A CHARADE OVER CRIMEA

Sanjay Kapoor

As a rule of thumb, I rarely ever accept the dubious explanations from Western outposts on current world occurrences. The long winded-analyses spewed by Western think-tanks on Syria and the imperatives of overthrowing the secular government of Basher-al-Assad — even if it means foisting instead an obscurantist, evil, criminalized Al-Qaeda — I normally take with heaps of salt. It becomes more difficult to accept their case after the manner in which Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were destroyed, “purportedly being rescued from dictators or medieval Taliban”. As these governments have major influence over the mass media, they are able to manage interpretations subsequent to the botched-up “humanitarian invasions.”

But no such luck would be available to Russian President Vladimir Putin after a referendum in Crimea gave him an opportunity to annex this province in revolt in Ukraine. Putin’s provocation was the turmoil in Ukraine and the manner in which its elected President, Viktor Yanukovych, was chased out of Kiev after he opted to cozy up to Russia rather than  the European Union. Yanukovych’s decision to sidle up to Putin was violently resisted by the neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and the fifth-columnists who occupied Kiev’s Maidan. While the police were beating up protesters at the square, what really aggravated the crisis were the faceless snipers, who killed close to a hundred people, including security personnel.

Yanukovych denied he had a role to play, but who would listen to him, as he had been demonized as evil, corrupt and undemocratic for courting the Russian President. Later, it was revealed that policemen and protesters were killed by identical bullets. Nothing that Yanukovych did could find acceptance from the Western media and the think-tank constituency that was discovering newer adjectives to
trash Putin.

The manner in which the Russians hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi was ridiculed. Sports writers expounded more on the toilets in the Games village, than, say, the magical figure skating. An atmosphere was created by media reports that Sochi could come within the arc of attack by Chechen militants, forcing the Russian government to mount extraordinary security measures. Later, some commentators wondered whether there was a design in making Putin paranoid about security.

 

putin has indeed been suspicious of Western powers even after former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered to “reset” the ties between the two countries. His misgivings have been exacerbated by the street protests against his government over corruption, which he feels are funded and manned by US-sponsored NGOs. In fact, keen watchers have seen how scandals are brought up, crowds mobilized and social media campaigns cranked up, with a single purpose to overthrow inconvenient governments. While Yanukovych and Putin may have lost their nerve and acted the way they did, imagine if the government of Manmohan Singh had lost its cool in 2011 against the India Against Corruption (IAC) protesters who had parked themselves at Ramlila Maidan, or on that one occasion when they had surrounded the Prime Minister’s residence. If the PM had responded to the advice of some trigger-happy security expert and fired at the demonstrators, the country would have been plunged into chaos. But so charged was the mood that the government would have been compelled to take some extreme steps. Emergency could have been declared as it was following the call given by the late Jayaprakash Narayan in 1974-75.

Unlike the government of Ukraine, Singh agreed to pay a high price to attempt reconciliation rather than use violent methods. Though lives were saved by this act, in trying to draw in those who were opposed to the parliamentary system of democracy, Singh may have deepened an impression that he was a weak PM who had to be voted out.

History will judge, though, as to whose methods were more effective: Putin’s or Singh’s. Though it can be stated categorically that if Putin had not taken a firm stand on Crimea, NATO ships would have been anchored in Sevastopol port, which would have tilted the crucial strategic balance against the Russians — hurting prospects of the emergence of a countervailing force to the West.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2014