Understanding The Great Game in Ukraine

Seshadri Kumar
65 min readMar 28, 2022


Nothing is what it seems in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that has roiled the world in the last month. On the surface of it, this appears to be, especially as portrayed in Western media, a land grab by an authoritarian megalomaniac Russian dictator who is intent on recreating a Russian empire of times past. But the truth is far more complex than this simplistic picture that has been presented for popular consumption in Western media.

Detailed analysis of the various factors involved in the build-up to this war, presented here, reveal that everything that has happened in this affair, over a period of 14 long years, has been scripted. Both Ukraine and Russia are merely pawns in a giant, 26-year-old geopolitical game played by the US and NATO, with the natural resources of both Ukraine and Russia as its targets. How this game will end will depend on how the other key players in the game: China, India, and the Global South, play their parts.

International relations are never about right and wrong. They are about what is possible and what is not, because we live in an anarchic world with no central law enforcer. All countries must therefore be careful and understand the consequences of their actions and, especially, the actions of Great Powers that affect all of us. In this essay, I also explain exactly what those consequences are, and how various countries in the world need to prepare for what is coming in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The War in Ukraine started on 24 February 2022, and has been going on for just over a month. The human suffering has been extreme, and the plight of those who are suffering in Ukraine as well as the refugees who have been forced to leave Ukraine is indeed tragic.

Whom should we blame for this horrible tragedy?

Images Showing the Utter Destruction of the City of Mariupol. Source: BBC

The Western consensus is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the arch-blackguard in this affair. Most people in the West would be happy if Putin were hung from the tallest pole in Europe. Their blood is boiling, and many of them feel their countries should get more involved in this war to punish Russia.

Satellite Images Showing Destruction of Mariupol

It is true that Vladimir Putin started this war. But is he the only guilty party? What is really going on here? Is there more to this than meets the eye?

It turns out, there is. Read on to understand more.

Could This War Have Been Avoided?

There are many times in the last 14 years when this war could have been stopped; indeed, when the prospect for a war could have been eliminated completely. Let us look at these, in chronological order.

It is very clear from this chronology that when Russia finally did attack on 24 February 2022, it could not have been a surprise to any of the US, NATO, or Ukraine, by any stretch of the imagination. There were too many warning signs for anyone to be surprised. So why did the US, NATO, and Ukraine still do nothing to prevent this war?

How and Why The US and NATO Encouraged The Attack on Ukraine

It should be clear what the main motivation for Russia to attack Ukraine was, from the above chronology.

The one point that Russia has repeated, over and over again, ever since 2008, was that they did not want NATO to add Ukraine as a member. They have repeatedly expressed their fear that if Ukraine were to be a member of NATO, there would be a serious threat to Russia’s security. Now, one may argue, as several commentators in the Western media have, that this expressed fear is not credible. But that is beside the point being made here. Russia said they were worried about this possibility, and that they were willing to go to war over this one issue, and the US, NATO, and Ukraine all ignored Russia, even with the possibility of war as the alternative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia tried again and again to get Ukraine, NATO, and the US to agree to this one-point demand, and was summarily rebuffed for 14 years by all parties concerned. Russia clearly believed that this was an existential crisis. If Ukraine were to join NATO, then Russia could never change things to their liking. Russia could never guarantee that nuclear weapons would not be pointed at them from Ukrainian soil. They could request, but not demand. And if their request were to be turned down, they could not take military action against Ukraine after it had joined NATO, because an attack on Ukraine after their acceptance into NATO would mean an attack on all of NATO under article 5 of the NATO charter, and require all 30 NATO countries to help them militarily. Such a war would be unwinnable for Russia. Hence, for Russia, which believed (or, at the very least, claimed to believe) NATO to be an existential threat, it was either attack now or be condemned to be threatened by Ukraine indefinitely in the future.

What about the motivations of the US, NATO, and Ukraine in allowing this war to happen?

The truth is, as can be plainly seen from the above chronology, the US, NATO, and the Ukrainian leadership knew this war was going to happen. They deliberately let this war happen rather than say that Ukraine will not join NATO. In a report on 19 January 2022, the Guardian said that

Asked about Vladimir Putin’s intentions, the US president said: “I’m not so sure he is certain what he’s going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something.

Biden said a full-scale invasion would be “the most consequential thing that’s happened in the world in terms of war and peace since World War Two”, with the risk of spilling outside Ukraine’s borders, and “could get out of hand”.

He said that Russia would prevail militarily in an invasion but would suffer heavy casualties.

This is not all just a cakewalk for Russia militarily,” he said, noting the military aid the US has provided recently. “They’ll pay a stiff price, immediately, short-term, medium-term and long-term if they do it.”

