• 25 November, 2022
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Ukraine: The March of Folly Continues

K P Fabian Wed, 04 May 2022   |  Reading Time: 6 minutes

Let us start by briefly narrating one or two major developments since my last column “Ukraine: When Will the Madness End?” dated 3rd April 2022-https://chanakyaforum.com/ukraine-when-will-the-madness-end/

The War Crimes Charge Against Russia

Ukraine, robustly supported by the West, parts of United Nations, and the Western media, has come up with serious charges of war crimes by Russia.  The most serious charge relates to the ‘massacre’ in Bucha, a city with a population of, 30 km north-west of the capital Kyiv.

Russian troops moved into Buch by 27th February as part of the offensive against the capital.  The Ukrainian military and the civilians put up stiff resistance. Some residents threw Molotov cocktails against the Russian military.  By 12th March, the city council conceded that the Russian military had gained control over the city. However, the Ukrainian resistance continued.

By 29th March 2022, facing stiff resistance, the Russian military announced that it was ending its operations near the capital and that it would be focusing its attention on Donbas and neighboring areas in the east. The Ukrainians, after regaining control of Bucha, started releasing video footages of bodies of those killed by the Russian military. It appeared that many men, with their hands tied behind them, had been shot at close range. Footages of rapes and of a torture chamber also were shown.

The number of bodies of human beings killed ‘extra-judicially’ is not known. The BBC gave a figure of 500 on 13th April 2022. Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (Intelligence Agency) briefed the German parliament based on intercepted conversation involving the notorious Wagner Group. The intercepts implied that what happened was ‘standard procedure’ as far as the perpetrators are concerned.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine in violation of human rights have come up before the United Nations Human Rights Council based in Geneva.  An attempt by the West to prevent Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov from participating at the session succeeded as his special flight was not cleared by some countries. The session was due on 1st March 2022. Eventually, when Lavrov spoke online, 40 delegations walked out.

On 7th April 2022, the UN General Assembly voted with a two-thirds majority to suspend Russia’s membership of the Human Rights Council. 93 voted in favor of the motion, 24 against, with 58 abstaining. The reader might recall that the General Assembly approved a resolution, on an earlier occasion (2nd March 2022), demanding an end to Russian military operations which was supported by 141 countries, opposed by 5, with 35 abstaining.

It might be recalled that it was the Security Council that on 27th February 2022 that called for an emergency session of the General Assembly. Since it was a procedural motion, no veto could be applied. Russia voted against, with India, China, and U.A.E. abstaining.

Since 1950, only 10 such emergency sessions have been held. When the Korean War was on, the Security Council was deadlocked, and the General Assembly passed the famous Uniting for Peace Resolution on 3rd November 1950.

By way of background, when the Korean War started in June 1950, the Soviet Union was boycotting the UN meetings over the non-admission of the PRC (People’s Republic of China). The Security Council established the UN Command to assist South Korea.  The Soviet Union argued that the Security Council decision was invalid as the resolution did not have the support of 9 members ‘including the five permanent members’. The International Court of Justice ruled that absence did not amount to veto.

On 12th April 2022, President Biden in a public speech charged Putin with committing ‘genocide’ in Ukraine. Asked later what made him use the word “genocide,” Biden replied, “Yes, I called it genocide. It has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being — being able to be Ukraine… “And we’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me.” (Italics added.)

We do not know whether the charge of genocide will hold in court. Incidentally, when the 1994 genocide in Rwanda occurred, President Clinton refused to use the word ‘genocide’ as in case of a genocide the signatories to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide are legally obliged to act. Clinton expressed regret after leaving office.

The West Pour in More Weapons into Ukraine

On 28th April 2022, President Biden asked the Congress to grant $33 billion out of which $20 billion is for military assistance to Ukraine. Such assistance would include offensive weapons too. However, the distinction between offensive and defensive weapons is often a distinction without any difference. What is important is that Biden is now speaking of offensive weapons to Ukraine. Earlier, he had ruled out giving such weapons for fear of provoking Russia. We need to note that the U.S., accompanied by the rest of the West, is rapidly moving up the escalation ladder.

Biden has combined the request for Ukraine with another for money for fighting Covid-19. This might delay the approval process in the Congress.

