The entire world is paying an increasingly steep price for the folly of NATO believing that Russia would be as much of a pushover as Libya was, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat
There seems to be an umbilical link that joins together administrations in the US and the non-Russian part of Europe, given the manner in which Washington’s policy has often functioned as though the rest of the world counted for little. The 46th US President seems to have entered a time warp and receded 50 years. This is in the way Biden has been acting as though it was a rerun of the 1970s US-USSR rivalry that represented the challenge before America in the 21st century, and not the expansionism of the Peoples Republic of China.
Judging by the commentaries of news channels across both sides of the Atlantic, the Kremlin is an open book to the US, the UK and the EU. After just a few days, CNN and BBC spoke in gleeful terms about how Russia had “failed in its Ukrainian blitzkrieg”. Much of the succeeding week was spent on forecasting the imminent collapse of “the Putin regime”, with Senator Lindsey Graham calling for the assassination of the President of the Russian Federation. Graham must be auditioning for the post of Ambassador to the (post-Putin) regime in Moscow that is “imminent” despite an absence of evidence of such catastrophic change in the Russian leadership.
European countries, Poland in particular, that welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees did so in the belief that they would return to their home country in a matter of weeks, once (as CNN predicted) Russian forces were defeated by Ukrainians wielding NATO-supplied weapons. It remains to be seen how warm the welcome to such migrants would be, once it sinks in that most if not almost all of the guests from Ukraine are unlikely to return as citizens to the country they left.
BBC, CNN or any of the many western channels that are doing 24/7 reporting on the war in Ukraine are uniform in informing the rest of the world what the western world (aka the international community) apparently believes. This is that from almost the start of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the latter was a defeated force. The reportage of western media, both print and television carries detailed insights of what they claim to be the intimate thought processes of President Putin.
Recent media reports sourced from western spooks claim that Putin is being misled by unnamed (and very possibly non-existent) “advisers” that Russia is actually prevailing in the war rather than what CNN, BBC and countless others believe is the case, which is that Russia is being whipped to a pulp by Ukraine. To safeguard freedom of the press, Russian channels have been blocked from the NATO bloc, and such champions of healthy eating as KFC and McDonalds have exited Russia. Their CEOs evidently expected that Putin would soon get replaced by another leader who would appreciate the contribution made to healthy living by such brands, and would beg them to return.
The prospect of President Putin continuing in office and expropriating the properties of those companies that had exited Russia would never have crossed their minds, so profound has been their faith in western media and its reports on the Russia-Ukraine war. The leaders of the US and its allies in Europe often say how much they love the Russian people. Their way of showing that love is to publicly revel in the fact that their intention is to reduce the Russian people to penury, so that they flood the streets and drive out Putin the way in which Viktor Yanukovich, the elected Prime Minister of Ukraine, was driven out in 2014.
Ukraine has not had a moment of stability since then, thereby proving Yanukovich right when he had warned that his country would never be tranquil absent a close relationship with Russia. It is unclear why NATO refused to prevent war by making clear at the beginning of February that Ukraine would not be allowed to join NATO. There are those who say that this is because NATO sought to lure Russia into a war in Ukraine that Brussels expected would drain and melt down the Putin regime in the manner that Afghanistan of the 1980s did for the USSR, but such a conjecture may be speculation.
The manner in which leaders of the US, the UK and some of the Baltic states are calling for punishing the Russian people through sanctions for the crime of electing Vladimir Putin as the President of the Russian Federation is likely to lead to a dislike of the West even among those in Russia who were earlier pro-West. Countries that profess humanitarian concerns exhibit this by sending not so much medicines or food into Ukraine, but weapons designed to lengthen the war, no matter what the cost in lives. They have been straightforward in saying that they seek the meltdown of the Russian state, no matter what the consequences are for the people of Russia.
The people of Ukraine are already paying a terrible price for the fact that their leaders believed in the informal promises of certain NATO leaders and refused to come to peace terms with Moscow when conditions based largely on realities on the ground in end-2014 would have been acceptable to President Putin. Not just they but the entire world is paying an increasingly steep price for the folly of NATO in believing that Russia would be as much of a pushover as Libya was. It is clear that not just President Biden but the other leaders of NATO have learnt nothing about the changes in global geopolitics from the 20th to the 21st century.
Asia has witnessed the manner in which a force as puny as the Taliban forced NATO to kowtow to that militia by kneecapping the Afghan army and beating a retreat from Afghanistan. Next time, voters may need to choose those who understand better what changes are taking place in the world, and why they need to respond to them in a manner that is in the best interests of the countries they represent rather than be based on the ghosts of the past.