Thursday, 18 July, 2024

Between Inter-Nation Priorities

Between Inter-Nation Priorities

P Kharel

When the crisis over Ukraine seemed to hold on the balance, with the United States insistent that Russia was preparing to make a military move in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin denying anything of the sort, there was a call from a British anti-corruption campaigner in February to target oligarchs close to Putin.

The proposal was typical of partisan campaigners going for the expediency of immediate gain rather than bolstering principled practice. Such approach adds to criticisms that common issues get reduced to mere rhetoric only to be flouted at the altar of convenience. It damages and even derails democratic process lauded during normalcy but compromised at the first call for translating it into action.

Putin must have made his own calculations and consultations with next-door communist China on matters pertaining to his plans and the likely reactions from his opponents. For a successful survivor since the turn of the millennium, with public approval rating about twice what his American counterpart Joe Biden obtained in his first 14 months at the White House, decisions are not to be made casually or in a cavalier manner.

Duty calling
In addressing conflicts between nations, the United Nations would be the ideal forum for the needed resolution. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Especially for superpowers like the US and Russia — both aboard the UN Security Council as permanent members with veto power — political integrity and international obligations should have prodded them to move the UN system for resolving differences. Clash between the ongoing winds of change and the kinds of resistance being put up by the outgoing superpower monopolists creates a certain degree of uncertainty, even if the ultimate break in the traditionally dominant powers’ hold on global agenda is clearly round the corner.

The discipline of principled politics seeks addressing the new world awakening. A world caught between a long dominant superpower block and a clearly emergent superpower alliance — the West and the Sino-Russian-Iranian tie up — sends grave signals. Japan and Australia on the one side and North Korea, Iran and Pakistan on the other side of the ring — fuels the atmosphere of deeper uncertainty.
Prevailing conditions do not rule out a scenario of Europe divided and Africa largely on the Sino-Russian lineup. The build-up risks unpredictable events. The big powers would, therefore, be well advised not to set regrettable precedent that not only erodes their international credibility but encourage others to tread the same path. Charges of dubious economic interests being the prime motivator in prompting and engineering military takeovers, emergency rule and regime change are among the inglorious outcome.

If the 1991 Iraq war over the annexation of Kuwait sparked off such doubts, the 2003 invasion of oil-rich Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein made a free run for charges aimed at the foreign forces gaining access to the invaded country’s oil wells and bountiful contracts. Baghdad’s new regime and Kuwait’s restored rulers were obliged to do the biddings of the “saviours”.
Open ideological clashes were the cause of the Cold War, which consequently triggered action in several flash points. The Korean Peninsula and Indo-China wars were part of this regrettable chapter. Proxy wars and crackdowns on civilians affected several other countries.

Whereas the Korean peninsula remains firmly divided, Vietnam got united under a fighting force waving a communist flag. Ho Chi Minh’s troops trampled South Vietnamese forces when Nguyen Van Thieu was the southern half’s president. An army general, he headed a military junta in 1965 and became an elected president two years later — a position he held until 1975 when his troops collapsed.

By now, in 2022, the world is aware of Putin being no push over. His rapport with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is firm, both having assessed the significance of their mutual common interest in addressing national issues and putting at bay the domineering designs of traditionally dominant forces. Citing the two neighbouring states’ history of serious differences through the ages, analysts had doubted Sino-Russian rapport to be on a high note.
They overlooked the fact that if Japan could become so deeply close in consulting with Washington on crucial global issues, irrespective of its World War II background, the prospects of Russia and China coming closer were not illogical.

The subscribers to the outdated theory might have preferred to delight upon an incident that happened during Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s 1971 visit to Britain. As the VVIP guest, with his host Queen Elizabeth by his side passed by a mall, a group of British veterans of Japanese prisoners of war camps showed their displeasure by turning their backs on the VVIP visitor. But the passage of time and the necessities of new circumstances have healing herbs. In January this year, German naval chief resigned after declaring that Vladimir Putin “deserves respect”. History will very well absolve him even if suffered a setback brief spell now.

‘Nation first’
The dark, deep, thick cloud of controversies that surround the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his foreign first political cousin American President George W. Bush in connection with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the toppling of Saddam Hussein and an estimated civil casualty list of 500,000 to one million portrays a horrendous aspect of the war whose detail is not discussed in the large international media or the Westerly scholars.
At crucial moments when the crunch comes, pragmatism prods states to scramble for national priorities even if it means putting at bay the interests of long-time allies. A case in point is the latest crisis over Ukraine, which worries Europeans about the chances of uninterrupted oil supplies. After all, Russian oil accounts for one-third of their total supply. The Russian gas pipeline project passing through European nations cuts both ways, thanks to the culture of interdependence.

The coveted Russian supply is too cheap to resist for the recipients. That should explain why Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was so slow and unclear about supply of weapons to Ukraine.
Listening to the US call for sanctions on Russian gas means Europeans having to pay exorbitant price for supplies from alternative markets, including the US and Qatar. Beneficiaries of Russian supply cannot forget that ideological rhetoric is a cheap offer compared to the hard drive delivery demands so sternly.

(Professor Kharel specialises in political communication.)