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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Grozny, Aleppo, and Kyiv

“I am sorry to tell you that the fate of Aleppo will be the same as that of Grozny,” Salam AlKawakbi, in an article published in the Opinion Section of AlAraby AlJadeed, quotes a prominent Russian orientalist as saying to him back in 2016, the year that witnessed a large-scale assault targeting the city by Putin’s forces and those of the Assad regime supported by Iran-backed militia men from all over the region.  

A destroyed building in Aleppo; Credit: AFP

AlKawakbi goes on to say that several months after the destruction of Aleppo, when he tried in conference about the NATO to clarify the nature of the Russian military operations towards civilians, in terms of targeting vital facilities, such as hospitals and schools, the western audience unanimously agreed to disagree with him, stressing that the Russian intervention was mainly aimed at fighting the Islamic State terrorist organization. But to his surprise, a Russian researcher responded by agreeing with his conclusion, emphasizing that the Russian intervention was primarily aimed at protecting the Assad regime, and that eliminating extremists was a western responsibility par excellence.

“This experience allowed me to better understand how the West deals with Russian politics and its ambitions. Although the Russians have repeatedly stated their positions clearly to ridicule others, Westerners have repeatedly sought to justify their policies and modify our understanding of their ambitions, not for little conviction, but in anticipation of Kremlin reactions, and in keeping with the policy of ‘distancing themselves’ from engaging in direct diplomatic confrontations with Moscow’s Tsar,” AlKawakbi says.

Grozny attack; Credit: AFP

AlKawakbi goes further to stress that today the Russian forces are invading Ukraine, and for the West the scene is becoming more complex, and confronting it needs a dismantle of the structural “misunderstanding” of what is taking place. Western experts say that providing Kyiv with the right to defend itself in the face of a military invasion is plunging westerners into a confrontation with the Russians whereas this is not a correct proposition, as the Charter of the United Nations stipulates that “providing a state with weapons to counter a military invasion violating international law is a legitimate act.”

In his article, AlKawakbi refutes the claims of right-wing and left-wing extremists with regard to NATO expansion and the threat this poses to Russia’s national security, saying that since 2008, with German and French influence, NATO has refused to discuss Ukraine and Georgia’s accession which could be justified, on the grounds of “not inciting Russia.” In addition, those who say that Ukrainian politics is controlled by the nationalist extreme right, according to the Kremlin’s claims that the current intervention seeks to eliminate neo-Nazis, are mistaken because since the 2014 elections, the votes of extremist parties have ranged from 3% to 5%, 10 times lower than France and Italy.

A woman reacts as she stands outside destroyed apartment blocks following shelling in Kyiv on March 14, 2022; Credit: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

AlKawakbi emphasizes that the “real far-right threat lies in Moscow, which has financed and assisted all extremist and separatist movements in Europe,” citing the case of the resistance in the predominantly Russian cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol, as well as demonstrations against Russians in the occupied city of Kherson, as clearly indicating that the Russian Ukrainians, at least in these cities, are defending their Ukrainian homeland.

“Will Kyiv succeed in avoiding the fate of Grozny and Aleppo?” AlKawakbi concludes his Opinion article with this possibly rhetorical question.

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