POWER AND THE HIERARCHY OF NATIONS
THERE is an interesting Latin notion called, “tertius gaudens” which loosely means that when two parties go to war, there is always a third party that benefits from that conflict. The benefits could be material (economic resources) or increased influence over a region or people.
This third party and their agenda is usually hidden because in the confusion of war, while commotion and fear are high, some prioritise life and others see opportunities to seize the available resources.
For example, eight years after the Arab Spring of Libya in 2015, Libyan oil still flows and is sold to off-takers even today. The 30-year-long Angolan civil war did not stop the sale and demand for Angolan diamonds during the conflict. The fact that wars require substantial funding before the first bullet is fired and more money to repair the damage from the bombs makes it a lucrative and dangerous exercise.
Even with all this history and reality, international news is once again dominated by Ukraine and the possibility of war. Strangely, the Ukrainian voice is not the loudest. Rather, the United States of America (USA) and its European Union (EU) allies Germany, the United Kingdom (UK) and France have been the more vocal on one hand, and Russia on the other.
Everyone involved in these diplomatic talks undoubtedly understands the absolute necessity for peace but seem at pains to agree on whose terms that peace should be anchored. In other words, should a peace resolution be anchored on Russia’s proposal or Ukraine’s (and by extension the US and its western allies) conditions?
What makes this situation even more tense is that it is reminiscent of the cold-war era when the two superpowers, USA and Russia had stockpiles of nuclear weapons pointed at each other’s countries. Somehow, the superpowers understood that there would be no winners in a war of nuclear weapons and that firing first would not guarantee survival.
This logic remains true today. Hence the conflict between the US and Russia was fought in part through proxies and allies from Cuba to Angola, Egypt to Zaire, in Afghanistan and many other countries. It may be tempting to add Ukraine to that category.
In that tense environment, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed as a military alliance of countries aligned with the US, UK, France and others. This agreement allowed military bases to be placed in (some) member states. Contrastingly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) formed a block named the Warsaw Pact comprised of 15 Communist states equally capable to militarily protect their territories. When the cold war ended in the late 1980s the Soviet Union dissipated and was not an economic superpower. Currently, three former USSR members namely, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO. So, while the Warsaw Pact dissolved, NATO has kept expanding in territory and influence.
From Russia’s calculation, NATO is not an economic alliance, it is a miliary one with strategic territorial protection objectives which entail placing weaponry in its members countries, some of which are former geographic territories of Russia under the USSR.
Even worse, Moscow the capital city of Russia sits on the eastern flank of the map near some of the former USSR members who are now NATO member states which poses a further territorial threat in the mind of Russia, if NATO decides to station military bases or weapons in its former territories close to its own border.
For Ukraine, the matter is not of territorial integrity, but one of survival and the will to make its own decisions based on its own sovereignty without external interference.
Indeed, the worst kind of war is one fought between a people that share a common history and culture such as Russia and Ukraine because in conflict, deeply shared bonds could be severed with extreme and vicious ferocity as if to erase historical bonds.
Therefore, an intervention that neglects to remind former friends of their shared history can be worse than war itself. The complexities that cause war are many but the benefits of peace are always greater. We must always ask, who will gain should this tension turn into the misfortune war?
Africa bears the scars of many sponsored wars on its soil. Kingdoms were split into countries and villages burned to the ground amid other unspeakable horrors. While the West has embellished the spoils of war, countries like Zambia paid the ultimate price for fighting to bring to a stop the many wars that were fought on African soil in the 1970s, 80’s and 90’s.
Our intervention on the continent’s wars and civil strife had at its core, a desire to preserve life and human dignity. A clear contrast with those who “intervene” and broker “peace” as a means of enriching their nations while demonstrating power. Africa, Europe indeed the human race, cannot afford any more wars.