US President Joe Biden

So, clearly, the US did not want to stop this war. At least, not on the terms that Putin demanded, which was to stop the eastward movement of NATO and the continuing militarization of Ukraine. It is also clear that the US knew very well that if Putin’s (fairly reasonable) demands were not met, it would mean war for Ukraine and, further, a war in which Ukraine would lose. They were evidently sanguine about this prospect. Clearly, in the calculation of power politics on one side (NATO expansion) and the lives of innocent Ukrainians on the other, the US weighed in on the side of power.

The US has never cared, and does not care today, about the people of Ukraine. All they were and are interested in is that Russia should “pay a stiff price” for its invasion of Ukraine. Biden’s statement clearly shows that this was a power game for the US and NATO. It was fine by the US for Ukraine to be destroyed as long as Russia was made to pay a huge price. The objective for the US and NATO was never to stop Putin from starting this war. They wanted Russia to start the war, even if Ukraine was destroyed in the process, and then impose sanctions on Russia, isolate it, and destroy it economically so that it could never compete for influence in Europe.

A weak Russia would mean that the US could dominate Eurasia and contain China, which is the regional hegemon in Eurasia. As an example, on 29 November, 2021, NATO issued a statement, not about how to achieve peace in Ukraine or to defuse tensions, but on how to punish Russia after it had attacked Ukraine, using sanctions and other financial measures. Neither the US nor NATO has been the least ambiguous about this. All their statements only focus on how they will make Russia pay for this, not how they will save Ukraine from disaster.

Europe for its part, did not want the US “pivoting” out of Europe and into Asia, and so encouraged this war, because it knew a war involving Russia would renew American commitment to European security and make it unnecessary for Europe to pay for its own defense. As John Mearsheimer has said, a “pivot to Asia” must necessarily mean that you pivot from somewhere, and that somewhere, of course, is Europe. Of course, Europe did not want any Europeans or NATO allies to suffer loss of life of their citizens because of this war, and so they did not commit their armies to fight. But Ukrainian lives were another matter altogether. If a war happened, Ukraine would inevitably be utterly destroyed, and Russia, the West hoped, would also be destroyed by economic sanctions. The West probably did not specifically want Ukraine to be destroyed; but it did not particularly care if it was used as the sacrificial lamb to weaken Russia. A weak Russia, in addition to being a diminished strategic threat, would also provide cheap gas to Europe. A weak Russia would also mean that China would not have a strong ally next to it to support it in its economic and military rivalry with the US and the West. It would deal a serious blow to Chinese plans of becoming the world’s biggest superpower. All of America and Europe’s boxes would be ticked.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

The only losers would be Ukraine and Russia. The destruction of Ukraine was a price, to use Madeleine Albright’s infamous phrase, “worth paying” for Washington.

Does Ukraine Have Agency?

There is no question that Ukrainians are now fighting their hearts out, now that a war is upon them, to save their lives and their country. It is fully their right to make the choice to fight an unwinnable war if they so choose. But the longer this war goes on, the more completely Ukraine will be destroyed, because Russia is much stronger than Ukraine, because the Russians will not stop until they are victorious, even if complete destruction of Ukraine is the only way to that victory. Why not, even at this late hour, reach a compromise with Russia?

An obvious response to the above question is to ask: why should Ukraine not fight back — why should they compromise? After all, they have been attacked. Surely they have a right to defend themselves? Ukraine is, after all, an independent country, and so has agency to act as it pleases. One can similarly ask, as many in the West are asking even today, in the face of an overhelming Russian attack, why Ukraine should acquiesce to Russia’s demand not to join NATO. Surely, many people ask, it is none of Russia’s business what Ukraine chooses to do?

Yes, Ukraine is free to fight back. Yes, Ukraine has agency. But all agency has constraints. For example, I am a free person, and I would like to drive my car at 120 miles per hour because I enjoy the thrill, especially at night when there is not much traffic around. But I cannot — or, rather, I dare not. I dare not because that speed is above the speed limit set by the police and the laws of my country, and I could have my driving license taken away by the police for driving so fast.

In the world, there is no policeman to rule the community of nations. It is an anarchy. And therefore, might is right. There are some conventions on how countries should behave with each other, such as the Geneva convention on how prisoners of war should be treated, but there is no one to enforce these conventions in the event they are violated. You are free to do what you wish as an independent nation without consequence — as long as you do not anger your powerful neighbor. You are, of course, free to anger your neighbor. But your neighbor is also free to retaliate if you do something they do not like. If they do retaliate, there is no policeman who will come to your defence. Other countries that do not like your powerful neighbor retaliating also have agency, and they may or may not choose to fight your battle with you.

But the West has chosen not to fight Ukraine’s battle against Russia with it. It has left Ukraine to fight its own battle. This was very clear much before the actual attack — that Ukraine was on its own, and Ukraine itself acknowledged this. They did not expect the West to fight for them in November 2021.

Morals do not matter in international relations; survival does.

