A rejoinder to an article titled “India’s Last Best Chance’ by Lisa Curtis
I am not too sure if Lisa Curtis, a very respected author, was taken in by the US Information campaign launched to go alongside the Ukraine war or if she wrote the article ‘India’s Last Best Chance’ deliberately to mislead public and influence opinion. Irrespective of the reason, the distortions are far too many to be ignored and the record must be set straight.
Facts and References
US promised Gorbachev at the time of reunification of Germany in 1990 and 1991 that NATO will not expand eastwards. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO’s expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was a solemn assurance that is being denied today.
A look at the declassified US, Soviet, German, British and French documents posted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University brings out the truth. (Documents 05 and 06 clarifies US’ stand that NATO will not expand eastwards) Though the assurances were verbal, do we take it that the verbal assurances of the US Presidents and very senior officials of the US administrations are worthless and are not to be trusted?
NATO’s enlargement relates to US’ post-Cold War grand strategy. US aim is to maintain its global primacy, consequently, it suits US to perpetuate Europe’s dependence on US for its security. It is for this very reason that the US constantly projects Russia as an aggressor and a threat to Europe.
US may find it inconvenient to agree to the verbal promises made by its Presidents and senior officials but what about the documents signed by the leaders of all the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe(OSCE) states including the US President?
The OSCE Summit Declaration (Istanbul, 18 and 19 November 1999) and Astana Commemorative Declaration Towards A Security Communitysigned in December 2010 are a matter of record. Are implementing international agreements dependent on the convenience of countries? US acted in a similar way by unilaterally withdrawing from the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’ (JCPOA), an international agreement signed by the P-5 +1 and Iran in 2018, three years after its implementation.
Just to remind, “The Astana Declaration,2010, states “We reaffirm the inherent right of each and every participating State to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, as they evolve. Each State also has the right to neutrality. Each participating State will respect the rights of all others in these regards. They will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States. Within the OSCE no State, group of States or organization can have any pre-eminent responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the OSCE area or can consider any part of the OSCE area as its sphere of influence. We will maintain only those military capabilities that are commensurate with our legitimate individual or collective security needs, taking into account obligations under international law, as well as the legitimate security concerns of other States.” (Emphasis added)
Coup and Regime Change
In 2014, consequent to the disturbances in Ukraine, at the peace talks involving foreign ministers of Poland, Germany and France, Yanukovych, the then president of Ukraine had agreed to the conditions that were settled during the peace process and give up power. The aim was to ensure peaceful changeover of the leadership through democratic process.
The then US President in a telephonic conversation had requested Putin, to support the process. Notwithstanding the peace talks, the telephonic conversation between the two Presidents and its outcome, what followed was a coup that installed Zelensky as the Ukrainian President. US involvement (Victoria Nuland) in the regime change exercise is a matter of record.
Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity cannot be viewed in isolation ignoring US’ thirst to remain the global hegemon resulting in continued hostility to Russia wherein the contours of efforts to isolate and disintegrate the country and to bring about a regime change were clearly discernable.
Did US not act in a similar way in the 1980s, assembling terrorists as its proxies through Pakistan to disintegrate USSR? NATO’s eastward expansion to close in with Russian borders and the promise for Ukraine’s assimilation in the NATO, a military alliance, coupled with unprecedented arming of Ukraine, only confirmed US intentions.
At no time has Russia or its actions given an impression that Russia was trying to re-create its erstwhile empire. Detailed analysis reveals that Russia has neither the capability nor the intentions to invade Europe. Narratives projecting Russia as an aggressor with intentions to invade Europe are the fertile imagination of the Western story tellers.
US Interference in Bilateral issues
Ukraine is not a part of NATO. US has no treaty obligations to defend or militarily support Ukraine. If Russia attacking and occupying Ukraine is a threat to NATO, so is NATO and its member state US occupying and arming Ukraine a threat to Russia. Being too far away, Russia-Ukraine dispute doesn’t affect US’s security in any way. Why then is US interfering in a bilateral dispute and pumping weapons into one side of the warring nations? Is this not interference in bilateral issues of countries?
The article talks of Russia’s reckless behavior setting precedence in other parts of the world. Why have we ignored US’ unilateral actions in Yugoslavia in 1999 during the Kosovo war when the country was attacked without any authorisation, US attack on Iraq based on false intelligence inputs resulting in the murder of Saddam Hussain, US attack on Syria and the ‘Regime Change ‘exercise in the country employing terrorists of sorts asproxies? What about Afghanistan? Did these actions set a precedence or Russia’s attack on Ukraine? Are these, parts of ‘Rule Based Order’ which US keeps talking about? Excepting in Syria how many places did Russia attack and without authorisation?
Logic of Russian Attacks
Russia’s Black Sea fleet is located in Sevastopol, Crimea. When a US nominated leadership (Zelensky) through ‘regime change’, with its inherent intentions to contain Russia takes over Ukraine, whose part Crimea was, is it militarily acceptable for Russia to leave Crimea under Ukrainian rule? Would US or any other country done otherwise? But US uses Crimea as a stick to beat Russia and to project the country as a habitual aggressor.
Despite three decades of pleading by Russia under Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and Putin the West has failed to address Russia’s security concerns which are existential. On the other hand, what threat did Russia pose to US or to Ukraine? Would the Ukraine war have taken place had US been reasonable and was really interested in peace by addressing Russian Concerns?