Apart from the military support, the West has been increasing its political support by a flurry of visits to Kyiv once it became clear that it was safe to go there after Russia announced that it is abandoning plans to occupy the capital.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in Kiev on 10th April 2022. The Guardian noted that the visit “achieved little but was a symbolic win for PM and Zelensky.” Johnson has been more vocal than his counterparts in wanting to see Putin defeated decisively.  He made this point in his 15th February speech at the Munich Security Conference.

Later, the U.S. Secretary of Defence Austin, said on his visit to Ukraine on 26th April 2022:

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine… Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here.”

Secretary of State Blinken too was there in Kiev. Theirs was the highest-level visit from U.S. after the start of the invasion.

Has Russia been Militarily Defeated?

Clearly no. But its advance has been stalled.

Russia apparently made a mistake in going for Kyiv and then, faced with stiff resistance, abandoning the attempt to occupy Kiev. On the other hand, it is not unlikely that Russia went towards Kiev to compel Ukraine to divert troops from the Donbas where Russia’s real interests lie.

The map below shows Russia’s progress till now.

Mariupol is essentially under Russian control despite some Ukrainian military holed up in the steel plant surrounded by the Russian military.

The Extent of Destruction of Ukraine

The World Bank has estimated the physical damage to Ukraine at $60 billion as of 22nd April 2022. President Zelensky has asked for $ 7 billion a month without specifying for how many months. He added, “And we will need hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild all this later.”

According to U.N.  as of 2nd May 2022, 5.5 million human beings have left Ukraine. Poland has taken the largest number at 3,075,240, followed by Rumania at 836,173 and Russia at 681,156. If we add the internally displaced, the total exceeds 11 million in a population of 43 million.

Has India Responded Correctly?

Yes. India has pursued a mature policy by not joining the West in condemning and sanctioning Russia. Coming to voting at U.N., it is wrong to say India voted against America and in favor of Russia. India voted for India.  Prime Minister Modi was correct when he told his German counterpart that there would be no winner in this war which should be ended as early as possible.  Sadly, good sense is seldom listened to by those who want to continue their march of folly.

If President Biden holds the view that India would fall in line, if bullied privately and publicly, he has made an erroneous judgment.

What Next?

The re-elected President Macron asked President Putin to stop the war. The reported reply was a demand to stop the arming of Ukraine. Russia has started bombing the rail tracks in Ukraine, possibly to prevent the transportation of Western arms to the frontlines.

One matter the Western media have industriously avoided to report on is the logistical difficulties in sending weapons to Ukraine. With the Black Sea controlled by Russia, the supply has to be by land or air. Both the options are vulnerable to Russian attacks.

A war of attrition is on. Even if Putin agrees to a cease-fire to be followed by talks, the other two presidents, who unwittingly collaborated with him to engender this crisis, will not cooperate. Lavrov has made it clear that lifting of sanctions should be part of the deal. Biden is rather unlikely to agree. Ergo, the March of Folly continues as of now.

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Author
Ambassador K P Fabian served in Indian Foreign Service from 1964 to 2000 when he retired from Rome as Ambassador to Italy and Permanent Representative to UN in Rome. Currently, Ambassador Fabian is Professor at Symbiosis and at Indian Society of International Law. He has published 'Common Sense on War on Iraq' and 'Diplomacy: Indian Style'. His book 'The Arab Spring That Was and Wasn't' has been published by MacMillan.

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POST COMMENTS (1)

Kalidan Singh

May 07, 2022
The post-war analysis might highlight the absurdity and injustices of Russia's action. What is clear is that the war is giving a great opportunity to the US to effectively weaken Russia. This is not my surmise, this is what American leaders are publicly saying. I wonder whether the loss of Russian generals in the field, the sinking of Moskva, the attack within Russia - are all the handiwork of the US. How could it not be; Ukraine cannot possibly possess the intelligence, the communication, the technology to do these things. It is beginning to look like this is a lose-lose war. Ukraine is sadly being destroyed, a lot of innocents are dying. Russia is getting hollowed out; their intelligentsia and knowledge-workers (nearly a million) have left, their military now looks like a joke, their equipment seems unfit for war, their strategy seems rather uninformed, the money and assets of their oligarchs is confiscated. How on earth can they win now? There is zero good in any of this; neither the Russian people nor the Ukrainian people deserve this.

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