The Western media is baying for Vladimir Putin’s blood and action against Russia over Ukraine, which it has now invaded. The Western media’s unashamed propaganda over the Ukrainian crisis highlights once again its role as a mendacious instrument of state policy. It should come as no surprise to Indians, their country and its Prime Minister also being victims of relentless libel from the Anglo-American national media.
The reasons for the current Ukrainian crisis are two-fold, ultimately the product of a cynical US policy to sustain global dominance despite evidence of a historic economic faltering at home and serial setbacks abroad. Yet, vaulting US ambitions have not apparently ceased despite the grotesque calamity of an alleged attempt to bring democracy to Iraq, defeat by a ragtag peasant army in Afghanistan and accelerating domestic economic implosion. The UK simply follows wherever the US chooses to go and enthusiastically supports whatever fabrications are necessary to justify illegal foreign intervention. This is what British prime minister Tony Blair did shamelessly by concocting evidence of weapons of mass destruction supposedly being secreted by Saddam Hussain, whom they proceeded to execute.
The naive Mikhail Gorbachev, Russia’s Manmohan Singh, withdrew Soviet forces from eastern Europe in the 1990s in the aftermath of the collapse of its communist regime and expected the NATO military frontier would not expand to Russia’s western borders. This expected forbearance was cast aside by the US with alacrity and now seeks to entangle Ukraine in intimidating Russia, despite the 1994 Budapest Memorandum affirming its status as a non-nuclear state. As a result, the possibility of Ukraine actually joining NATO and hosting US nuclear missiles proved a step too far for Russia since that would pose an existential threat to its security. The Western handwringing and threats over Ukraine can be taken with a pinch of salt and the high-pitched squawking of the amateurish British foreign secretary, whose country is a supine US pawn, inconsequential and the hysterical belligerence of US neocons is equally disingenuous. It might be noted that leading US strategists, like John Mearsheimer and others, have repudiated US policy in Ukraine and blamed it for provoking Russia. But hard-line US Cold warrior neocons, committed to regime change everywhere, are ascendant with a floundering Joe Bidenadrift in political orbital gyratory.
The emplacing of US nuclear missiles in Ukraine, with NATO membership in place to warn of a collective treaty commitment to protect them and Ukraine, would pose a dire threat to Russian security interests. These US nuclear missiles would have allowed the US to threaten a pre-emptive nuclear first strike against Russia that would be accompanied by an implicit counterpart message with the US anti-ballistic missile system [ABMs] able to interdict any remaining retaliatory Russian nuclear missiles launched against it. Such a scenario is far-fetched but nuclear deterrence is about the calculus of messaging, however unreal they are since the actual use of nuclear weapons as instruments of war and politics belongs to the world of chimera. Once this hypothetical deterrence dilemma is posed to Russia, the US hopes to extract more accommodating general Russian conduct on the international stage, e.g., in Syria, etc.
It may be presumed that the US planned to then turn more purposeful attention to rival Chinese imperial ambitions. The installation of US nuclear missiles in Ukraine would be equivalent to China introducing them adjacent to the Haryana border in a Khalistan facilitated by the Congress party, with the completely malleable jester of Indian politics, the blessed, Arvind Kejriwal, becoming prime minister of foreign-sponsored secession.
A second immediate dimension of US motivation over the ongoing Ukraine crisis further illustrates the utter cynicism and overweening ambitions of its forlorn attempt to realise global dominance. One key apparent US goal of the timing of the manufactured Ukraine crisis was to halt operationalisation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. By proposing to install nuclear missiles in Ukraine the US was perfectly aware a hostile Russian reaction was certain, which would then compel the Germans to suspend the use of the pipeline indefinitely, if not permanently.
