Whatever the outcome of Russia-Ukraine war Putin will not be the winner in the eyes of history. Infact, no matter how many good reasons Putin may have to offer for his decision to go for a war on Ukraine, the real reason is evident to the whole world. But before we dwell upon those reasons there are some other players whose role also needs to be discussed.
First and foremost, it is the US dithering on the whole issue. Biden cannot absolve himself of the blame that he and his NATO allies failed to stand by Ukraine in the time of a severe crisis that they too had a role in creating. Technically Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO and hence the direct military intervention by the very powerful alliance of the rich and mighty was not in order.
But there is another question. Had the US response been the same if it was some other country and not Russia? What happened in Iraq is still there in the minds of the global community though many may like to conveniently forget. The other argument that it could have escalated into a world war with serious global implications has more merit though that is a rather distant possibility.
Further, it would have proved more disastrous for Putin and Russia. And is it not that if a compelling situation is created world is left with limited options? Moreover, what Russia did is something similar to what happened during Hitler’s time. So all those arguments and counter arguments were only tactical diplomatic stance as no one was willing to enter into someone else’s war.
Coming to sanctions and assurances, they have long term implications whereas the war has already devastated Ukraine. The longer it goes the greater will be the damage. There was a need for more immediate and direct interventions if the western powers were serious about helping Ukraine. But all said and done implications of the war would certainly be felt by Russia as its economy is not a strong as its military and ultimately economy. No matter how brave a face he puts up, Putin is smart enough to calculate all these. What he, perhaps, could not visualise was that Zelenskyy would give such stiff resistance and Ukrainians will stand so strongly behind him. As this calculation misfired Putin must be getting desperate to get results. The fact is that the outcome notwithstanding, the Ukrainian president has become a global hero, much to the chagrin of Putin who is losing the narrative.
A few words about why Putin had to do all this may also be in order. His basic aim was to make Russia regain the glory of the USSR days that US had so strategically demolished leading to a unipolar world order post globalisation. China despite all its efforts could not get that position in the world order which USSR had before it’s disintegration. Putin’s interventions and actions in the recent past may have given him some mileage but he was not satisfied with those success stories like that of Crimea or Chechnya. His global ambitions were aimed at reinforcing his unassailable status in his own country where he has to seek another term two years later. At the same time he wanted to acquire the erstwhile USSR status for Russia. Though he did acquire some edge initially with NATO under US leadership not going for a direct intervention but he could not assess the import of strategic actions of the US-led west. By acting rather than reacting the west seems to have wrested the advantage inflicting huge damage to Putin’s global rating.
And then there is the all important issue of the world going backwards. Towards some kind of a disorder rather than order. Who knows this may tempt other expansionist leaders may be emboldened to flex military muscle and go for a similar adventure on weaker countries. One more point that has to mentioned is that trying to derive PR advantage from dutiful acts during this crisis is not in good taste. The global community must think seriously about the repercussions of this unrighteous act of Putin. There is need to ensure that UN acquires more teeth. Global order can be maintained only if the rule of the jungle doesn’t prevail.
(The writer is retired professor of IIT ISM Dhanbad and a political analyst)