The Financial Express

Vladimir Putin warns of 'all against all'

| Updated: November 25, 2021 20:12:06

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of Russia Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of Russia

Seventy-six years have already elapsed since the end of the WW-II. It was the second devastating war having direct and indirect impacts all over the world. Except people in the deep forests and remote islands, few were spared the heat of the 1939-1945 war. The perpetrators of the war were Germany, Italy and Japan belonging to the Axis power coalition. The Allied coalition consisted chiefly of Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States and China. Currently, the world more or less is free of deadly wars. The West vs. Soviet bloc Cold War that broke out insidiously in the 1950s, and simmered for three decades has also petered out in the early 1990s. It occurred shortly after the crumbling of the erstwhile Soviet Union (the USSR).

New military, quasi-military and economic giants have entered the often desperate race to emerge as powers; many of them were later recognised as superpowers. The club comprising the superpowers was the one composed of the five members in the war-time Allied power coalition --- Great Britain, the US, Russia, China and France. The economically and militarily powerful   nations today include a number of countries in all the continents. Notable among them are Australia, Iran, North Korea, Singapore, Canada, India, Israel etc. Despite the formation of newer economic and military alliances, some of the countries are often found locked in border disputes and economic hostilities with each other. They have also been found being at war and invading each other's territories. On the other hand, amid a 3-pronged face-off, China being the last to join, the US, the Russian Federation (the large leftover of the former Soviet Union) and the Asian giant China continue to be engaged in a mostly hidden completion of an arms race. All the three are recognised nuclear powers. With many old treaties, pacts etc long frayed, newer strategic friendship bonds are being formed.

Against this fraught global atmosphere, the recent words of warning uttered by the Russian President Vladimir Putin warrant special attention. These cautionary signals, in total two in close proximity, carry enough potential for making many worried in different parts of the world. Both the cautionary messages underline the leitmotif lately chosen by the Russian President --- the world at present is engaged in a fight of `all against all'. He said it at the World Economic Forum in last January. He added that the Covid-19 pandemic had "exacerbated the preexisting imbalances and tensions". In mid-November, the Russian President caustically said the West was taking too lightly the Russian warnings not to cross its 'red lines'. He accused NATO of destroying all the mechanisms for dialogue with Moscow. The Russian President's cautionary words were interpreted by many as being prophylactic. According to others, the president had obliquely said the world was careening towards another World War. Current affairs experts have taken the warnings seriously. To speak in a nutshell, something has gone awfully wrong with the global balance of power. Of the total of 31 countries possessing ballistic missiles now, nine have cruise missiles or those fitted with nuclear warheads. All this is open secret. So is the information that many rogue nations keep resorting to clandestine tests of their nuclear arsenal including long-range missiles.

Russia's unpredictable as well as lukewarm relations with some major powers, especially the present uncomfortable US-Russia relations and its highly strained ties with Ukraine make it feel edgy. The Ukraine episode, veritably a stalemate, with backing from a few Western countries, and the often cold and often warm relations with Mao' China --- now fast emerging as an economic power, is a potential cause of concern. Those days have long gone when China would look to the socialist Russia in its build-up on the Marxist ideology, despite its preference to call its socialist system home-grown.

The distressing fallout of the Russian Federation's invasion of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine in 2014, and the following deadlock, has made Russia's ties with its former socialist neighbours, now part of CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) , filled with premonitions. The most glaring case of the fallout in this regard could be that of Poland. Its deterioration of ties with Belarus, a close and friendly neighbour of Russia, over sheltering the Mid-Eastern and a few Mexican migrants is set to end up being another impasse. Though not pronounced, the former superpower of the Cold War times is still viewed by its smaller neighbours with suspicion. Russia is also besieged with bad blood in its relations with a few Asian and European countries.            

People aware of the fast development of high-tech war machines, especially the nuclear ones, in the war-savvy blocs know well what it means to see an outbreak of the World War-III. That the future global wars in all likelihood, as observers feel, will spiral out of conventional confines of weaponry is axiomatic. The wars could be all nuclear, aided by AI dictated robotic adversaries. Moreover, a future global war may take much less time to reach a decisive result. A global Armageddon or an apocalypse --- whatever it is called by the war historians, it will suck the whole modern civilisation into it. The WW-I (1914-1918) took four years to end. The Second World War started in 1939, with the lightning invasion of Poland by the Nazi Germany. After a 6-year demonstration of ruthless killings and ethnic barbarity around the world, especially the Holocaust, the WW-II ended with the dropping of the world's first two atomic bombs on Japan's Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The year was 1945. The ruthless Axis power on the Pacific Front --- Japan, had already conceded defeat to the Allied forces.

 The tallies of the last 76 years have long shown the 'positive' and 'negative' results of the 2nd World War. The results show the deaths and destructions of the war far outweigh the gains. Coming to the positive aspects of the war, lots of people readily point to the independence of a number of territories subjugated by the colonial powers, especially Britain and France. Those 'feel-good' chapters did not take much time to fizzle out.

The repeated sounding of alarm by Vladimir Putin over a global war cannot be taken lightly. Unlike the presidents and prime ministers of the USA, France and the UK, the Russian head of state has yet to allow any presidential hopeful to rise in his country. Being the head of the formidable FSB, the Soviet police force linked to KGB, he carries the legacy of the one-man or one-party rule. In the post-Soviet open and democratic era, the Russian President is not prepared to face an opponent. It simply means he is ensconced in his seat of absolute power. This, however, helps in the consolidation of the Russian Federation, and, of course, Putin's unassailability in his country. Among the fears that had dogged the USA in the late 1990s and the early 21st century were the fallout of Iraq War, the Afghan entanglement and the feud with Iran over its suspected nuclear tests. Sordidly speaking, the US had to pay dearly for these blatant interventions as it saw its signature installations of the Twin Towers crumble down on being hit by two passenger aircraft.

To the relief of post-Soviet Russia, it enjoyed the benefit of having a clean chit. Even its archenemies could not link it remotely to the Twin Tower assault. Then what is galling Russia in 2021? Does it dread a confrontation with the reorganised global militants having links to the now-dormant Chechnya-based Islamists? President Biden will not opt for a war in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic. The US is engaged in a trade war with China. Its Gulf connection has long been over. Coming to Russia, could it be a hollow warning, or a reminder for the major powers that Russia hasn't left the global theatre?


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