By Jai Kumar Verma
New Delhi. 15 July 2022. It was USSR versus USA in the first cold war. The world from 1945 to 1991 where the nations were either with the Eastern Block or with the Western Block and some preferred to remain Non-Aligned, is still not deep into history nor a past forgotten. The Russia -Ukraine war has got the world in the bipolar situation again.
Niall Ferguson senior fellow of Hoover Institution declared that the “Cold War II began sometime back.” He also contends that in the new cold war China would be a senior partner while Russia would be a junior partner. He cautioned that “And in Cold War II, the first hot war breaks out in Europe, rather than Asia.” The United States action after the terrorist attack of September 2011 of attacking Taliban in Afghanistan or offensive against Iraq was different. At present nuclear armed Russia attacked Ukraine and Kiev has already surrendered its nuclear weapons in 1994 under Budapest Memorandum. The destruction of Ukraine would be a powerful lesson to all the countries, that they must possess nuclear weapons and in no case, they should surrender the nuclear arsenal.
The Russian aggression on Ukraine and subsequent sanctions by US and its allies has created a perilous conflict between Russia and US led NATO countries. These sanctions have created energy crunch and adversely affected the global economy. President Biden also point out that Russia has to pay “dearly, economically and strategically”.
Biden also claimed that US and allies have isolated Russia but in reality, except US, Europe and East Asia other countries have declined to put sanctions on Russia. Israel and few oil producing middle eastern countries remained neutral while United Arab Emirates and India abstained from voting in United Nations Security Council against Russia. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which consists of ten nations also remained neutral. Later US pressed Singapore which took some punitive actions. Nevertheless, several countries including Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, and some Latin American countries also refused to follow US dictum.
Nonetheless Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022 has started a new cold war as Russia and its allies would also adopt retaliatory measures. Not only this several countries have enhanced their defence budget. Germany has announced to invest 100 billion Euros in purchase of new weapons including F-35 warplanes and drones.
President Biden whose approval rating was going down, got a new boost after announcing stringent economic sanction against Russia. Biden is also projecting Russian invasion as a battle between democracy and autocracy. Although it is debatable whether Ukraine had real democracy or not. The analysts feel that US has no interest in Ukraine but US and NATO wants to weaken Russia hence all of them are arming Ukraine and in turn Ukraine would become Syria or Libya.
As all three Baltic countries became the members of NATO, US forces have reached near Russian borders. US has exported Arms worth $2.5 billion to Ukraine between 2014 to 2021. Now Putin feels that if Ukraine joins NATO, it would jeopardise Russian security while US led NATO countries utilising Russia Ukraine war as an opportunity to weaken their arch enemy Russia.
NATO after disintegration of USSR should have disbanded but US kept it alive as it wanted to keep its sway over European security. Instead of dissolving NATO, 14 new members including Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania joined NATO although they are former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries. Ukraine was promised in 2008 that it can join NATO but promise was not fulfilled. It was also announced that Georgia and Ukraine would also join NATO soon.
Ukraine becoming NATO member is like creating an inimical Pakistan near India by West and constantly arming it and made Pakistan as member of Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) military treaties. Putin refused to accept Ukraine as NATO country because it would be a permanent foe near the border. Russia has to undergo same trouble what India is facing after creation of Pakistan.
The analysts feel that US provoked Russia through several ways including placing troops and missiles near Russian border, arming Ukraine, putting sanctions, and not addressing Russian concerns over Ukraine. Biden forgot that putting sanctions again and again has diminished its impact.
The US deep state wanted to start the Cold War II. They feel that they can bleed Russia again in Ukraine as they did in 1980 in Afghanistan when Soviet Union had to withdraw.
The economic war which US started may prove counter-productive because more and more countries would prefer to do bilateral trade in their currencies. An alternative currency system may develop with passage of time. The current sanctions would make Putin more stringent and his assertiveness would increase.
Western effort to dethrone Putin is also not working as Putin rating has considerable increased after Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a military, nuclear and cyber power and has large mineral and energy resources, hence after Ukraine war it would retaliate with western sanctions. Putin cannot survive as president if he loses Ukraine war. Hence the possibility that Putin would withdraw without achieving his goal is remote.
Moscow would restrict energy supply to Europe as well as sale of few important minerals which are important for western countries. Russia as a cyber power can disrupt western digital infrastructure.
The sanctions imposed by west after Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 has increased China-Russia closeness. Now the fresh sanctions on Russia would deepen the China Russia strategic friendship. Not only this energy hungry China would get more and more energy supply and would become Russia’s banker. These sanctions would help China economically and Moscow would become a junior partner and China would dictate terms to Russia.
The Russian February aggression of Ukraine has alerted western countries. Finland and Sweden who remained neutral are joining NATO. Jens Stoltenberg Secretary General of NATO has announced that the alliance which was keeping 40,000 troops on alert now would keep 300,000 troops on alert in Europe. NATO has described Russia as a direct threat in the latest summit held from 28-30 June. Stoltenberg also mentioned that more troops would be deployed in Baltic states near Russia.
After February attack US and other countries are showing that there are no differences in NATO and all members would work together. The current NATO summit declared that Russia is the primary adversary while China is a strategic challenge.
President Putin also made it clear that Moscow has no trouble with Sweden and Finland and if they want to join NATO, he has no problem. Putin also cautioned that “But they must understand there was no threat before, while now, if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in kind and create the same threats for the territories from which threats towards us are created.”
The leaders of NATO claim that the alliance is concerned about the increasing strategic partnership between Russia and China. Although at present China is not providing military assistance but purchase of large amount of oil, gas and coal from Russia is not only harming sanctions but also strengthening Russia.
China is emerging as a big threat to lone super power status of USA. The European and other countries are also feeling threat from the aggressive foreign policy of Beijing hence several countries may join US to weaken China. In that case China, Russia, Pakistan and few more countries may also join hands to counter them although large number of countries would remain neutral.
(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and member of United Services Institute of India and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at [email protected])