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The war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for several months. There are various views on the conflict. Some people blame Russia, while other fault Ukraine or the West. However, both sides must be viewed for a better understanding. This article attempts to do that.


Russia and Ukraine are close neighbors. They are the largest countries in Eastern Europe. Russia is far more extensive, and its population extends into Ukraine. Ukraine has a land space of 603,550 square kilometers. It is the size of the State of Texas in the US and has a population of 44 million. Russia has a land area of 17 million square kilometers with a population of 145.9 million. One in three Ukraine speaks Russian. The Eastern part of Ukraine is occupied by Russian-speaking people and has a Russian culture. The Western section tends to and wants to be part of Western Europe. Russia, Ukraine, and 13 other Eastern European nations were part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). When the USSR collapsed in 1991, all the republics became independent. Poland and Hungary were first to leave in 1988 and 89, respectively. The rest followed in 1991. However, Poland and Hungary were not part of the USSR. They were among the allied countries of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Some viewers blamed Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev for the disintegration of the USSR by introducing Western-style economic restructure, political transparency, social openness, and free speech. This led to public demands and protests, eventually bringing political change and downfall.

Moreover, his administration did not protect the union and allowed the breakdown. Others said that the West, particularly US President Ronald Reagan, influenced or fooled him. Gorbachev experienced an attempted coup by the hardliners. He later left power bringing in Boris Yeltsin. Putin succeeded Yeltsin.

The collapse led to the fall of the Warsaw Pact, a collective military alliance that existed among the republics. The agreement came into being in response to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This military defense treaty says that all member states will come to the defense of any member in an attack. The United States and Canada are parts of this alliance. Almost all former USSR countries joined the European Union or Western Europe. They also became members of NATO. Indeed, from an original membership of 12 in 1949, NATO increased to 15 additional countries of former USSR nations from 1990 to 2020.

However, it was understood that Ukraine is independent and sovereign and will not become a NATO member. But at the same time, NATO has made an overture to have Ukraine become a member. Also, the present government of Ukraine under Volodymyr Zelensky and the West of Ukraine want European and NATO membership. On the other hand, most people in East Ukraine, called the Donbus Region, do not want membership. They are autonomous areas and, as stated earlier, are culturally Russian. Crimea, a peninsula in Ukraine, became an independent area under Russian influence. Under Premier Nikita Khrushchev, USSR gave Crimea to Ukraine. But in March 2014, Crimea voted to join Russia. Crimea and Donbas are industrial locations.


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The divided interests of Ukraine, the desire for expansion of NATO, and Russia’s concern for her territorial security and welfare have resulted in the present crisis. The West of Ukraine believes it has the right to join any association as a sovereign entity. This constitutes the right to self-determination and aspiration.

Meanwhile, the people of the Donbus Region feel this right would marginalize and deprive them of their Russian culture and heritage. Russia sees a NATO expansion into Ukraine as a threat to its territorial security. NATO will station military warheads facing Russia if Ukraine becomes a member. Remember that the Warsaw Pact emerged in response to NATO. Thus, Russia has no external defense after the Warsaw Pact’s collapse. The USSR dismantled the pact because of the end of the Cold War. Note that territory security and national interest are the hallmarks of international affairs and diplomacy.

In 1990, Gorbachev and George W. Bush agreed that NATO would not expand into other Eastern countries if Germany joined NATO. But as Palki Sharma Upadhyay indicated, NATO ignored the accord and continued to grow. In the past, external forces had invaded Russia. Maybe, mindful of this, she is not taking chances. Reports show that Russian President Putin had warned Ukraine, NATO, and the West about Russia’s security. Neither Ukraine nor NATO has paid attention. Consequently, Russia invaded Ukraine. The action could be to signal seriousness.

Putin’s last warning.

“NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders. This expansion represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: Against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances that our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”

Many foreign policy experts viewed that Russia has a case regarding the invasion. Some said that Putin’s request that Ukraine remains a neutral state is not an unreasonable option. Ukraine was a neutral country but abandoned neutrality in 2014 in response to Russia’s role in Crimea. Further, Ukraine’s desire to become a part of Russia’s adversary threatens Russia’s security. For instance, William J. Burns, former US Ambassador to Russia, stated. “I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interest.” Strobe Talbott, US former deputy secretary of state, said. “Many Russians see NATO as a vestige of the Cold War. They point out that they have dismantled the Warsaw Pact and asked why the West cannot do the same.”  

