To my mind, Sisci’s remarks are essentially as to how he would have handled the precipitate situation arising out of the US-sponsored coup in Ukraine last February. It is perfectly understandable. Sisci also doesn’t share Russia’s historical memory and collective consciousness about the waves of invasions it faced from the west. Ukraine played a particularly poignant role in World War II. So, Sisci’s reaction is bound to be at variance with President Putin’s.

Then, there is the assumption that Putin approached China “to save Russia”. Maybe, that is the perspective one tends to get from Beijing (which is of course one of the centres of the world), but it is vastly overblown when viewed from Delhi. Russia has seen the Ukraine crisis all along, quintessentially, as a matter between it and the West.

Besides, Russia’s relations with China are not of a kind that they can be regarded as ‘allies’. Both sides openly say it is a pragmatic relationship (which it is, literally.) That is to say, they have a back-to-back understanding — ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ — when it comes to humbling the US.

Take China’s tensions with Japan; Russia and and China’s disquiet over the deployment of US missile defence system; China’s stance on Syria; Russia’s ties with Vietnam — there is a pattern in the pragmatic cooperation.

Russia has learnt from the Afghan experience and a direct Russian intervention in Ukraine is not in Moscow’s consideration zone. The real Russian intentions do not include territorial ambition, either. Also, after what the US did in Georgia and the Baltics, what option would Russia have but to dig in? Ukraine is Russia’s Maginot Line.

Equally, let us cut through the propaganda on oil price and try to understand that Russia can find its way through an year or two while Saudis keep the oil price low largely to push the US shale industry out of business. The Russian economy, unlike the Soviet economy, is globalized and Tuesday’s gas deal with Hungary tells a story by itself.

Finally, Obama. I think Obama is slowly retreating from Ukraine, sensing that the maximum dividends have been derived, and from now onward the law of diminishing returns would be at work. He understands that Europe is just about to throw up, it can’t take anymore all that the US has been shoving down its throat over Ukraine.

M.K. Bhadrakumar

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat who served for more than 29 years as an Indian Foreign Service officer with postings including India’s ambassador to Turkey and Uzbekistan.

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