I watch the unfolding drama, not unlikely to reach a tragic end, with considerable consternation and even more sadness. By ‘tragic end’ I do not necessarily mean a big war in Europe that I consider most unlikely. For me continued deterioration in relations with Putin’s Russia and Biden’s America is an end tragic enough. The West led by President Biden has consistently acted to aggravate a tense situation. President Putin, who has legitimate security concerns, has deployed forces in a manner that is not conducive to constructive diplomacy.
I liked the statement of India’s P.R., T.S. Tirumurti, made in the Security Council on 17th February, 2022, (https://www.pminewyork.gov.in/IndiaatUNSC?id=NDUwNA). It is a study in good classical diplomacy, a variety of diplomacy seriously endangered in today’s world, where ‘public diplomacy’ has seen a cancerous growth.
It is worthwhile to attempt a political parsing of Ambassador Tirumurti’s statement.
I have been shocked, but not surprised, by the allergy of Western governments and pundits to take into account the past as we try to understand the present. They seem to be bent on ignoring the dictum of Thomas Carlyle: “The Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past.”
A timeline might help to drive home the point.
Revolt against Polish rule starts in the Crimea.
The Cossacks in the Crimea choose to recognize the suzerainty of the Russian tsar and to incorporate their community into the Muscovite state (Union of Pereyaslav).
The Russian Navy starts building a base in Sebastopol in the Crimea as it needs a warm water port.
The Treaty of Paris brings to a close the American War of Independence with England recognizing the United States of America.
On the 300th anniversary of the incorporation of the Crimea to Russia, Nikita Khrushchev, who had spent years in Ukraine, gets the approval of the Supreme Soviet to transfer the Crimea from the Russian Federation to Ukraine. (In the eyes of the Supreme Soviet the U.S.S.R. was sempiternal and it did not make any difference whether the base of the Black Sea Fleet was with Ukraine or Russia.)
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Russia in dispute over the ownership of the Black Sea Fleet, sign a treaty giving the Russian Navy access to Sebastopol till 2017.
The newly appointed President Viktor Yanukovych signs a deal extending the lease to 2042, against an undertaking by Russia to supply gas at a discount.
As Yanukovych refuses to approve a motion by the Parliament to seek an associate status with EU, demonstrations against him, openly encouraged by Washington, lead to his fleeing to Russia fearing for his life.
Putin fears that his Navy might be expelled from Sevastopol and it might become a NATO base endangering Russia’s national security. Putin arranges for secession and the legislature in Crimea, after a referendum on secession and joining Russia, seeks annexation by Russia.
The West imposes economic sanctions on Russia, with no visible impact on Russia’s behavior.
In short, those who attribute the annexation of the Crimea entirely to Putin’s aggressiveness miss the point. They do not raise the question: Why was he so aggressive?
Coming to the present, it is rather amusing to see Washington repeating ad nauseum since 19th January 2022 that Russia was going to invade Ukraine in the next few days. Ukraine’s President protested as he recognized the impact of such American ‘predictions’ on the economy and the morale of the population as foreign airlines and investors started leaving the country. However, his protests have had no impact on Biden and U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Mired as he is in a ‘party-gate’, he might have an interest in exaggerating the crisis over Ukraine.
What might be the possible scenarios?
We have to recognize that Russia’s invasion will certainly benefit Biden facing rising domestic disapproval ratings. Is that the reason he is constantly predicting an invasion hoping to make it a self-fulfilling prophesy? On the other hand, Putin will be disinclined to oblige Biden by invading Ukraine.
Let us hope that India’s appeal to both sides to resort to constructive diplomacy is listened to and acted upon without further delay.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
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