A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of war with Russia. Russian warnings and subsequent proposals on security guarantees to the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) don’t seem to have been taken seriously. Things have come to head as Konstantin Gavrilov, head of the Russian delegation to Vienna on Military Security and Arms Control has warned of a “military response”.
Russia has not shied away from responding militarily. It intervened in Ukraine in 2014 when a popular referendum in Crimea voted for merging with Russia and before that in 2008 when Georgia attacked the breakaway pro-Russian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. That then National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon backed the “legitimate Russian interests” and drew Putin’s gratitude for “taking a restrained and objective” position, bore India’s correct reading of the situation. Neither will another endorsement of the Russian position today affect India and Ukraine’s limited defence ties. India sources marine engines for its warships from Zorya, or parts and upgrades for its Antonov An-32 medium lift transport fleet. Ukrainian government defence exporter Ukroboronprom actively participates in defence expos in India.
The US’s need for a semblance of stability in Eastern Europe by calling for Ukraine too to adhere the Minsk Agreements – which provides for negotiations with the breakaway pro-Russian Peoples Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been refusing – is also accompanied by a need to keep testing Russia’s red lines and keep the sway of European politics in the West’s favour.
The dubiousness of both the American and NATO role should be evident from the antecedents of governments themselves that the two back against Moscow. Zelensky’s anti-Russian resistance has been found to have neo-Nazi and rabidly anti-Semitic factions, with ties to the Azov Battalion and OUN-B groups, which had participated in anti-Jewish pogroms alongside the Wehrmacht. Georgia’s 2008 President Mikheil Saakashvili’s anti-Russian bombast had forced President George W. Bush and his National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to ask him to pipe it down and take off any US military intervention on his behalf.