Bola A. Akinterinwa
The on-going war between Russia and Ukraine has the potential to generate an international insurrection in the event of use of nuclear weapons as a last resort. International insurrection cutting across several countries can then be the unwanted lot of the international community. Put differently, the use of nuclear arms by Russia is most likely. It cannot be ruled out because of the mounting pressure on Russia by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and European Union (EU) countries all of which are strongly sustaining Ukrainian resistance. In this regard, the NATO-EU’s apparent strategy is to prolong the war, and by so doing, weaken Russia and possibly renew the idea of perestroïka and glasnost (Opening and Restructuring), and make Russia irrelevant in the conduct and management of global affairs. The ultimate objective is to underscore the supremacy of Western civilisation.
Russia seriously contests the supremacy of Western civilisation in various ramifications. Russia has always differentiated between elite oligarchy and the people of the West and has always drawn global attention to the Russian position that Russia is not at war with any people of the world, but with the elite oligarchy in the United States, Europe, and particularly in Ukraine. And true enough, many international stakeholders now appear to be subscribing to the Russian school of thought. Many countries are also fighting the NATO-EU by using soft power, which similarly also has the potential to threaten international peace and security.
For instance, some countries are currently using the Chinese Yuan in their financial transactions. The use of the Yuan is de-emphasising the importance of the dollar as an international currency. In fact, the Yuan has become a major challenger to the dominance of the US dollar with countries like Russia, Iran, Brazil, Argentina and Bangladesh using the Yuan for trade as a backup currency for trade finance, international payments, foreign exchange transactions and central bank reserve assets. In Africa, Zimbabwe has joined the users of Yuan. As such, efforts are consciously being made to de-dollarise international financial transactions. In particular, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is currently leading in the consideration of an alternative to the US dollar.
Likelihood of Use of Nuclear Weapons
Opinion is mixed on the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons in the on-going Russo-Ukrainian war. One school of thought argues that a nuclear war, no matter how limited, is mutual suicide and that President Putin cannot afford the luxury to first launch a nuclear attack, especially that Russians do not want to die recklessly. Explained differently, is Russo-Ukraine and Russo-American nuclear war confrontation possible?
If we consider that there is a deepening military lull that has come to characterise the prosecution of the war as at today, the use of nuclear weapons may not be ruled out as there is nothing to suggest that the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, is much aware of the likely use of nuclear arms against the territory of Ukraine and that Ukraine is also being used by both Russia and the United States for the destruction of the people of Ukraine. As it is today, Ukraine can be completely neutralised as the war in Ukraine, in truth, is more than just a war between Russia and Ukraine. The war is a cold war between the US-led NATO and Russia.
In other words, it is a hot war between Russia and Ukraine and a cold war between the United States and Russia. At the level of Russia and Ukraine, Russia never liked the idea of opening and restructuring of the former Soviet Union which led to the collapse of the Union. By implication, Russia does not believe in the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. In terms of strategic foreign policy calculations, Russia believes that Ukraine should be part of a greater Russia. While Ukraine is still enjoying its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the anger of Russia’s Putin is necessarily exacerbated by Ukraine’s hobnobbing with the US-led NATO to expand its politico-military influence to the international borders of Russia. This development has also raised the blood pressure of President Putin who sees the nearness of NATO to its borders as most unacceptable.
In this regard, Russia has made some demands over which Russia does not intend to accept compromise for reasons of national defence and security: non-acceptance of Ukraine’s membership of the NATO; withdrawal of NATO from Eastern Europe and retain its pre-1997 structure; freezing the NATO Alliance the way the Warsaw Pact had been done as jointly agreed to; no NATO military drills in Ukraine unless with the consent of Russia; etc. Expectedly, the United States and the NATO do not accept the demands. While Russia has the agenda to reconstitute the former Soviet Empire, the United States wants to prevent the renewal of any powerful rival. The United States wants to ensure the continued vibrancy of Western civilisation and hegemony. Thus, there is the NATO order versus the Russian counter-order, prompting the disorder currently in Ukraine.
This is why Ukraine has become a battle field and a victim of a proxy war. And perhaps more disturbingly, Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, has always asked for more military assistance from Europe to enable the defeat of Russia this coming summer. In the strong belief that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Europe has not hesitated in quickly providing such assistance to Ukraine, but not reckoning with the increasing number of casualties.