The US fought an illegal war against Iraq in 2003 based on a lie — a lie that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The US utterly destroyed Iraq based on this lie. Since the US was the sole global superpower, other countries could not do anything to help Iraq, even when they knew this was a lie. Then, as it is today, might was right. Worse still, the rest of the world could not punish the US for destroying Iraq even when the US lie was completely exposed. Nor could it censure the US in the UN for having caused so much destruction on the basis of a lie, and nor could it impose economic sanctions on the wealthiest nation in the world.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN in 2003, Making the False Case for Iraq Having WMD

Might is right. The West has proved that in the colonial conquest of India, the rest of Asia and Africa, the Opium Wars in China in 1839–1842, the Spanish-American war of 1898, the Philippine-American war of 1899–1902, the Boxer Rebellion of 1899–1901, the US occupation of Nicaragua in 1912, the US occupation of Veracruz in 1914, the US occupation of Haiti in 1915, the US occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1916, the Vietnam war of 1955–1975, the Laotian Civil war of 1953–75, the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, the US bombing of Libya in 1986, the US invasion of Panama in 1989, the 1991 invasion of Iraq in the First Gulf War, the establishment of no-fly zones over Iraq from 1991–2003, the invasion of Somalia from 1992–1995, the bombing of Serbia in 1992–1995, the invasion of Haiti in 1994, the bombing of Kosovo in 1998, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the American bombing of Yemen from 2002 to the present, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the occupation of Iraq from 2003–2022, the bombing of north-west Pakistan from 2004–2018, the US intervention in the Second Somali War from 2007 to the present, the invasion of Libya in 2011, the invasion of Uganda from 2011–2017, the American intervention and bombing in Syria from 2014 to the present, and the American invasion of Libya from 2015–2019.

Even within a single nation governed by excellent and fair laws, these laws cannot and do not protect a citizen from being robbed, cheated, or killed. Laws cannot prevent crime. They only decide the quantum of punishment that the perpetrator of a crime will get for their crime. Whether someone can kill you is still dependent on whether they are stronger than you, whether their weapons (whether those be muscle, knives, or guns) are stronger or more powerful than yours. If the police catches the murderer after they commit a murder, the court can decide on the punishment the murderer should get. But they cannot bring the victim back to life.

So what the West is doing is punishing Russia for its crime. It cannot stop the crime from continuing unless it gets involved in the conflict itself, which would make it World War III, which the West does not want. So it is saying it will impose the severest punishment possible on Russia — by way of sanctions, by freezing Russian foreign exchange reserves, by denying Russian banks access to SWIFT, by seizing the assets of Russian citizens living abroad, by refusing to allow Russian sportspersons to compete, by refusing to teach Dostoyevsky, and by disallowing Russian cat breeds from competition.

All the sanctions imposed by the West will not save Ukraine from further destruction. The only thing that can stop the destruction is for Ukraine to accept Russia’s demands. Russian military might is far superior to that of Ukraine, and so Ukraine, in the absence of direct Western help, must lose this war. Russia will not stop until it wins the war. So Ukrainians have to decide whether to fight this war to the last Ukrainian, or to save what is left of their country. Nobody is going to fight for them. The most that other countries are willing to do is to punish Russia economically.

Hence, the only consideration for Ukrainians at this stage should be: how much should we fight for pride, and how much more of our country should we allow to be destroyed in an unwinnable war, given that nobody will help us in any useful way?

The West hopes that they can ruin Russia, both by prolonging this war — which is why they are supplying more weapons to Ukraine — and by imposing sanctions. The hope is that as Ukraine is completely destroyed physically, Russia will lose a lot of military equipment as well as the lives of its military personnel, and Russia will be completely destroyed economically. Russia, the West hopes, will be weakened both militarily and economically as a result of this invasion.

The West thus hopes to rule the world on the ashes of these two countries.

The cynical motives of NATO and the US in enabling the destruction of Ukraine are clear enough. Russia may have started this war, but Ukraine could have prevented this war as far back as 14 years ago if they had wanted, and as recently as a month ago. There were plenty of opportunities in 2020, 2021, and 2022 to defuse tensions and prevent a war, as listed earlier in this article, and the Ukrainians deliberately let this war happen.

The obvious question follows: Why did Ukraine agree to its own destruction for the benefit of NATO and the US?

A Modern Quisling

Ukraine had entrusted their fate to a man called Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It is clear from the above chronology that Zelenskyy knew full well this war would happen. He fully knew what the consequences would be of insisting on joining NATO. Nothing that has happened since February 24, 2022, could have been a surprise to Zelenskyy, all his public protestations since notwithstanding. As explained above, the American President had said very clearly that Russia would win this war. There was no way that Russia could ever win this war if the US, the world’s biggest military superpower, or NATO, another military giant, would involve themselves in this war; and thus, in effect, these countries had made it crystal clear, well before the war, that they would allow Ukraine to be defeated by Russia. They had given, for all intents and purposes, a green signal to Vladimir Putin. And this signal had been seen by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addressing the US Congress

Even if they had not quite spelled it out in those words, as they did, any novice in international relations would have been able to calculate that NATO would never intervene militarily in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, because Russia is a nuclear power, as is NATO, and things could easily go wrong. And Zelenskyy surely knew this reality. Nobody could have been that stupid.

