India has undoubtedly grown stronger as a result of the Russian military operation, which has resulted in an economic catastrophe. But the Russian military operation in Ukraine was a necessity, says ex-Indian diplomat.
On February 24, Russia commenced a special military operation in Ukraine. There’s been multiple sessions of discussions between Russia and Ukraine ever since, but no substantial outcomes have been achieved. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kiev’s latest draft peace accord differed significantly from the plans presented at the recent Istanbul discussions.
J.K. Tripathi is a former member of the Indian Foreign Service. He has worked as India’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, the consul general of India in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in the Sultanate of Oman, the deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in Venezuela, and the deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in Sweden.
J.K. Tripathi examined several elements of the Russian military action in Ukraine and its influence on the global geopolitical environment in a conversation with the media.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on Russia’s special military mission in Ukraine?
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J.K. Tripathi: Because of the burden inflicted on Russia by NATO countries, I believe Russia’s military intervention was a requirement, rather than a compulsion. When the Soviet Union fell apart, there was no reason for NATO to function or continue to exist. Although Russia did not resist, it was resolved that NATO would not expand to the east during a summit between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Despite the fact that it was not written on paper, verbal reassurance was provided.
Even US Secretary of State James Baker has warned unequivocally that NATO will not be permitted to advance even an inch eastward. Despite later retracting his claim, the US ambassador to the USSR at the time supported Baker’s claim. The then-German foreign minister, as well as the then-French foreign minister, backed this up. Over all of this, NATO continued to expand eastward despite Russian protests and security concerns.
So, what transpired in the first decade of the new millennium? When Putin addressed a security conference in Europe, he playfully asked Bill Clinton whether Russia could enter NATO, to which Clinton replied [“Why not?”]; nonetheless, the US delegation was highly concerned that if Russia joined NATO, US dominance might cease.
Manfred Worner, then-Secretary General of NATO, said in 1990 that the notion that [NATO] is willing to keep its force off of German soil provides the Soviet Union with a clear security assurance. They continued to move east, despite all of the claims and assurances.
As a result, it was a make-or-break [situation] for Russia when it was announced that Ukraine will be admitted to NATO in the close future. That’s why Russia had no choice but to begin the operation.
Interviewer: Do you believe the media coverage of the crisis is skewed, with the Western media portraying Ukraine as the victim and Russia as the antagonist?
J.K. Tripathi: I completely agree that the media coverage has been completely skewed. As you can see, there has been no news from Russia for the first 10-15 days after the military operation began. Every [piece of] news spreading on the Internet was sourced from Western media and was loaded with falsehoods.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been quoted numerous times as asserting that Ukraine had destroyed a large number of Russian fighter jets, aircraft, and tanks, as well as killed a large number of Russian soldiers. But I’m still not sure why, given that they allege to have caught 15,000 Russian soldiers alive and damaged more than 50 tanks and eight fighter jets every day in the first 10-15 days. This is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Apart from that, they have claimed that rockets have destroyed and shelled buildings. The buildings would have been destroyed if missiles had been fired at them. It is important to remember that the attacks were aimed specifically at structures where the Ukrainian army was stationed. The Ukrainian army was endangering civilians, but the Russian government was accused of targeting civilian businesses by the media. So it was all information warfare in Ukraine’s favor.
Interviewer: How do you believe Russia will handle with the economic issues now that there are so many sanctions in place?
J.K. Tripathi: I do not believe there will be many issues because Putin has been misinterpreted. They assumed he was gullible and would bow to the pressure. They did not realize, however, that as a long-serving KGB [foreign intelligence officer], he is mentally formidable.
When the Crimea operation ended in 2014, Russia launched its new system SPFS [ed. a Russian variant of the SWIFT financial transfer system]. As a result, Russia started to migrate away from the SWIFT system and toward its own SPFS platform at that time.
Aside from that, Russia joined the Chinese CIPS system, which is the counterpart of SWIFT. In addition, Russia has carefully moved the majority of its gold holdings from the West to Russia and other friendly nations in recent years.
When the ruble fell, there was a lot of uproar, but it has since rebounded significantly. As a result, the sanctions against Russia have been ineffective, which is causing rising discontent in NATO.
