SA needs understanding of geopolitical and economic impact of the conflict before choosing sides

South Africa, standing on the brink of collapse with no leadership or direction, would do well to put its own house in order and understand the actual geopolitical and economic impact of the conflict before choosing sides.


The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has evoked strong support within South Africa by those either in favour of it, or those against it. A brutal and drawn-out war will ensure losers on both sides as the world reconfigures itself. Many people are basing their emotional commentary on what they perceive the true situation to be. Unfortunately, they merely add to the confusion as well as the mass of disinformation and propaganda. Commentators have transitioned from “Covid specialists” to “conflict specialists”. Their lack of understanding of European and Russian foreign policy, global economics and politics, along with the potential impact…

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The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has evoked strong support within South Africa by those either in favour of it, or those against it.

A brutal and drawn-out war will ensure losers on both sides as the world reconfigures itself. Many people are basing their emotional commentary on what they perceive the true situation to be. Unfortunately, they merely add to the confusion as well as the mass of disinformation and propaganda. Commentators have transitioned from “Covid specialists” to “conflict specialists”.

Their lack of understanding of European and Russian foreign policy, global economics and politics, along with the potential impact this war will have on the world, is astonishing. One must go back in history and understand that both Russia and Ukraine were part of the USSR, or the Soviet Union.

Ukraine was only established as a state in 1922 according to Vladimir Lenin’s dictates when the Soviet Union was created. It was the Soviet Union that provided armed support and training to members of liberation struggles, South Africans included. It collapsed in December 1991.

When that happened, the Soviet Union’s member states chose their own direction according to their perceived future national interests. Some aligned with the West and joined the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). Others chose to remain within Russia’s political sphere of influence.

Whether the invasion was due to Nato’s expansion eastwards, or Russia’s determination to establish a buffer state between itself and Nato, there are many complex geopolitical and economic issues at stake – issues the vast majority of us are unaware of.

ALSO READ: Zuma backs Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, says Putin’s actions are ‘justifiable’

There are also the arguments between the West’s vision of a new world order and the determination of Russia and its allies to halt this movement. For some time, Russian forces were building up on the Russian-Ukrainian and the Belarus-Ukrainian borders.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has come at a stiff price: a harsh and severe sanction blitz aimed at further isolating it and collapsing its economy. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s membership of the EU is being “fasttracked” and will result in it applying for membership of Nato.

Whereas the conflict is widely condemned, let’s not claim to know what is truly happening behind the heavy curtains of geopolitical smoke and mirrors. The invasion galvanised Ukrainian unity and cast an international spotlight on the bravery and determination of that country. But basic research shows Ukraine is not exactly a global angel and an upholder of international law and morals.

It is always the people that suffer, regardless of who or where they are. Let’s rewind the clock: Turkey joined newly formed Nato in 1952. Nato was formally established in 1949 as an intergovernmental military alliance between European and North American countries, aimed at halting any Soviet expansionist ideas.

The Cold War between Nato and the Soviet Union has been well documented. In 1974, Turkey, a member state of Nato, invaded Cyprus and occupied a large tract of that island. The occupation continues to this day. Ironically, Turkey never faced the international condemnation Russia is facing.

Within Africa, the Moroccan occupation of what is commonly termed “Western Sahara” and the building of a wall, known as a berm, with foreign assistance and encouragement likewise evoked little international comment or even interest. This has resulted in the longest-running insurgency in Africa by the Polisario Front, which wants Morocco out of their territory.

The underlying arguments for these invasions, one by a Nato member, one by a powerful African country and the other by Russia can and will be debated for years to come. South Africa, in an attempt to give some credibility to its disastrous foreign policy, wanted to make its voice heard and condemned Russia’s invasion.

ALSO READ: DA launches petition over SA’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine

Whether this was because it was swept up in the international condemnations, or wanted to pose as a world power, it seemingly forgot it chose to be a member of the Brics (comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc.

This drew the ire of Russia and our fence-sitting government hurriedly withdrew its statement to protect the investments in Russia – which are minor in comparison to those in Nato countries. South Africa, standing on the brink of collapse with no leadership or direction, would do well to put its own house in order and understand the actual geopolitical and economic impact of the conflict before choosing sides.

There is a saying that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones – bigger stones might be thrown back.

  • Mashaba is a political advisor

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