, creating instability and threatening the Balkanisation of states. As a result, the post-World War II map of the world is being redrawn in different regions.
The world’s balance of power has fast shifted from unipolar to multipolar with the emergence of a rather friendly EU, more confident and hostile Russia, economically and militarily upgraded China and an ambitious India. In this new world reality, encroaching upon the settled states and pricking the different spheres of influence may lead to long-drawn hostilities, causing humanitarian crises with potential dangers to world peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2014.
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