Category Archives: Diplomacy

Russia Invading Ukraine: Countries Standing Aside, Africa Section

(Caption for photo at top of the post, “The 2019 Sochi summit drew almost all of Africa’s heads of state”–from this Feb. 27 BBC story: “Ukraine conflict: How Russia forged closer ties with Africa”.)

One doesn’t see the Biden administration or the US media noting the absence of real opposition to/condemnation of Russia in great parts of the world. Further to this post in early March,

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

now the Globe and Mail’s man in Africa reports on the situation in that continent:

Zelensky struggles to gain support in African countries as Russian interests prevail

Geoffrey York Africa Bureau Chief


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the chairman of the African Union early last month and asked if he could speak to African leaders to explain his country’s plight since the Russian invasion. The response was polite but noncommittal.

Five weeks later, even after repeating his request to another African Union official, Mr. Zelensky is still waiting for a chance to speak.

The unofficial snub is the latest sign of Russia’s continuing influence in many African countries. While the West sends a seemingly endless flow of weapons and politicians to Kyiv, there has been a distinct lack of African support for Ukraine and, significantly, a complete absence of African sanctions against Moscow.

This has been helpful to the Russian cause. Africa may be far from the war zone, but it has strategic value for President Vladimir Putin. It provides votes at the United Nations, arms sales for Russia’s military industry, business for its private military contractors, resources for its extractive sector and potential bases for its navy.

Mr. Zelensky has sought to weaken Mr. Putin’s support base in Africa, but has struggled to gain traction. While many African governments profess to be neutral on the war in Ukraine, they have often signalled tacitly that they favour the Russian side [emphasis added].

Despite pressure from Ukrainian diplomats and some Western powers, not a single African country has joined the West in imposing sanctions on the Russian government.

*Russian mercenaries accused of torture and killings of civilians in Central African Republic

*Mali’s military junta blocks UN investigation of alleged massacre by Malian and Russian forces

Mr. Sall [president of Senegal], the chair of the African Union, spoke with Mr. Putin on March 9. He then waited more than a month before taking Mr. Zelensky’s call on April 11…

South Africa, like many African countries, has abstained on key UN votes on the war in Ukraine, but the statements by its government and its ruling party seem to have endorsed the Russian view of the conflict. They have usually adopted the Kremlin’s preferred terminology – rarely using the terms “war” or “invasion” – as well as Moscow’s mantra of blaming NATO for provoking the crisis.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the government has been even more sympathetic to Mr. Putin’s viewpoint. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a recent newspaper column, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was merely a “robust response” to the “threat of encirclement by NATO.” He echoed the Kremlin’s rhetoric by criticizing the Western military alliance for its “provocative eastward expansion in Europe.”

…self-interested factors… motivate much of the African response to the war [quelle surprise!]. Some African leaders have a genuine preference for a neutral or non-aligned stand on the distant conflict, seeking to maintain relations with all sides. Some feel a historical loyalty to Moscow based on the anti-colonial struggles of the past. But many are also following their commercial and military interests…

In…[some] African countries, especially those with authoritarian regimes, there is a reluctance to antagonize Russia because it is their biggest supplier of weapons – and, increasingly, private military contractors as well [Wagner Group, anyone?].

The military agreement between Cameroon and Russia, unveiled last month, would reportedly allow Cameroon to obtain weapons and armoured vehicles while also helping it gain access to Russian intelligence and training.

“Cameroon needed a defence partner that could back its national military operational interest without conditions or interference,” said David Otto Endeley, an analyst at the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies.

“Russia presents itself as a partner ready to do business with no strings attached.”

With a report from Ndi Eugene Ndi in Yaoundé, Cameroon

Other relevant posts:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Theme song, Joe Biden doesn’t:

Ukraine vs Russia: How Much Success is Too Much Success? Or…

…the risks of becoming “Dizzy with Success“, as Stalin put it. Extracts from two opinion pieces at the NY Times “Sunday Review”:

1) By a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books:

America and Its Allies Want to Bleed Russia. They Really Shouldn’t.

By Tom Stevenson

Mr. Stevenson is a journalist specializing in energy, defense and geopolitics who reported from Ukraine during the first weeks of the war.

…The U.S. secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, has said the goal is “to see Russia weakened.” The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said Ukraine is defending “democracy writ large for the world.” Britain’s foreign minister, Liz Truss, was explicit about widening the conflict to take in Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia, such as Crimea, when she spoke of evicting Russia from “the whole of Ukraine.” This is both an expansion of the battlefield and a transformation of the war.

…Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia were always fraught but contained moments of promise. They have now stalled completely. Russia bears its fair share of responsibility, of course. But European channels to Moscow have been all but severed, and there is no serious effort from the United States to seek diplomatic progress, let alone cease-fires.

When I was in Ukraine during the first weeks of the war, even staunch Ukrainian nationalists expressed views far more pragmatic than those that are routine in America now. Talk of neutral status for Ukraine and internationally monitored plebiscites in Donetsk and Luhansk has been jettisoned in favor of bombast and grandstanding.

The war was dangerous and destructive enough in its initial form. The combination of expanded strategic aims and scotched negotiations has made it more dangerous still. At present, the only message to Russia is: There is no way out. Though President Vladimir Putin did not declare general conscription in his Victory Day speech on May 9, a conventional escalation of this kind is still possible.

Nuclear weapons are discussed in easy tones, not least on Russian television. The risk of cities being reduced to corium remains low without NATO deployment in Ukraine, but accident and miscalculation cannot be discounted. And the conflict takes place at a time when most of the Cold War arms control agreements between the United States and Russia have been allowed to lapse.

A weakened Russia was a likely outcome of the war even before the shift in U.S. policy. Russia’s economic position has deteriorated. Far from a commodity superpower, its undersized domestic industry is struggling and is dependent on technology imports that are now inaccessible.

What’s more, the invasion has led directly to greater military spending in second- and third-tier European powers. The number of NATO troops in Eastern Europe has grown tenfold, and a Nordic expansion of the organization is likely. A general rearmament of Europe is taking place, driven not by desire for autonomy from American power but in service to it. For the United States, this should be success enough. It is unclear what more there is to gain by weakening Russia, beyond fantasies of regime change.

Ukraine’s future depends on the course of the fighting in the Donbas and perhaps the south. The physical destruction of the east is already well underway. Ukrainian casualties are not insignificant; estimates of the number killed and wounded vary widely, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands. Russia has destroyed whatever sense of shared heritage remained before the invasion.

