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Putin’s War Is Not Just Against Ukraine, He Has Thrown A Challenge To West

By Anjan Roy

As Russian military moves into Ukraine, our familiar world vanishes. The world order returns to the point when Winston Churchill had said “an iron curtain” was falling across Europe. The single step of a Russian soldier in Ukraine brings back the Cold War dispensation in international affairs.

To be sure, the Russian move is not a battle against Ukraine, which is a minnow compare with the invader, but a war against the West, which includes the whole of Western Europe and the United States of America, Australia and Canada. Japan also joins in the coalition.

In this emerging scenario, Ukraine would be vanquished in no time. But the post-Ukraine world will be divided in sharp opposite camps.

With this single sledge-hammer blow, Russian president Vladimir Putin has sought to convey a single message: don’t take us for granted. NATO expansionism in eastern Europe, which was considered to be a Russian backyard, will not be tolerated and the West must respect the red lines.

In some ways, today’s Putin is the creation of the “Triumphalism” of the west post collapse of Soviet Union. Russia was treated with far lesser courtesy in international affairs than even middle level ones. Russia was smarting from the pains of being side-lined from the status of an equal partner from the days of the Yalta Conference.

Later still, it was the only contender with America. From that high podium to be thrown out of the lease of the leading —as a member of G8 — was a disgrace, which Putin  felt personally and wanted to avenge.

To make matters even worse and foreboding, Putin has his lurid notions of nations and destinies, as he unfurled in his speeches lately. Some nations are great  —like Imperial Russia— some other nations are meant to serve the biddings of the Great.

With his moves in Ukraine, Putin has thrown a direct challenge at the West and America with his speech this morning, announcing to the world that his military was moving into Ukraine. He has promised severe consequences, such reprisals that the world has never seen. It is not quite clear if he was brandishing the nuclear option in case of intervention by others.

This is a sad end of the effort for building an international order, devoid of using force. The new order, would no longer be unipolar or multipolar. It will be to a large extent determined by display of force.

In this catastrophic course, if one country was short changed it was Ukraine itself. Egged on by the West, Ukraine had been making displays which were like the proverbial red rags to the bull. It was in the end left to fend for itself with not much of help other than some hard hats, which Germany had symbolically sent it in the run up to the current crisis.

So the lesson is, nations must stay up for its own. When the push comes to the shove no one stands beside you.

In this new global order, India would be facing some stark questions. It will no longer be possible to ride two horses — India will be facing a fork in the road. We cannot possibly buy the Russian military hardware and then move over to US missiles.

The viciousness of the new global order would be determined by the extent to which Russia has to pay a price.

The west has already slapped sanctions on Russia. The economic sanctions like embargo on purchase of natural gas by the west European countries from Russian entities would sting. True, Russia has some buffer with its chest of foreign exchange reserves of $600 billion to tide over immediate purchases from outside world.

These are other costs that the West is promising like personal sanctions against the coterie members of Vladimir Putin. Some talks are on that even the children of the Russian oligarchs who are currently in the west will be adversely affected. Not one of the senior Russian officials or politicians would now be free to move out of the country.

Yet the third sanction which is going to kick in is the ostracisation of Russian banks in international payments systems. This measure, pursued with vigour, can make life extremely difficult for Russia and its elites.

For some reasons or other, the oligarchs, elites and senior politicians had a perchance for Britain and placed most of their ill-gotten wealth in Britain and British financial operators. There were up-scale streets in London counting ownership of Russian rich.

Britain had already started seizing these and moving them beyond the reach of the Russian owners. So much so, that the Russian president himself had protested against the British moves. However, such punishments would be relentlessly pursued now that the threshold had been breached y both sides.

But if one country is genuinely inconvenienced, it is Pakistan, with none else than its prime minister, Imran Khan, is stranded in Moscow. With across the board flight restrictions in Russia, Khan might not simply get a flight back home.

It just so happened that Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, was in Moscow when the Ukraine operation, much loathed by the entire free world, was launched by Russia.

In this changed world of Putin’s making, China would be seeking its role in a vague and essentially unequal competition with Russia.

It looks as though it would be a bi-polar world, with a tri-polar tendency. There would be conflicts galore and shadow boxing matches. Maybe, not a pleasant phase. (IPA Service)

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