Interviewer: The crisis has provided a major economic challenge for countries around the world, with crude oil prices skyrocketing. What kind of effect would this have on India’s economy?
J.K. Tripathi: There will undoubtedly be an effect on the Indian economy, and we are already witnessing huge increases in oil prices. The majority of our oil comes from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, with some from Nigeria and Russia. Because of the restrictions put on Iran, we are unable to purchase its oil. Apart from that, we are now importing oil from Venezuela, which was previously sanctioned.
Despite US pressure, we are purchasing oil from Russia because we have stated explicitly that it is a requirement for us, and [Washington] has acknowledged this. The US is now attempting to back out by claiming that we should not import oil in unusually huge volumes. This is only a ruse to save face.
Attempts are being taken to stabilize the economic issues by restarting the rupee-ruble commerce so that we do not have to use the SWIFT payment system, which implies we will indeed be able to purchase oil in large quantities as well.
Interviewer: How do you anticipate the world’s geopolitical position will change as a result of this conflict?
J.K. Tripathi: Russia began this military campaign with four goals, and the majority of those goals have been met. Russia has stated that Ukraine will not join NATO, that Ukraine will demilitarize, that Ukraine will recognize Crimea as Russian territory, and that Ukraine will recognize Donetsk and Lugansk as separate states. The majority of the goals have been met. As a result, I believe that this military operation will finish in favor of Russia.
In terms of the overall conclusion of this military campaign, I believe Russia will be weakened, since economic sanctions, no matter how severe they are, and whatever measures Russia takes to fight them, will come at a price to Russia. This military campaign will have a negative impact on the Russian economy. Although the extent of the effects is unknown, it will have an effect.
Apart from that, NATO will get weaker as a result of its disrepute. Because China is not actively backing the operation and is playing it safe, it stands to earn a lot from it now. Also, in my opinion, the United States will suffer greatly as a result of Joe Biden’s reputation dwindling. Despite Zelensky’s continuous pleas for NATO forces to be sent, the United States did not send any because its population will not let any of their men to die in a foreign place, which is why the US withdrew its military from Afghanistan.
Interviewer: Ukraine has already requested that India engage in the issue, as well as several other leaders have also requested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi arbitrate between Moscow and Kiev. Do you believe India’s status is improving?
J.K. Tripathi: India has undoubtedly grown stronger as a result of the military operation, which has resulted in an economic catastrophe. The rationale for this is that India has defied Western and American pressure on oil imports and backing for Russia.
India has established itself as a country that is continuously preaching and campaigning for peace and refusing the use of force when it is not required.
Both parties must agree to mediate in order for it to take place. India has been asked to mediate by Ukraine, but Russia has not openly asked India to do so. As a result, India will not do so.
The rationale for this is that India has upheld a policy of bilateral issues between two countries being settled by the two countries themselves, with no intervention from a third party. Remember that [former US President Donald] Trump attempted to mediate on multiple occasions, but India flatly refused. As a result, India will not intervene in the matter out of the blue in such a circumstance.
The strength of India’s stance can be explained by the reality that, while being a NATO member, Turkey is subject to penalties for purchasing Russia’s S-400 [air defense system], whereas India is not. This can also be understood as a strategic and economic position in which not only Russia, but also the United States, require our assistance in Asia.
Interviewer: For the past 75 years, India and Russia have had a strong friendship. What influence do you think India’s impartial attitude on the crisis will have on both nations’ relations?
J.K. Tripathi: India’s affinity with Russia dates back not only 75 years, but also to India’s pre-independence period. During India’s early years of independence, it encountered numerous challenges, and Russia, not the United States, stepped in to assist us.
During the 1950s, we tried to approach the US for assistance, and they started asking about terms and conditions and all that, however when Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the then-ambassador to the Soviet Union, propositioned the leadership, they promptly started asking him for the amount of wheat considered necessary and the port where the ships could be rushed.
Although he requested that the terms and conditions and prices be discussed, the Russian leadership declined and indicated that it could be done later because wheat was the current requirement. As a result, India values its connection with Russia.
Besides that, Russia has been a staunch ally of ours in various conflicts with Pakistan and China. However, it has taken a neutral attitude in recent confrontations with China, but this does not indicate that Russia has deserted us. The two countries’ connection is still solid.