But the longer the war, the worse the damage to Ukraine and the greater the risk of escalation. A decisive military result in eastern Ukraine may prove elusive. Yet the less dramatic outcome of a festering stalemate is hardly better. Indefinite protraction of the war, as in Syria, is too dangerous with nuclear-armed participants.

Diplomatic efforts ought to be the centerpiece of a new Ukraine strategy. Instead, the war’s boundaries are being expanded and the war itself recast as a struggle between democracy and autocracy, in which the Donbas is the frontier of freedom. This is not just declamatory extravagance. It is reckless. The risks hardly need to be stated.

2) And by the “Sunday Review’s” house conservative:

There Are Two Endgames in Ukraine. Both Carry Big Risks.

By Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist

Our success…yields new strategic dilemmas. Two scenarios loom for the next six months of war. In the first, Russia and Ukraine trade territory in small increments, and the war gradually cools into a “frozen conflict” in a style familiar from other wars in Russia’s near abroad.

Under those circumstances, any lasting peace deal would probably require conceding Russian control over some conquered territory, in Crimea and the Donbas, if not the land bridge now mostly held by Russian forces in between. This would hand Moscow a clear reward for its aggression, notwithstanding everything else that Russia has lost in the course of its invasion. And depending on how much territory was ceded, it would leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, notwithstanding its military success.

So such a deal might seem unacceptable in Kyiv, Washington or both. But then the alternative — a permanent stalemate that’s always poised for a return to low-grade war — would also leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, reliant on streams of Western money and military equipment, and less able to confidently rebuild…

There is…[a] scenario…in which…the stalemate breaks in Ukraine’s favor. This is the future that the Ukrainian military claims is within reach — where with sufficient military aid and hardware they are able to turn their modest counteroffensives into major ones and push the Russians back not just to prewar lines but potentially out of Ukrainian territory entirely.

Clearly, this is the future America should want — except for the extremely important caveat that it’s also the future where Russian nuclear escalation suddenly becomes much more likely than it is right now.

We know that Russian military doctrine envisions using tactical nuclear weapons defensively, to turn the tide in a losing war [emphasis added, see post noted at the bottom of this one]. We should assume that Putin and his circle regard total defeat in Ukraine as a regime-threatening scenario. Combine those realities with a world where the Russians are suddenly being routed, their territorial gains evaporating, and you have the most nuclear-shadowed military situation since our naval blockade of Cuba in 1962.

I’ve been turning over these dilemmas since I moderated a recent panel at the Catholic University of America with three right-of-center foreign policy thinkers — Elbridge Colby, Rebeccah Heinrichs and Jakub Grygiel. On the wisdom of our support for Ukraine up till now, the panel was basically united. On the question of the war’s endgame and the nuclear peril, however, you could see our challenges distilled — with Grygiel emphasizing the importance of Ukraine’s recovering territory in the east and along the Black Sea coastline in order to be plausibly self-sufficient in the future, but then the more hawkish Heinrichs and the more cautious Colby sparring over what our posture should be in the event that rapid Ukrainian advances are met with a Russian tactical nuclear strike.

That question isn’t the one immediately before us; it will only become an issue if Ukraine begins to make substantial gains. But since we are arming the Ukrainians on a scale that seems intended to make a counteroffensive possible, I sincerely hope a version of the Colby-Heinrichs back-and-forth is happening at the highest reaches of our government — before an issue that matters now on academic panels becomes the most important question in the world.

That post:

Public Russian Nuclear Weapons Use Doctrine–Willing to go First if Necessary

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Russia vs Ukraine: ASEAN Not Following US Line Either

First a story at the Bangkok Post:

No mention of Russia in US-Asean statement

Washington satisfied that Asean leaders agreed on ‘respect for sovereignty’ even if Ukraine wasn’t mentioned [SURE]

Now three tweets on the Biden administration’s not-so-successful effort to get ASEAN members to act vs. Russia over its invasion of Ukraine:

UPDATE: The Diplomat puts things succinctly:

The American unipolar moment is definitely gone, however the war in Ukraine turns out. Related posts:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Germany, Ukraine and Russia: What Is To Be Done? The Habermas Factor

Extracts from an article, by a favourite historian and (to use a horrid term) public intellectual, with some complex argumentation and moral considerations–at the New Statesman:

After the Zeitenwende: Jürgen Habermas and Germany’s new identity crisis

The 92-year-old philosopher has warned Germans not to allow anger at Russia and admiration for Ukraine to displace their country’s hard-won focus on dialogue and peace.

By Adam Tooze [his webpage here]

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has upended world politics and nowhere more so than in Germany. Addressing an emergency session of the Bundestag on 27 February, German chancellor Olaf Scholz declared a Zeitenwende, a turning point in history. Russia’s attack on Ukraine meant Europe and Germany had entered a new age…

More than anywhere else in the West, the entire German intellectual class, and every TV talk show and newspaper has been mobilised to debate and criticise Germany’s performance. The situation has been aggravated after Volodymyr Zelensky’s attack on Germany’s long-running détente with Russia in a speech to the Bundestag in March and a stream of remarkably forthright comments from Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin. You can tell matters are becoming really serious because Jürgen Habermas, the 92-year old doyen of German philosophy and political commentary, has entered the ring, for once on the side of the government.

Russia’s aggression poses such fundamental questions for Germany because the nation in its current form owes its existence to the peaceful end of the Cold War that enabled reunification. The success of 1989-90 was prepared by almost two decades of Ostpolitik, in which trade and détente with the Soviet Union worked to draw back the Iron Curtain. Maintaining good relations with Moscow has always meant making a pact with the devil, first with the repressive Soviet regime in the 1970s and 1980s and then with Vladimir Putin since the 2000s. After Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and after the poisoning of Alexei Navalny in 2020, Berlin has repeatedly shrugged and carried on. But Putin’s assault on Ukraine and Ukraine’s remarkable resistance have made that approach impossible.

The question is particularly explosive because in the late 1960s it was Chancellor Scholz’s party, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), then led by the charismatic Willy Brandt, that launched Ostpolitik. Détente runs deep in the SPD, as personified by Gerhard Schröder, ex-chancellor and unrepentant chairman of the board at Russian state oil firm Rosneft [a recent post: “Gorgeous Gerhard’s Embrace of Bad Vlad“]. But the attachment is not confined to the social democrats. Voices on the German right have long favoured a modus vivendi with Russia, whether under the Tsar, the Soviets or now under Putin. For them, Bismarck is the model in balancing between East and West…And, as has become embarrassingly clear in recent months, there is a general disregard on many sides in Berlin for the national rights of “smaller” east European states – notably Poland and Ukraine – that have the misfortune to find themselves wedged between Germany and Russia [emphasis added]. Meanwhile, German industrial firms such as Siemens look back on 150 years of doing profitable business in Russia, relations which they are unwilling to have disrupted by a bagatelle like the annexation of Crimea.