 Nigerian Ambassador Dr. Gani Lawal hypostatically indicated that the US would take action if Russia put military arsenals in Canada or Mexico. The US would react to the challenge. During the John F. Kennedy presidency in 1962, the US warned of invading Cuba if the Soviet Union did not remove missiles in Cuba. Khrushchev complied but on the condition that the US would remove her warheads in Turkey and Italy and would never invade Cuba. The US quietly did as the Soviet Union requested. In other words, a nation will take action if its security is endangered. The ambassador further stated that Ukraine is like a beautiful bride with many suitors. But she did not play her card well by wanting to invite one suitor to reside near the border of another suitor. That would create a conflict because the other suitor would fight to protect his boundary. The envoy added that Ukraine should have acted neutrally.


Other individuals and nations see Russia’s move as aggression; the invasion killed civilians and displaced the Ukraine population and foreigners. They argued that the incursion violates Ukraine’s sovereign rights. They hailed the patriotism and brevity of the Ukraine people. They pointed out that Russia had failed to win the war. Author Yuval Noah Harari suggested that the Russia–Ukraine conflict could be similar to the nuclear threat of the Cuban missile crisis. He thinks the West should empower Ukraine militarily to win the war instead of advocating for a regime change in Russia. Jonathan Masters wrote that some experts considered the conflict “part of a renewed geopolitical rival between great superpowers.” These views are correct in many respects. But what is also crucial is that the crisis has affected everyone. The West has put sanctions on Russia. Russian financial accounts in the West have been frozen, contracts have been terminated, and Russian banknotes have been dishonored. Also, Russian athletes have been banned from participating in international sports.

However, as the world’s second-largest oil-producing country and a significant wheat production nation, Russia also has a financial impact worldwide. Russia supplies 40% of the oil to Europe and America. Consequently, oil and gas prices have increased dramatically on the world’s market. Wheat prices in Africa and other parts of the world have soared. In Liberia, for instance, a gallon of gasoline and fuel had increased a month ago to $775 and $850 LD, respectively. But this June, the prices have drastically risen to $900 and $1050 LD for gas and fuel. That is equivalent to US$6.00 and US$7.00, respectively. Taxi, Keke, and motorbike drivers pass the cost onto the consumers who are simultaneously facing and suffering from high inflation.

The US is also feeling the high oil prices. A month ago, a gallon of regular gasoline increased by over $4.00, and fuel above $5.00 a gallon. However, in Liberia, the increase has been politicized. Some opposition members blame the government for the increase. Others say that the problem is global and the government has no control. The fact is that Liberia is not an oil-producing nation. She could have become one but squandered the opportunity. Indeed, under President Sirleaf’s son Robert Sirleaf, the administration bankrupted the National Oil Company of Liberia, NOCAL. The company was to develop the oil sector. It sold oil blocks and received millions of dollars but misused the money. Unfortunately, the George Weah-led government neither audited NOCAL nor the Sirleaf administration before taking office. Like the US, being an oil-producing country does not necessarily guarantee domestic oil price reduction. Nevertheless, the data below show that Nigeria, an oil producer, has the lowest oil price in the sub-region.

Recent oil prices per gallon in Liberia’s neighboring countries as of June 20, 2022, are expressed in USD.

Ivory Coast, $4.46; Sierra Leone, $4; Guinea, $5.2; Ghana, $4.8; and Nigeria, $1.5. Source: The Global PetroPrices.com (GPP). GPP also lists the gas price for Liberia as US$4.9. However, the current pump prices at TOTAL, the leading petrol station in Liberia, are those previously stated. Accordingly, Liberia has the highest prices in the sub-region.

Another element in the conflict equation is China, the world’s second-largest economy. China is not taken a position in this crisis and is trading bigly with Russia. She receives Russian oil, gas, and wheat essentially. This somewhat softens the economic sanctions by the West. Many African countries did not denounce Russia. This could be that during the Cold War and the African liberation struggle, the USSR assisted African countries in achieving independence. Southern Africa is an example. The West supported or as part of colonialism. A radio show suggested that Africa should not get involved with the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The continent should exercise a non-alignment policy like in the Cold War.

