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Friday, March 15, 2019

2014 article - Crimea Accession

{*** As a new Indian Government - the Modi Government was being sworn-in in 2014 I wrote the following article **** } 

{ As India is on to select a new Government in 2019 - it may be of interest to read this and see how India responded in subsequent 5 years after 2014 and what potentially India should prepare for for next 5 years } 


First Task for Modi Government - Crimea Accession – Ukraine on the Brink?
On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait and declared it to be its integral part. Within less than six months USA and allies unleashed their new war-making doctrine called the Air Land battle doctrine which started on 16th January 1991 with massive air strikes on Iraqi forces. The Desert Storm took close to 40 days of air bombing followed by just 4 days of ground operations to decimate and defeat formidable Iraqi forces and “free” Kuwait.
Another radical change the world saw during that period (1989-1991) was division of the superpower – the USSR, into commonwealth of independent states.  The glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) that Gorbachev started in USSR had failed or may be one can say succeeded as the communist USSR resulted into many democratic independent nations. Russia and Ukraine – two most important countries resulting from the division share common history – economic, cultural and even political relations. They also shared a piece of landmass above the Black Sea called Crimea. Historically, Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev, although that time both Russia and Ukraine were in the same USSR.
It is exactly 60 years later, in 2014, in a sudden, almost shocking turn of events - Crimea along with its seaports and oil and gas reserves, is back in Russian fold today.  The speed with which Vladimir Putin could architect the “peaceful” accession of Crimea from Ukraine has stumped the USA and western world. Six weeks from now, Ukraine will be electing its next President, on 25th May to be precise. Given the 1991 scenario when Kuwait was annexed by Iraq and US and allies unleashed the Gulf-war, will the Putin’s Crimean adventure lead to a USA-Russia war over this “illegal” accession? If no, what it points to for the future of world? Are there any implications for India? What can India do or should do?
Russia is neither Iraq nor Iran
Russia is neither Iraq where USA can get its dictatorship removal and embedding democracy algorithms executed militarily, nor Iran, which can be potentially subjugated by economic sanctions and isolation. USA and western countries have already reacted by taking Russia out of the G8. The Sochi G8 summit was cancelled and the G7 (which is G8 – Russia) was held in Brussels. The sanctions against Russia are a strong measure, however, not the strongest possible. Though, the military action by USA and western powers doesn’t look a great option. However, it shows the limitation of the USA in “shaping the world” as per its national interests by all means. In this case, we are talking about a military action against a substantial military power, in fact, a substantial portion of the erstwhile superpower. Russia, in turn, has responded with disconnecting its foreign trade from hard currency (read US Dollar). This is an interesting economic counter. It may impact US dollar and in turn US economy further. It is further to be noted that China and India have been relatively silent on these developments. Chinese and Indian silent support has been appreciated by Putin.
The world however, is suddenly getting fractured with these developments. Technology and economic connections that resulted in greater globalization since 1990 are already facing fissures that threaten to increase the global divisions and lead us to potential chaos. The wikileaks and Ed Snowden’s revelations of the way the single policeman of the Unipolar world – USA – keep spying on the world online is already creating an extreme mistrust of the USA even with its close allies. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, is so miffed up with USA that she is planning to create a new internet by laying new sea cables between Brazil and Spain – creating a USA-Government-free internet. Freeing the internet was what Ed Snowden demanded in his TED talk that was delivered through Skype, from Russia.
India has responded to the fissures being created by Crimea and Ukraine crisis based on a policy of diplomatic silence. Further, the new government need to articulate new policy and response creation for the world that is getting fractured. The evolution of the world and India’s response to the rapidly emerging polarization of countries in a shifting world order – where strengthening Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) as an economic group is one piece, and responding to internal and external security threats is the other dimension – will need to be responded to as soon as possible. It is noteworthy to observe that no mention has been made by any of the election manifestos of the main Indian parties about the Crimea, Ukraine and Russian events and our potential response.
Global Fissures – Is Crimea a Model?
The Crimean amalgamation by Putin, is actually a dangerous model. From India’s point of view, it gives someone like China a potential model of capturing say Arunachal Pradesh or Senkaku/Diaoyu islands from Japan. China, potentially now, can demand Putin to support it in annexing these islands, which are controlled by Japan. Further, say in couple of decades China can lay its claim on larger part of Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. What should India do and what should be our strategic response?
The start of 1914 was considered as a peaceful year. It changed into the greatest war the world has seen. The First World War resulted due to sudden polarization of nations in Europe. The year 2014, was looking as a potential year of emergence of the world from the economic recession started in 2008.  Given the increasing fissions of technology (especially internet and World Wide Web), world economic and political discontent, are we seeing a world that will spiral us deep into the third world war, or the world will emerge better, more balanced and more equitable. Only the time will tell. While we hope for the better, we need to be prepared for the worst.
Modi Government – Is India ready?
It is with above in mind, that the new Indian government and of course the world at large has to keep an eagle-eye on the events in Crimea and Ukraine, besides the Putin-Obama dynamics. The New Modi Government will have to respond to the play in the dynamic Ukrainian elections. Many may actually say, the future of Indian foreign policy will be guided by how India responds to the Ukrainian elections. Will there be a radical change? Or is it too early to say anything?

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