Home International organisation The Non-Aligned Movement should support the liberation war in Ukraine

The Non-Aligned Movement should support the liberation war in Ukraine


Ukraine, like all states, desires sovereignty within its internationally agreed borders. Some states, however, are tempted to invade other states and assume their governmental functions because they want to change the quality of government, assign governmental power to their own diaspora, or expand their empire.

Political scientist Adom Getachew tells us that several African nations that broke free from colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s realized that freedom depended on both political mobilization and economic development. Many leaders, including Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, understood that they could not go it alone and saw the need for an autonomous international organization.

The Pan-African Movement was formed to keep invading superpowers at bay and support the development of its member states. The Non-Aligned Movement (MNA) had the same ambition.

Getachew describes how the developed Western world did not like the idea of ​​a separate international organization for newly liberated states. Both the League of Nations and the United Nations have expressed support for state self-determination, but both have kept open the possibility, indeed the necessity, of outside intervention in “failed” states.

The Charter of the United Nations granted veto power to “super states” – the victors of World War II – in the Security Council. The veto ensured that these states could intervene where they deemed it necessary.

Many states, both within and beyond the Pan-African Movement, saw in the early post-war years how superpowers vied for international dominance and control. At the Bandung Conference of 1955, which took place in Indonesia, the idea of ​​a non-aligned movement among the liberated states took shape.

In 1979, in Havana, Cuba, the objective of the NAM was defined: “to ensure the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries”. Currently, NAM has 120 members worldwide, but significantly only two are European.

It is fair to say that superpower interventions have dismantled any attempt to create a unified NAM, focused on its true purpose. As historian Lorenz Luthi says, “NAM tried to transcend the Cold War, but NAM ended up being one of the main casualties of the Cold War.”

The question here is: where does the NAM stand in Ukraine’s struggle for territorial integrity and self-determination? Can the NAM be refocused on its original and primary task of supporting defensive struggles in non-aligned, non-nuclear states against invaders? Here is a reflection on this possibility.

Hypothesis 1: Ukrainians are waging a responsible, legal and fair war of liberation in their multicultural country. A “war of liberation” occurs when the legitimate government of a country fights against invading soldiers to expel them from its territory.

Hypothesis 2: In the war in Ukraine, Russia is not the enemy. The enemy is Russian President Vladimir Putin, his generals and his soldiers inside Ukraine. The Russian people inside and outside Russia – even those who support Putin – are, in military terms, innocent.

Hypothesis 3: Even with a raging war, it is essential to respect Russia’s independence, autonomy and self-determination – a respect consistent with the Charter of the United Nations should accrue to all sovereign states, large or small.

With these assumptions, I suggest that the sanctions against Russia are wrong and dangerous. They are wrong because they are primarily directed against the Russian population, and they are dangerous because Putin rightly considers them to be directed against that population. Right now, the sanctions are affecting the whole world negatively, and they will only have an indirect and long-term effect on Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

The US and European states are driving these sanctions, which escalate the NATO-Putin conflict, which could end in a nuclear world war as an extreme consequence. Sending arms to Ukraine makes the Ukrainian army more efficient, but as Norwegian Major General Robert Mood pointed out, the main limitation of the Ukrainian Liberation War is the number of soldiers that the Ukraine can muster for the fight. Putin has more soldiers than Ukraine, although mobilizing them is more difficult than it is for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to mobilize his Ukrainian soldiers.

For these reasons, the task of international support for Ukraine should be to provide Ukraine with many well-armed soldiers. They must not come from States attached and subordinated to the nuclear superpowers. The UN considers defensive struggles within a state against invaders to be legal. The UN supports, as far as I know, states that provide troops for such a struggle, if they are under official government control and fight only on the territory of the invaded state.

To think a little further. A condition for such NAM support for Ukraine is that NATO, the US and other nuclear superpowers be strictly passive, avoiding conflict with Putin. A massive number of troops in Ukraine is an alternative to sanctions.

Weapons and a massive force of soldiers added to the Ukrainian forces could – probably – push the Russian soldiers out of Ukraine. NATO, the United States and all states in the world should emphasize their respect for Russia’s autonomy and self-determination while condemning this war of aggression and all wars of aggression.

NATO and the nuclear superpowers should also engage Putin on the issue of nuclear weapons. They should threaten Putin with an all-out traditional land, air and sea war against all military installations in Russia if Putin uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine or elsewhere, but they must guarantee that under no circumstances will they use nuclear weapons in the present conflict themselves.

In conclusion, the keystone of this strategy is for Ukraine to win its defensive war against the Russian invasion, and non-aligned states around the world should play a central role in this strategy. Ukraine, with the military support of the NAM, could succeed in quickly returning the world to pre-war normality. The NAM could limit itself to supporting future liberation struggles in the states that have been invaded and could organize a large permanent military contingent for this purpose.

Thorvald Gran is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Bergen and Visiting Scholar at the University of Southeast Norway.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.