Having thrown humanism out of the Kremlin window, he has razed to the ground large parts of democratic Ukraine.
Most of humankind felt relieved with the demise of the USSR in 1991. Mr Vladimir Putin was at the time a KGB agent serving in East Germany.
Ten years later he was the most important man in Russia. For twenty-two years he is at the helm in Russia. No rivals, no attempted coup. Mr Putin has visited India several times. Bilateral relations have been cordial since 1955. We import most of our military hardware from Russia.
On Kashmir, the USSR and later Russia have supported us. Our non-alignment was fully understood (however, our alignment did tilt towards the USSR and Russia). At the UN, without Moscow’s support we would have been at the mercy of the Western bloc headed by the United States of America.
On 24 February, we saw the Russian leader in his Stalinist avatar. Granted that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had been repeatedly declaring that Ukraine wished to become a member of NATO. This was not acceptable to Mr Putin. Instead of holding talks with his Ukrainian counterpart he invaded Ukraine. Mr Putin mistakenly believed that Russia would demolish Ukraine in a few days.
Mr Zelenskyy has displayed immense courage, inspired his people by his fearlessness and determination. Once a comedian, he will go down in history as a military and political hero. History will not spare Mr Putin. He will, unfortunately for him, be bracketed with ruthless leaders who are not subject to reason and not open to advice given by friendly leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has spoken to the Russian President thrice. Mr Putin has ignored his advice.
Mr Putin erred catastrophically on several scores. He underestimated the will, patriotism and above all the battle worthiness and prodigious nationalism of Ukraine’s armed forces. The Russian army is not faring well. In some areas it is taking a beating.
Nonetheless, having thrown humanism out of the Kremlin window he has razed to the ground large parts of democratic Ukraine, displaced ten million Ukrainians. Nearly 3.1 million Ukrainians have become refugees, who have been welcomed by Poland, Romania, Hungry, Slovakia. Canada and the US will take in several hundred thousand in the days to come.
The men are fighting the Russians, while children, teenagers, their sisters, mothers and grandmothers (and wives of soldiers) live in cramped camps and school buildings, with terrible sanitation.
What happens to them after one year? Poland cannot give 2.5 million refuge for all time. Some might wish to return to Ukraine, but their homes have disappeared.
The total unity of the West has surprised Mr Putin and the world. Even Mr Putin cannot take on the US and Europe. The sanctions are beginning to bite.
Are the Russian people aware of the destruction of Ukraine and the plight of the people? No, they are not.
One fact stands out. Not one Russian diplomat has defected.
Two days ago, the G7, NATO and European Union leaders met in Brussels under the Chairmanship of President Biden. There was complete unanimity. This will give no comfort to Mr Putin.
The foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China arrived in New Delhi on 24 March. Apparently, our government is not too enthused by Mr Wang Yi’s visit. Radio and TV remained silent about the visit.
Before coming to New Delhi, Mr Wang Yi attended the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Lahore. There he said that China had the desire as its Islamic friends on the issue of Kashmir and China will continue to support the people of Palestine and Kashmir in their “just freedom struggle”.
The spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs gave a befitting reply to Mr Wang’s offensive observation on Kashmir: “Matters related to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are entirely the internal affairs of India. Other countries, including China have no locus standi to comment.”
On 25 March, speaking in the Rajya Sabha, the exceptionally able, experienced and unostentatious External Affairs Minister spoke on our policy on Ukraine. He told the Rajya Sabha that our Ukraine policy was “steadfast and consistent”. It was based on six principles. One: Immediate cessation of hostilities. Two: Return to dialogue and diplomacy. Three: Respect for international law. Four: Sovereignty and territorial integrity. Five: Access to humanitarian assistance. Six: India’s own aid to Ukraine and initiative to remain in touch with the leadership of both.
Eminently wise. But is Moscow listening?