…In 2022, Habermas…again fears a recrudescence of the right under the mantle of enthusiasm for Ukraine’s resistance. And once again his long and thoughtful article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 28 April has been met with a storm of disapproval. As has often been the case, this outrage has been given a platform in the pages of the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This time Habermas stands accused of defending a battered and discredited tradition of West German politics, conniving with Putin, and clinging to old nostrums about nuclear war while patronising the Ukrainians and their supporters among younger generations of Germans.

…Every right-thinking person can clearly agree that Putin’s aggression must not be allowed to succeed. But we should also agree that a war with Russia is unthinkable. Russia is a nuclear power and escalation is an appalling risk. Any good-faith political intervention, Habermas insists, must squarely face this dilemma.

For the West, Habermas wrote, “having made the decision to not intervene in this conflict as a belligerent, there is a risk threshold that precludes an unrestrained commitment to the armament of Ukraine… Those who ignore this threshold and continue aggressively and self-assuredly to push the German chancellor towards it have either overlooked or not understood the dilemma into which this war has plunged the West… because the West, with its morally well-grounded decision to not become a party in this war, has tied its own hands.”

In light of this dilemma, the impatience of Scholz’s critics, who include not just Ukrainian spokespeople and right-wing hawks, but many former pacifists in the ranks of the Green party, is not innocent. What is being called into question, Habermas fears, is “the broad pro-dialogue, peace-keeping focus of German policy”, which should never be taken for granted. It was hard won and, as Habermas notes, has “repeatedly been denounced from the right”…

Ukraine is at the stage of making a nation state, Germany is well beyond that. In checking their spontaneous reactions of enthusiasm and solidarity with Ukraine, Germans and the rest of us in the West would be well advised to consider this gap and what it implies. We thrill to the heroism of the Ukrainians, which puts into stark relief the deflated state of our own politics. But our post-heroic culture cannot simply be cast off in disgust. It is a logical historical effect of the Nato umbrella that we continue to live under. Ukraine’s desperate courage, on the other hand, is a reflection of the fact that it does not. Under those circumstances, Habermas asks, “is it not a form of pious self-deception to bank on a Ukrainian victory against Russia’s murderous form of warfare without taking up arms yourself? The bellicose rhetoric is inconsistent with the bleachers from which it is delivered.”

…One might say that Habermas is urging us to figure out the politics of allyship on the international stage and under the shadow of the nuclear threat.

What is clear is that we must find a constructive way out of the dilemma posed by the war, a way out that must, as Habermas says in his final line, be defined by one basic aspiration: “Ukraine ‘must not lose’ this war.” Its project of building a nation state must continue.

For Europe itself the task is different. What the contrast with Ukraine ought to reveal is not so much the lack of a properly heroic national identity, but the lack of post-national capacities at the EU level. As Habermas remarks, there is a reason why those who have declared a historic turning point are those who have for a long time argued that Europe must be able to stand on its own feet militarily if it wants to ensure that its “social and political way of life” is not destabilised from without or hollowed out from within. That would not answer Ukraine’s heroism in kind but it would at least allow Europe to decide on its policy independently both of the US and Russia. Right now, American politicians are falling over themselves to provide tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine in its fight with Russia. That they can agree on that and not on healthcare or climate change policy is a sign of America’s own dysfunction. But what US politics will bring in the near future is anyone’s guess. Soon Europe may be facing a disorientating clash of historical temporalities and political time not in eastern Europe but across the Atlantic. As Habermas reminds us, Macron’s re-election opens another window of opportunity. Will Europe seize it?

Has Putin unintentionally but effectively ended a particular German Sonderweg (the article at the link, by a German, is a very good companion to Adam Tooze’s piece)? Meanwhile, can the EU ever really get its defence/foreign policy act together?

UPDATE: Very relevant tweet:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

US More Nuanced and Respectful in Its Indian Diplomacy

From an article at RealClear World, no mention of CAATSA (note tweets near end):

India and the U.S. Navigate Their Differences

By Jeff M. Smith
April 25, 2022

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in April hosted their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. The ministers met for the fourth edition of the 2+2 defense and foreign policy dialogue that began during the Trump administration. 

The talks were preceded by a virtual meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two countries celebrated 75 years of diplomatic relations. The dialogue was largely successful, if not entirely groundbreaking. What was achieved may have been less important than what was avoided: a diplomatic rupture over the Russia-Ukraine crisis [emphasis added, see posts at the bottom of this one].

At the 2+2, both sides offered lofty rhetoric about the health and future of India-US ties. “There’s virtually no domain on which we are not cooperating with each other,” Jaishankar declared. Austin called the relationship the “cornerstone of security in the Indo-Pacific.” Singh signaled India’s happiness with the numerous “foundational” military agreements signed in recent years, insisting the two sides would “double up capabilities across conventional and emerging defense domains.” Readouts of the discussions noted the two militaries are operating “closely together across all domains” and would “jointly meet the challenges of this century.” 

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the meeting was a proposal to “explore possibilities of utilizing Indian shipyards for repair and maintenance of ships of the US Maritime Sealift Command to support mid-voyage repair of US Naval Ships.” Beyond that, the dialogue produced a handful of modest but positive developments. These included an agreement to cooperate on space situational awareness as well as the launching of a new Defense Artificial Intelligence Dialogue. They also involved commitments to joint service engagements to support high-end combined operations; to the co-production of air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles; and to expanded joint cyber training and exercises [emphasis added]

Arguably the most important outcome was the two sides’ ability to navigate differences over Russia and the Ukraine crisis. India and the U.S. have never seen eye-to-eye on Russia, but Putin’s invasion has brought their quiet disagreements to the forefront. 

Some U.S. commentators cried foul when India voted repeatedly to abstain from criticizing Russia at the United Nations for its conduct in Ukraine. They called into question India’s credentials as a democratic member of the Quad while it continued to import Russian oil and gas. 

