16 May, 2022


Some Nations Are More Sovereign Than The Others

By Harsha Gunasena

Harsha Gunasena

Russia has invaded Ukraine, and this is the first major war in Europe since the second world war other than the invasion of Georgia by Russia in 2008. There are heavy criticisms against Vladimir Putin, President of Russia all over the world. This is a classic example that ordinary people of a country have to suffer due to the power struggle of superpowers.

It is true that all nations are sovereign nations, but the bitter reality is that some nations are more sovereign than the others. Less sovereign nations should be tactful that not to step into a line of conflict of more sovereign nations.

Western countries tried hard to stop Putin taking this action. The French President and the Chancellor of Germany visited Russia, but they have failed. After the invasion British Prime Minister called Putin a dictator and condemned Russian act in strongest terms.

This is a foreign policy failure of the Biden Administration. Donald Trump said that if he were in power this invasion would not have happened since he would have managed Russia in such a way.

It is obvious that NATO would not get involved militarily in the conflict since in that case it would easily get escalated to a world war. Western nations will be confined only to impose sanctions to Russia. They have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia including prohibiting Russian airplanes to use the air space of the European Union (EU) and barring Russian Banks using SWIFT messages. Russia would place its national security first and would try to survive those sanctions. Russia is a big country and smaller countries such as Iran survived sanctions although with great difficulties. Even Cuba survived for decades.

The strategy of the West was to extend the NATO to the east so that Russia could be stressed. Since the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, fourteen countries of the eastern Europe joined NATO. Those were Hungary (1999), Czechia (1999), Poland (1999), Bulgaria (2004), Estonia (2004), Latvia (2004), Lithuania (2004), Romania (2004), Slovakia (2004), Slovenia (2004), Albania (2009), Croatia(2009), Montenegro (2017) and North Macedonia(2020).

Ukraine and Georgia are bordering Russia. Therefore, the position of Ukraine was very important to Russia in its national security point of view. Ukraine was considering joining NATO and the demand of Russia during the period of strengthening the military in the Ukrainian borders was that a firm guarantee that Ukraine would not join NATO.

This demand from the Russian side was quite natural and this can be compared with the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 where Soviet Union tried to install missiles in Cuban soil which was only 140 KM away from Florida. In the negotiations Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles installed in Cuba and Kennedy agreed not to invade Cuba.

There are separatist movements in Ukraine as well as in Georgia. Luhansk and Donetsk of Ukraine were recognized by Russia as separate states on 25 February 2022. In Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are Russian backed and internationally unrecognized separate states. Pro-Western change of power in Georgia in 2003 triggered the Russo-Georgian conflict which was escalated to a war in 2008.

In February 2014 protesters of Ukraine overthrow the pro-Russian President and the interim government signed trade agreements with EU which was the first step of the membership of the bloc. In April 2014 Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Two secessionist regions Donetsk and Luhansk broken off from Ukraine and the hostilities continued. From 2014 onwards the governments of Ukraine were pro-Western.

Finland is a country bordering Russia and had wars with the Soviet Union. It is a democratic country with western ideologies. After the end of the World War II, Finland signed an agreement with Soviet Union ensuring its neutrality when the Europe was divided into Western and Eastern Blocs. Finland Did not join NATO and it did not join EU during the cold war period. It joined EU in 1995 after the end of the cold war. This process is called Finlandization which is not a welcome word in Finland.

This is the way to manage a powerful neighbour, a more sovereign nation. This process is not welcome in Ukraine as well. The argument is that your foreign policy would be dented based on the aspirations of your powerful neighbour, the more sovereign nation. In Ukraine there are strong anti-Russian sentiments. The reality is that they faced an unwanted war. With the military aid of the West there is a possibility that Ukraine could become another Libya. Russia and Ukraine started the talks but it seems to be that the two sides are very far apart.

In 1977 in Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardene was elected to power with popular majority. His economic policies and political affiliations were towards the West. Indira Gandhi, the Indian PM viewed this as a threat to the national security of India. Capitalizing on the ethnic conflict of Sri Lanka she started providing arms and military training to the Tamil rebels, aiming to destabilize the country. She was successful.

During the tenure of her son, Rajiv Gandhi, when Sri Lankan armed forces were in combat operation against the rebels, Indian Air Force invaded Sri Lanka air space and dropped humanitarian aid to the rebels. President Jayewardene was asked by the West to sort out the matters with India. He had only one sentiment to express. He said he along with the people of Sri Lanka were prepared to die in case of an Indian invasion. This is in line with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s claim that they were fighting the war all alone.

This is the end result of non-Finlandization. During the time of Sirimavo Bandaranaike her economic and foreign policies aligned with those of India. Therefore, she did not pose any national security threat to India. Hence, she has taken independent decisions such as allowing Pakistani planes to use Sri Lankan air space to reach then East Pakistan now Bangladesh during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971.

