When Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine, the ostensible reason for this act of territorial aggression was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastward expansion (NATO).
NATO’s expansionism threatened to allow Ukraine to join the grouping as a treaty ally at some unspecified point in the future, bringing this transatlantic security coalition within striking distance of Russia’s western borders.
Earlier, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) called an emergency special session to discuss a resolution calling for Russia to withdraw its troops unconditionally.
It is a military alliance formed in April 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations as part of the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty) to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.
The alliance currently has 30 members, with North Macedonia becoming the latest to join in 2020.
When NATO was founded in 1949, its self-declared mission was threefold:
Dissuading Soviet expansionism. Through a strong North American presence on the continent, preventing the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe.
Encouraging political integration in Europe.The legacy of the Nazi (Hitler) affilction and World War II clearly weighed heavily on the minds of NATO’s founding members.
Although NATO claims that it was only “partially true” that its very creative was to counter the threat posed by the former Soviet Union, its clauses placed a strong emphasis on military cooperation and collective defence.
Article 5 of the treaty, for example, states that “an armed attack against one or more of them (NATO members) shall be considered an attack against them all,” and that in response, each ally will take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.”
The broader context at the time was that the Soviet Union signed up socialist republics of Central and Eastern Europe to the Warsaw Pact (1955), including Albania (which withdrew in 1968), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.
The Pact, a political-military alliance, was seen as a direct strategic counterweight to NATO.
Its focus at the time was the fact that, while East Germany remained a Soviet occupied territory of Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany had joined NATO by May 1955, and Russia began to be concerned about the consequences of a strengthened and rearmed West Germany on its border.
The Warsaw Pact was a unified, multilateral, political and military alliance aimed at tying Eastern European capitals more closely to Russia, which it effectively did for several decades during the Cold War’s worst hostilities.
Indeed, the Pact gave the Soviet Union the option of suppressing civil uprisings and dissent in European satellite states, such as Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Poland in 1980-1981.
All of that began to unravel in the late 1980s, when the sheer downward pressure of the inevitable economic slowdown in most Eastern European Pact (Warsaw Pact) allies reduced the potential for military cooperation to make a real strategic difference across the region.
As a result, it was hardly surprising when East Germany left the Pact in September 1990 to be reunited with West Germany, and Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland soon withdrew from all Warsaw Pact military exercises.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Pact was officially disbanded in early 1991.
Even as the Soviet Union disintegrated into Russia and former Soviet republics, NATO embarked on a path of expansion, emboldened by circumstances and the belief that the global balance of power was shifting in its favour.
During the US presidency, NATO began to bring former Warsaw Pact states into its fold through successive rounds of negotiation and expansion.
While Germany remained a member of NATO after reunification, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined the alliance in 1999. However, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the treaty organisation in 2004.
Albania and Croatia joined in 2009, Montenegro joined in 2017, and North Macedonia will join in 2020.
In the week preceding NATO’s Bucharest Conference in 2008, NATO Allies welcomed Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership and agreed that these countries would join NATO.
They went on to announce a period of intense engagement with both countries at a high political level to address the remaining questions about their Membership Action Plan applications.
This sounded the alarm in Russia, because the very concept of Ukraine, a country with strong historical ties to the Soviet Union, was contrary to Russian belief.
This development prompted Russia to warn the US that no Russian leader could remain silent in the face of Ukraine’s progress toward NATO membership.
That would be an act of hostility toward Russia.
This is only the most recent in a long list of NATO leaders’ actions that Russia regards as a political betrayal.
In 1990, the United States informed Russia that NATO’s jurisdiction would not be extended one inch to the east. While Russia used this remark to amplify its ostensible outrage at NATO’s expansion into the Baltic states region. It is true that in early 1990, the focus of diplomacy for the Two Plus Four agreement – which included East and West Germany as well as the United States, France, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom – was whether a unified Germany would be a member of NATO.
The United States wanted to reassure Russia that NATO command structures and troops would not be transferred to the former German Democratic Republic’s territory.
Domestically, it was a difficult time in Russia because, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was a failure to institutionalise democratic practises, a stable market economy, and a strong law and order system.
Faced with domestic chaos, former Russia began to interpret the Two Plus Four Treaty (Treaty on the Final Settlement with Regard to Germany, 1990) as a prohibition on NATO expansion east of Germany.
Russia informed the United States that it had ruled out “expanding NATO territory eastward.”
Throughout the 2000s, Russia continued in this vein, expressing increasing alarm and anger at NATO’s steady expansion into Eastern Europe, and declaring in Munich, Germany in 2007 that it is obvious that NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernising the alliance or ensuring European security.
On the contrary, it is a serious provocation that undermines mutual trust.
Russia invaded Georgia and took control of several of its territorial regions in 2008, following NATO’s announcement of its intention to admit Georgia and Ukraine to its alliance, and Russia marched into Ukraine and seized Crimea in 2014, as Ukraine moved closer to an economic alliance with the European Union.
India recently abstained on a vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council proposed establishing an international commission of inquiry into Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The move is significant in that the vote took place even after India’s meeting with the Quad countries.
India has also voted against similar resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
India also voted against an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution concerning the safety of four nuclear power plants and a number of nuclear waste sites, including Chernobyl, after the Russians took control of them.
The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system tasked with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.
The United Nations General Assembly established the Council in 2006. It took the place of the previous United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Human Rights Council’s secretariat is the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The headquarters of the OHCHR are in Geneva, Switzerland.
Members: It is comprised of 47 United Nations Member States elected by the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
The UNGA considers the contribution of candidate countries to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
African countries have 13 seats.
Asia-Pacific countries have 13 seats.
Latin American and Caribbean countries have eight seats.