In response to the request of Volodymyr, the UK Secretary of Defence, Ben Wallace, told the British Parliament that long-range Storm Shadow missiles had been sent to Ukraine in support of its struggle against Russia. The Storm Shadow missiles, each of which costs more than £2m can strike targets in the Russian occupied Crimea. In the words of Ben Wallace, the decision was ‘a calibrated and proportionate response’ to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. More important, Mr Wallace said Russia had made ‘788 attacks on health facilities, hospitals, clinics, medical centres… The use of Storm Shadow will allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces based within Ukrainian sovereign territory. Russia must recognise that their actions alone have led to such systems being provided.’
In reaction to Mr Wallace, President Putin has said that Russia would respond appropriately. But what is the nature of the appropriate response? Is this not a deepening tension that is pointing to the likely use of Weapons of Mass Destruction? The United States and the EU allies have initially considered the non-deployment of long range missiles to Ukraine to avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia. However, the sending of long-rage Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine has now thrown into the dustbin of history the non-deployment policy. The policy response of President Putin to this development is quite thought-provoking.
On the occasion of the celebration of Russia’s Victory Day on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, President Putin said that ‘today, civilisation is again at a decisive turning point. A real war has been unleashed against our motherland but we have fought back against international terrorism. We will also protect the people of Donbars and ensure our own security. For us, for Russia, there are no unfriendly, hostile nations either in the West or in the East. Like the vast majority of people on the planet, we want to see a peaceful, free and stable future.’
This statement is noteworthy because Russia says a real war has been unleashed on her, thus raising who kick-started the war in Ukraine. Is it the NATO’s disregard for agreements done with Russia and to which Russia has to militarily respond that explains the commencement of the war? Is the Russian Special Military Intervention that began on February 24, 2022 in Ukraine not the beginning of the war and for which Russia should be internationally held responsible? Whatever is the case, what is undeniable is that the US-led NATO is largely responsible for the commencement of the Cold War while Russia started the hot war, the future of which is still difficult to predict.
As further explained by President Putin on the Victory Day, ‘we are proud of the participants in the present military operations, of all those who are fighting on the frontline, who provide support under fire, who rescue the wounded, there is nothing more important now than your combat effort. The security of the country rests on you today, the future of our statehood and our people depend on you. You are fulfilling your military duty with honour. You are fighting for Russia.’ Without doubt, this is not only a commendation for the Russian forces but a further encouragement and request to fight harder the more, meaning that there is no immediate end to the war.
And more importantly, President Putin has it that ‘what we want for the future is a future of peace, a future of stability, not a future of blood. But the elite in the West, they keep talking of their exceptionalism (sic), of how they are different, and they are the ones creating a sense of disruption between our people. They are the one destroying family values, traditional values that make everyone on this planet human. They are forcing their will on other nations, forcing their rules on others. But it would appear that they have forgotten what Nazism was all about…’
From this statement, there is no disputing the fact that the Cold War between Russia and the United States is about Western civilisation, the supremacy of which Russia is not prepared to accept. Russia is essentially saying here that what the West is preaching or claiming, the same West has been acting contrarily to it. In other words, the West is preaching its exceptional character, but destroying family and traditional values. The implication of the foregoing conflict of interests is that the end to the imbroglio cannot be for now. More important, in the event the war is prolonged to the extent that Russia will be left to use nuclear arms to save face, the whole world may have to suffer greatly for it, especially in terms of how to cope with possible cases of international insurrection.
Scenarios of International Insurrection
Insurrection, which is synonymous with mutiny, uprising, rebellion, revolution, is generally considered as an organised violent revolt against a civil or political authority or established government. The US legal definition has it that insurrection is ‘the act or an instance of revolting especially violently against civil or political authority or against an established government’ or ‘the crime of inciting or engaging in such a revolt (whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or against the authority of the United States.’
If insurrection is defined from a municipal or national perspective, especially in terms of a rebellion at the level of the people against an established authority, who are those people expected to revolt at the level of international insurrection? In other words, which world government are the peoples of the world to revolt against? Is it the United Nations? Will the Member States of the United Nations revolt against itself? These questions are raised in order to underscore the new trend in international relations and global governance: increasing people’s revolt against their legitimate governments. Civil society organisations can protest against the United Nations but not probably revolt in the mania of a revolution. This does not mean that there cannot be a serious revolt at the UN headquarters.
It should be noted here that in Africa, the African Union (AU) frowns at non-constitutional governments. Any government that is not an offshoot of a constitutional democratic process is not acceptable to African leaders, at least in theory. The missing link, however, is the issue of people-initiated coups d’état, prolonged public protests leading to military intervention, etc. The cases of some Francophone West African countries – Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea – serve as good examples of peoples deciding the direction of their political governance. In Mali, the protests of the June 5 Movement led to the removal of an elected government and installation of a people-supported military government. If at the national level, elected governments are increasingly becoming more corrupt and inept and the people have to take the laws into their hands to remove such elected governments, rather than waiting until election time to change them, we argue here that, if nuclear weapons are eventually used in the course of the Russian-Ukrainian war, and the speculated death of not less than six million people becomes a reality, the likelihood of a general revolt of the people cannot be ruled out. The death will be as a result of a US-Russia, as well as an EU-provoked war. The war is basically a European war but with global implications.
