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The so-called proud democratic western powers, which have been ruthlessly after Russian President Vladimir Putin since his annexation of Ukraine administered the Crimean peninsula with the Russian Federation in 2014 and later on have invigorated the same approach towards him since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, should introspect what they have gained by ousting dictators without having a suitable alternative arrangement.

While at the same time, the west has supported some well-known and well-documented tyrants elsewhere for (point to be noted) their own vested interests. It is a different matter of how history will judge the western powers’ intervention in the present Russia-Ukraine conflict. They have also gone to the extent of branding Putin a murderous dictator’ and ‘pure thug’, and allegedly working to oust him from power.

The western media during the early month of the war propagated that Putin was severely sick, not meeting visitors in close proximity, etc., etc. All this news is found to be fake now. Readers should not think that this piece article is backing dictators and their rules and in this particular case Putin for what he does to democracy in Russia and what his army is doing in Ukraine amidst conflicting footage of news and facts. 

If Putin is a dictator and human right violator who strangulated the democratic aspiration of Russians and waged war against a tiny neighbour, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in comparison is no less brutal in his own country going by the reports of London-based Amnesty International – 2021, US-based Foreign Policy Focus -2021, etc. As per these reports, since Ukraine has become independent, its security forces have been highly brutal against its own citizens as well as Russian-speaking populations in the Donbas region contiguous to Russian territory on the northern shore of the economically and militarily strategic Black Sea and in the Crimean peninsula.

Here, the western powers should not forget that it is as per their alleged instigation, the Ukrainian government resisted renewing -as per their post-Soviet Union mutual agreements- the rental occupation by Russia of its strategically very significant Soviet Union era ‘The Black Sea Fleet’ base in Sevastopol in Crimean peninsula. This peninsula was an integral part of Russia before 1954. It was made a part of Ukraine by the then President of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev through a presidential decree for administrative convenience. And the violation of all the agreements that the western power had with Russia post-Berlin Wall dismantled in 1989 gave enough scope to the Kremlin to suspect the ill intention of NATO towards the territorial integrity of the world’s largest country in so far as a geographical area concerned. It is needless to remind that America-led western democratic countries’ military alliance NATO was formed to protect the Soviet Union-led socialist countries’ military alliance Warsaw Pact’s westward expansion in Europe during Cold War. After Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union fall, is NATO continuation justified? And, in the worst-case scenario, is NATO expansion to the barking distances of the Russian Federation justified?

Apart from the above, the most outstanding aspects that western leadership and strategic thinkers surprisingly have ignored are

1. The post-chaotic disintegration of the Soviet Union is Vladimir Putin, who has given stable leadership to the country with 11% of the world land mass spread over Europe’s 40% and Asia’s 45% geographical area with a highly ethnically diverse population while possessing the world’s highest numbers of dreaded N-bombs and is a commodity superpower, for more than two decades.

2. Due to the Russia-led security alliance under Putin’s leadership, the most volatile Central Asia Region (CAR) with six Muslim-majority countries, equally rich with huge minerals including sensitive Uranium is relatively peaceful. These countries are contiguous to the People’s Republic of China(PRC), which has during the last few years openly exhibited its uncompromising revisionist mindset under its present belligerent Paramount Leader Xi Jinping, who has been building a fighting machine to win the war anywhere in the world by its centenary year 2049 but resource hungry.

3. Despite Russia-Putin security watch over CAR, Chinese large infrastructure investments under her flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are being implemented in the region on a war footing. In the given situation, should Russia be cornered strategically and economically facilitating it for its potential and threatening to land on the lap of PRC, rich with more than $3trillion foreign exchange reserve and is led by a dictator who packed his inner power circle with his diehard loyalists and wishes to conquer the world?

4. Despite inheriting the Soviet era’s large and huge conventional and nuclear arsenal and being the world’s commodity powerhouse, the longest-serving Russian Federation ruler V. Putin has never shown Xi Jinping’s revisionist power mindset. What he has been indulged in so far is limited to retaining the territorial integrity of the Soviet Federation as has been done by the rulers of other countries as they are responsible and accountable to their constituencies.

