The effect of Putin’s actions on the US, NATO and India
People who claim to know Putin well say that he will never accept any end of the war which he cannot see as a victory and sell it as such to the Russians.
The war in Ukraine, or as Russian President Vladimir Putin puts it, “the special military operation” is well into its second month, but there is no sign of any end. Many are talking about the possibility of it dragging on for years. The recent pictures of streets littered with the bodies of civilians shot by Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian city Bucha led to Russia being suspended by 93 votes against 24 from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.
This is the first time a permanent member of the Security Council has been suspended from a UN body and surely must add to the pressure on Putin to end the war quickly. He has already suffered a major setback. Either mislead by his intelligence sources or blinded by his mistaken faith in the demonstration of military might, he believed that the Ukrainian government would collapse when the Russian soldiers crossed its borders and started bombing its cities.
But the Russian advance on Kyiv failed. It is still not clear why. The Ukrainian resistance was far stronger than Russia had expected. There were also reports of faulty equipment, bad planning, and the ineptitude of national service soldiers, their lack of training and esprit de corps.
The soldiers intended to capture Kyiv have now been withdrawn and are believed to be regrouping for a massive attack on East Ukraine. People who claim to know Putin well say that he will never accept any end of the war which he cannot see as a victory and sell it as such to the Russians.
So, his intention could well be to establish Russian control over the whole of the Donbas region of Ukraine. Russian-backed separatists have been fighting there for seven years. He could indeed be intending to use the same tactics he used in Chechnya, carpet bombing the cities to end the separatist movement there. But he will want that to happen quickly for fear that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sanctions will cripple Russia’s economy, have a dire impact on everyday life, and create social unrest among his people. American President, Joe Biden, who has been the cheerleader of NATO, must also be deeply concerned. For him, a successful end to the Ukraine war would be the end of the Putin regime.
Although the unity of NATO is intact so far, there are signs that it is cracking. Despite the warning that the United States (US) deputy national security advisor Dalip Singh gave when he visited India, Germany is not all that happy about Biden’s proposal to block all supplies of Russian energy. Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, who has just been re-elected for a fourth term, is close to Putin and signed an energy deal with him when he visited Moscow shortly before the invasion. He opposes the even tougher sanctions that NATO secretaries are discussing.
So, it looks as though Putin needs to, at the very least, win control of Donbas to end the war, while Biden needs the sanctions to bring him down before he achieves that objective.
Where does India fit in? So far, it has trodden a narrow path. It has abstained from voting on the UN initiatives, but expressed deep concern about the war. Narendra Modi, like Orban, has a good personal relationship with Putin. He has also brought India closer to the US and signed the declaration to defend democracy at last summer’s British G7 Summit. Since the war started, leaders from Russia and NATO have visited India, indicating its importance. So far, however, there is no sign of India playing a role in the Ukraine war beyond maintaining its neutrality.
However, is it beyond the bounds of possibility that Modi would attempt to find an agreement acceptable to both sides and persuade both of them to agree to it? Or is that impossible because both sides are fighting to win?
The views expressed are personal