The West’s plan was never to defeat Russia militarily, because such a thing is impossible, given that Russia has nuclear weapons. This whole issue of Ukraine joining NATO is also way too important to Russia. Russia will use whatever means it has in its possession to win this war that it deems necessary to achieve victory, just as the US did not hesitate to use mass killing at the end of WWII — using fire bombing at first, and nuclear weapons later, to end the war with the Japanese when it was getting too difficult to break down Japanese resistance. The US, being a Great Power itself, knows this only too well. Just as the Japanese were fighting a lost war in early 1945, the Ukrainians are also fighting a hopeless war today — a war that they have absolutely no hope of winning. The Russians may well decide, as the Americans did in 1945 with the Japanese, to indulge in mass murder to break down the Ukrainian resistance. So the Western plan was and is to let Russia win, hopefully at great cost in Russian lives, and also strangle it economically. (Whether the latter will succeed is another story, given India’s and China’s reluctance to act against Russia.)

The Aftermath of the Firebombing of Tokyo on March 10, 1945 (Source: New York Times)

So the idea that the West “led Ukraine up the garden path” to make it believe that if Russia did attack it, it could count on NATO, is simply not correct, as the chronology above clearly indicates. The US had made no secret of it to Ukraine that it believed that Russia would win a war and that all NATO and the US would do would be to impose tough sanctions on Russia to punish it.

So why did Ukraine continue to provoke Russia, knowing full well that Russia would attack and destroy their country, and that the world would simply watch this happen? The answer is that “Ukraine” did not provoke Russia. Its leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, did. He acquiesced in the destruction of his own country and the death, impoverishment, and exile of his own people in order to further the interests of foreign powers — NATO and the US.

Far from being a hero, as he is being projected and is trying to project himself daily with his multiple television appearances and international speeches, Mr. Zelenskyy is a traitor to the people of Ukraine.

No matter what the nefarious designs of NATO and the US may have been, these would never have succeeded without a complicit leader in Kyiv. After all, Zelenskyy was the one to agree or disagree to Putin’s proposals. And Zelenskyy played his role very well. Every negotiation from the Kremlin was summarily rejected by Zelenskyy as he steadfastly stuck to the line given to him by his American and NATO handlers that he would not bend to Russia’s demand not to join NATO. In this, he was very effectively aided by Western mainstream media, which kept portraying him as a brave, independent leader being bullied by a giant superpower. Media outlets constantly emphasized Ukraine’s bravery and defiance without ever highlighting the mortal danger the country was slipping into with each passing day. Heroism was highlighted every day, while the possible death and destruction from an invasion were never discussed. Once the invasion started, media coverage immediately switched to the death and destruction arising from the attack — the aspect that they had deliberately ignored prior to the attack, even as they kept saying the attack was imminent.

Zelenskyy’s deliberate scuttling of any peace overture from Moscow, and his deliberate escalation of the situation to an unwinnable (as admitted by the US President himself) war, amount to nothing less than treason and a betrayal of the Ukrainian people, who had entrusted their fate to him. In this respect, Zelenskyy is probably best compared to Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian PM of 1942–45 who collaborated with the Nazis and sold out his country. Like Quisling, Zelenskyy’s party has also been quite sympathetic to Nazis, as has been reported in Reuters years ago.

Norwegian PM Vidkun Quisling with Adolf Hitler

Zelenskyy has been quite clever to keep his public image in the world high, as he addresses one national Parliament after another in an unending PR exercise: the US Congress, British House of Commons, the French Parliament, the German Bundestag, NATO, the EU, the Israeli Parliament, the Japanese Diet, and the Qatari Parliament, appealing to all of them to intervene militarily and economically in this conflict, when he knew quite clearly, long before this war began, that they would not intervene, that the endgame in this cynical power play by the US was the complete destruction of Ukraine and Russia. The only purposes of this PR exercise are to ensure that he is not blamed for this destruction of his country, and thus to ensure the continuing support of Western populations for the prosecution of Western sanctions against Russia by continually igniting outrage among them, even at great cost to his Ukrainian people. And, judging from the response, he has been admirably successful in his attempt. Let us not forget that he was a successful actor before he became a politician.

The Great Geopolitical Game

So why is the West interested in weakening Russia? What could be so important that it merits the utter destruction of a large, prosperous nation like Ukraine?