When there are separatist movements in a country and that country goes against the perceived national security of a more sovereign powerful neighbour it risks its own national security and pave an easy access to the more sovereign powerful neighbour for intervention as in the cases of Ukraine, Georgia, and Sri Lanka.

The present Sri Lankan regime, a close ally of China is now moving towards India in the Indo-Chinese axis. They moved towards China in order to counter Indian claims of power sharing which is limited to the full implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution. Probably only Sri Lanka is having unimplemented provisions in the national constitution which is a unique feature. This move touched the red line when the Chinese tried to invest in solar power projects in Northern Islands which are very close to the Indian soil. The regime has delayed seeking IMF assistance for the current economic crisis which comes with economic conditions which would be beneficial to the country. The regime used to get currency swap assistance from China and now getting from India probably with the political conditions since there is no such thing called a free loan.

We have to wait and see the outcome of the current Finlandization process of the Sri Lankan government.

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Latest comments

  • 9

    Yes, I could partially go along with the writers point of view. Russian invasion of Ukraine is part of the power struggle between the Western democracies and the Communist bloc.
    Putin is an autocrat and he does not entertain any kind of opposition. He is also very unpopular at home.
    Although the West and NATO had full intelligence of the imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, they did nothing.
    This is not acceptable
    As for SriLaknka it is penniless and rudderless and riding on falsehood and lies.As long the people vote on racial lines there is no hope for Lanka to progress. It seems the powers be like this status -quo. It is sickening to say the least

    • 1

      “Western democracies and the Communist bloc.”
      Where is the Communist bloc?

  • 3

    Harsha, in general I agree with your view but there are two sides to every coin. It’s the internal/domestic issues which usually invite the neighbor in the first place. For example when own citizens are discriminated,targeted not only leading to arms struggle but thousands leaving en masse crossing borders in desperation,obviously is a serious concern for others. Not just among neighboring countries but globalization has lead to people migrating in all directions but sharing the same culture. Sovereignty cannot be an excuse to deny deep rooted relationships across borders. After all we humans moved from one place to another and then came the borders. In my experience, people/politicians who use the term “sovereignty” often are those who abuse/exploit it. This is just a example of the other side of a coin. Don’t you think there has to be a world order, so that all can live in peace. Say if a psychopath becomes a leader with the help of a neighbor, where citizens in general do not accept,how easy will be to use the term “sovereignty”, so that, no action can be taken.

    • 0

      “After all we humans moved from one place to another and then came the borders.”
      Did borders stop anything?

      • 5

        Prof, did borders stop anything ?? I sure will clarify if one more reader is confused as you.

        • 0

          I asked a simple question.
          If it suggests confusion, another’s head needs examination.
          There are better ways to dodge a question– like ignoring it.

  • 3

    Putin is definitely not mad. He may be autocratic, which is consistent with the old Soviet thinking. What was Putin supposed to do other than invade Ukraine? Eight years of negotiating went absolutely nowhere with blatant hypocrisy from Western alliances.

    The duplicitous militarist-corporate mainstream Western media was assuring everyone that Russia never had anything to fear regarding NATO. What a blatant distortion emanating from the same nation that used lies, deception and fabricated evidence and obliterated Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia and much of Syria.

    Moreover, this sewage from the same nation that has handed military arms and equipment to a kleptocratic Ukrainian regime that’s been waging daily bombing campaigns against the ethnic Russians in the Donbass region for the past eight years.

    Reality is turned on its head by Western narratives. Given this reality, it’s the height of effrontery and audacious propaganda for the Biden circus to lecture the world about how Russia never had anything to fear relating to NATO’s eastward expansion to its doorstep. And the Ukrainian Prez essentially vowing that Ukraine would seek nuclear weapons.

    Apologists for Western imperialism essentially champion the idea that NATO’s no threat and nothing to worry about, while it prepares lethal armaments for Ukraine . If so, why does the failing US empire insist on expanding NATO to Ukraine?

  • 0

    “They moved towards China in order to counter Indian claims of power sharing which is limited to the full implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution. “
    Incorrect. Sri Lanka is not that foolish.
    Sri Lanka moved towards China to get some finance/ technology hybrid packages for infrastructure projects. ( Rajapaksas were hugely benefitted is beside the point) China moved towards Sri Lanka to convert Sri Lanka as a strategic stop over for their Belt and Road IInitiative. So are many African ccountries.
    (Even Ukraine is included in their RBI.)
    Sri Lanka had always been neutral and prudent in her foreign policy fully conscious of the fact that we are a small neighbour of India except during that swollen headed villian JRJ. ( Had Sirimawo been in power there would not have been a 30 year war)
    It is very difficult to escape from vicious propaganda.


    • 0

      “This move touched the red line when the Chinese tried to invest in solar power projects in Northern Islands which are very close to the Indian soil.”
      If you want to understand the level of Indian hypocrisy here are a couple of useful links:
      Can someone please on pass the above links to Sumathitharan who is threatening us.


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