Ukraine-Crisis: Diplomatic Ethics Being Ignored! 

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Ukraine-crisis may be viewed as another example of the degree to which United States can push diplomatic ethics to side-lines against priorities which define its own interests. Of the others, Washington’s approach towards Afghanistan is a fairly recent example and the most striking is probably the hype raised about democratic revolution in the name of “Arab Spring” which reduced to stage of Arab Winter is hardly talked about now.

If continuance of war in Ukraine could benefit Ukrainians and the country’s “supporters”, turning diplomatic back towards Russia, even open refusal to deliberate on diplomatic steps for ending the war would seem somewhat justified. But this has hardly been even considered. At least this is suggested by Washington’s approach towards the crisis and countries directly and/or indirectly involved in it. Of course, Russia cannot be excused. But in such circumstances, when prospects of a party practically refusing to yield are high, options for third party are certainly not limited. They would of course be limited, if the third party is primarily interested in continuance of the war. Otherwise, options for bringing the involved parties to the diplomatic table, particularly if the third party is a super-power, are several. These apparently have been given minimum importance. And certainly all countries in the world have not shut their eyes to this hard reality. This includes those who have deliberately chosen to adopt a neutral and/or almost neutral approach to the issue without being totally aligned with the West and against Russia. India is one of these.

There is another side to this crisis. So far European countries opposing the war and supporting Ukraine have failed to display their own stand on this. Rather, they appear to be giving greater importance to – or are abiding by – stand taken by United States. In the process, chances of their being at the loser’s end seem to be increasing. These are being further enhanced by certain measures adopted by United States, particularly Inflation Reduction Act passed by US Congress in August. This favours American companies in subsidies. President Joe Biden’s populist “made-in-America” drive spells danger signals for European competitors seeking investment in USA. The act has been described as “super aggressive” towards European companies by French President Emmanuel Macron who met President Biden earlier this month.

Not surprisingly, the unity shown by USA and European Union against Russia and China is displaying another side- signalling a major trans-Atlantic trade dispute. This has prompted EU Commission to display serious concern about this issue. In the opinion of EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, “What we are asking for is fairness. We want and expect European companies and exports to be treated in the same way in the U.S. as American companies and exports are treated in Europe.”

The issue was taken up in an emergency meeting chaired by Czech Trade Minister Jozef Sikela. Irish Trade Minister Leo Varadkar said, “What the U.S. has done really isn’t consistent with the principles of free trade and fair competition.”

The dispute is now being addressed by U.S.-EU task force. Voicing concern about the threat posed by US measure, Dombrovskis said, “With all our discussions, we are in a sense making a step forward, but with the Inflation Reduction Act we’re making two steps backwards, so we need to reconcile it.”

Critics have accused USA of copying policies of China. USA is also being blamed by Europeans for gaining from the war (Ukraine). And if Washington pursues this path, where would credibility of alliance with it be? Nature of coverage accorded in the West about primarily positive nature of this alliance may be viewed as a one-sided, subjective approach to the same. This also draws attention to western media playing the role of United States’ diplomatic tool as was done when hype was raised about democratic nature of Arab Spring. Little or practically no attention is being given to policies of countries which have chosen not to be influenced by United States’ anti-Russia strategy. These include countries from Africa, Latin America, South East Asia and as mentioned earlier –India. In addition to West’s stand on Ukraine-crisis having not convinced them, they have doubts about the former’s democratic rhetoric. Besides, they are more in favour of a diplomatic end to the conflict. Their neutrality on the issue is also linked with their trade relations with Russia which they don’t want to be disturbed. In reality, the West doesn’t have the entire world on its side. Nor are there prospects of Russia being isolated and/or cornered economically and diplomatically with countries such as China, Iran, former Soviet States and North Korea on its side.

Besides, all European countries aren’t too pleased by economic moves of US. Soon after Inflation Reduction Act was passed, French President Macron commented, “We need a Buy European Act like the Americans. We need to reserve (our subsidies) for our European manufacturers.” The message is simple. France and several other European countries prefer giving priorities to their concerns, particularly economic, rather than abiding by Washington’s moves.

Notwithstanding tension among European countries, what can be said about impact of Group of Seven price cap on Russian seaborne oil, enforced from Dec 5? This aims to restrict Russia’s finances and thus reduce its ability to continue war in Ukraine. The price cap is set at $60 per barrel.  Russia is world’s largest exporter of oil and second largest crude oil exporter. Refusing to accept the cap, Russia has said that it would rather cut production than sell oil subject to it, that is to countries adhering to it. This also suggests an open refusal of Russia to succumb to such pressures with respect to Ukraine-war. Perhaps, continuance of these may only further worsen the situation. Yet, continuance of the war also implies blatant refusal of parties involved to even consider diplomatic options. True, Russia and Ukraine differ on important issues. But United States and European Union can probably play a key role in bringing the parties to a diplomatic table with focus on their agreeing to disagree.  Washington is apparently keen to witness decline of Russia. In the process, sufferings of Ukrainians and usage of Ukraine as a pawn are being ignored!

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:– Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).


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