The West is at an inflexion point in history. Its influence and reach have been gradually waning for a long time, in large part due to internal weaknesses resulting from the inherent structural failures of capitalism — widening inequality, increasing poverty, reducing fertility levels, environmental degradation, and increasing internal strife, among others. In addition, the US, particularly, has a spiritual crisis. Americans have been raised on the doctrine of American Exceptionalism — the idea that whatever America does is right, and that it is the greatest country in the world, and is the moral beacon of the world. Over the years, America’s technological and economic dominance served to underline this narrative. Of late, that has been taking a beating. America’s position and influence have been steadily waning since the end of the Cold War, and it now has a peer competitor in China, which is expected to overtake it as the global superpower by 2030, in gross GDP terms if not in per-capita terms. Not only are the Chinese doing better economically, they are also catching up technologically, and are global leaders in many cutting-edge domains, such as artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, just to name a couple. It is expected that America will lose its position of technological dominance by the middle of this century. Simply put, Americans are not exceptional anymore, and it is becoming painfully clear to them. The American narrative is unraveling.

Since the West is led by the USA, which is also the prime mover of NATO and of its actions in the Ukraine, let me focus in what follows on what the deeper motivations of the US are.

The fortunes of America as a nation followed for a long time the fortunes of its corporations, because for a long time, American corporations were the best in the world, were extremely creative, and were located mainly in the USA. Hence, the profitability of American corporations fed back directly into American society and benefited the people of the local communities in which they were located. More profits for American corporations meant more jobs and higher standards of living for American workers. American government leaders therefore needed to listen very carefully to the captains of American industry, because the health of the economy could be affected crucially by the impact of government decisions on the health of these companies. The identification of American industry with the well-being of American citizens was once so strong that when President Eisenhower hired Charles Wilson, the CEO of General Motors, to serve as his Defense Secretary, he was asked at his confirmation hearings whether he would ever take a decision that would be adverse to the interests of the United States but beneficial to GM. Wilson’s reply has become immortal, and is often paraphrased as “What’s good for GM is good for the country.”

But this began to change with the advent of globalization. The link between corporations and the countries in which they were headquartered became more tenuous. Hence the beneficiaries of an American company’s profits were no longer ordinary American citizens. Corporations became global and could no longer necessarily be defined with respect to any particular nation or community. Local American communities no longer necessarily benefited from nominally American companies. Jobs began to be exported to countries such as India and China where labour was cheaper.

But the influence of these once-American and now-global companies, such as a General Electric or a Dow Chemical, on the US government continued, because the entire political system in the US runs on patronage by big corporations. Nominally, the US is a democracy that works for the people of America. But in practice, elections cost incredible amounts of money. The 2020 US elections were estimated to have cost $14 billion. Such expenditure cannot be funded by party membership. Simply put, nobody can be in politics without donations from big corporations. And, if you accept political contributions, you are beholden to those who give you money. This means that big corporations have huge influence in American politics, and both domestic and international policies of the US government are dictated by big multinational corporations which originated in the US or were founded by Americans.

The politicians in the US, whether they are Congressmen or Senators in Congress, or State-level legislators, all essentially work not for the people but for big corporations. This was true even before globalization; but with globalization, governments were now beholden to global, not American companies; and so helping “American” companies no longer necessarily benefited American citizens any longer.

As a result, the nature of the US’ system of government changed dramatically. What was once a democracy, i.e., a government run by the people and for the people, became an oligarchy, viz., a country that is run by a few wealthy individuals (the “oligarchs”) and for the wealthy (the same oligarchs). In other words, although a democracy in name, America effectively became an oligarchy. What’s good for GM was certainly no longer good for the country. It was only good for the major shareholders of the company, who were just a few oligarchs. In essence, therefore, there is little difference between the US and Russia. Both are run by a small number of oligarchs. The only difference is that there are free and fair elections in the US. But whichever government gets elected in Washington, DC, it has to first serve its primary stakeholders, viz., the people who gave them the money to even be on the ballot, let alone get elected — or, in other words, the American Oligarchs.

US President Barack Obama Meeting with Top American Oligarchs in a Meeting of the Export Council on December 11, 2014, in which he announced funding of $400 million to American Industry to Boost US Competitiveness (Source: Obama White House Archives)

Income inequality in the US worsened to the point where it has been reported in 2021 that the top 1% of the population in America, in terms of wealth, had 16 times the total wealth of the bottom 50%. Essentially, most Americans were beginning to lead a lower middle-class lifestyle, or worse. This led to the “Occupy Movement” which demanded more equality in American society in 2011, resulted in a backlash against globalization, and led to the rise of politicians like Bernie Sanders. But globalization has not stopped since the Occupy movement. One could even say that both wealth inequality and globalization have accelerated since the Occupy movement. In 2007, the top 1% of Americans had 34.6% of the total wealth in the nation; by 2016, that number had gone up to 38.5%. This is because capitalism has a momentum of its own, and inherently increases inequality.

