Farewell to Arms?

The war between Russia and Ukraine is a much wider war. As in the 1930s, apology is made in the name of democracy; the apology of continuing war is made in the name of peace. An old ghost is hovering over Europe. The most violent continent in the world in terms of deaths in warfare for the last one hundred years (not to go any further and include the deaths suffered by Europe during religious wars and deaths inflicted by Europeans on people subjected to colonialisn) is for a new war. Eighty years after World War II, so far with some eight million dead, the Russia-Ukraine war on its way may be even more deadly. All previous wars started apparently without a strong reason and were supposed to last a short time. This Russia-Ukraine war is unlikely to end anytime soon. For one thing without Russia, Europe is just half of itself, economically and culturally. By rallying against Russia under the baton of America, Europe is actually jeopardising its own long-term interests. Some right-wing ideologues in the West have started an all-out hate campaign against Russia to the point of absurdity. In an apparent bid to condemn Putin they are asking people to boycott Pushkin.

Meanwhile, a new polarisation of major powers is taking shape against the backdrop of current Ukraine war that has entered the second year. An anti-American and anti- NATO alliance is emerging. China apart, Iran is very much in this group led by Russia, albeit China has not yet fully supported Russia by actively involving itself in Russia’s war efforts because of its delicate business relationship with America. The world is heading towards a bipolar grouping again.

Over the past five months, a wave of protests has rocked Iran. Young women calling for an end to the compulsory headscarf have been joined by students, labourers, and professionals demanding individual rights, political reform—and even, increasingly, an end to the Islamic Republic itself. For now, the regime has retained the upper hand, thanks to a harsh crackdown by security forces and a lack of leadership and coordination among the protesters.

But there is no evidence that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is listening. Abroad, it favours aggressive regional policies and increasing collaboration with Russia. Iran has responded to its deepening international isolation by drawing closer to Russia. Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have long viewed the Kremlin as a vital ally. Khamenei and Russian President Vladimir Putin share the same view of the West, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has brought into sharper focus Tehran’s and Moscow’s common grudge against the United States.

Iran’s decision to provide Russia with drones predictably deepened Western anger at the Islamic Republic, which in turn pushed Tehran even closer to Moscow. In this vicious cycle, the winner will be hard-liners who have always favoured closer ties between Iran and Russia and decoupling from the West. As Iran drifts further into Russia’s orbit, the power of these hard-liners will grow, improving the odds that they will prevail in Iran’s looming succession battle. Ironically drone Iran is supplying to Russia is actually American drone re-engineered and re-modelled by Iranians.

The more Putin needs Iran, the more likely he is to flout Western sanctions and provide Tehran with vital military hardware and technology, including advanced fighter jets and air defence systems. High-tech acquisitions from Russia would significantly boost Iran’s military capability, enabling it to better counter Israeli air power in Syria and Iraq, as well as U S military pressure in the Persian Gulf.

At the time of writing crack appeared in NATO family as Turkey refuses to ratify its membership due to a dispute with Sweden. Sweden and neighbouring Finland abandoned their decades of non-alignment and applied to join 30-nation military pact in the wake of Russia-Ukraine war. All NATO members except Turkey and Hungary have ratified their accession, but unanimity is required.

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Vol 55, No. 36, Mar 5 - 11, 2023