Russia has vast investments in the mining sector in Africa. This does not disregard the assistance and investments from EU countries and the United States. Recently, Liberia voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. Perhaps US sponsorship of this resolution could have motivated the vote. In previous motions on the crisis, Liberia voted against Russia. The Weah administration is trying very hard to be in the right book with America. But the suspension is meaningless. Russia has veto power in the UN Security Council and can participate in human rights matters.

Liberia and Russia established diplomatic relations in 1956. The friendship did not continue apparently because America and USSR were adversaries. Under President William Tubman, Liberia had a more substantial relationship with America. This was the Cold War period, and Liberia was a US strategic zone. Tubman allowed America to use Liberia for the US interests for him to stay in power. Liberia depended on America 100% and voted in the UN by US direction. But in 1972, upon William Tolbert’s presidency, after Tubman died in 1971, Liberia and the USSR re-established diplomatic relations. Liberia had moved toward the East. The US was not pleased with the policy change. With Tolbert’s death and the end of the Soviet Union, Liberia and Russia had no diplomatic missions in each country. The Russian embassy in Ghana handles Russia’s interest in Liberia. However, during Ebola, Russia reportedly gave Liberia $60 M.

Liberia and the US have a long historical tie dating to the early 1800s. An American Colonization Society founded this West African country considered American step-child. Liberia has and continues to receive American development assistance, including constructing the Robert International Airport and the John F. Kennedy Hospital. Nonetheless, the US used the airport to land for refueling allied aircraft during World War II.

On the other hand, Tubman did some possible things. Under him, Liberia helped many African countries in their struggle for independence. He also initiated a policy for the unity of the Americo-Liberians and the natives. The Americo-Liberians were Black ex-slaves from America who settled on the land now called Liberia. The natives were the Africans the Americans met on the ground. The Americo-Liberians ruled Liberia and oppressed the natives from 1822 to 1980.

The United States is playing a leading role in this crisis. She is championing the calls for sanctions. Also, President Biden has called for regime change in Russia. Ukraine President Zelensky has spoken many times with Biden and addressed the American Congress, interviewed with CBS’ “60 Minutes” and CNN, urging for more US actions. Last month, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mrs. Biden visited Ukraine. Some observers expressed that the US is taking the war personally for its anti-Russian interest. America has spent about “$2.6 billion in weapons, supplies, and aid to Ukraine since the invasion,” according to Jordan Williams of The Hill publication. The administration is allocating an additional $800 million for Ukraine. The American Senate recently approved $40 billion for Ukraine, the most considerable amount since the war. The US advocates for Ukraine more than France, Germany, and other European countries. Foreign relations, or the relationship between one country to another, are generally driven by interest.

What is America’s national interest in Ukraine? First, Ukraine is a large area. She presents a geopolitical opportunity. Second, having access to Ukraine would give the US an advantage over Russia. America could place a military base on the soil to fortify Ukraine but gain a grand strategic objective. Other analysts do not see a genuine interest, pointing out that the US is trying to be the world police again. One different view is that the Democratic Party is trying to avenge the 2016 presidential election loss. The party alleged Russian influence and interference in that election, giving Trump the victory. That notion would be party politics and not national interest.

Would the US’s current role in Ukraine be different if Trump were president? That would be somewhat hard to say. Nevertheless, a leader’s personal ideology or belief can impact a country’s foreign policy. For example, US Former President Jimmy Carter believed in human rights. He made it the central element of American foreign policy. Ronald Reagan personally viewed the Soviet Union as an evil empire. Therefore as president, he was determined to see it dismantled. Trump had a cordial relationship with Putin. He is said to have praised Putin in the war. But a country can formulate its foreign policy based on objective reality or conditions. Scholars called this formulation a variable foreign policy; the current administration determines the policy, which can be changed by a different administration. In other words, the next president after Biden might have a new foreign policy toward Ukraine.

After the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine inherited the republics’ military arsenals. She became an opponent of America. Later, she converted into an ally. She subsequently joined and supported the US, Great Britain, and a few other nations invading Iraq. They executed the attack, which the UN viewed as illegal, under a false accusation of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. They destroyed the country and killed innocent people. The world did not condemn the aggression. Today, Iraq is worse off than before. Other countries where the US had invaded or instituted regime change have declined. Afghanistan and Libya are instances.

