By Kumar David –
Russian President Vladimir Putin is an unusual specimen of the genus homo sapiens; he reasons and acts differently from most folks. Every Russian is right in insisting that a high price is worth paying for Ukrainian neutrality (no NATO membership, no nuclear weapons) to avert the certainty of nuclear war down the line in the future. That is now irreversibly ensured, but it could have been done at a lower cost in lives, property and credibility. Putin has inflicted devastation on Ukraine (thousands dead, cities burning, 5 million refugees by the time it ends), his army is bogged down by stiff Ukrainian resistance, he has aroused considerable opposition at home, made himself a pariah in the eyes of Western public opinion and media, created havoc in the existing Russian economy and painted himself into a corner.
Ukraine will never ever join NATO. NATO will not touch it. It is worthless real-estate, an insignificant for defensive purposes lump of property in an age of cyber war, cruise missiles and outdated tank-divisions. NATO has already made it abundantly clear that it will not commit one non-Orthodox Christian soul or fighter-jet to protect Ukraine at this juncture. Zelenskyy is an unwanted, unloved and hungry urchin begging at a locked kitchen door. So, find Putin a retreat lane; the loud double-speak behind Russian diplomacy proclaims “Putin wants out!” Now “build your enemy a golden bridge over which he can (save face and) retreat” (Sung Tzu in The Art of War).
Both Ukrainians and Russians are Slave people and share some common history. English and French royalty too overlapped to the extent that Henry V and French royalty thought themselves one. This makes for extreme brutality in internal conflict (Sinhala-Tamil, Irish-English, neighbouring Africans). Henry is thought by the English to be their greatest military hero second only to Nelson; the ferocity of his threats against the ‘other’, the French defenders of Harfleur unless they surrendered, is surprising – so says Henry V, Act III, Scene 3.
Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
Take pity on your town and on your people,
Whilst yet my soldiers are in my command,
Whilst yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
O’er blows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil, and villainy.
If not—why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by their silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dashed on the wall;
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes.
You see, it was all their fault, Prabaharan’s fault, when we bombard hospitals, slit children’s throats and raped! Such is internecine warfare between brothers.
I will close with a few words about impending economic restructuring in Russia. I am pleased that Putin’s adventure has disrupted the dysfunctional, kleptocratic, dependent on American corporate capital and slave to dollar-domination, Russian economic, banking and crooked financial order. This is in sharp contrast to China and Vietnam; it was going nowhere but down the tube. Oligarchs and Putin’s kleptocrat friends were bleeding the country. I am delighted that they have been ‘kicked’ (Chelsea, Monaco, Bournemouth football idiom) and exposed as leeches. American tech giants, food & beverage providers have taken dominant market share in the big cities and global investment banks dominate. I am not an economic recluse opposed to globalisation and as a citizen of the world I hold that humanity must be open to ideas (especially to radical ones), imports, exports and unrestricted flow of labour. But what happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union was economic colonialism and oligarchic kleptocracy. Pressing a reset button is good, it can provide an opportunity, but my no means a guarantee, that the entire economic system can be recast. The 4000 sanctions imposed on Russia are the biggest economic attack ever in history but they hurt the oligarchs more than the ordinary people.
The China-Russia economic equation will be altered with China as the senior partner. The hundreds of billions China pouring into the Second Silk Road can be more profitably and reliably invested nearer home.
The high points will be energy, Chinese industries in Russia (why waste good money in god-forsaken Africa, Pakistan, Lanka or bureaucratic, dysfunctional Brazil?). Russia has high-tech but still way behind the US; Its second-class military knowhow was exposed in Ukraine. Cooperation with China will help blunt the edge of American leadership. However, the most important development will be enabling a new global financial system that can bypass dollar-dominance. This will be a long process but both countries know that making a start cannot be deferred. In truth Ukraine and Putin are just pawns in a great game between Western financial power and its primary foe rising China.