What options did Putin have in the face of NATO’s expansion and Ukraine becoming a US proxy and a base for containing Russia? What is it that US want of Russia? Surrender? It thus became incumbent on Putin to force security guarantees through the threat of war from the West to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of Russia. It was then that Putin decided to mobilise his forces to the Ukraine borders to indicate that he meant business.
Even at that stage Putin wrote to Biden seeking legally binding guarantees that it seeks from the West specifying Russia’s demands besides forwarding a eight point draft treaty to US on December 17, 2021 which its Foreign Ministry released to the press so that US doesn’t deny Russia’s efforts to seek peace. Shouldn’t US have followed up on that communication and held necessary negotiations if it was interested in peace?
The article talks of ‘Russian atrocities. What about the brutalities by US and the West in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yugoslavia etc. both by their own troops and their proxies? Are they any less? Were they authorized? Was an enquiry on these atrocities conducted and the guilty punished? What gives US the moral authority to question Russia with its own appalling record of wrongdoings in various wars that it initiated without authorisation?
The article exposes lack of understanding of India’s position with regard to US and Russia relations and goes on to say “Washington’s patience is not endless, and the longer Russia prosecutes its war without India changing its position, the more likely the United States will be to view India as an unreliable partner.” That indicates, US attempt to dictate the type of relations that India needs to maintain with Russia, a third country. Is this the type of free world and democracy that US is preaching? Such statements and dictates are unacceptable to the people of India, a country that represents 229 million people. If US decides to view India as an unreliable partner, it is most welcome to do so.
India’s relations with Russia are decades old. In 1971 during the Bangladesh war, US had threatened India by dispatching its Task Force 74 led by ‘USS Enterprise’ assembled from US Navy’s ‘Seventh Fleet’ that was deployed in the Bay of Bengal. A British Naval group headed by the aircraft carrier ‘Eagle’ had moved closer to India’s territorial waters in the Arabian Sea. Both US and UK had planned a pincer move to intimidate India.
At that critical moment It was the USSR which came forward to India’s rescue by signing the ‘Peace and Friendship Treaty’ and deployed two groups of cruisers and destroyers as well as submarines armed with nuclear war heads to counter American and British Naval threat to India. The question is, should India now abandon Russia and join US? What for? India is not an ungrateful nation.
The article suggests “ultimately New Delhi will have to pick between Russia and the West” indicating immaturity. The article also labels India an “outlier” as it takes an independent path not followed by US, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan. Is following the path of these countries, a part of the ‘rule-based order’?
In a free world, is there anything wrong in a country choosing a course of action that suits its interests the best? I may like to add that India’s relations with countries such a China, US, Russia, Pakistan, Japan, Australia etc. has nothing to do with their relations with one another or with third countries. Relations are based on national interests and values that India cherishes.
The article talks of India increasing its purchases of oil and liquified natural gas from Russia on the so-called spot market at reduced prices. What about the oil and gas purchases of European countries from Russia? The question is, has UN sanctioned Russia, banning countries from purchasing commodities from Russia? Which is that ‘rule-based order’ that prohibits countries from purchasing oil or gas from Russia?
US may decide to purchase anything from Russia or for that matter from any other country but who has given US the authority to impose its dictates on other countries on purchases that they wish to make, that they need and suits them for which they pay for with their own money? Does US realise the impact of its cold-blooded sanctions imposed on the people of the countries concerned such as Iran, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen etc. which includes women, innocent children and those suffering from serious health issues? Can we call these fair or a part of ‘rule-based order?’
US wants New Delhi to turn to other military suppliers failing which the article says it will become more difficult for the US to increase its transfer of sophisticated defense technologies to New Delhi. Pray tell us which are those sophisticated defence technologies that US has transferred to India till date? Suggest compare them with those transferred by Russia to India. It may be an eye opener.
On India’s purchase of S-400 air defense system from Russia, India is being threatened with restrictions on access to US loans from US financial institutions and prohibitions on bank transactions subject to US jurisdictions, among other sanctions. Is this the way a world leader is expected to behave? Does India need US permission to purchase weapon systems for its national security with its own finances? Is this what we call a free world that US keeps preaching?
US has not been a reliable and a trustworthy partner. Take the case of Pakistan which it exploited to assemble and train terrorists and to create Taliban, a terror outfit to disintegrate USSR. The so called ‘front line state’ was totally abandoned after the war was over. The country is now saddled with a huge band of terrorists threatening its very existence. It went back to Pakistan when it needed its support to supply its troops in Afghanistan. US President decided not to talk to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan after Biden was elected President. Now US seems to be hobnobbing with Pakistan again perhaps to use it as its instrument in its larger geo-political game.
Take the case of Afghanistan. It decided not to include Afghanistan Government in its talks with Taliban on the future of the country and abandoned Ghani Government abruptly, only to hand over the country, a UN member state, to a terror group after three decades of its occupation. A clear breach of trust. Why was US deciding the future of Afghanistan? Is it not interference in the internal affairs of a country?
In Ukraine, US kept promising Zelensky of its support and kept amassing weapons into the country besides forcing NATO countries to do the same but when it came to the actual fighting, it left Ukraine to fight its own battle and remained on the side-lines besides constantly goading Zelensky to continue fighting despite its losses and destruction. Europe was dragged into its sanctions game causing power shortages and economic issues. Isn’t US fighting its war with Russia using Ukraine and Europe? Is US targeting Europe’s economy by forcing it to implement its sanctions on Russia, to perpetuate its dependence on US and to keep them under its control? It is only time will tell.
Doesn’t past precedence give enough indication that US will abandon India once its usefulness to its needs is over?