Saturday, March 25, 2023

25: Russia

The view from Moscow and Beijing: What peace in Ukraine and a post-conflict world look like to Xi and Putin The main topics of discussion were fittingly grandiose: How should hostilities in Ukraine end? And after the war is over, how should the international security system be reshaped? ........ U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the world not to be “fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China … to freeze the war on its own terms.” ........ Putin launched a brutal, unprovoked war in Ukraine. .......... Amid the heightened emotional environment of missile attacks on civilians, horrific atrocities against ordinary citizens and deportation of children from Ukraine, even a cool evaluation of ways to end the fighting, declare a cease-fire, and begin talks by the belligerents has led to accusations of appeasement. And the peace plan put forward by China on Feb. 24, 2023, and discussed with Putin during a March 20-22 meeting in Moscow has been criticized as overly vague and lacking concrete suggestions. .......... But as a historian, I ask, what does the world look like from the other side? How has the run-up to the war and the war itself been understood by Russia and China? And what do Xi and Putin envision a post-conflict world to look like? .......... The rulers of both Russia and China see the West-dominated “rules-based international order” – a system that has dominated geopolitics since the end of the Second World War – as designed to uphold the global hegemony of the United States. .......... The two men’s stated preference is for a multilateral system, one which would most probably result in a number of regional hegemons. ......... “The international community has recognized that no country is superior to others, no model of governance is universal, and no single country should dictate the international order. The common interest of all humankind is in a world that is united and peaceful, rather than divided and volatile.” ......... Reflecting his more street tough style, Putin was more blunt. Russia and China “have consistently advocated the shaping of a more just multipolar world order based on international law rather than certain ‘rules’ serving the needs of the ‘golden billion,’” he said, referencing a theory that holds that the billion people in the richest countries of the world consume the greatest portion of the world’s resources. ......... Putin said the “crisis in Ukraine” was an example of the West trying to “retain its international dominance and preserve the unipolar world order” while splitting “the common Eurasian space into a network of ‘exclusive clubs’ and military blocs that would serve to contain our countries’ development and harm their interests.” .........

Beijing appears intent to play the role of negotiator-in-chief in this transition to a multipolar world order.

......... the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe and the alliance’s promise to expand further by admitting Georgia and Ukraine. In Putin’s view, such NATO encroachment is an existential threat to Russia’s security interests. ........ But the Chinese plan also rejects Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed.” .......... the Chinese strongly insist on the need for an immediate cease-fire and the start of negotiations ........... In the short run, China may be benefiting from the war because it consumes attention and armaments from the West and diverts its gaze from East Asia. The U.S. “pivot to the east” – a planned refocusing from the Obama administration onward aimed at countering the perceived threat of China – has stalled. ........... Xi is most concerned with China’s renewal of economic development, which would rely on less confrontational relations with Europe and the United States. Stability, both domestically and internationally, works to China’s economic advantage as a major producer and exporter of industrial goods. And Beijing is mindful that a slump in foreign demand and investment is hitting the country’s economic prospects. ...........

Xi may be the only person on the globe able to persuade Putin to think seriously about a way out of war.

......... The United States’ long-held foreign policy aim of maintaining its “indispensable nation” status runs counter to Russia and China’s ambition to end American global dominance. ........ two, seemingly insurmountable, rival ambitions.