The U.S. government, however, has adopted a more flexible approach. It recognizes that most of India’s legacy military hardware is of Russian origin. The Indian government believes it can ill afford to alienate its top defense supplier while its border dispute with China grows more violent and volatile. The U.S. government also recognizes that, in the subtle language of diplomacy, India’s position has shifted from stoic neutrality to criticism of Russia’s actions —- without naming Moscow explicitly [emphasis added]

In a break from its early statements on the crisis, the Indian government is now denouncing violations of international law, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in Ukraine. New Delhi has also condemned the horrific killing of civilians in Bucha and, unusually for India, called for an international inquiry into the atrocity. “All these statements, without naming [Russia], are clearly aimed at indicating unhappiness towards what Russia has done,” explained former Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin. Modi has also spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy twice. Modi is rumored to have signaled India’s opposition to the war in direct conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Bucha killings in particular may have marked a turning point in Indian public opinion. With several Indian reporters in Ukraine broadcasting images of the horrors back home, the Indian press has engaged in unusually lively criticism of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Some have questioned Moscow’s ability to remain a reliable supplier, with Russia’s own military industrial base being drained by the Ukraine conflict. Others are increasingly unnerved by Russia’s deepening embrace of China and Moscow’s neutrality during recent flare-ups at the China-India border.

Arguably the only time Russia has notched a victory in Indian public opinion is when the U.S. government has been perceived as threatening or lecturing India over Ukraine [emphasis added]. A trip to New Delhi by Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh earlier this month ruffled feathers when he was quoted threatening “consequences” for any Indian attempts to evade U.S. sanctions while importing Russian energy.

This month, the White House sought to clear the air. When asked if, during a pre-meeting phone call, Biden had pressured Modi to reduce Russian oil imports, a White House spokeswoman noted Russian energy represents only 1%-2% of total Indian energy imports, adding: “They’re not violating any sanctions by importing oil. It’s a decision we made to stop importing oil. Different countries have their own calculation.”..

In the spectrum of U.S. interests at stake with India, the Indo-Pacific, the Quad, and the China challenge outrank the country’s legacy ties with Russia. There is little merit to creating a rift with New Delhi over a war India opposes and whose outcome it is unable to affect. Rather than sanctioning India for its legacy reliance on Russian military hardware, it is better for the U.S. to show that it is a more reliable and superior alternative as India continues the important but sluggardly process of weaning itself off Russian arms. The April 2+2 was a step forward in the right direction.  

Jeff M. Smith is a Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. The views expressed are the author’s own.

However quite a few Indian remain very suspicious indeed of the US, largely because of its closeness to Pakistan at various times in the past along with continuing memories of Western imperialism–tweets from retired Indian Army brigadier as one example:

Related posts:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Now publicly, US Ambassador Puts Pressure on Canada over NORAD Defence Spending–PM Trudeau Talks about “Crown-Inuit partnership”

Hoo boy! They’ll love that at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom. And that’s with a Democratic administration. As for Congress…

Further to this post in December last year,

NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

now we get this from the American ambassador himself. A pretty direct message to the PM to get his government’s ass in gear and DO SOMETHING FAST. Love his diplomatic confidence but note those “candid conversations, i.e. tough talk from the Yanks. At the CBC:

U.S. ambassador says he’s confident Canada will strengthen its defences in the Arctic

David Cohen says he’s had some ‘candid conversations’ with senior cabinet ministers since December [see post at the start of this one]

Chris Hall · CBC News

America’s top diplomat in Ottawa says he’s been assured Canada will follow through this year on crucial investments to modernize its Arctic defence, even though this month’s budget didn’t include money for that work.

Ambassador David Cohen told CBC’s The House in an interview airing this weekend [see just below] that Canada needs to make Arctic air and maritime defence a national priority. He said he’s made that point in “candid conversations” with senior cabinet ministers since he took up the post in December.

“So I think there’s an acknowledgement that this budget does not include funding for NORAD, for modernizing and improving the northern defence for Canada and for the United States, but that it will be forthcoming during the course of this fiscal year [emphasis added, we’ll see how serious much],” he said…

CBC News: The House 19:15 [audio here] U.S. Ambassador says Canada needs to make Arctic defence a ‘national priority’U.S. Ambassador David Cohen sits down with host Chris Hall to reflect on the state of the Canada-U.S. relationship and next steps on NORAD modernization, Arctic defence and integrated supply chains

Cohen acknowledged during the interview at the U.S. embassy that the budget did include another $8 billion in defence spending. But he said Russia and China’s increasing activity in the North must be countered by a more robust Canadian presence at the top of the world.”The United States has been told, I have been told and other officials in the White House and in Washington have been told that when we discussed the $8 billion increase in defence spending, (we’ve) been told that, remember, that doesn’t even include anything for NORAD modernization [emphasis added],” he said. “That will be an add-on as we continue to review what NORAD requires [this government won’t be eager to add that much soon].”

…the prime minister has been unclear about Canada’s position. Justin Trudeau told reporters this week that security is only one part of his government’s focus in the North. Addressing climate change and promoting economic opportunities for the Inuit are equally important [emphasis added, that sure will thrill the Americans], he said.

“We are in a time of of reflection around how we ensure Canada’s continued sovereignty in the Arctic, and in times past or governments past that would have happened through a military lens,” he said Thursday [April 21] after announcing a new engagement policy with Inuit.

“Can we put more bases in the North? Can we show that we’re ready to defend and control our Arctic? What this policy, and quite frankly, the relationship that we’ve built over the past number of years in the Crown-Inuit partnership [shows] is [that] sovereignty in the North passes through the people who live there and who have lived there for millennia [BLAH, BLAH. BLAH].

A spokesperson for Defence Minister Anita Anand said Arctic defence is a key government priority.

Daniel Minden wrote in an email that the budget did include $252 million over five years in initial military funding [$5O million–Canadian–a year, pathetic peanuts], “with new investments in situational awareness, modernized command and control systems, research and development, and defence capabilities to deter and defeat aerospace threats to this continent.”..

One cannot help but imagine Justin Trudeau as Bambi, frozen in the Americans’ headlights:

Relevant posts:

Canada/US Statement on Way Forward for NORAD–Very Little There There [Aug. 2021]

Here’s Looking at NORAD/NORTHCOM’s Way Ahead, or, Deterrence and Punishment [Dec. 2021]

What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE [March 2022]

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Ukraine, or, the Eagle Dissin’ the Bear

Alternate title:

Fiona Hill (yes, that one in Trump’s NSC) No Fan in Bush Administration of Extending NATO Membership to Ukraine

Dr Hill speaks of American, er, insensitivity towards Russia–excerpts from the start of an article at the NY Times Magazine by Robert Draper that focuses on Trump and Ukraine:

Fiona Hill vividly recalls the first time she stepped into the Oval Office to discuss the thorny subject of Ukraine with the president. It was February of 2008, the last year of George W. Bush’s administration. Hill, then the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia for the National Intelligence Council, was summoned for a strategy session on the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania. Among the matters up for discussion was the possibility of Ukraine and another former Soviet state, Georgia, beginning the process of obtaining NATO membership.

