Ukraine again

Vladimir Putin is obviously bent on getting Ukraine dancing to his tunes after a 30-year lapse when, like other former USSR constituents, this province too got separated into an independent entity with a professed pro-US tilt and strong backing from the West. His slogan vis-à-vis Ukraine is “One people, a single whole,” meaning it ought to be with Russia. The US suspects an attempt at annexation of Ukraine by Russia after it moved over one lakh of troops, military weapons, rocket launchers and missile systems to the border.
President Joe Biden warns that his military will challenge Russia. The scenario is perceived to be the worst since the end of the Cold War, a season of relative peace. Biden is threatening Putin with the largest offensive since WW-II if Russia opts for a military confrontation. The eastern Donbas region of Ukraine along the Russian border is where the heat will be felt first and worst also because pro-Russian militants are active there. NATO forces have moved in there in anticipation of a Russian offensive. Putin had targeted Ukraine seven years ago when he took control of its Crimean peninsula, but the resistance to this aggression continued in the form of a localized war for years. What comes as a dampener to Putin’s plans on Ukraine now is a threat from the West, principally the US, that any aggression would involve a huge economic cost to Russia. More specifically the threat is that the nearly 800-km-long newly erected Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline meant to take gas from Russia to Germany will be bombed. Germany already gets half of its energy requirements from Russia via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline as per an existing pact. Alternatively, Germany could look to the Gulf for gas.
A confident Putin says Russia’s further response would be based on the US response to its main demand that Ukraine should not be included in the NATO military force of the US and its allies. Notably, Putin gave strong leadership to Russia for the past 22 years. This stability contrasts with democracies, including India, which should necessarily see a change of government every five years. In China too, the Communist Party is having uninterrupted control of the governance, facilitating vision and long-term planning. By contrast, the policies pursued by successive US presidents, drawn from Democrats and Republicans, have their ups and downs. The US is no more a “rising” power. The UK is also seeing frequent change of prime ministers, though Germany under Angela Merkel had a season of stability and growth. For now, Ukraine will pose new challenges to the western world.

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