Protesters at the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011 (Source: Newsweek)

Increasing globalization in the West benefited the economies of developing countries such as India and, more importantly, China, because of the export of American jobs to locations with cheaper skilled labour. On the strength of globalization, coupled with extremely smart policies, such as transfer of technology to Chinese entitites as a condition of market access, under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping and his successors, China has gradually become an economic superpower. While China was initially only a market for American products, the Chinese government ensured that market access was concomitant upon technology transfer. Chinese companies therefore started learning and understanding the latest Western technologies and becoming peer competitors to Western companies. What is interesting about this entire process is that it was entirely legal and above board. American companies agreed to China’s conditions early on because they underestimated the Chinese. They were thrilled with having access to such a large market, and they did not believe that the Chinese could understand and copy their technology as well as they have. Had they understood the competence of the Chinese engineers and scientists, they might never have agreed to the technology transfer preconditions for market access. Today, the Americans have tightened restrictions on transfer of technology to China, but today the Chinese do not need American help — they have mastered the technology sufficiently to even be leaders in many domains, such as artificial intelligence, and it is now the Americans who are trying to catch up.

It is now generally accepted that China will become the world’s #1 superpower by 2030. Even American senator, businessman, and one-time Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, has said that by the middle of the twenty-first century, China would become the sole superpower in the world. This rise of China through technological excellence, and the fact that Chinese companies have a huge captive market of more than a billion people gives them incredible financial muscle, has enabled them to compete with American companies on an equal footing even in Western markets such as the UK and Europe, as has happened with Huawei, and so has put huge pressure on American corporations to improve their profits and remain competitive.

Deng Xiaoping with Jimmy Carter

It is in this context that Russia and Ukraine become important. One of the classical “factors of production” is the cost of raw materials. The cheaper your raw materials, the cheaper your final product, and the more your profit compared to your competitors. Russia and Ukraine are home to large quantities of raw materials. For instance, Russia and Ukraine, combined, produce 11% of the world’s wheat. Ukraine is the world’s leading producer of sunflower oil, with 29% of global production, followed closely by Russia, at 22%. The two countries combine to produce more than half the world’s supply of sunflower oil. Russia ranks second in the world in potash fertilizer production, fourth in the world in phosphate production, and fourth in the world in nitrogen fertilizer production. Overall, Russia is the world’s largest exporter of fertilizer, accounting for 23% of ammonia exports, 14% of urea exports, 10% of processed phosphate exports, and 21% of potash exports.

The world’s largest gas reserves exist in Russia, amounting to nearly a quarter of world production. Russia also has the eighth largest oil deposits in the world. Russia and Ukraine combined produce more than 24% of the world’s titanium. Russia and Ukraine, combined, have proven reserves of 195 billion tons of coal, or 18% of the total world reserves, second only to the US at 250 billion tons of coal. Ukraine has 140 million tons of manganese reserves, second only to South Africa at 200 million tons. Russia and Ukraine are the 6th and 7th largest producers of graphite in the world. Russia is the 6th largest producer of uranium, and Ukraine is the 9th largest producer. Ukraine and Russia produce about 70% of the world’s supply of neon gas and about 40% of the world’s krypton gas. The two countries, combined, produce 6.6% of the world’s iron ore, but have nearly 18% of total known reserves of iron ore. Russia is also the third-largest producer of gold (9%) in the world, and has the third-largest known reserves of gold in the world (9.8%). Russia is also the second-largest producer of aluminium in the world, at 6% of global output, after China, which produces a massive 54%. Russia also produces 10.5% of the world’s antimony, second after China at 71.5%; but it has 23.3% of total world reserves. Russia is the leading producer of asbestos in the world, producing 59% of the total asbestos; it also has the largest known reserves of asbestos in the world. Russia is also the top producer of natural diamonds in the world, contributing to 30% of total global production, and has 54% of total known reserves. It is fourth in the world in the production of arsenic, at 4.3%, produces 4.6% of the world’s cadmium, and is a significant producer of gallium along with Ukraine — the two countries contribute to nearly 3% of global production, which appears small, but becomes significant when you realize that 95% of the total gallium in the world comes from China (Japan and Korea make up the remaining world production of this mineral, which is extremely important in semiconductors.) Russia and Canada are the leading producers of gemstones, at 23% of total global production each. Russia is also the second-largest producer of germanium, another important semiconductor material, producing 5% of global total, behind China at 62.5% of global production. Graphite is another mineral that Ukraine and Russia produce in significant quantities, producing 4% of global total, which again seems like a small number, until you realize that China produces nearly 68% of the total, and so if, for some reason, the supply of these minerals from China stops (such as economic sanctions that President Trump was considering), the supply from Russia and Ukraine would become extremely dear. Russia and Ukraine, combined, produce 8.7% of the total magnesium in the world, second only to China, which produces 82.5%. Russia produces 6% of the total molybdenum in the world, and 9.1% of the world’s nickel, with 8.5% of total world nickel reserves. It also produces 10% of the total ammonia in the world. It has the third-largest reserves of peat in the world, at 8.3%, behind Finland at 50% and its close ally and neighbor, Belarus, at 21.7% — and thus, the Russia-Belarus total is 30% of world reserves. Russia is the largest producer of palladium, at 40.5%, and the second-largest producer of platinum, at 13%, after South Africa (69%). Russia has the second-largest reserve of platinum-group metals (platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, and iridium) in the world, at 5.7%, behind global giant South Africa, at 91%. Russia also has 10% of global reserves of rare earth minerals. Russia also has the second-largest reserves of rhenium, a very important catalyst material in the chemical industry, at 12.9%, behind Chile, at 54%.