In the Oval Office, Hill recalls, describing a scene that has not been previously reported, she told Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that offering a membership path to Ukraine and Georgia could be problematic. While Bush’s appetite for promoting the spread of democracy had not been dampened by the Iraq war, President Vladimir Putin of Russia viewed NATO with suspicion and was vehemently opposed to neighboring countries joining its ranks. He would regard it as a provocation, which was one reason the United States’ key NATO allies opposed the idea. Cheney took umbrage at Hill’s assessment. “So, you’re telling me you’re opposed to freedom and democracy,” she says he snapped. According to Hill, he abruptly gathered his materials and walked out of the Oval Office.

“He’s just yanking your chain,” she remembers Bush telling her. “Go on with what you were saying.” But the president seemed confident that he could win over the other NATO leaders, saying, “I like it when diplomacy is tough.” Ignoring the advice of Hill and the U.S. intelligence community, Bush announced in Bucharest that “NATO should welcome Georgia and Ukraine into the Membership Action Plan.” Hill’s prediction came true: Several other leaders at the summit objected to Bush’s recommendation. NATO ultimately issued a compromise declaration that would prove unsatisfying to nearly everyone, stating that the two countries “will become members” without specifying how and when they would do so — and still in defiance of Putin’s wishes. (They still have not become members.)

“It was the worst of all possible worlds,” Hill said to me in her austere English accent as she recalled the episode over lunch this March. As one of the foremost experts on Putin and a current unofficial adviser to the Biden administration on the Russia-Ukraine war, Hill, 56, has already made a specialty of issuing warnings about the Russian leader that have gone unheeded by American presidents. As she feared, the carrot dangled by Bush to two countries — each of which gained independence in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and afterward espoused democratic ambitions — did not sit well with Putin. Four months after the 2008 NATO summit, Russian troops crossed the border and launched an attack on the South Ossetia region of Georgia. Though the war lasted only five days, a Russian military presence would continue in nearly 20 percent of Georgia’s territory. And after the West’s weak pushback against his aggression, Putin then set his sights on Ukraine — a sovereign nation that, Putin claimed to Bush at the Bucharest summit, “is not a country.”

Hill would stay on in the same role in the Obama administration for close to a year. Obama’s handling of Putin did not always strike her as judicious…when Obama responded to Putin’s invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian region Crimea a year later by referring to Russia as “a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness,” she winced again. “We said openly, ‘Don’t dis the guy — he’s thin-skinned and quick to take insults,’” Hill said of this counsel to Obama about Putin. “He either didn’t understand the man or willfully ignored the advice.”..

One cannot conclude that, had the US treated Russia more delicately and acted less as a still-triumphant hyperpower (including the policies followed by the Interagency even under Trump), Bad Vlad Putin would not finally have invaded Ukraine anyway. But it is a pity that a different, more diplomatic, US approach was not seriously tried.

Very relevant post

Former US Ambassador to Russia, now CIA Director, Called Out US Policy on Ukraine/NATO when still a Diplomat

And two related tweets:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Angela Merkel: Despite All the Skill and Achievement, Failing to Grasp the Big Putin Picture

Extracts from an article at the New York Review of Books by an exceptional Irish journalist:

The Last of Her Kind

Fintan O’Toole

Angela Merkel emerged from the ruins of the Eastern bloc as a spectacular example of the way the collapse of an old regime might create a much more benign sense of opportunity.

…there is something magical in the way a young woman who had never had a meaningful vote, who had no political experience and no rhetorical skills, could, scarcely more than a year after the fall of the wall, be a full member of the federal cabinet governing the European Union’s most powerful state…

The Chancellor, Kati Marton’s elegant, concise, and accessible biography of Merkel, is a portrait not just of a person but of a kind of centrist and consensual politics that once seemed drab but now has the fascination of an almost extinct species. Merkel made a kind of decency that could be viewed as dull feel almost exotic. Once, it might have seemed in postwar Europe that careful, patient, managerial politicians who wanted nothing more or less than to make things work as well as possible without threatening existing structures were a dime a dozen. Now the fear that hangs over Western and Central Europe is that Merkel was the last of that tribe. She has departed in a cloud not of glory but of anxiety. Putin made sure that Merkel’s era would recede into the past with dizzying rapidity.

…Her father, Horst Kasner, a stern and idealistic Lutheran pastor, moved his family [from Hamburg] to the East just after she was born, settling in the small town of Templin, fifty miles north of Berlin, in 1954…

…Merkel’s entire personality is that of a survivor (rather than a dissident) in a totalitarian state: careful, nonconfrontational, watchful. Her gift for political compromise was that of a girl who learned how to function simultaneously as a loyal believer in her father’s Lutheran Church (an awkward presence in an atheist state) and as a member of the official Communist youth movement. Living in a country with perhaps the most thorough system of official surveillance ever created in Europe, she learned to have an inner life, a secret self that she almost never betrayed, even when she had one of the most public jobs in the world.

…She entered the Western world as an immigrant among “foreign company,” with all the alertness and self-control of the émigré. And she deployed the cold cunning of the supreme political opportunist. This was learned, no doubt, in the GDR, where she developed the habit of steely calculation in order to avoid the dangers of being either an informer or a dissident.

Certainly by the time she entered public life, in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the wall, Merkel had a knack for cool political patricide. Lothar de Maizière, the first and last democratically elected prime minister of the GDR, brought her into high-level politics by making her deputy spokesperson for his government. It was he who recommended Merkel to Kohl, who was then looking for an East German woman to fill the “soft” position of minister for women and youth in the federal government of the newly united state. These were, as de Maizière wryly noted, “two subjects Angela really did not care about at all,” but the position nonetheless made her, at thirty-six, the youngest minister in German history. Yet when de Maizière was falsely accused of having been a Stasi informant, Merkel did nothing to help her mentor. And in 1998, when Kohl was caught up in a scandal concerning illegal donations to his campaigns, it was Merkel who acted as his political assassin. Kohl had patronizingly referred to his protégée as his Mädchen—girl. He learned the hard way that she was a girl with a razor up her sleeve.

The mastery of these weapons made Merkel the most formidable democratic politician in Europe and allowed her to accumulate the authority with which she held the EU together…

…this self-image as a hardheaded pragmatist, concerned only with the pursuit of the best available outcomes, obscured the importance of her heritage as the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. At one of the crucial moments of contemporary European history, she behaved essentially as a religious moralist. Part of the problem was that she never seemed to understand this about herself.

