Ukraine-War: Tainted Lens Spells Only a Mirage! 

biden ukraine
President Joe Biden walks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in front of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral on a surprise visit to Kiev on Monday, February 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

War of words and display of cosmetic diplomacy by either or both President Joe Biden and/or President Vladimir Putin is least likely to help either USA or Russia win the Ukraine-war which has formally lasted for around a year. Ukraine-war in the hope of ensuring surrender/defeat of Russia, at present, probably bears greater importance for Biden on his domestic turf. He remains confident of diplomatic strategies being displayed by him help him win nomination to run for the second term. Having turned 80 on November 20, he is hopeful of staying in White House till he is 86. He is already the oldest person to have served in this office. His sudden visit to Kyiv (Feb 20) marked by his walk with his Ukrainian counterpart President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been viewed in certain sections as his symbolic display of asserting that he still is strong enough to try for another term.

Irrespective of however “strong” Biden’s commitments may be regarding United States’ support for Ukraine and his aggressive stance against Russia, prospects of these helping him convince all at home about his being “young” enough for the coveted post and increasing aid for Kyiv have limitations. There is nothing new about Washington and Moscow entertaining a cold attitude towards each other. To assume that Ukraine’s entry has further complicated their ties is a part of the story. Russia’s ties with China, Iran, Syria, several Latin American and African countries haven’t pleased USA for quite some time. At present, USA may also be viewed as being quite annoyed with neutral and/or ambiguous approach maintained by several Middle Eastern countries, the superpower regards as its regional allies. They have not ceased their ties with Russia and are reported to be gaining from Ukraine-war.

With due respect to whatever may be explanations being offered for initiation and continuation of war by Biden and Putin, both are desirous of turning it their way as well as holding on it their respective reins of power. Perhaps, the primary limitation of approach of both may be viewed as it being confined to their respective concerns or more appropriately their using a tainted lens- which is least likely to ever help in comprehending the situation totally and appropriately.

As the Ukraine-war drags into its second year, with their being dismal chances of it ending soon, a varied range of opinions may be outlined about its continuity. During his Kyiv-visit, Biden promised to stand by Ukraine “as long as it takes.” He had used the same words when his Ukrainian counterpart had visited Washington. In a statement inked during his meeting in Warsaw with Bucharest Nine- group of Eastern European members of NATO military alliance- Biden and they “reaffirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine and underscored their shared commitment to stand with the Ukrainian people for as long as it takes.”

Biden’s support for Ukraine didn’t take long to be diplomatically countered by expression of China’s commitment with Russia. Charges laid by Putin against West and Kyiv, during his address to Russian Federal Assembly probably bear little relevance for US and its allies. However, the same cannot be said about comments made by China. Wang Yi, a senior Chinese diplomat and politician, arrived in Moscow on Tuesday (Feb 21). This was Wang’s first visit to Russia in his present diplomatic capacity since the Ukraine-war began. “Sino-Russian relations are mature and solid as a rock, and will withstand the test of the changing international situation,” Wang said as quoted by Russian state-owned news agency, Sputnik.

Putin and Wang apparently displayed “strength” of their ties as they sat together and addressed media persons before the latter concluded his visit on Feb 23. “Russian-Chinese relations are developing as we planned in previous years. Everything is moving forward and developing. Cooperation in the international arena between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, as we have repeatedly said, is very important for stabilizing the international situation,” according to Putin.

The two countries “often face crisis and chaos, but there are always opportunities in a crisis.” Wang said. “This requires us to identify changes more voluntarily and respond to the changes more actively to further strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership,” he pointed out.

Clearly, only such comments can be expected from those involved in the Ukraine-war and/or are directly/indirectly supporting the former as well as continuation of the same. In view of the war coming to a quick end and/or their being dismal chances of serious consideration being given to diplomatic options, perhaps a rough idea may be gauged about varied opinions held about this war’s continuity as reported from different sources.

Ahead of Ukraine-war’s anniversary, during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “It has been a year since the start of this absurd and cruel war, a sad anniversary.” It may be noted, the Pope has repeatedly asserted his stand against continuity of this war and has called for ceasefire and negotiations. “Let us ask ourselves, has everything possible been done to stop the war? I appeal to everyone who has authority over nations to commit themselves in a concrete way to end the conflict, to reach a ceasefire and start peace negotiations,” he asserted. Victory “built on ruins can never be a real victory,” he said. Besides, in his opinion, “The number of dead, wounded, refugees and displaced people, the (amount of) destruction and economic and social damage speak for themselves.” He also rejected Russia’s assertion that its military presence in Ukraine was part of a “special operation.”

With respect to regular surveys being conducted in United States about people’s stand, with emphasis on divisions along party lines between Democrats and Republicans, regarding their stand towards continuity of the war as well as American expenditure on it, chances of these remaining the same and not reflecting changes are least likely. Two extreme stands of Republican Senators need to be, however, highlighted. One refers to the “threat” posed by Ukraine-war. This includes the “Ukraine fatigue” resolution introduced by a group of Republicans led by Matt Gaetz, according to which US must “end its military and financial aid to Ukraine, and urges all combatants to reach a peace agreement.” While this resolution is least likely to pass, it draws attention to risks of Ukrainian war. “President Joe Biden must have forgotten his prediction from March 2022, suggesting that arming Ukraine with military equipment will escalate the conflict to World War III,” Gaetz said. “America is in a state of managed decline, and it will exacerbate if we continue to hemorrhage taxpayer dollars toward a foreign war,” according to him.

In contrast, Senator Roger Wicker (Republican) of Mississippi has not minced any words in supporting US aid for Ukraine. “It is a relatively modest amount that we are contributing without being asked to risk life and limb. The Ukrainians are willing to fight the fight for us if the West will give them the provisions. It’s a pretty good deal,” he reportedly said. During his address on Senate floor on Jan 26, he asked, “How much would it cost in American lives and treasure to confront the Russians directly?  Because that is the reality we face if Putin tests our resolve to defend NATO. From that perspective, we are getting one heck of a deal by helping Ukraine do its own fighting.” He is apparently pleased about Ukraine’s success, weakening of Russia with US aid, “and we achieved that without having to send a single American soldier into combat.” 

The “deal” has been described as a good one because American lives are not “at risk.”

When greater importance is accorded to diplomatically tainted approach leading to continuance of Ukraine-war, hope for real victory by any party seems equivalent to heading for a mirage. Or as expressed by Pope Francis, “That which is built on ruins can never be a real victory.” Of course, a lot may change if either or both (Biden as well as Putin) cease to remain in office in the coming days. Diplomatically, however, they may play a greater role if they choose to discard their tainted approaches, give greater consideration to heading towards the negotiating table and stop being guided by a mirage!

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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