A Russian circus and mute spectators

Ukraine is just a pawn in the hands of superpowers. All the bluster and bombast from NATO and the US was like a great Broadway show. The financial markets called this bluff in a flash.

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By Chanakya

It may be interesting to note that even after Tsar Peter the Great made his country the most powerful in Europe and renamed it as the Russian Empire in 1721, the fate of the peasants never improved. They tried revolts, but were always mercilessly put down. Culturally, the Rus are as old as Europe itself, with basically Slavic origins as well as with Turkic genes. Neither are the Rus a fully developed warrior class, as some Cossack lore would prime us to believe, nor are they just lazy autocrats. They include the hapless farmers too.

Today, it seems, the Ukrainians are the peasant class, their voices as muted as the farmers during Tsar Peter the Great. It matters little that the very origins of the Rus can be traced back to this region of rich, black soil and it matters little that culturally, they share more than they differ.

Today’s Tsar, Vladimir the Great, doesn’t like the peasants either. The murmurs of protest had to be put down with a heavy hand, with an armoury of bombast and fire. That has been accomplished, in a little over 72 hours. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spurned offers from of the West of fleeing the country. He said he will fight the Russians with his army. He is possibly not as obtuse as he sounds, but, frankly, he has little option. The West, the Great Saviour West, has hardly helped.

He refused the American offer (for him to flee) and urged his country to “stand firm” against the siege. He said: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” Maybe the Americans mistook him to be a deposed African nation despot, wanting to flee his country’s ire. Or maybe, as precedent already has it, the Americans thought Zelensky was like the deposed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who lived out his last years (till cancer killed him) in the lap of luxury in the US.

Maybe Zelensky has a wrong handle of diplomacy, but his nationalist credentials are made of gold.

Calling the bluff
The first people to call the US President Joe Biden and UK Premier Boris Johnson’s bluff were those who were punting at the stock markets around the world. They aren’t fools. If you notice the trading patterns and the stock prices through the different indices (see graphs), every one of the indices, including India’s Sensex and the Nifty, crashed on February 24, when the invasion happened. The day after, all indices were climbing back up again, as if all this was just a blip in the system.

So what did they know that all the political pundits around the world did not? Or, maybe the political pundits, too, were trying the same bluff. What the money managers knew was that no western country would risk life and limb for a localised situation, where neither the US nor any country in Europe had any financial interest. Had that been the case – and we have seen this before when the US and its allies endeavoured to “save democracy” in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries – then THAT could have been a problem. So far, it is business as usual, and Ukraine can go to hell. The most they wanted to do was offer Zelensky a way out of the country.

Does that mean that soon all this will be driven under the carpet? Not that, because Vladimir Putin is now saying he has his finger on the nuclear button. Western news channels have called him “unhinged”, virtually a m madman, but the fact is that he has the power to outrun economic sanctions and public ire.

Normally, under such circumstances, the US and the West would have engineered a coup. With Putin, however, this seems unlikely.

Will the sanctions on Russia bite? Will they then be slowly withdrawn, away from the public eye? Will the composition of the Security Council still remain the same, with no more permanent members being allowed in? Will the NATO remain within its haloed sphere, not willing to step out of revenue limits?

Basically, there is a cabal of nations – and we all know the countries within that – that believes that it is the primary custodian of the world’s conscience, if humanity and how all that is defined. Most of this world is White, most of this world is in the northern hemisphere (except Australia and New Zealand) and most of them are armed to the teeth. Japan once broke the mould and learnt its lesson. China sometimes breaks the mould today and it has managed to extend its sphere of influence, but that is despite the existence of this cabal.

Ukraine gave us a very important lesson. There are no free lunches in this world, no free help either. If you haven’t paid for a share of humanity, you aren’t worth the trouble of saving. Ukraine’s world financial policy was flawed to that extent. The world’s humanitarian policies are flawed to the same extent.

What about re-colonisation?
If we are comparing the Russian invasion as a neo colonisation effort, let us think about a different weird possibility. What if the UK – this is in reference to its historic propensity to do it – decides, again that it needs an African colony. The food will be free, the minerals will be worth it, and a long distance defence base would be a big advantage built against Chinese investments. If there is oil, then even better.

UK will not talk about the lost glory of the ‘Empire’. It will talk about how the current president of that African nation is a despot, how he is destroying the democracy of the country, torturing its people. The narrative will be built within Europe, across the Atlantic in the US and even way across, in Australia. There will be reams of ‘research’ documents produced and then all will be placed before the UN, which will admonish the poor African nation and possibly send in peace-keepers.

The final phase will be an attack of the ‘democratic allies’, virtually annihilating the poor African nation. Democracy will be saved.

The problem with Putin was that he failed to build the narrative. And the other problem is that the markets have called their bluff. Money matters more than human lives.

Russians destroy world’s largest aircraft

THE UKRAINE ATTACK TIMELINE
·        Oct. 2021: Ukraine uses a Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone for the first time in eastern Ukraine, angering Russia.

·        November 2021: Satellite imagery shows a new build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, and Kyiv says Moscow has mobilised 100,000 soldiers along with tanks and other military hardware.

·        December 7, 2021: US President Joe Biden warns Russia of sweeping Western economic sanctions if it invades Ukraine.

·        December 17, 2021: Russia presents detailed security demands to the West, including that NATO cease all military activity in eastern Europe and Ukraine and that the alliance never accepts Ukraine or other former Soviet nations as members.

·        January 3, 2022: Biden reassures Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky that the US will “respond decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine.

·        January 10, 2022: US and Russian officials meet in Geneva for diplomatic talks, but differences remain unresolved as Moscow repeats security demands that Washington says it cannot accept.

