Weaponising nationalism poses a threat to peace
When nationalism becomes a form of propaganda and a weapon, it gnaws at the country’s internal structure. The best examples are Sri Lanka and Pakistan
There is an old saying — not every day is a Sunday. Look at the war between Ukraine and Russia. The counterattack by the Ukrainian forces was successful in the last two weeks, with Russian forces withdrawing from several fronts. Encouraged by this, the Ukrainian government has declared its intention to retake Crimea. If Russia continues to lose on multiple fronts, President Vladimir Putin’s already spoilt image will suffer further. Western countries can incite discontent and attempt to destabilise the Kremlin. According to unconfirmed reports, smoke was seen rising from Putin’s car after an explosion in a bid to assassinate him. If this is true, was it done by a disgruntled group, or was it the work of western intelligence agencies?
Is it easy to get rid of Putin?
The Russian president has long experience in dealing with conspiracies. But increased pressure on this front may result in his extreme reaction. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) may not be fighting directly in Ukraine, but it controls Kyiv’s policies. Sweden and Finland, both outraged by the attack, have announced their intention to join the Nato. There is also a concern that, after being surrounded by problems at home, Putin may take steps where the world may face the threat of a third World War.
We must go back to the last century to find the answer to this question. What were the circumstances that led to World War II (WWII)? Historians have given four major reasons: The Treaty of Versailles and Germany’s humiliation, global economic turmoil, the rise of Nazism under the guise of German nationalism, and numerous alliances.
So what is the situation now?
Economists in the United States see a near-repeat of the economic woes before WWII. In the US, inflation has reached 8.3%. It had rocketed to 13% a few weeks ago, forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Relief for the common man may take some time, but the loss of industries and businesses is certain. Similarly, Europe is experiencing unprecedented economic challenges.
Furthermore, Russia has restricted these countries’ electricity and fuel supply. As a result, prices of electricity and petroleum products have more than doubled. Inflation is breaking new records daily. This is the first time since WWII that the Eiffel Tower’s lights are being turned off more than an hour earlier in the evening. Without electricity, Barcelona’s fountains could not function at night. Once the severe economic recession forced the US to abandon many of its policies and goals to fight in the Great War. Right now, the US and Europe are going through similar troubles.
On the other hand, China is steadily increasing its economic and military power. It surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy in the last decade. Beijing supporters believe that this will be the last decade of the US’s dominance.
Currently, China ranks first in terms of products, trade and export. If President Xi Jinping wins a third term in October, other countries’ mobilisation in response to Chinese aggression will undoubtedly increase. Nobody knows when the rapidly intensifying new Cold War will erupt into a bloodbath. As a result, the world has seen various types of treaties. Here are two examples: India and China are at odds over a border dispute, but at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, they pledged to fight on all issues, including terrorism. Japan has historically been hostile to China but has entered into various treaties with Beijing. Other countries are also taking similar steps. In this world, such a plethora of contradictions is not a good sign.
Let us now discuss nationalism. When former US President Donald Trump spoke of “America First”, Xi Jinping pledged “China First”. Then Russia attacked Ukraine to restore its former national glory. Ukraine is fighting it in the name of its ancient nationalism. Isn’t this a foreboding sign? Every citizen and leader is responsible for taking pride in their country and taking it forward. Still, when nationalism becomes a form of propaganda and a weapon, it gnaws at the country’s internal structure. The best examples are Sri Lanka and Pakistan. On January 6, 2021, anarchic elements in Washington’s Capitol Hill demonstrated that glorious traditions crumble when rhetoric becomes a part of power play. A lot is happening right now that reminds us of the early 1930s.
Under these circumstances, the world was looking forward to the outcome of the SCO meeting in Samarkand. Among the 18 heads of state, the world’s three most powerful leaders were present, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping. Did Putin get any meaningful message from the SCO summit?
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal