Prime Minister Truss appears not to have understood that the hopeless hero Volodymyr Zelenskyy provides drag rather than lift to her popularity, writes Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat
Biden turbocharged the NATO response to Russian troops in their 24 February 2022 entry into regions already outside the control of Ukraine for rational reasons. Removing Russian (and as collateral damage, Ukrainian) grain and petroleum resources from the international market would give US oil and grain exporters new and immense avenues of profit. What the Biden team omitted in their calculations was the blowback to not just the poorer nations but to the member-states of NATO from the raft of sanctions that were imposed by members of that alliance on the Russian Federation. When the Treasury Department in the US and EU “top brains” such as the clearly harried Ursula von der Leyen prove themselves unable or unwilling to calculate the actual effectiveness of the sanctions they imposed against “Putin’s Russia”, doubts about their level of competence in their present jobs is understandable. Several months ago, at a conference of Risk Managers of around forty large companies that was held in the restful surroundings of the L&T training facility at Lonavala, this columnist had said that the chill of winter would cool down NATO’s appetite for prosecuting their George W. Bush (circa “Operation Get Saddam” 2003) model war against Vladimir Putin. This has begun to take place, with more and more voters unhappy with the sacrifices they are being asked to make by their elected leaders in order to continue with NATO’s crusade against Russia. On the other side, Xi Jinping is making sure that Moscow has ample financial resources to continue the war, while at the same time coyly smiling at the leaders of the Atlantic Alliance who serially beseech him to stop a war in which Xi is the primary beneficiary. Self-sacrifice may have been the motif of the saintly leaders of India’s freedom movement, but that quality (or, in the view of a few, shortcoming) is not typical of the CCP’s leadership, something that Biden, Macron and Scholz do not seem to have yet understood, possibly due to the relevant memos not reaching their desks.
Enter Liz Truss, the latest Conservative Party occupant of 10 Downing Street. Her party appears to have come to the conclusion that as many Tory MPs as possible should at least for a while enjoy the privileges which come with being resident in that address. While Joe Biden had sound commercial reasons for prosecuting NATO’s own version of “Special Military Operations” against Russia, for Boris Johnson, the motivation was political. The now ex-PM of Britain saw in the 2022 Ukraine conflict the perfect method of diverting attention from Partygate and other peccadilloes that Boris has been known for throughout his life. Unfortunately for Johnson, being the other booster of NATO’s operations against “Putin’s Russia” could not rescue him from having to exit Number Ten. Despite the horrible cost that the operation was having on the UK economy, Johnson’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was among the most vociferous in carrying forward and indeed further deepening UK involvement in an operation that seems on track to witness the eclipse of Europe as a location where living standards are high. Truss was clever in playing to the ordinary Tory voter in the way Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of a Grantham grocer, did. She was far more convincing in that role than Rishi Sunak, who hails from a family of millionaires and has married into a family of billionaires, and makes no effort to conceal that in either deportment or clothes.
The problem is that the Biden-Johnson war is proving to be a death knell for grocery stores in the Atlantic Alliance and those who shop in them. The longer the crusade against Putin goes on, the more disastrous will the economic effects be. A US Supreme Court that acts as though “We the People” in the US Constitution means “We the Supreme Court Majority” is assisting the Democratic Party to perhaps even overcome the handicap that the White House has become to that party’s candidates in the coming midterm elections. However, the reality is that the longer Xi’s ask of Putin gets fulfilled and the Ukraine war continues, the harder will fall the popularity of Biden, Scholz, Macron, Truss and others who are the principal protagonists in NATO’s crusade against Putin.
Thus far, Prime Minister Truss appears not to have understood that the fact that it was the hopeless hero, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who first spoke to the new PM, provides drag rather than lift to her popularity. If she continues on the course favoured by Boris Johnson and continues to ignore reality by accelerating rather than decelerating the Ukraine war, Liz Truss will get replaced. Not by Boris Johnson but by some Tory leader who has shown better sense than Johnson or Truss has in this debilitating conflict.