The Germans had been inclined to proceed with it earlier despite strong US opposition, but their hand has now been forced and the costly pipeline is left high and dry. In the bargain, the Ukrainians, perhaps aptly led by a former professional comedian, the anointed personal beneficiary of US-sponsored regime change in 2014, have lost substantial territory and gained absolutely nothing. It has often been observed that Poland was the most politically inept in Eastern Europe, but it faces competition from its Ukrainian neighbour. The foolish Ukrainians might ponder that with friends like America if they need enemies! Indians be forewarned since the US has formed this kind of political chicanery, as the novice leaders of Cyprus discovered in 1974 when their country was also partitioned, thanks to Henry Kissinger’s conspiracy with Turkey to entrap the foolish Greek government into a military misadventure.
The US perpetrated regime change in Ukraine in 2014, a policy that has led to unconscionable bloodshed elsewhere in the world, from Venezuela to the Middle East. But regime change and installation of comprador neo-colonial governments have roots as old as history that the US and others as well engage in without pause. The shrill chorus of denunciation of egregiously fabricated alleged Indian violation of the rights of minorities and interference through underwritten proxies warns something is afoot against India too. Of course, this continuing blatant foreign intervention in India has wider additional foreign sponsorship, various parties having their own stake in implanting a more compliant government in Delhi.
In this context, it might also be remembered that the US had managed to shepherd into Russia, with the cynical intermediation of assorted foreign advisers reporting to the intelligence services, the government of Boris Yeltsin. He seemed to guarantee Russia’s permanent prostration while massive looting of the country proceeded apace. Vladimir Putin may not be the best thing since sliced bread, but Russian UN employees across the entire region, to whom I once lectured some years ago, unanimously concurred he had put a stop to the total ruination of their country, which they approved. A reminder of Narendra Modi ending the plunder of India and its intensifying effective endangerment as a polity in 2014?
Some historical facts are worth noting by those who don’t know of the ancient ties between Russia and Ukraine and the presence of a large population of ethnic Russian speakers in the country. Kyiv was the first capital of the Old Russ polity in 882, before Moscow in 1325, the unification of the two territories was politically formalised in1654. The Russians who had liberated the Crimea from Ottoman occupation in 1783 had ceded it to Ukraine in 1954 as an act of socialist solidarity and even though its population is mostly ethnic Russian speakers.
The Crimean Peninsula is indispensable for Russia’s Black Sea fleet and this is what the US sought to deny Russia when it sponsored regime change in Ukraine in 2014. The Russians duly restored their control over it by seizing Crimea by force. Other regions with substantial Russian-speaking populations, like the Donbas region, have also provided a rationale for Russian intervention in the recent past. Such excuses for foreign intervention cannot be welcome, in principle, to India where foreign-sponsored separatism has become a troubling reality, but the politically fraught backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis needs to be recognised. In the aftermath of regime change in 2014, the neo-fascist Azov Battalion of Ukraine has been incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard despite its racism, anti-Semitism and virulent nationalism.
History has been extremely unkind to both Russia and Ukraine and the latter suffered immensely under communist rule and collectivisation of agriculture. The USSR itself was invaded repeatedly from the west, with at least fourteen countries, including India, fighting in Russia’s civil war during 1919, after the Bolshevik seizure of power, to restore the monarchy. The Nazis sought to physically liquidate in the entirety the Slavic people of Russia and the region in the most brutal war in human history.
The USSR lost 260,000 personnel liberating Kyiv in November 1943 from Nazi occupation. Russians also had to fight the genocidal Teutonic knights of the Catholic church in 1240 and Napoleon in 1812, which makes their anxiety about their western borders understandable and explains why two of their greatest national heroes are Price of Novgorod, Saint Alexander Nevsky and Mikhail Kutuzov, the victors in these two wars. In conclusion, Indians ought to recognise that a Russia subject to resolute foreign blackmail is not in its interests since it has been a source of succour for India ever since independence and obstacles to its support would leave India more vulnerable.
India itself is confronted by a number of adversaries and obliged to cultivate myriad international relationships to deal with them, but needs to proceed with due circumspection in a world of mutually incompatible cross-cutting cleavages. Narendra Modi and his team have so far shown adroit insouciance in avoiding unnecessary controversy and to be congratulated.
The author taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for more than two decades. Views expressed are personal.