It is, in retrospect, deeply ironic that Merkel was at her most narrowly pragmatic in dealing with Putin and at her most punitive in her approach toward fellow citizens of EU democracies. With Russia, even after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, she was all business, to the extent of believing that depending on Putin for Germany’s supplies of natural gas was just a commonsense calculation of mutual economic interests. Yet in the crisis of the eurozone following the great banking crash of 2008, Merkel treated an economic and political problem as if it were a test of moral righteousness. She threw her weight behind a division of the EU into good creditors (Germany and the other Northern European nations) and bad debtors (the so-called PIIGS: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain). Marton usefully reminds us that in German, the word for debt—Schuld—is the same as that for guilt. Those countries whose banks had borrowed recklessly were guilty; those (like, of course, Germany) whose banks had lent recklessly were innocent. And the sinners must be punished—ordinary citizens of the debtor nations should be made to suffer so they would learn a lesson they would never forget.

This way of defining the crisis suited Germany, but it had nasty consequences for Merkel’s larger ambition to unify Europe. The imposition of drastic austerity measures prolonged and deepened the economic recession. Merkel, meanwhile, did very little to counter the impression that Germany was taking charge and dictating terms…

…the moralization of the debt crisis could also feed, in Germany itself, a self-pitying narrative in which the frugal, responsible Germans were being taken for a ride by the feckless Southern Europeans. This was the founding mentality of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which emerged to challenge Merkel in 2013, and it subsequently fused with anti-immigrant sentiment to create a more virulent form of grievance that propelled the far right into the Bundestag for the first time since the fall of the Nazis.

Hence the larger paradox of the Merkel era: the leadership of a centrist Christian Democrat as the undisputed first among equals in the EU coincided with the loss of Christian Democracy’s dominance of the right-of-center space in European politics. The rise of far-right parties like the AfD, the League in Italy, Poland’s Law and Justice, the National Rally in France, Spain’s Vox, and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz in Hungary has created a profound identity crisis in what used to be the dominant conservative parties, leaving them unsure whether they should fight against what Orbán calls “illiberal democracy” or shore up their own support by embracing it. In a short essay on Merkel’s departure, Orbán claimed that while Kohl had been “a dear, old friend, a Christian brother,” Merkel had created a “rupture” on the European right by supporting the “migratory invasion” of 2015…

The wider question Merkel has left unanswered is whether it is possible, in the new wartime that Putin has inaugurated, for a leader of the democratic world to combine ambition and vision on the one hand with modesty and decency on the other. She mattered so deeply because she had no interest in what has animated Putin and so many of his fellow nationalist authoritarians: the pursuit of greatness. The promise to make Russia (or America or Britain or China) great again has been at the core of reactionary politics over the past decade.

Merkel always knew that Germany, above all, must not be great…

Must, however, the eschewal of greatness involve the loss of any sense of large-scale and long-term purpose? Merkel once described herself as being “as focused and as concentrated as a tightrope walker, only thinking about the next step.” No one walked the high wire as sure-footedly as she did—and even after sixteen years she had not fallen off but chose to dismount gracefully. But that exclusive focus on thinking about the next step also meant that she had little sense of what might await at the end of the rope.

Nowhere was this more true than in her relations with Putin. In the crisis that followed his annexation of Crimea in 2014, Merkel became the West’s Putin whisperer. She spoke to him, according to Marton, thirty-eight times during that crisis and did more than anyone else to create the Minsk accords, which established the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty as a mutually recognized goal. They were a great testament to her skill, tenacity, and selfless care for the lives of those who would be threatened by a wider war. But they barely outlasted her chancellorship.

It has not taken long for Europe to pay Merkel the tribute of becoming painfully aware of both what she achieved and what she left unresolved, of what she meant to the defense of democracy and the fragile condition in which she left it. In The Life of Galileo, her compatriot Bertolt Brecht has the young Andrea sigh, “Unhappy the land that has no heroes!” and Galileo reply, “No. Unhappy the land that needs heroes.” For much of her remarkable career, Merkel was the marvelous exemplar of happily unheroic leadership. Now Western Europe finds itself very unhappily in need not of a swaggering hero, but of someone who can, in a suddenly altered world, fill her silences with urgency and purpose.

Meanwhile on the Macron front:

Earlier posts based on Mr O’Toole are here

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds


Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi, April 2022 Reuters”.)

Alternate title:” Russia vs Ukraine: That Important in the “Asian Century”?’

Further to this March 6 post,

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

a former Indian national security adviser reminds the “West”, the US in particular, that much of what too many self-deluding people call the “international community” has a very different appreciation of events that are currently taking place towards the western part of Eurasia–at Foreign Affairs:

The Fantasy of the Free World

Are Democracies Really United Against Russia?

By Shivshankar Menon

April 4, 2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked outrage and unleashed a barrage of economic sanctions from many Western governments. Some, such as Germany, have boosted their military spending after years of riding on American coattails. In these actions, certain analysts have found a silver lining to the devastation of the war in Ukraine. Writing in Foreign Affairs in March, Michael Beckley and Hal Brands argued that the international reaction to the invasion would reverberate well beyond the current crisis. The concerted response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions could “consolidate a global alliance that unites democracies against Russia and China and thereby secures the free world for a generation to come.” In this view, Russia’s war in Ukraine might be a pivotal episode in a global contest between autocracy and democracy. Chastened by Putin’s gross violation of norms, democracies will band together in a muscular reaffirmation of the liberal international order.

That is wishful thinking. The war is no doubt a seismic event that will have profound consequences for Russia, its immediate neighbors, and the rest of Europe. But it will neither reshape the global order nor presage an ideological showdown of democracies against China and Russia. After all, many of the world’s biggest democracies, including India, have so far not joined the U.S.-led economic campaign against Russia or even explicitly condemned the invasion. Far from consolidating “the free world,” the war has underscored its fundamental incoherence [emphasis added]. In any case, the future of global order will be decided not by wars in Europe but by the contest in Asia, on which events in Ukraine have limited bearing.


Many countries have heaped opprobrium on Russia, but condemnation has not been universal. The varied responses to the war muddle any vision of U.S.-aligned democracies pitted against Russian-aligned autocracies. Several major democracies, notably India and South Africa, abstained from the UN General Assembly vote on March 2 that demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukraine. Big democracies in Latin America, including Brazil and Mexico, have refused to participate in sanctions [emphasis added, see post noted at the start of this one for the UNGA vote]. Close to half of all Asian and African countries abstained or voted against the resolution. And only three Asian countries—Japan, Singapore, and South Korea—have wholeheartedly joined U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia.