·        January 24, 2022: NATO puts forces on standby and reinforces its military presence in Eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets. Some Western nations start evacuating non-essential embassy staff from Kyiv. The US puts 8,500 troops on alert.

·        January 26, 2022: Washington presents a written response to Russia’s security demands, repeating a commitment to NATO’s “open-door” policy, while offering a “principled and pragmatic evaluation” of Moscow’s concerns.

·        January 27, 2022: Biden warns of a likely Russian invasion in February. China throws its political weight behind Russia and tells the US that Moscow’s “legitimate security concerns” should be “taken seriously”.

·        January 28, 2022: Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia’s main security demands have not been addressed but that Moscow is ready to keep talking.

·        January 31, 2022: US and Russia spar over the Ukraine crisis at a special closed session of the UN Security Council.

·        February 1, 2022: Putin denies planning an invasion and accuses the US of ignoring his country’s security demands.

·        February 6, 2022: Russia has established 70 percent of the military build-up it needs to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to American officials cited anonymously in US media.

·        February 8, 2022: French President Emmanuel Macron meets Putin for marathon talks in Moscow and tells reporters Russia will not escalate the Ukraine crisis.

·        February 10, 2022: Russia and Belarus begin military drills near Belarusian border.

·        February 11, 2022: Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, says US intelligence shows a Russian invasion could begin within days, before the Beijing Olympics end on February 20.

·        February 12, 2022: Biden and Putin hold talks via video conference. The US president said a Russian invasion of Ukraine would cause “widespread human suffering” and that the West was committed to diplomacy to end the crisis but “equally prepared for other scenarios”.

·        February 21, 2022:  Russia officially recognised the two self-proclaimed states in the Donbas, and sent troops to the territories.

·        February 23, 2022: At Wednesday night speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that a “special military operation” would begin in Ukraine.

·        On February 24, 2022: At 5 am, Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv woke up to loud sounds of air raid sirens. The day that was supposed to be the ‘in-principle’ summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin to diffuse tension in Europe, Russia launched what it called the ‘special military operations’ across the Ukraine border.

·        Troops and military vehicles entered Ukraine from Belarus.

·        Coordinated attacks were launched and major Ukrainian cities such as Kharkov, Odessa and Kyiv were targeted. Plumes of smoke were seen in various video clips doing the rounds on social media.

·        Putin warned that any foreign attempt to interfere with Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen.” Putin accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees.

·        February 25, 2022: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 137 dead after the first day of fighting.

·        Chernobyl nuclear power plant captured by Russian forces, reports Reuters.

·        President Biden announces a new round of sanctions targeting Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, charging that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “chose this war” and that his country will bear the consequences of his action.

·        February 26, 2022: Russia vetoes UNSC resolution on Ukraine as India, China, UAE skip voting.

·        Prepare petrol bombs to defend Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities tell locals.

·        Ukrainian President Zelensky asked to evacuate Kyiv at the behest of the US government but he turns down the offer. He says: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

·        Air India evacuates 214 passengers from Romania and returns to Mumbai

·        US releases up to $600 m in security assistance to Ukraine.

·        Russian forces capture the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol

·        Three Russian aircraft shot down, claims Ukraine.

·        Netherlands decides to send 200 air defence rockets to Ukraine

·        As many as 100,000 Ukrainians cross the border into Poland.

·        Ukraine denies refusal to negotiation over ceasefire with Russia, says ‘not ready to accept ultimatums’

·        February 27, 2022: Germany announces military aid to Ukraine: 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 500 ‘Stinger’ surface-to-air missiles.

·        France to deliver more military equipment to Ukraine and ramp up sanctions on Russia.

·        US to provide $54 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Ukraine

·        EU to finance purchase, delivery of weapons to Ukraine, toughens sanctions on Russia

·        February 28, 2022: Ukraine agrees to hold talks with Russia, the meeting will be held in the Belarusian city of Gomel.

·        Explosions heard in Ukraine’s Kyiv, Kharkiv cities ahead of talks with Russia.

·        Australia announces fresh sanctions against Russia, imposes travel ban on Putin

·        Belarus may join Ukraine invasion, says US official.

·        Four Indian ministers travel to Ukraine’s neighbouring nations to coordinate evacuation of stranded Indians.

·        Europe, Canada close their airspace to Russian airplanes

·        Russian military claims air superiority in Ukraine, says civilians can freely leave Kyiv.

·        Ukraine to release prisoners with military experience if needed to fight Russia

·        Civilian death toll at 352 people, including 14 children.

·        Ukraine’s defence ministry claims more than 5,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, 191 tanks, 29 fighter jets, 29 helicopters and 816 armoured personnel carriers have been destroyed by Ukraine’s forces. This was in the first four days of fighting in Ukraine.

·        The UN said that at least 134 from the Ukrainian military had been killed.

·        The UN says over 500,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries.

·        FIFA, UEFA suspend all Russian football teams

Some Important Facts About Ukraine

·        Ukraine was known as Kievan Rus (from which Russia is a derivative), till the 16th century. In the 9th century, Kiev was the major political and cultural centre in Eastern Europe.

·        After the Russian Revolution, Ukraine declared its independence from Russia on January 28, 1918, and several years of warfare ensued with several groups.

·        The Red Army was finally victorious over Kiev, and in 1920 Ukraine became a Soviet republic state.

·        In 1922 Ukraine became one of the founders of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

·        In 1991, Leonid Kravchuk, leader of the Soviet republic of Ukraine, declared independence from Moscow.

·        2008: NATO promised Ukraine it will one day join the alliance.

·        April 2014: Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of Donbass declare independence

·        July 2014: A missile brings down passenger plane MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. Investigators trace back the weapon used to Russia, which denies involvement.