But the allure of Russia is even more than the riches just described. Several former Soviet republics that border Russia are effectively in its sphere of influence. The mountainous central Asian republics are rich in natural resources. Control of Russia would allow one to control the natural resources of these countries, too. For example, Kazakhstan, a country that was, until recently, firmly in Moscow’s orbit (and still has strong ties to Russia), is the top uranium producer in the world, currently producing 41% of the world’s uranium. Uzbekistan is the fifth largest producer of uranium, at 5.3% of world production. Kazakhstan is also the second largest producer of chromium ore, with nearly 17% of global production. Kazakhstan is also home to probably the largest global reserve of asbestos in the world, though the actual amount has not been estimated; currently, it contributes around 20% to world production of asbestos. It is also the third-largest producer of boron in the world. Kazakhstan also produces 5.8% of the world’s cadmium. Around 6% of the total global antimony comes from Tajikistan. Azerbaijan has the second-largest reserves of bromine in the world. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, combined, produce 3.5% of the total mercury in the world, which is significant, considering that China produces 88% of the global total. Kazakhstan also produces 7.9% of the world’s rhenium. Both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have significant amounts of oil reserves, amounting to 2.1% of the global total.

The above lists are not exhaustive, but give some idea of the huge mineral riches contained in Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet republics.

Today, all Russian companies are controlled by Russian capitalists, and Western companies only have a small share of the pie. If economic warfare against Russia has the effect that Western Oligarchs desire, then a weakened Russia will have no choice but to allow the full-scale exploitation of its natural resources by the West, with the lion’s share of the profits flowing to American corporations. A physically destroyed Ukraine, along with an economically devastated Russia, would make it child’s play for Western companies to fully acquire and control the vast natural resources located in these two countries, along with the natural resources of all the former Soviet republics, which would help American corporations to be much more competitive than they are because of cheaper raw materials, especially in the ongoing economic battle with Chinese companies. This is the great geopolitical game that is being played today. In comparison, the economic prize of oil in Iraq in the war of 2003 is miniscule. The hoped-for winners of this gamble to weaken Russia are not the people of these Western countries, however, who will continue to see their living standards decline, but the people who own big companies in these countries — the Western, and more specifically, American, Oligarchs.

For this gambit to succeed, it was necessary to find reasonable cause in order to impose sanctions and destroy Russia. But, to be clear, the economic destruction of Russia was not the first choice of the West. It was only after other strategems had failed that the West adopted this route. To understand this, we must go back 31 years.

Russia’s enormous natural resources had been a sticking point for Western companies for the longest time, and they did not know how to get their hands on these. Under Communist rule, Russian resources were, of course, out of bounds to Western corporations. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia finally opened up, but it was not fully open to the West. Most Russian natural resources had been auctioned off at bargain basement prices by the Russian President of 1991, Boris Yeltsin, to his cronies, in what is considered the biggest transfer of public wealth into private hands in modern history. It was the beginning of the age of crony capitalists in Russia, or as they are more famliarly called, oligarchs.

Boris Yeltsin with his Deputy, Vladimir Putin

This left Western corporations out in the cold. It was not for this that they won the Cold War. There must be some way for Western companies to get their hands on this wealth.

It was because of this frustration that when the new President of the Russian Republic, Boris Yeltsin, visited the US in 1992 and offered peace and friendship to the US, the US did not react with eagerness and warmth. As Vladimir Pozner has said, the US could have treated Russia in one of two ways: they could either have treated them like the victorious allies of the First World War treated Germany in 1919, or they could have treated them in the way that the US treated Germany after WWII. At Versailles in 1919, the victorious allies humiliated Germany and forced it to pay large and punitive reparations to the Allies, and these are what led to renewed animosity in Germany and the rise of Adolf Hitler. In the latter case, after Germany’s defeat in WWII, the US acted with wisdom, and realized that they did not want communism to rise in Europe because of a weak and unstable Europe, and so provided massive aid for the development of Germany and the rest of Europe under the Marshall plan, and made Germany a close ally of the US. But in the case of Russia, the Bush administration of 1991–92 followed the example of Versailles, and set the pattern that the US has followed ever since, under what is known as the Wolfowitz doctrine, of always treating Russia as an enemy and an inferior.