Countries in Asia were of course alarmed by the invasion. Stock markets throughout the region fell precipitously following the news of Putin’s gambit. But most commentary in Asian capitals has regarded the conflict as a war between Europeans over the European security order—not an epochal global conflagration [emphasis added]. Yes, the conflict has changed the European security calculus in fundamental ways. Western European countries have scrambled to strengthen their defenses, Germany has announced a process of rearmament, NATO is more unified than ever before, and the transatlantic alliance has been reinvigorated. The unprecedented stringency of the EU and U.S. economic sanctions on Russia is emblematic of this newfound Western unity.

But from an Asian perspective, the war in Ukraine doesn’t augur shifts to come so much as it underlines a shift that has already taken place. The fact that a war is being fought between Europeans on European soil is a reflection of how much global geopolitics has changed since the end of the Cold War [emphasis added]. Before then, when Europe was the central fault line in the superpower contest, no wars were fought in the region; borders stayed frozen, lest any change provoke conflict between two nuclear-armed superpowers. But after the Cold War, conflict in Europe—in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and today in Ukraine—became neither unthinkable nor fraught with the same risks of annihilation or escalation, despite some alarmist panic about these apocalyptic possibilities today. Europe is a sideshow to the main theater of geopolitical drama: Asia.

Today, the center of gravity of the world economy has moved from the Atlantic to east of the Urals. Geopolitical disputes and security dilemmas that could affect the global order are concentrated in maritime Asia [emphasis added]. And the world seeks a new equilibrium to account for China’s rise. The complex political dynamics in Asia don’t lend themselves easily to the kind of stark confrontation underway in Ukraine. Policymakers in Western countries shouldn’t think that their actions on the new frontlines in Europe will shape the contours of a wider struggle to come.


To be sure, the war in Ukraine will have significant second-order effects on countries in Asia—on their economic prospects when it comes to the supply of energy, precious and strategic metals, fertilizers, and grain. The slowdown in the global economy resulting from the spike in oil and gas prices will particularly affect countries in Asia which, by and large, account for almost 60 percent of crude oil imports in the global economy. The resulting rise in energy intensive fertilizer production costs will intensify the pain caused by the withdrawal from the market of Russian and Ukrainian wheat, which accounts for over 25 percent of wheat traded in the world [emphasis added].

China is probably the Asian economy with the greatest economic exposure to Russia, for food, energy, and other products and as a market for Chinese exports. It also counts Ukraine as its third-largest source of imported arms, after Russia and France. So far, China has chosen Russia over Ukraine in its public stances, but its relationship with Russia can in no way compare with or replace China’s economic dependence on the West. China will presumably want to avoid secondary sanctions and may therefore implement U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia where it cannot evade them.

The rest of Asia is considerably less exposed to trade with Russia, and there is little or no Russian investment in South, Southeast, and East Asia. Yes, these countries will experience some turbulence thanks to the war. All South Asian countries, for instance, are net oil importers and are vulnerable to price surges just when their economies are undergoing pandemic-induced inflation and shocks. Most South Asian countries have elections upcoming in the next two years, and their incumbent leaders are likely to make populist decisions in handling the volatility of commodity prices, choosing subsidies, price cuts, and elevated debt over steps that would be more economically sound over the long term.

But the war will not change the fundamental geopolitical dynamic in Asia, unless the United States becomes very distracted from its Indo-Pacific strategy. Many Asian countries, including U.S. allies, are economically bound to China yet rely on the United States for their security. India is one example. Its trade with China has set new records in the last two years despite frosty political relations and a military buildup and clashes along their shared border. At the same time, India’s security and intelligence ties with the United States have increased substantially. Russia, which accounted for 88 percent of Indian arms imports in 2002, saw its share decline to 35 percent by 2020, by when the United States and its allies accounted for 65 percent. India does retain large stocks of legacy Russian platforms, but the trend toward diversification in its arms imports is clear and steady.

This dynamic of multiple affiliations and partnerships is the norm in Asia, and it will complicate any Western framing of a larger confrontation with the autocracies of China and Russia [emphasis added]. India has received a good deal of criticism for its reluctance to speak out against the war in Ukraine. (It also abstained from the February UN Security Council vote condemning the invasion.) U.S. officials have also warned India not to agree to Russian proposals that might help the Kremlin evade the effects of sanctions.

For India, the war has posed a stark and unwelcome choice between the West and Russia, a choice that it has done everything possible to avoid making [emphasis added]. The United States is an essential and indispensable partner in India’s modernization, but Russia remains an important partner for geopolitical and military reasons. Whereas Russia is willing to codevelop and produce sensitive defense technologies such as the BrahMos missile and to share nuclear submarines with India, North America and Europe provide India with access to advanced technologies, markets, and financial and educational systems that Russia cannot match. The United States is an essential partner for India’s maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, including working together under the auspices of the so-called Quad, a partnership that also incorporates Australia and Japan. But India’s interests on the Eurasian continent require working with Russia and Iran now that the United States is no longer militarily present in Afghanistan [emphasis added, something one is sure the US did not figure into the consequences of its Afghan bug-out]. Indian diplomats have therefore chosen to stress the need to find a negotiated way out of war in Ukraine, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has encouraged Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk directly to each other to rapidly end the crisis.

India has subtly expressed its unhappiness with the invasion by reiterating its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. If past experience is a guide, Indian officials will have made their displeasure clear to their Russian counterparts in private. Public opinion in India about the invasion remains divided, although many high-profile public figures have been stronger in their condemnation of the invasion than the government has been . But expecting New Delhi to take a more strident official position against Moscow is unrealistic, and Western criticism and pressure will probably rankle a postcolonial society like India’s [emphasis added–see two tweets at the end of this post by a retired Indian Army brigadier].

As shocked as Western policymakers profess to be by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they might remember that such behavior is neither unprecedented nor representative of a real change in the norms of state behavior in Europe and the world. For one, such a violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity is something that Asia has seen and experienced in the past at the hands of major powers. The long list of outside interventions and invasions (including the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Vietnam War), of ongoing proxy wars and “frozen” conflicts in which casualties mount daily, is proof that major powers are content to pay lip service to norms about sovereignty and territorial conflict even as those norms are repeatedly breached [emphasis added]. Besides, it is hard to think of any powerful state that has not been associated with such acts of commission or omission in living memory. That does not justify Russian actions in Ukraine. But it does suggest that analysts and policymakers should use greater delicacy in how they frame the contest and in the demands they make on Asian and African states.


No matter how long the war in Ukraine lasts, how the West isolates Russia, and how the war’s secondary market effects hit Asian economies, the balance of power in Asia is unlikely to be significantly affected. To be sure, the total collapse of the Russian state would have serious ramifications, but that outcome seems unlikely for now. In Asia, the war will not close the gap in military strength between, on the one hand, the United States and China and, on the other, the large number of middle and subregional powers in Asia. The latter will still have to negotiate between the sole superpower and China. Nor does it seem likely that a newly consolidated Western alliance, however invigorated, will find the energy to take an active or meaningful role in security dilemmas in Asia so long as it is preoccupied with containing Russia in Europe.

