Sunday 16 July 2023

Needed at G-20 Summit in Delhi: A Ukraine ceasefire (The Sunday Guardian)

 The problem is that both the Cold War 1.0 zealots of NATO and Zelenskyy live in the shadowy world of zealotry.

P.T. Barnum was finally displaced as the world’s greatest showman by a former comedian who is now presiding over a human tragedy that Europe has not witnessed since the war against Hitler ended in 1945. With his green fatigues and Just-off-the-Battlefield demeanour, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushes into the shade NATO leaders as he strides into a meeting with them and demands all of everything as of yesterday. The clouds of war obscure mistakes and waste, hence it is unlikely that there will ever be an accurate accounting of the manner in which the daily tranches of weaponry handed over to the Ukrainian side have been used against the Russian military. What seems clear is that the Russian side has performed much the way the Soviet armies did in Finland just a year before German tanks rolled into Soviet territory in 1941. The shoddy performance of Stalin’s army against the much smaller Finnish foe commanded by Field Marshal Mannerheim helped convince Hitler that his plans for the invasion and occupation of the Soviet Union would be an easy task for a German force that had so rapidly defeated the French armed forces just a year ago. It is therefore unsurprising that the zealots within NATO who have long had visions of the disintegration of the Russian Federation are pushing to escalate military and other support to Kiev so as to further promote the planned collapse of what they term the Russian Empire. Meanwhile, active if not openly from the sidelines, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping will be anticipating the taking over of vast tracts of Russian territory in the east should Russia disintegrate the same way as the Soviet Union did in 1991. That would, in his reckoning, finally establish him as the equal of Mao Zedong in the history of the CCP where the taking over of additional territory by the PRC is concerned.
For quite a while, the Cold War 1.0 zealots in the US in particular have regarded Belarus and Ukraine as the soft underbelly of the Russian Federation, in much the way that Chechnya, the Central Asian states and western provinces such as Georgia and Ukraine were to the USSR . While Belarus has at least for now remained within Moscow’s orbit, nearly more than 70% of Ukraine is now hostile territory where the Russian Federation is concerned. Were NATO to move towards accepting India’s proposal of an immediate cessation of military hostilities in Ukraine, that alliance would emerge as the effective victor in the proxy conflict that it has been waging against the Russian Federation since the 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces.

The problem is that both the Cold War 1.0 zealots (a group that is amply represented within the Biden administration, as it is in most of the chancelleries of Europe) as well as President Zelenskyy live in the shadowy world of zealotry. This is a terrain filled with shades and illusions. Both the zealots as well as the Zelenskyy crew are adamant that the influence of Moscow on the southern and eastern territories of Ukraine should fall to zero. In other words, that Russian-speaking Ukrainians should migrate to Russia and remain there.

Whatever be the defects of the Russian military, it would be an impossible task to evict them from land that they have been in effective control of since 2014, absent a Russian meltdown that seems a remote possibility to any individual other than zealots whose mission in life is the destruction of what her thinkmates regard as the Russian Empire.

Those who are intent on driving out Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin forget that the challenge to him is coming not from the skimpy band of liberals in Moscow but from hardliners such as Yevgeny Prigozhin, who believe that the President of the Russian Federation has been too soft on not just Ukraine, but on adjoining NATO territories as well. The loss by Moscow of that part of Ukraine that has been in effective Russian control since 2014 would represent an existential threat to the stability of the Russian Federation, something that the hardliners believe should be halted through all available means. The refusal by Leonid Brezhnev and his successors as General Secretaries of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to militarily cripple Pakistan’s ability to supply the Mujahideen with weapons in the 1980s Soviet-Afghan conflict was the single biggest factor behind the humiliating withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1988. Hardliners in Moscow argue that Putin’s unwillingness to more aggressively attack and shut down supply depots and transportation links that ensure a steady supply of munitions to Ukraine from NATO member states is what has led to the present stalemate. Just as the odds that the US would wage war on the USSR should the Soviet navy and air force have blocked through force supplies into Afghanistan from Pakistan in the early 1980s, hardliners in Moscow argue that NATO would not have the will or the public support to escalate a determined destruction by Russia of supply routes into Ukraine from nearby NATO territory into a direct conflict with the Russian Federation itself. Judging by the way events are developing, it is the hardliners who seem to be gaining in influence even within the Russian military.

It is in such a context that for the past year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been calling for an end to the fighting in Ukraine, so that the possibility of such a disastrous escalation recedes. Standing against such a view are the Cold War 1.0 zealots in NATO, who together with the Zelenskyy regime, believe it to be feasible to cripple Russia without provoking a matching response from the Kremlin. The G-20 summit meeting in September in Delhi represents an opportunity for reason to override passion, and for measures to be initiated that in months if not weeks would result in an end to the fighting in Ukraine. When zealots shape policy, world wars are the result, and the time has long arrived for the actions and influence of such individuals to be replaced by those who substitute reason for passion, and who avoid the trap of a disastrous escalation of the Ukraine war.

Needed at G-20 Summit in Delhi: A Ukraine ceasefire

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