Her problem is that a hitherto meteoric career may come to ground as a consequence of what is being witnessed in Ukraine, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat
When we were children, stories were told to us that were denuded of nuance. There was Good, and confronting that was Evil It was the duty of all the good of the earth to assist the former to vanquish the latter. Judging by the views of the leaders of the countries that comprise NATO, the ruling elite in Kiev are a collection of individuals, many of whom have the attributes of sainthood. It would almost be disrespectful to refer to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in any other manner than Saint Volodymyr. The received wisdom is that his every word shines with the glory of Truth, and each of his commandments to the rest of the world (minus Russia and the Russian-speaking people) needs to be followed without question.
It would not be possible for a civilised individual to go to bed each night with an untroubled conscience, unless such instant obedience were carried out. Whether it be President Biden, Prime Minister Johnson or the other Atlanticist leaders following in their wake in the prosecution of the Ukraine Crusade, they are tripping over each other in their anxiety to obey the latest commandment issued from Kiev by the saintly President of Ukraine. They tremble at any word of disapproval from him, and double down on their efforts to implement policies designed to ensure that NATO plunge into a full-scale war with the Russian Federation.
The crusade against Sinner Vladimir and the evil Russian Federation has already caused substantial distress to people across the world, several tens of millions of whom are going to starve this year as a consequence of the sanctions being implemented on the command of the saintly Volodymyr and his presumably equally noble constellation of officials, who (we are assured) have collectively and courageously battled the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine since the luckless Viktor Yanukovych was transformed from a Head of State to a refugee as a consequence of the Maidan upheaval in 2014.
After all, where matters of principle are involved, where High Morality needs to be upheld through the eviction and replacement of governments, it is not the ballot box but the streets that should decide who is to assume power in Kiev. Whether it be in the US, as seen in the eruption of violence at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, or in the rising number of street protests that have been taking place in several European cities, the example of Maidan appears to have inspired tens of millions engaged in crusades of their own to copycat. They may believe that the next round of street power in Paris, if vigorous enough, may topple the occupant in the Élysée Palace long before the next French elections to the presidency five years hence. Marine le Pen may not yet have succeeded in occupying the Élysée Palace, but she may soon be in control of much of the domestic policy of France as Prime Minister of the Republic.
President Macron could then focus on matters important for the future of humanity, such as the “European Idea”, whatever that is. Clearly, to NATO, Ukrainian-speaking people who have a revulsion to those who speak Russian are fully European in a manner that is not the case with those speaking the language that is the mother tongue of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn or Tolstoy. Small wonder that the efforts at integration into the “common European home” by successive leaders in the Kremlin from 1986 until 2006 were firmly rebuffed every time. Now, the Ukraine Crusade is occupying almost the entirety of media and political discourse in Europe and in North America. Speakers of the Russian language may be permitted to compete in sports, cultural and other activities in the civilised world only if they repudiate their own country. Both sides of the Atlantic are engaged in the combat between Good (i.e. NATO) and Evil (the Russian Federation). All this would be amusing, were the consequences of this conflict not so tragic for the whole world.
Among those most active in the Crusade is EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who just visited India. She was broad-minded enough to believe that although the country of 1.4 billion was till now deluded into not participating enthusiastically in the NATO crusade against Russia, she may yet persuade New Delhi to see the wisdom in bringing closer and closer a kinetic confrontation between Russia and NATO. After all, it was probably Von der Leyen’s persuasive skills that made Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin abandon the longstanding foreign policy of the SPD and become an active combatant in the conflict, rather than remain on the fringes, as the German Chancellor had been doing till a few days ago.
So powerful is the call of the Ukraine Crusade that even the Green Party has shed any pacifist pretensions that it may have had, and become as dedicated as Biden or Johnson to ramping up the kinetic pressure on Russia through the transfer of weapons into Ukraine. There are reports of individuals from numerous locations converging on Ukraine and buying sophisticated weaponry such as mobile anti-aircraft missiles. These are intended for use in the future, but not in a conventional war or against Russia. It is astonishing what emotion does when harnessed to police. Countries such as the US and the UK are flooding sophisticated weapons into Ukraine without ensuring that they are being used solely in the crusade against the Russian Federation.
Baroness von der Leyen was invited by the MEA to play the stellar role in the “Raisina Dialogue”. In this international event, the curated guest list reflects the priorities of the ministry’s mandarins about who counts where India’s foreign policy is concerned. The choice of the able, personable Ursula von der Leyen was an inspired one, as the lady is expected in future to play a more consequential role, perhaps as Chancellor of Germany, still the most important country in Europe, minus of course the Russian part of that continent.
Her problem is that a hitherto meteoric career may come to ground as a consequence of what is being witnessed in Ukraine, but such a view remains fringe within the NATO alliance, which is rushing pell-mell into a greater and greater confrontation with Russia, a country that in effect is excluded from the definition of what constitutes a European country. In a way, such an exclusion may indeed be justified on the grounds that the Russian Federation is neither European nor Asian, but a blend of both, a quintessentially Eurasian power. Half of the territory of both continents is Russian, which makes the world’s largest country by far the ideal vehicle for a closer integration of two continents that need to be closely linked to each other on grounds of self-interest. Unfortunately, the Ukraine Crusade is resulting in the opposite effect, that of separating Asia from Europe, as Baroness von der Leyen may have found out during her sojourn in India.