In this regard, it has been predicted that the socio-economic impacts of any nuclear war will be terrible, particularly for developing countries and marginalised people. As noted by icanw.org, ‘the use of less than one per cent of the nuclear weapons in the world could disrupt the global climate and threaten as many as two billion people with starvation in a nuclear famine. The detonation of thousands of nuclear weapons could result in a nuclear winter which could destroy our fragile ecosystem.’
What is particularly noteworthy about health consequences of any nuclear war is that physicians have predicted in the same vein that ‘about 2.4 million people worldwide will eventually die from cancers due to atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1980.’ If people are still dying from nuclear tests carried out before 1980, and outright fresh nuclear weapons are expected to be detonated from which six million people are still predicted to die as a result of Russo-Ukrainian nuclear war, we should not be talking about a nuclear winter or nuclear famine, but about a nuclear global self-suicide.
Many related questions are raised here. First, France carried out her first and second atomic tests in the Reggane area of the Sahara in February and April, 1960 and Nigeria complained bitterly about them through the United Kingdom before her independence, but to no avail. After attainment of independence, in October 1960, France again carried out the third test in December 1960 and Nigeria strained her diplomatic ties with France as earlier promised. Now if physicians are currently saying that the atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1980 still have the potential to endanger people’s lives, create cancerous situations, etc., it means that the fears of Nigeria under Sir Tafawa Abubakar Balewa administration, that the radioactive effects of the French atomic bomb tests would harm the people of Africa, could not have been more correct. Sir Tafawa Balewa argued that the radioactive effect would be blown southwards of the Sahara.
Secondly, after the French saga of 1960, the fears of a Russian nuclear attack are now being expressed. In the event of such detonation of nuclear bombs anytime from now, will there not be radioactive effects that can be blown from the theatre of war to the African continent? Will there be a way of redirecting the radioactive wind? If yes, to where will the wind be first directed? Is it really possible to prevent Russia from eventually deploying nuclear weapons in the context of legitimate self-defence? If Russia launches a nuclear war on Ukraine, which country will be able to prevent Ukraine and its European backers from also engaging in a reciprocal nuclear attack on Russia?
It is useful to recall here the many arguments that have been advanced on the inevitability of a nuclear war. Nuclear proliferation is one argument on its own. The limited the number of nuclear powers the better for global peace and security. Apart from the Nuclear Weapon States who all also are the Five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea are also on record to have acquired the nuclear status. Do they all have the same management capacity and capability to manage nuclear accidents? One major reason for not allowing Member States of the United Nations to develop nuclear capability for war purposes is precisely the alleged incapacity to manage nuclear disasters.
A second reason for the inevitability of a nuclear war is the US mistreatment of Russia as a former superpower. As explained in Martin E. Hellman’s article on “On the Probability of Nuclear War” (The Times, Mateo, California, Wednesday, March 20, 1985, videe.stanford.edu) and by Orville Wright (videe.stanford.edu), the United States does not see any need in consulting with Russia as a former superpower in taking decisions. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there is no new military invention that does not go along with destruction. Orville Wright has it that when the first man was carrying flying machine, it was ‘thought we are introducing into the world an invention that would make further wars practically impossible. Far from ending wars, however, the airplane increased the ability to maim and kill in fire bombing raids on London, Hamburg and Tokyo. The airplane wrought previously unimaginable levels of destruction. In a single night, 80,000 people were killed and over one million left homeless.
In essence, there is nothing to suggest that African leaders are prepared for the implications of a nuclear war which is imminent. Even the management of agitations for separation, which is not in any way as dangerous as a nuclear conflict, speaks volumes of management incapacity. Nigeria has been more divided than ever before. We subscribe to the school of thought that says that, if care is not taken, Africans may be carelessly cut unawares. Hence, the most disturbing aspect of the inevitability of a nuclear war is that ‘history shows the folly in hoping that each new more destructive weapon will not be used. And yet we dare hope that this time it will be different, we (Americans) and the Soviets have amassed combined arsenal of 50,000 nuclear weapons, equivalent in destructive force to some 6,000 World War II’s, capable of reaching their targets in a matter of minutes, and able to destroy every major city in the world. All in the belief that they will never be used! Unless we make a radical shift in our thinking … nuclear war is inevitable.’