Death and Destruction

The situation in Ukraine is war. How historians in future will define Putin’s adventure—or misadventure—in Ukraine may be a matter of speculation but this war is not supported by Russian people. It is now the turn of Moscow to indulge in the game of regime change which has so far been the exclusive business of Washington. The declared aim of Russia’s assault on Ukraine is to ‘demilitarise and denazify’ Ukraine. And to realise the objective, Russia, a victim of Nazi barbarity itself, recreated Nazi horror in Ukraine, by bombing civil lines. In other words what all they want is to install a pro-Russian government in Kiev in place of the present Zelensky government which came into being through a right-wing coup backed by America. Russia wants guarantee from Ukraine that they won’t join NATO. The war has already created millions of refugees and as for civilian and military casualties nobody really knows the exact number because truth is the first casualty in a war as both sides spread misinformation. Many say 50,000 casualties, if not more. Maybe, this is an exaggeration. Maybe not. That citizens are fleeing Ukraine while helpless people are crowding metros for shelter is a fact of life. The only good news amidst the hawkish propaganda of America and the West is that Putin is facing resistance from his own people. Also, people in Belarus, the main launching pad of Russian military, are demonstrating against Putin’s war. Then huge anti-war protests are taking place in Germany and elsewhere. Putin is brutally cracking down on brave Russians taking to streets chanting ‘No to War’. Peace activists across the world stand with the people of Ukraine and Russia who suffer most in this unequal war. Ukraine is now a battle-field for major powers, polarising governments on expected lines. Surprisingly, of all persons Syrian President Bashir al Assad called president Putin and supported Russian invasion of Ukraine. In truth, he went a step further by describing Russian invasion or what the Kremlin says ‘Operation Ukraine’, as a correction of history. Syria has been a staunch ally of Moscow since Russia launched a military campaign in that hapless country, promoting a civil war in favour of Assad. And quite expectedly China declined to call Russian action an invasion. The Mandarins in Beijing seem to be subscribing to Assad’s theory that Putin is correcting history.

Efforts to prevent war have failed. The world is eagerly waiting to see whether efforts to end it would succeed. At the time of writing Russia and Ukraine are scheduled to go to negotiating table for the second round of peace talks in Belarus. The first round proved futile as both sides refused to budge an inch from their stated positions. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Zelensky, instead of giving diplomacy a chance, dismissed it as fruitless even before talks started. What is more he called on Europeans with combat experience to take up arms and defend Ukraine against invading Russian forces, adding ‘the West was too slow to help his country’. It is unlikely that the West would commit men to fight for the beleaguered Zelensky. After all it is not Spanish civil war! For one thing both Britain and America have categorically stated that they won’t send troops to Ukraine under any circumstances. As NATO membership is not coming, Zelensky is frantically appealing to Europeans to make his country a member of EU. Member or no member, western countries are pouring weapons in huge quantities in Zelensky’s armoury. Even non-NATO members are generous enough to help Ukraine by providing weapons. All this will in reality complicate the war crisis. What is needed is de-escalation and ceasefire. NATO, however, has deployed more troops in Eastern Europe with a view to keeping pressure on Putin, particularly after his threat to use nuclear weapons.

To thwart Putin’s aggressive postures America and its western allies lost no time to impose sanctions. But this over-used stick seems to be a soft tool to force the ‘adversaries’ to fall in line. Sanctions actually affect the poor and weak countries most. It does have very little impact on the well organised and even moderately powerful states. Despite severe sanctions America has failed to destabilise Iran. And how Cuba has weathered prolonged American sanctions illustrates among other things that sanctions in the end won’t work. Only the other day North Korea mocked at American sanctions by test-firing long-range missiles. They have restricted Russian access to payment system by cutting SWIFT mechanism. America and its allies are counting too much on limiting Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, pounds and yen so that Russian war-chest remains empty. But all these measures are unlikely to stop the advance of Russian tanks. The main deterrence lies in Russian people’s opposition to war.

By arming civilians with weapons to resist the invading Russian army Zelensky seems to be trying to motivate people, borrowing a strategy pursued by the Bolsheviks against the notorious German army during World War 2. India being too dependent on Russia and America as well for its defence requirements, finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the balancing act. Then Modis have no option!


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Vol 54, No. 37, March 13 - 19, 2022