Western European and other countries: seven seats
Eastern European countries have six seats.
Members of the Council serve three-year terms and are not eligible for re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process that assesses the human rights situations in all UN Member States. The Advisory Committee acts as the Council’s “think tank,” providing expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues.
Individuals and organisations can use the Complaint Procedure to bring human rights violations to the Council’s attention. UN Special Procedures: These are made up of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts, and working groups that monitor, investigate, advise, and publicly report on specific thematic issues or human rights situations.
Issues: Concerns about the composition of the Council’s membership, which sometimes includes countries widely perceived as human rights violators, have been a source of concern for some critics.
China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia, and Venezuela have all been accused of human rights violations.
Disproportionate Focus: The United States withdrew from the Agency in 2018 because of its disproportionate focus on Israel, which has received by far the most critical council resolutions against any country.
The United States has rejoined the organisation.
A group of United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs recently wrote to the Indian government, expressing concern about the draught Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020.
As part of the third round of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, India’s National Human Rights Commission submitted its mid-term report to the Council in 2020.India was elected to the Council for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2019.
Russian forces recently seized the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The developments at the plant prompted the United Nations Security Council to convene in an emergency meeting.
It is situated on the Dnieper River’s banks, only 200 kilometres from the conflicted Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting.
Zaporizhzhya is one of the country’s four operational nuclear power plants, having been in operation since 1984.
It accounts for roughly 40% of total electricity generated by all Ukrainian NPPs and one-fifth of annual electricity production in Ukraine. The Zaporizhzhya NPP is made up of six Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) units, each with a gross electrical capacity of 1,000MW and built between 1984 and 1995.
It is a type of light water reactor in which ordinary water serves as both the moderator and the coolant.
The most common type of nuclear power reactor in the world is the PWR plant.
Natural Uranium fuels Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), while Low Enriched Uranium fuels Light Water Reactors (LWRs).
A PWR has two water systems: the reactor (primary) system, which retrieves heat generated in the reactor, and the turbine (secondary), which generates electricity using steam generated by that heat.
Nuclear power plant attacks violate international humanitarian law, specifically Article 56 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions.
The Convention’s Additional Protocol I: Protection of Works and Installations Containing Dangerous Forces The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 also serves as a reminder of why it is critical to ensure that all nuclear power plants meet the highest safety and security standards.
The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was caused by a flawed reactor design that was operated by inexperienced personnel.
The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the environment, causing radioactive materials to be deposited in many parts of Europe.
The disaster was a one-of-a-kind occurrence, the only one in commercial nuclear power history to result in radiation-related fatalities.
Two Chernobyl plant workers died on the night of the accident as a result of the explosion, and another 28 died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation syndrome.
As a result of the accident, 350,000 people were evacuated, but the areas from which they were relocated were not. The process of determining who was relocated is still ongoing.
Nuclear energy is an important component of the country’s energy mix, and it is being pursued optimally alongside other energy sources. It is a clean, environmentally friendly base load power source that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also has enormous potential for ensuring the country’s long-term energy security in a sustainable manner.
There are currently 22 reactors in operation with a total capacity of 6780 MW, with one reactor, KAPP-3 (700 MW), connected to the grid in January 2021.
The government has given administrative approval and financial sanction for the construction of 12 nuclear power reactors, including 10 indigenous 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to be built in fleet mode and two units of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to be built in collaboration with the Russian Federation.
The nuclear capacity is expected to reach 22480 MW by 2031 if all projects currently under construction are completed and sanctioned.
The government has also given ‘In-Principle’ approval for five new nuclear power plant sites in the future.
Some nuclear reactors in India are subject to “IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards.”
If the source of Uranium, the fissile material for a nuclear reactor, comes from outside India’s borders, or if new reactor plants are built with foreign assistance, the nuclear facilities are subject to IAEA safeguards.
This is to ensure that imported uranium is not diverted for military purposes and that it is used to generate nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
Silicosis is ravaging mine and factory workers in several Jharkhand villages.
Silicosis is a type of pulmonary fibrosis caused by inhaling tiny particles of silica, a mineral found in sand, quartz, and many other types of rock.
It usually occurs in jobs where you are exposed to silica dust.
Construction, stone countertop fabrication, foundry work, ceramics manufacturing, mining, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are all high-risk jobs.]
Exposure to silica particles causes scarring in the lungs over time, which can impair your ability to breathe. Silicosis symptoms usually appear after many years of exposure.
Early symptoms include a mild cough, sputum, and progressive shortness of breath.
An abnormal chest X-ray and a slowly developing cough may be the first real signs of a problem as the scarring worsens. Tuberculosis, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, autoimmune disorders, and kidney disease are all possible complications of silicosis.
Treatment – Although there is no cure for silicosis, treatment is available, and employers and workers can take precautions to avoid it.
Medicines (Inhaled steroids reduce lung mucus; Bronchodilators help relax your breathing passages; Oxygen therapy)
Transplantation of the lungs
Cigarette smoking exacerbates silicosis lung damage. Quitting smoking is a critical component of disease management.
A pair of black-necked cranes was recently spotted in eastern Ladakh.
The only cranes that live in mountains are black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis).
This alphine crane lives in the far reaches of the Tibetan plateau.
The only crane species that migrates between winter and summer grounds is the Black-necked Crane.
Courtship – The Himalayan Mountains, as well as parts of central China and northern India, are part of its breeding range.
A couple claims ownership of a large tract of wetland and drives away rival claimants. When they dance together, courtship begins.
When the time comes, both adults select an islet and build mounds of aquatic vegetation and mud.
Threats include habitat loss and degradation caused by climate change, changes in agricultural practises, pollution, and pollution of the environment.