During a recent Rule 193 discussion in the Lok Sabha on the situation in Ukraine, after recalling the time-tested Indo-Soviet ties and the help given to us by the former Soviet Union in December 1971 during the war of East Pakistan Liberation, now known as Bangladesh, I said: “… But then, Mr. President, Sir, friends should also be informed if they are wrong that they may pull together. Forty days after the start of this war and, Mr. Minister of Foreign Affairs was smiling, what I meant was that they were said in private or should be said in private because after forty days of this conflict, Russian war aims seem ill-defined or, at best, confused. Does Russia want to divide Ukraine along the Dnieper? Does he want a change of regime? What does the denazification of Ukraine mean? Does he want to create a land corridor between the Donbass region and Crimea or is he testing Anglo-American power? For Ukraine, joining NATO is at best a cat’s paw. He’s been on and off the table since the Bucharest summit in 2008.” You can watch the full speech at https://bit.ly/3NVQ2gh on YouTube.
Why did I say tell the friends if they were wrong to allude to Russia? For the simple reason that the nation is on a self-destructive path that has economic, political and social implications far beyond Russia itself. The Russians would do well to reflect on some aspects of their own history.
In October 1962, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the knives were out for Soviet Premier and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Nikita Khrushchev. By October 1964, Khrushchev was gone. An article published in the Los Angeles Times on May 20, 1989, entitled “Fearful Brezhnev Shook in Outting Khrushchev in ’64” told this story as follows: “In an interview with the weekly Argumenti i Fakti published on Friday, Vladimir V. Semichastny , who headed the KGB’s state security service from 1961 to 1967, has provided an intriguing insight into the coup that toppled Khrushchev, whose flamboyant behavior and plans for reform have drawn growing criticism within “While Khrushchev was on vacation in October, all the members of the Presidium (Politburo) of the Central Committee (Communist Party) met at the Brezhnevs’ house and it was decided to summon Khrushchev from Pitsunda (on the coast of the Black Sea) for Moscow,” he said. “We decided to call him. Who should do it? Brezhnev, of course. It took us a lot of effort to convince him. We dragged him, almost by force, to the telephone. Almost overnight after this coup, Khrushchev became a non-person in the former Soviet Union until his death on September 11, 1971.
After the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan from December 24, 1979 to February 15, 1989, when the remnants of the Soviet 40th Army finally withdrew across the Friendship Bridge on the Amu Daraya, which stretches from Hairatan on the Afghan side in Termez, a town then located in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan, General Boris Vsevolodovich Gromov, the last commander of the Soviet 40th Army, being literally the last man out; it also heralded the collapse not only of the Soviet Union, but of virtually the entire Soviet sphere of influence across the world. Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the liquidation and eventual formal dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991, is virtually a non-entity in the mighty empire he once ruled.
This does not mean that a similar fate awaits President Vladimir Putin or Russia. However, as the war in Ukraine now enters its seventh week, Russian leaders would do well to reflect on the consequences of the Frankenstein they have unleashed. There are whispers of Russian elites conspiring to replace Mr. Putin. Given that the source of these reports is the Ukrainian intelligence service, obviously one cannot give much credence to such speculations. However, the fact remains that the Russian “oligarchs” are suffering under Western sanctions that bite into their fortunes.
For starters, there doesn’t seem to be any clear war aims or defined political objectives for whoever has been unleashed against Ukraine, as stated at the outset of this article. If the Russians thought they would smash through Ukraine like a hot knife through butter, they were sorely disappointed. Ukrainians are fighting hard and resisting. The gruesome murders, tortures and rapes of civilians in Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Borodianka and other Kyivare suburbs are being kicked out of Russia squarely, exposing it to serious “war crimes” charges. Not only has Russia been suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council, but its continued war is making life difficult for nations like India that have tried to walk the narrow edge of the wedge to maintain its credibility as a democratic nation that stands up for certain values and its historic partnership with Russia.
However, what Russia must also consider is that if it emerges humiliated from this conflict, which it most certainly would do, given that it had to withdraw its forces from kyiv and the surrounding area and is trying now to refocus on the eastern region of Donbass and the southern coast of Ukraine would only play China’s game. Because a weakened Russia as a junior partner of China corresponds very well to the dream of world domination of the Middle Kingdom. Russia should seriously consider the consequences of being China’s wingman on its historical appreciation of itself as an ancient civilization.
Moreover, damage to Russia’s reputation for brutalizing a Slavic people bound by centuries of civilizational ties dating back to the time of Kievan Rus from the 9th to 13th centuries will also not play well even in Eastern and Central Europe. -even, what to talk about the rest of the world. Already, ordinary Russians who may not agree with Putin’s war are the subject of a growing degree of opprobrium around the world. Added to this are the exclusion of seven Russian banks from the Belgium-controlled SWIFT transaction system and threats by the Western Alliance to outlaw other nations trying to devise other means of financial settlement for trade. with Russia that would eventually end up isolating Russia economically.
So, to save Russia from herself, India, as a friend who has so far maintained strict neutrality even at the cost of annoying her own Western friends, must press Russia hard on the fact that it is in her interest to get out of the mess she has created.