Moscow does not seem to be able to put behind its past as a great power. The decision by the Russian Federal Council or the upper house on Sunday to unanimously approve President Vladimir Putin’s request to send troops into the Crimean peninsula is a clear sign of Moscow’s inability to accept Ukraine as an independent and sovereign State.
That Ukraine is divided in its response to Russia’s actions in Crimea is evident in pro-Russian forces marching across cities in the south and east of Ukraine and the navy chief swearing allegiance to the government of the Crimea region. Russia is unhappy with the pro-European government in Kiev after President Viktor F Yanukovych, who was close to the Kremlin, was ousted recently.
Russia’s “uncontested arrival” — to quote Washington — in Crimea reflects Mr Putin’s unrealistic ambitions in Eurasia, where he sees Moscow lording it over the former Soviet States. Many see Mr Putin’s actions as an effort to deflect attention from Russia’s ailing economy and breakdown of social systems. Russia, though still a superpower, is a shadow of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Mr Putin refuses to acknowledge that Russia’s days of supremacy are long gone.
The West has condemned Russia’s actions and the United States, Britain and France have threatened to boycott the G8 Summit to be held later this year in Sochi. US secretary of state John Kerry warned that if Russia did not pull back its forces Mr Putin may not “even remain in the G8”. Though the possibility of a Cold War US-Russia face-off is being projected, a war-weary West would do well to address this threat through diplomatic channels by imposing sanctions and bans, and not use force on the ground.
With more than 17 bilateral agreements and cooperation in the fields of defence, nuclear energy, science and technology, space research, etc, India cannot ignore the rising tension in Ukraine.
The Indian community in Ukraine is relatively small but it has about 3,500 students studying in various medical and technical institutions. It might be too early for India to comment on the situation in the Black Sea, but it should use its good ties with both Ukraine and Russia to ensure the safety of Indians in Ukraine.