Instead of consolidation, the war in Ukraine seems likely to lead to greater fragmentation of the global order. It has reinforced the urge to build strategic autonomy in Europe as European countries begin to take a greater share in their own defense rather than rely to such an extent on the United States. It has also reinforced Asia’s sense of its own difference—its focus on stability, trade, and the bottom line that has served Asian countries so well in the last 40 years. The war will likely challenge economies that are already reeling from the pandemic and the retreat from globalization over the last decade. The combined economic and political effects of the war are likely to persuade Asian countries to embrace greater self-reliance, a trend already engendered by the pandemic.

But Russia’s invasion does not draw a line in the sand between the allies of the free world and its foes. A global Manichaean struggle is not in the offing [emphasis added]. Those observers hoping for a conflict of that scope to arise from the rubble of Mariupol and Kharkiv will be disappointed.

SHIVSHANKAR MENON is a former diplomat who served as National Security Adviser to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2010 to 2014. He is currently Visiting Professor of International Relations at Ashoka University.

More By Shivshankar Menon

The article by Mr Menon should be required reading in the foreign ministries and chanceries of the West. A very relevant recent post:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

And one from March 2014 just after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea:

How’s That “International Community” Cant Working Out, Obama, Harper et al.? Part 2

Now those tweets:



Plus a tweet by a retired Indian Navy commodore:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

From Foreign Policy’s “Morning Brief”:

Foreign Policy’s flagship daily newsletter with what’s coming up around the world today. Delivered weekdays.

India Makes the Most of the Great-Power Bidding War

India’s neutral stance on Ukraine means Washington, Moscow, and Beijing are all courting New Delhi.

By Colm Quinn, the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.

Lavrov Visits New Delhi

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov begins a two-day visit to New Delhi today [March 31] as he seeks to keep India close amid a Western blockade of Russia’s economy. Lavrov’s visit comes the day after he met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in the Chinese city of Tunxi. Today’s trip is just the third outside the country for Lavrov since Russia launched its war in Ukraine.

Lavrov’s visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic courtship for New Delhi: British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives the same day as Lavrov, while in the last seven days, the country has played host to representatives from Mexico, Germany, and Greece—as well as a surprise visit from China’s Wang.

India’s neutral position on Ukraine has helped undermine the Biden administration’s efforts to unite the world in condemnation of Russia’s invasion [see this post March 6 on UN General Assembly vote: “Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine, and it means that economic sanctions have largely come from only Western countries and U.S. allies Japan and South Korea. (FP’s Colum Lynch explored why the rest of the world has largely stayed on the sidelines in an in-depth report on Wednesday).

The United States has kept up its persuasion campaign, dispatching Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland to India last week, and following up by sending Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh this week [emphasis added, see “UPPERDATE” for latter]. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar over the phone on Wednesday [March 30].

If the Indian media’s reaction is any indication, there’s little domestic pressure for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to change its current tack [emphasis added]. As Gerry Shih explores in the Washington Post, India’s popular talk shows and magazines have been mostly filled with “fire and fury directed toward the United States, portrayed as the culprit and instigator of yet another international conflagration.”

Michael Kugelman, an Asia expert at the Wilson Center and author of FP’s South Asia Brief, told me that even though it’s not surprising that India has taken this neutral stance, its considerably more of a gamble today considering the increased ties India has forged with Western nations.

And although historical ties with Russia dating back to the Soviet era go a long way in explaining India’s position, Kugelman said more pragmatic concerns are behind its current stance. “It really comes down to the issue of arms,” Kugelman said. “Up to 85 percent of its arms come from Russia, and that’s important not just because of the disproportionate level of dependence, but also the fact that India perceives immediate security threats emanating from both of its rivals, China and Pakistan, and Russian arms are used to help strengthen India’s capacity to deter those threats [emphasis added, yep].”

India also knows that it can continue a neutral position on Russia because it’s such a key part of U.S. strategy on China. “Washington views India as one of its biggest strategic bets in Asia when it comes to countering the China threat,” Kugelman said. “That gives India leverage.”

Still, that leeway when it comes Russia may only go so far. Reports of Indian purchases of discounted Russian oil and gas put it on a collision course with the West and may in the end undermine its own security. “I would argue that anything that India does that does not discourage Russia from winding down this war is very dangerous for India’s own interests, just because the longer the war plays out, the more likely that Russia will get closer to China, and the last thing India wants is for its biggest strategic rival to enjoy more leverage over Russia,” Kugelman said.

China is trying to upend that dynamic by attempting to coax India into an anti-Western fold, with Wang ’s unannounced visit last week highlighting a fresh attempt to pull India away from the West. As C. Raja Mohan wrote in Foreign Policy on Wednesday, that gambit is unlikely to work out, but it won’t prevent India from enjoying the bidding war.

“Far from being in an unenviable bind, New Delhi now looks well placed to leverage its position in the middle for its own benefit in the short and long term,” Mohan writes. “From Russia, India is getting discounted oil, fertilizer, and other commodities as Moscow desperately seeks new buyers. From China, India is looking to extract an easing of the Sino-Indian military confrontation in the Himalayas. With the United States and other Western partners, India is looking to modernize its defense industrial base and reduce its dependence on Russian military supplies.”

Mr Kugelman does not quite seem to grasp the strength of the intent of a great number of Indians to maintain. with pride, true independence– working with the West as it suits Indian national interest but never becoming overly reliant on it–especially not on a United States that is viewed, correctly, as unreliable

A relevant tweet from a retired Indian Navy commodore:

Dr. S. Jaishankar is the Indian Minister of External Affairs (India has kept that name for its foreign ministry; pity that Canada has long since abandoned it, along with much else long a part of our history –we now have, gag, Global Affairs Canada thanks to PM Trudeau’s government

As for President Biden’s rather condescending “shaky” remark, not exactly going down well in India (probably another of his unfortunate “unscripted” remarks), here’s an Indian opinion piece:

It’s Biden’s US that’s shaky, not India — from China to Afghanistan

Seshadri Chari 25 March

Plus a story today in the Times of India:

US criticises India on Russia talks as Lavrov visits Delhi

UPDATE: More from Commodore (ret’d) Vengalil:

UPPERDATE: Plus from the commodore (ret’d), “Dy NSA” is the deputy national security advisor noted above:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds