Ukraine-Russia conflict: Is Vladimir Putin reviving the Soviet Union?

Ukraine’s refusal to come under Russian sphere of influence has been considered as a serious security risk by Russia after the collapse of WARSAW PACT since the 90s.

By Col Rajinder Singh (Retd)

One ought to examine Vladimir Putin’s past before analyzing his recent invasion of Ukraine. His call for denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine is actually masking his long cherished desire to restore and revive Soviet glory. Ukraine was one of the 15 republics which broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Vladimir Putin is an ex KGB man (senior enough as a Lt Col in 1991) when the USSR broke up in 1991. He had served for 16 years in the KGB from 1975 to 1991 when he had resigned from the KGB to join politics —- with the sole purpose of restoring the old glory of erstwhile Soviet Union —- a Superpower till 1991. It is his this mindset which explains the recent invasion of Ukraine.

After the Bolshevik revolution of Russia in 1917 and three years of Civil war, thereafter, there were 15 republics, who joined hands in 1920 to constitute the USSR (United States of Soviet Republics). The 15 republics were, namely Armenia Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

By the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Soviet Union had become a global superpower at par with the USA, both heading two military alliances, namely NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and WP (Warsaw Pact) and a Cold war followed . However, the Soviet cold war with USA and “Glasnost” followed by, then, Soviet Supremo, Gorbachev, led the USSR to break up into 15 original republics in 1991 —- resented by die- hard Soviet supporters like Vladimir Putin.

After leaving the KGB Vladimir Putin had joined hands with an erstwhile Russian strong man. Yeltsin, and slowly rose to be Prime Minister in 1999. Since then he has been holding various posts of authority in Russia. In early 21st Century, he formed CIS (Common Wealth of Independent states) of erstwhile Soviet Republics. Three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) did not join CIS. Even Turkmenistan and UKRAINE refused to do so.

Ukraine’s refusal to come under Russian sphere of influence has been considered as a serious security risk by Russia after the collapse of WARSAW PACT since the 90s. Many of them had got attracted to NATO and joined it too. Even Ukraine had shown these intentions to join NATO,

It is no rocket science, therefore, to know that Ukraine was one of the defiant republics, who had been refusing to fall in line. However, two regions of Ukraine, namely, Donetsk in the South and Luhansk in the North, sought independence from Ukraine. Both bordered Russia. It is no gainsaying the fact that rebellion had been incited and supported by Putin’s Russia. To end this rebellion, France and Germany joined hands with Ukraine and Russia to reach a series of agreements at Minsk (Belorussia) in 2014 and 2015, first called the Minsk Protocol and the second as Minsk Agreement. But these agreements did not bring stability, as was desired.

This had infuriated Russia and it was looking for an opportunity to make it a compliant state. The first warning came when Russia made Georgia fall in line. It was followed by annexation of Crimea in 2014. Warning was further spurred by active support to the Donetsk and Luhansk insurgency. Ukraine and rest if the world did not take notice. Final nails in the coffin of Ukraine were driven by Putin when on February 23, 2022, he had signed a decree to recognize Donbas and Luhansk as independent Republics. And on February 24, 2022, Putin despatched Russian troops into these two republics and launched an all out three pronged attack on Ukraine.

It is interesting to note that Russian tanks which rushed towards Kyiv were seen hoisting Soviet Union flags. Therefore no one should have doubts about what Putin was doing. He is known to have said that Ukraine is a fake country. According to him, politically, historically, lingually and culturally it belonged to Russia. He questions its existence as a separate country, His call to the Ukraine Army to surrender and overthrow the evil government of Zelensky. This shows his desire to install a pro- Russia Government and thus make it part of CIS.

Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, came under siege within 24 hours of the launch of the offensive. Its fall is imminent, despite deafening noise by the USA and EU. The president of the EU, Ursula Von Der Leyen, thundered the other day that Putin will not be allowed to redraw the European map. But Putin has already done it. The question is what has the EU and US done to stop it other than making noise. NATO says it would not send troops to Ukraine.

Would “Economic Sanctions” stop him. Donald Trump, former US President has questioned “Sanctions” and concrete actions. Praising Putin he has observed, “He’s taken over a country for $ 2 worth of sanctions”. He further said, “taking over a country – really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people—— and just walking right in”.

In contrast, the official US line was only to object to Russian action by words. This is what happened in UNSC the other day when a resolution to condemn Russian action was vetoed by Russia, when India, China and UAE abstained. In desperation, Linda Thomas Greenfield, US ambassador to UNO, during the UNSC vote on Ukraine, lamented, “- We have a solemn obligation to not look away… At the very minimum, we have an obligation to object,”.

Strangely. Western world wants India to take a stand against Russia in the name of democracy and freedom while no one took such a stand in favor of India when India faced China in 2020-21. Russia might not stand with India during face off with China but nor will the USA / EU. India would have to do it on its own. Therefore why should it annoy Russia and have its supply of Russian military jeopardized in the name of democracy.

Some analysts think that the independent stand of India, on the Ukraine issue, was akin to riding two horses concurrently. I disagree and do not think that India was riding two horses but mounting her own Mule. How far it takes it yet to be seen.

Somehow, I feel, riding a mule is better than riding drunken horses, who would not allow India to ride properly and it may have a nasty fall. In view of this, it is better to ride its own mule and make it capable enough to withstand the one and half mule that China is.

As far as the USA was concerned, it will not come to India’s rescue until India is a member of NATO. It has refused to militarily intervene in the case of Ukraine because it was not a NATO member. Its rants would only lead to noise pollution as it is in the case of Ukraine.

Russia might not side with India but it will not join against India like it did during the Ladakh face off. As far as the USA and EU were concerned, they too remained aloof. So, in view of the above, the Indian policy of “stand-alone” firmly is the best policy. Dependence on others makes one careless and weak. India’s Atamnirbharta has to proceed at a breath neck speed .It has a lead time of 3-4 years before China can think of doing “Ukraine” in Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh. At the moment, Taiwan is China’s Priority One.

In conclusion one can say that the world was again becoming Bipolar. But this time, China would add more value to CIS Block. India would have to follow an independent path. However India has made it clear at the UNSC that it will not support forcible redrawing of boundaries of member nations of the UN. This dispels all doubts about India supporting Russia indirectly. Also this stand was no support for the EU or USA. All the same, there is a food for thought that Western Block ought to become a true guarantor of democracies, not by mere words but solid action. Ukraine’s fate does not evoke such confidence.

(The author is an Indian Army Veteran and a defense analyst. His bestselling books are on Kashmir- A Different Perspective and The ULFA Insurgency besides being a contribution on two other books. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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