5. And last but not least is Putin’s contribution to suppressing the dreaded Islamic extremism in Chechnya. As a visionary, he did not open the door of Russia to millions of Arab migrants, who migrated with hidden agenda to spread radical Wahabi Islamic ideology worldwide with the excuse of having been victims of internal displacement due to civil war in the mid-2010s like Europe did and now suffering as its own long silenced extremist forces started gaining ground as retribution.

Here, it is required to remind the western leadership and strategists that dictator Saddam Hussein, a leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, ruled as the fifth President of Iraq from 1979 to 2003. He had given unprecedented political stability to his country inhabited by Muslim religion’s two significant fractions such as Shias and Sunnis and the ethnic minority Kurdish who in fact have been at loggerheads among them for the country’s political supremacy for generations. But, he was forcibly ousted from power by the western powers with never proven allegations of he was building weapons of mass destruction(WMD) and having ties with the dreaded Islamic terror outfit al-Qaeda. As a result, a vacuum was created which facilitated an extremist Islamic movement called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), so far the most deadly, and in lightning speed spread to the entire northern territory of Iraq and entire Syria but Damascus. Though over several years of fights by Iraqi and Syrian forces, the movement has been widely suppressed in the Arab region, it has not yet been completely removed. In the meanwhile, it has been spread over to several parts of the world and wherever this virus resurfaces, it causes huge loss of human lives and property.

There was an attempt to oust Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad during Arad Spring in the early 2010s like the same was there in Libya which ousted dictator, Col. M. Gaddafi. It is in fact true that the western social media facilitated Arab Spring had been successful in removing several monstrous dictators in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). But, the fire that was ignited in Libya a decade back is yet to be doused. And if Syria’s Assad was ousted, thanks Russia-Iran combined support that saved Assad, alleged Turkey-backed ISIS could not have allowed whatever peace is there in Syria-Iraq now converting the region into another factory of terror manufacturing as seen in Afghan-Pakistan. In the latter case, history has noted America’s dirty involvement. 

In view of the above points raised in this deliberation, it is strongly advocated to see the reasons in Putin’s strategic wisdom. Agree that he has strangulated democracy, is a dictator, and so his works may not be justified. Is the western poster boy Zelensky any less? But, any attempt to weaken Putin and his ruled country may lead to either dangerous expansion of PRC or Islamic extremism into sensitive CAR with porous borders. Do the western leaders have any solution for the above-listed eventualities? I don’t think so. If they had, they would not have allowed Afghanistan’s handover to the Taliban in the vicinity of CAR. Note: now Islamic extremist group Taliban is fighting with the dreaded ISIS for survival. Who knows ISIS won’t be tomorrow’s Afghanistan ruler? In such an eventuality, imagine what could be the situation in the rest of the world; forget about hapless and poor South and Central Asia?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

Title image courtesy: Atlantic Council

By Bimal Prasad Mohapatra

Bimal Prasad Mohapatra, an academician, novelist, and columnist is a post-graduate in Journalism and Mass Communication and Master of Business Administration. His first novel “Travails of LOVE” published by Partridge Publishing in 2013 and his second novel “Bimal’s ANAND MATH” published in 2021 by Notion Press. He writes columns on Geopolitics, International Relations, Media, National Socio-Political-Cultural-Educational issues for DRaS, The Kootneeti, Orissa Post, MyVoice.OpIndia, The Diplomatists, The Avenue Mail, Delhi Post, Outlook Afghanistan, The Manila Times, Eduvoice, Imphal Free Press, etc. Presently, he is a Senior Research Fellow in Think Tank Defense Research and Studies (DRaS) and teaching as Assistant Professor of Management Studies (Marketing, Entrepreneurship Development, etc.) in Trident Group of Institutions, Bhubaneswar. Apart from writing novels and columns, he also participates in University level Panel Discussions. Prior to joining academia, he worked in corporate firms for a decade in New Delhi and other cities in India, and another one and half decades in institution administration before finally joining teaching as Assistant Professor a decade back.