Russian Roulette

I have to compliment Russian President Putin.

Over the past nearly six months, he has managed to hoodwink the mighty Western powers, especially the U.S. and Germany, on the matter of Ukraine. He played a variety of games, did not use or demonstrate his country’s heavy firepower, kept everyone guessing (including the Russian people) on his true intentions, confused neighbouring countries as well as the big Western countries, and at the end also managed a cease-fire which benefitted the Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine.

Such a display of Machiavellian proportions explains why mystery is better than explicit statements with nothing inside the same. President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and other Western heads of state could only impose toothless sanctions against Russia and specific individuals. They have absolutely no locus standi should Russia actually invade Ukraine.

While I am not supporting either side, I wonder what would the U.S. do if a similar situation happens at its borders. Large countries have certain compulsions and the need to protect their emigres or citizens or ethnic folks. If an elected President is overthrown by mob power, that seems to be acceptable to the U.S. and other Western powers, whether it is in Egypt or in Ukraine. At the same time, they protest if such a thing happens in Pakistan. Where is the consistency in behaviour ? And why are China and Russia always the bad boys in world politics ? Can they not do anything right ?

The Ukraine army has killed over 2,000 of its own citizens in eastern Ukraine. I am surprised to note that the web commentaries hardly mention this fact which is the result of intensive shelling on cities like Donetsk and Luhansk. What is the difference between Gaza and eastern Ukraine ? Both civilian areas got shelled and bombed.

It would be anyone’s guess what happens next. President Putin cannot be expected to lose face, and the Western powers would not give him any face. No one now expects him to withdraw from Ukraine. If things were handled differently, Ukraine would have succeeded in keepings its geography intact.

No one in this world can choose its neighbours.

People better get used to this fact.

It is best to negotiate with President Putin – withdraw all sanctions, give the autonomy that the Russian language speakers in eastern Ukraine demand, fence the border with Russia (with Western money), don’t join NATO but join EU if the referendum so dictates, pay market price for Russian gas, etc., And, keep the independence. Ask that Russia return Crimea under an autonomy pact.

More workable than sanctions, eh ?


Vijay Srinivasan
7th September 2014


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