Peace ought to be the natural order of things, but is not. Instead, tension and conflict are pervasive in their spread. In these days of “social media”, such unwelcome divisions take place even within families. Online behaviour, as well as clues invisibly procured by mega virtual platforms, give clues as to preferences, which is why searches by two members living in the same household may be fed entirely different views of the same subject. The consequence of such skewed searches is that existing prejudices get further reinforced, rather than get challenged by alternative viewpoints. Given that so many are joining in tunnels of thought impervious to other tunnels of views, it is no wonder that discourse on various matters is getting so testy. Celebrity television anchors are not the cause of such a trend towards a clash of views as much as they are a symptom of it. The steady increase in toxicity of discourse and of ties between nations is creating the same atmosphere as prevailed in the months prior to World War I, when public opinion in the soon-to-be belligerent powers was hardening on the lines promoted by their rulers. In this, World War II differed from its predecessor, in that the fuse was lit not by public opinion favouring a conflict in Germany, but by the miscalculations and megalomania of Adolf Hitler, character flaws that only deepened with the progress of the conflict, leading to atrocities by him and his supporters such as the Holocaust. While worries about the possible eruption of World War III are as yet just that, worries, this does not mean that another global conflict with all its consequences is impossible. Indeed, it is daily becoming closer to reality, and the reasons are not just the innate hubris and aggressive instincts of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping but the effort led by President Joe Biden to reduce the Russian Federation from the status of a great power into something much less consequential. US historians together with their colleagues across the Atlantic have fed the misperception that the USSR imploded because of Washington’s policies, when the cause of the downfall of that construct towards the close of 1991 were several of the policies adopted by the leadership of that country since the 1960s in particular. Surviving a Brezhnev, Chernenko or Gorbachev would be a tall ask for any country, especially one with a governance structure as centralised at the top as the USSR was.
Just as with the USSR, which got reduced in status from a superpower to a great power through an implosion from within, the effort by NATO to further reduce Russia into minor power status can succeed only if the leadership in Moscow makes policy errors of a magnitude sufficient to cause a 1991-93 style splintering of the country in the way sought by some. President Vladimir Putin is repeatedly being accused of being a ferocious warmonger by what may be described as embedded (with the ruling establishment) NATO media. In fact, almost from the start, he has refrained from laying waste the bulk of Ukrainian territory and has instead concentrated on protecting Crimea and securing a buffer to a future Russophobic Ukraine by claiming not just that peninsula but four other oblasts as well. Interestingly, given the swagger that Russian generals adopted in the Baltic states or in Poland and Hungary during the Soviet period, in the case of the Ukrainians, for nearly half the 1917-91 existence of the USSR, ethnic Ukrainians held the keystone post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. For much of the rest of the time, that all-important job was held not by a Russian but by a Georgian, J.V. Stalin. It was the 2014 Maidan coup (sorry, Victoria Nuland, Revolution) that made Putin annex Crimea and create a buffer zone in the eastern territories. The Kremlin would use nuclear weapons if it had to in order to hold on to these territories. Given that, what is needed is a repeat of the Kosovo formula, in which a chunk of territory seceded from Serbia with Belgrade attempting to recover it. As Chair of the G-20, Prime Minister Modi needs to ask the three belligerents (and not just NATO powers or Putin but Zelenskyy too would be present at the meetings, courtesy NATO) to cease fire immediately and accept the status quo in the manner Serbia has over Kosovo. In essence, this is the Modi formula for peace in Ukraine, and the sooner the leadership of NATO, Russia and Ukraine understand this, the less chance of a catastrophic escalation of a conflict put on steroids by NATO’s policy towards the conflict. Which is to further downsize Russia through the Ukraine conflict on the lines of 1991. Common sense nuclear doctrine justifies the use of nuclear weapons when the battle is existential, which is what the conflict appears within the Kremlin to be turning out for Russia
Madhav Das Nalapat