Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
Thursday, April 24, 2014 – Forty years after the island of Cyprus was divided between a Greek and a Turkish mini-state, with the latter controlling the northern one-third of the republic, another country, Ukraine, is on the way towards a Cyprus-style division. While in the first case, it was the Turkish army that “liberated” the Turkish-majority third of the island from rule by the (Greek-controlled) government in Nicosia, in the case of Ukraine, it is the Russian armed forces that are likely to move in to “protect the Russian-speaking population from fascists”.
A division of the country has become inevitable following the overreach of the European Union and the rest of NATO, who regarded as impossible the possibility that Moscow would respond with force to the alliance’s stratagem to wrest the entire country from the influence of the Russian Federation. When President Vladimir Putin acted the way Washington and its EU partners have on multiple occasions, by using force to secure its interests, there was a collective wail from NATO member-states. Such tactics are reserved for “civilised” people, defined in the “international” media and in “international opinion” as citizens of NATO member-states or countries such as Norway, Australia and New Zealand.
Geopolitical influence rests on three legs, the economy, the military and culture. Of the three, the most important is the economy, for the reason that only a strong economy can sustain a growing military, while a culture is respected much more if the country of its origin is economically strong. The fact that India is still a country of more than six hundred million poor and starving people is the reason why the immense mosaic of culture that characterises it has yet to get diffused across the globe, with the exception of Bollywood, which has managed to penetrate a few countries because of the vibrancy of its offerings. Both the US dollar as well as the Euro are in reality sick currencies, masquerading as healthy because of the dominant position of the NATO alliance in international information-dissemination systems.
However, it is becoming more difficult to conceal the fact that many EU member-states are in effect bankrupt, while the US is avoiding that fate only because its currency is in use as an international reserve. Add to that the fact that NATO member-states have become adept at confiscating assets located within their territories by citizens of target countries, and the continuance of the NATO bloc as the destination of choice for investors in the GCC, Russia, South Asia and East Asia becomes problematic. Only the tardy pace of countries such as the BRICS group in setting up alternative banking and financial structures, or in making each other’s currency freely convertible within the bloc, is ensuring that the lead position of the NATO bloc in the matter of financial flows c.ontinues Should the US and the UK go ahead with an expansion of financial sanctions against the Russian Federation, investors in that country would accelerate the transfer of their holdings from London and New York to safer locations, including in South America, Africa and in selected countries in Asia. Also, such a move would free Russia to retaliate, including by getting deeply involved in West Asia on the side of those forces that are regarded with hostility by NATO.
Should Moscow send some of the sophisticated weapons systems that it has developed to countries such as Iran, that would reduce the potency of the military threat against that country, for it is no secret that the primary objective of any NATO operation is the protection of its own personnel, often at the expense of battlefield logic. Unless an army is ready to suffer losses in manpower, sometimes on a significant scale, that army will find itself hobbled in wartime by tactics intended not for offence but purely for self-preservation. Russian weapons technology, including its missile systems, can be an effective means of retaliation against sanctions imposed by those responsible for the crisis in Ukraine by their punishment of President Viktor Yanukovich for the “crime” of choosing the Russian Federation as the top ally of Ukraine, rather than the EU.
It was from the time that that decision was taken that Yanukovich became a marked man, with the usual clutter of NGOs rising against him. It was not until it was too late that NATO realised that it had made a fundamental error in seeking to gaincomplete sway over Ukraine, a country vital to the security of Russia’s south western flank. The fact is that Ukraine was always a divided country, its two major groups separated by language and inclination from each other. The ouster of Yanukovich removed any expectation of equal treatment from the minds of the Russian-speaking sections of the country. These now see the Kiev government (with its comic book “prime minister”) as a collection of coup artists, suffused with right-wing hysteria and hate against not only Russia but any of their own citizens who regarded Russian as his or her mother tongue. US Vice-President Joe Biden may wag his finger at Vladimir Putin, but the fact is that Ukraine is now effectively a divided country. Its two groups despise and fear each other, and this situation is only going to get worse in the period ahead. Rather than come with band-aid, it would be far better for all players in the ongoing Ukrainian tragedy to accept the reality of participation, and put in place a mechanism that would facilitate a smooth rather than a troubled process of separation of the two parts of Ukraien, those who are Russian speakers and the rest. Otherwise, ugly incidents will only multiply, and a situation may arise that may tempt some in NATO to send in troops for the protection of the coup leaders who toppled Yanukovich.
Should NATO fall into the trap of sending troops into Ukraine to try and stitch the country together again, it is likely that Moscow would see such intervention as the chance to get even with NATO for its many slights. Just as the US did in Afghanistan in the 1980s,funnel arms and money into the arms of the ISI-selected groups battling against the Red Army (of the USSR), this time around it would be Moscow that sends in assistance to the groups that will spring up to harass NATO as it moves into the country to protect those it has brought to power in Kiev through the use of mobs. Hopefully, wiser counsel will prevail and the extreme step of armed intervention by NATO be avoided. Ukraine is a broken country, and seeking to keep it together will only result in conditions that heighten the risk of a full-scale economic and security crisis in Europe. It is time for a Cyprus-style solution that would ensure the containment of the Ukraine crisis to within its boundaries rather than to the whole of Europe.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.