India’s ruling party just kicked a major rival out of Parliament — and sparked a new crisis Rahul Gandhi’s expulsion from the Lok Sabha is the latest sign of Indian democracy’s decline. ........ For years, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attacked the foundations of his country’s democracy. His government has rewritten election rules in its favor, assailed the rights of the Muslim minority, jailed anti-government protesters, and reined in the free press. On Friday morning, it took another major step in an authoritarian direction: kicking Modi’s principal rival, Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, out of office and disqualifying him from competing in future elections. ........ Modi is extremely popular, and Gandhi is not known as an especially adept politician. ........ “Authorities have used security, defamation, sedition, and hate speech laws, as well as contempt-of-court charges, to quiet critical voices in the media,” Freedom House finds. “Activists, Muslims, and members of other marginalized communities are routinely charged with sedition for criticizing the government and its policies.” ........ the motion was filed by a Modi ally only a week after Gandhi launched a major attack against the prime minister’s ties to disgraced businessman Gautam Adani. ....... the case has serious legal flaws. In criminal allegations that a group is being defamed — like people named Modi — it needs to be shown that the group constitutes a distinct entity with collective interests and a group reputation that could be besmirched. ......... it is entirely possible that Gandhi’s conviction is overturned on appeal. ......... Gandhi’s conviction and removal from Parliament illustrate, more than anything else, the continuing deterioration of India’s democracy and Modi’s and his allies’ authoritarian bent. ........ India no longer met its minimal standards for qualifying as a democracy of any kind, downgrading it to an “electoral autocracy.” ....... attacking the leading figure in the opposition is unusually brazen ........ Like similar modern autocrats in places like Hungary and Israel, he still depends on support from a public that believes in the basic ideals of representative government. ........ “Rahul Gandhi can still command media and popular attention when he is not a member of Parliament” ......... the BJP’s increasingly tight control over the Indian political system and mass media. ....... “Even after his yatra, pundits said Bharat Jodo Yatra would be step 1 of a larger rehabilitation plan only if it was followed by additional steps to sharpen the opposition’s ideological positioning and build the Congress organization. We have not seen much headway on either of those fronts.” ...... Modi is a capable and canny authoritarian, and putting a real dent in his political armor will be a difficult challenge for India’s weakened opposition. .

The Ukraine conflict is a war of narratives – and Putin’s is crumbling It is as if both Russia and Ukraine are attempting to write the history – the whys and hows of the conflict – in real time. ........ Russian politicians and their media claim Russia is fighting Nazis in Ukraine who usurped power in a 2014 coup d’état and pushed the country toward an alliance with the West, posing a direct threat to Russia itself. ............. Russian boys are dying to protect their Ukrainian brethren, Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians from fascism ....... Ukrainians decided in the “revolution of dignity” in 2014 that they wanted to free themselves from Vladimir Putin’s suffocating pressure to give up their aspirations to join the West, fortify their democracy and be a fully sovereign, independent state. Inspired by that narrative – and the unprovoked invasion of their country by their powerful neighbor – Ukrainians have courageously and effectively resisted the Russian assault, and even triumphed significantly on the battlefield. ......... Ukraine was never a serious, immediate threat to Russia. ....... a preventive war. It is premised on anxieties about future dangers, yet clothed not in cold realist terms but rather in the hyperemotional narrative of the supposedly harmonious brotherhood of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. .......... Putin’s narrative is similarly existential. It is framed as a struggle against the “neo-colonialism” of the West, which he believes seeks to dismember Russia. In Putin’s narrative, the war with Ukraine challenges America’s claim to a global hegemony that reduces Russia to a humiliated regional power. ........ The lands he referred to as “New Russia,” or “Novrossiya,” were sanctified, he said, by victories of Russian heroes from the 18th century; this was a land where Catherine the Great founded cities.......... He then pivoted to the painful year 1991, when three representatives of the Communist party elite terminated the Soviet Union “without asking ordinary citizens what they wanted, and people suddenly found themselves cut off from their homeland.” Putin compared this illegitimate act with what Lenin and the Bolsheviks had done in creating Soviet republics on the basis of their nationality. In Putin’s narrative, the invasion of Ukraine is part of a process to rectify what he now sees as criminal acts at the dawn and twilight of the Soviet empire. He explicitly rejected the notion of restoring the USSR – “Russia no longer needs it today; this is not our ambition” – but believes he should aid those torn from their historic homeland. ............ In Putin’s narrative, Ukraine needs saving from the clutches of the West and Western culture and must return to the Russkii mir – the Russian world – and its unique culture. ........ Putin declared that in Russia there will not be “parent number one, parent number two and parent number three” instead of a “mother and father.” ......... “Do we want our schools to impose on our children … perversions that lead to degradation and extinction? Do we want to drum into their heads the ideas that certain other genders exist along with women and men and to offer them gender reassignment surgery? … This is all unacceptable to us. We have a different future of our own.” ............ broadening the imagined threat from the West to include culture as well as Russia’s survival and status as a great power .......... Domestic resistance to the war has erupted sporadically in large Russian cities, in non-Russian regions like Dagestan and even in Russian-occupied Crimea. Young men are fleeing to Finland, Georgia, Armenia and Central Asia to avoid the call-up issued by the military. Few want to fight and die for a war that makes no sense.

Poland dreams of building Europe’s largest army, against backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine

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