While Putin’s public approval rating in Russia is high, Biden’s is low in the US. Biden’s rating is not due to the war but domestic problems, such as the high inflation rate. The Economist reported that March consumer prices were 8.5% higher than last year. About “a fifth of Americans says inflation is the country’s most important problem.” Meanwhile, Americans generally support their leader in crisis times. For example, 64% of Americans supported the Bush administration for invading Iraq, according to a CBS poll. About 65% of American adults support the sanctions on Russia, while about 17% disapprove, based on a recent survey by Economist-YouGov. The percentage of support could decrease if the war continues. Americans usually react to an event initially, but the response level would reduce or dwell away as the event prolongs for a while. This behavior could be because the American people or society are constantly on the move and not static. No issue dominates their time.

According to the recent Gallup poll, about 41.3% of US adults approved of Biden’s job performance. As indicated, this percentage is far lower than the sanctions’ support. Biden should be concerned, however, about the mid-term legislative election this November. Democratic Party has a razor-thin majority in both houses. Historically, in the past elections in the US, a party that lost both houses in the mid-term election won re-election. But the president usually had difficulties administrating in the second term. The party that controls congress tends to make it harder for the president to implement his agenda.

The war is also having an impact on the United Kingdom. According to the country’s Office for National Statistics, inflation has risen by 9.1%, the largest in 40 years since 1980. GPP reports that current gas prices in the UK are $8.6 per gallon. In Liberia, the inflation rate is 9.18%, down from 26.97% in 2019. According to sources, the other West African countries, including Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast, have double-digit inflation of over 15%.

Ukraine’s national politics could be a factor in the crisis. The second president before Zelensky was Victor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian. Yanukovych flew to Russia, and the parliament removed him from power. His party still has supporters in Ukraine. A Russian-supported Ukraine politician could become president, affecting the political dynamics.

The war continues despite sanctions on Russia and the West’s support for Ukraine. Militarily, Russia has focused her attack on East Ukraine and appears to be gaining. This seems to be strategic. Rather than fighting Ukraine nationwide, Russia is now fighting in areas where the Ukraine army is vulnerable.


Dialogue and diplomacy appear to be the best approach to resolving the conflict. Sanctions seem not to work, and as Dr. Lawal stated, Russia has been sanctioned before and has survived. Indeed, according to The Economist, despite the current sanctions, Russia is economically doing well. Its currency has increased and is approaching the pre-war level. Moreover, the country “is still selling about $10bn-worth of oil a month to foreign buyers.”

Russia’s security interest should be considered. Seeking peace and calling for sanctions and NATO membership would prolong the conflict. Russia will not sacrifice its security because of sentiments or influence from another superpower. Such feeling plays little or no role in international affairs. Russia is militarily more potent and has more financial resources than Ukraine. Though the West and NATO support Ukraine, they will not put troops on the ground for Ukraine, nor will they put a no-fly zone in Ukraine. Doing so could lead to a world war, for China and North Korea could get involved. Russia could attempt to use nuclear power for defense. However, Ukraine has territorial and sovereignty rights, which should be respected. Russia and Ukraine should be encouraged to frankly negotiate for a peaceful solution. They need to compromise. As indicated before, Kennedy and Khrushchev compromised in resolving the Cuban Missiles Crisis. Dialoguing, negotiating, and compromising are the essence of diplomacy for peace in short of war or conflict.

The suggestion of Ukraine’s neutrality should also be considered. Some experts have recommended that the Austria model of impartiality can be adopted. In 1955 after the allied powers’ occupation of Austria, the country affixed neutrality in her constitution. The law states that “Austria wouldn’t join military alliances, wouldn’t take sides in future wars, and wouldn’t allow foreign bases in their territory.” Hopefully, with this approach, Russia would not feel threatened by NATO encroaching on her territory. Also, in this arrangement, Ukraine’s sovereignty optimistically can be reserved and honored.

About the author

Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore II is a Liberian national. He is a student of international affairs. He graduated from the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, majoring in international affairs. Nyanfore has published extensively on foreign affairs and elections and is the principal of Planning & Development International, Inc. He can be reached at dagbayonohnyanfore66@gmail.com.

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