Ukraine Standoff! Will cooler heads prevail?  

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Anti-war protesters gather in front of the White House to demonstrate against escalating tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine on January 27, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)                      

The drums of war are beating again! It is at the border between Russia and Ukraine and in the corridors of the power elites in Washington. It is kind of shocking to see the readiness for another war so soon among the Neocons considering the recent debacle in Afghanistan, an epic failure of a global power surrendering to a ragtag army of religious fanatics and running away, leaving thousands of its citizens and supporters stranded in mortal danger. The spectacle from the Kabul airport had brought shame and distress to the civilized world and sowed a seed of doubt and skepticism on the role of the United States as a  global leader.

Vladimir Putin, the current President of Russia who may have been emboldened by what he has witnessed in Afghanistan, has not hidden his territorial ambitions after the fall of the Soviet Union. The conquest of Crimea, a territory of Ukraine since 1954, was seized and annexed under his leadership in violation of the international law and order. Putin is described as a man with iron rule at home and a menacing despot for rivals abroad.  Notwithstanding the unrest in the eastern part of Ukraine, there has also been simmering tension between Moscow and Washington on the future of the NATO alliance after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was created as a defensive alliance to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. In simple terms, the purpose was to contain possible  Soviet aggression against Western Europe. There is no doubt that NATO stood as the main U.S.-led military alliance against the Soviet Union throughout the cold war.

However, after the Cold War, people worldwide aspired for a peace dividend where the nations would soon focus their attention on socio-economic development and expend their energy and resources to lift millions of people out of poverty. However, instead of disbanding NATO,  it was reconceived as a “cooperative security” organization to foster dialogue and cooperation with former adversaries in the Warsaw pact and manage conflicts in the European theatre. Essentially, nothing much has changed, although there was a window of opportunity to negotiate with Russia for a comprehensive security framework under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, who championed the ‘glasnost’ a policy of openness.

There is little doubt that the current confrontation was primarily fueled by Russia’s grievance that the West has broken its promises and continued with its NATO expansion. In discussion with James Baker, then-Secretary of State under George H W. Bush, Putin claims that NATO would not expand to the east if Russia accepted German unification. In March 1991, John Major, a former British PM, was asked by Soviet Defense Minister Marshal Dmitry Yazov about eastern Europe’s interest in joining NATO. According to press reports, he was assured: “nothing of that sort will ever have to happen.” In 1993, Boris Yeltsin wrote to President Bill Clinton, arguing that further expansion of NATO eastwards breached the spirit of the 1990 treaty.

However, NATO has added 14 new members since German unification and continued its expansion towards the east, reaching Baltic republics’ borders. It is incredible to note that Moscow at one point was even angling to join NATO but was thwarted by the United States arguing of possible incompatibilities. Potentially, with its enormous nuclear arsenal, Russia can be termed a threat to the peace and security of Europe and the rest of the world. However, the United States truly missed an excellent opportunity to bring Russia to the European orbit of friendly nations and diffuse tensions. It is to be noted that despite the land area it covers or the military prowess it possesses, Russia’s gross domestic product amounts to 1.3 trillion. At the same time, the state of Texas’ comes about 1.7 trillion dollars. That means TEXAN’s per capita income of $59000 is almost seven times greater than that of a Russian.

The current situation has indeed risen out of a crisis of confidence, and both the United States and Russia have contributed their fair share into it. It was alleged by sources close to the Kremlin that the foreign powers have had a hand in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was sympathetic to Russia,  although, in reality, the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove him from office. It is to be noted that under strong pressure from Russia, Yanukovych rejected a trade association agreement with the European Union. According to CIA reports, while the riots and unrest might have driven him out, Russia’s anxiety may have increased that a pro-western government might make a move to NATO or against the Black Sea fleet. Undoubtedly, Putin would like to see the former soviet state under his control.

However, many of the bureaucrats in Washington, who are the true architects of several infamous wars, think alike and continue to promote this notion of a ‘permanent enemy’ that would serve their interests. At this point in time, Russia fits that bill perfectly, and to many, the cold war has never ended. They are part of the elite society, mostly come with Ivy League credentials and live in their multi-million abodes in Washington suburbs. Most of them might not have served a single day in the United States armed forces, and some of the older ones might even have gotten away with waivers during the time of the draft. At the end of the day, it is either those boys from the Midwest who believe that it is their duty to serve their country and honor its flag or the poor black and Latino kids who are hoping to build a better life after completing their service in the Military are the ones who fall prey to these odious designs of the so-called establishment.

Making war has become their primary business for many bureaucrats who are part of this military-industrial complex. President Dwight Eisenhower once gave the nation a dire warning. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” He called the military-industrial complex a formidable union of vested interests as a threat to democratic government.

Today, China poses the most significant strategic threat to the United States. In terms of people’s access to political rights and civil liberties China ranks below Russia in the annual freedom house report. Under President Xi Jinping, Beijing has become more aggressive and nationalistic. It has cracked down on pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, interned more than a million Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang and stepped-up threats of military force to seize a democratic Taiwan. It is building up its military and  increasing its presence in the disputed waters of South China sea threatening neighbors and constantly creating border tensions with India with incursions and occupation. However, for some strange reasons, the same Washington establishment treats China with Kid gloves!

The Trade deficit with China has widened 14.5% from the previous year to reach close to 355.3 billion in 2021. America’s gross national debt has ballooned over 30 trillion dollars as the country borrows and lives beyond its means. Once China overtakes the United States as the world’s largest economy, the position of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency will not only be threatened but the impulsive use of the ‘sanction regime’ driven by vested interests in Washington will also be rendered toothless. The current policies by Washington are not only emboldening China but  also encouraging Russia into a stronger Sino-Russian alliance.

It is not too late to reach an understanding with Russia and to stop provocative actions on both sides, like the potential NATO membership for Ukraine and the troop buildup on its eastern border. The United States will never tolerate Mexico being part of Russia’s sphere of influence or nuclear-tipped missiles stationed closer to the U.S. soil. The world has witnessed the inherent danger of such adventurism during the Cuban missile crisis. For thirteen days in October 1962, the world waited on the brink of nuclear war and prayed for a peaceful resolution. Once again, it is time for cooler heads to prevail!

 George Abraham is a former Chief Technology Officer at the United Nations and the Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA


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