It was for these two purposes — a dogmatic hatred of the Russians, and a desire to possess their natural resources — that the West decided to revive NATO, an organization that had outlived its usefulness with the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1996 during the Clinton Presidency. This decision was seen by many foreign policy experts of the day as a huge mistake. Prominently, George Kennan, the architect of US foreign policy during the Cold War, said of the decision that it was “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.

George Kennan

Other foreign policy experts also voiced their alarm. William Burns, the current CIA director, said at the time, “Hostility to early NATO expansion is almost universally felt across the domestic political spectrum here.” After Clinton took the fateful decision, Burns wrote of the decision that he thought it “premature at best, and needlessly provocative at worst.” He also wrote, “As Russians stewed in their grievance and sense of disadvantage, a gathering storm of ‘stab in the back’ theories slowly swirled, leaving a mark on Russia’s relations with the West that would linger for decades.” Even after Clinton’s decision, in 1997, 50 prominent foreign-policy experts published an open letter to President Bill Clinton. In it, they said that

We, the undersigned, believe that the current U.S.led effort to expand NATO, the focus of the recent Helsinki and Paris Summits, is a policy error of historic proportions. We believe that NATO expansion will decrease allied security and unsettle European stability for the following reasons:

In Russia, NATO expansion, which continues to be opposed across the entire political spectrum, will strengthen the nondemocratic opposition, undercut those who favor reform and cooperation with the West, bring the Russians to question the entire post-Cold War settlement, and galvanize resistance in the Duma to the START II and III treaties; In Europe, NATO expansion will draw a new line of division between the “ins” and the “outs,” foster instability, and ultimately diminish the sense of security of those countries which are not included;

In NATO, expansion, which the Alliance has indicated is open-ended, will inevitably degrade NATO’s ability to carry out its primary mission and will involve U.S. security guarantees to countries with serious border and national minority problems, and unevenly developed systems of democratic government;

In the U.S., NATO expansion will trigger an extended debate over its indeterminate, but certainly high, cost and will call into question the U.S. commitment to the Alliance, traditionally and rightly regarded as a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.

Because of these serious objections, and in the absence of any reason for rapid decision, we strongly urge that the NATO expansion process be suspended while alternative actions are pursued. These include:

opening the economic and political doors of the European Union to Central and Eastern Europe;

developing an enhanced Partnership for Peace program;

supporting a cooperative NATO-Russian relationship; and

continuing the arms reduction and transparency process, particularly with respect to nuclear weapons and materials, the major threat to U.S. security, and with respect to conventional military forces in Europe.

Russia does not now pose a threat to its western neighbors and the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are not in danger. For this reason, and the others cited above, we believe that NATO expansion is neither necessary nor desirable and that this ill-conceived policy can and should be put on hold.

Their prediction proved to be correct. Relations with Russia gradually soured because of the US’ unilateral approach to everything, based on the Wolfowitz doctrine, to the point that Russia could easily see that the US viewed them only as an enemy and would never see them as a friend. As Vladimir Pozner says in the talk referenced earlier, in 1991, Russians were suspicious of the US government, but did not dislike ordinary Americans; by 2019, most Russians viewed ordinary Americans as their enemies.

In addition, the move to expand NATO violated a verbal promise made by President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State, James A. Baker III, to Mikhail Gorbachev, in which he reportedly said the NATO would not move “one inch eastward.” Unfortunately, the Russians did not insist that NATO put the promise down in writing, and when Clinton decided to expand NATO, the Russians felt cheated. Over the years, they have protested several times at the US’ betrayal, and this has led to a complete breakdown of trust. Ties between the US and Russia today are irreparable as a result.

On December 5, 1994, the leaders of America and the leading countries of Europe met in Budapest for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the CSCE, which has now been replaced by the OSCE. By this time, Clinton’s decision to expand NATO was known, even though the actual decision was formally taken in 1996. An angry Boris Yeltsin told Clinton to his face in Budapest that “the domineering US was trying to split the continent again through NATO expansion.”

Unfortunately for Russia, even though Yeltsin himself felt betrayed as well, he was weak and allowed countries like Poland to join NATO. Russia was also weak at the time and not in a very good position to oppose the US. But the hurt and sense of betrayal have poisoned US-Russia and NATO-Russia relations ever since.

So why did Clinton do it? The answer is that although the decision to expand NATO may have been a mistake from the point of view of strategic relations, it made perfect sense to American Oligarchs, considering their ultimate aim of controlling the riches of Eurasia. On the direction of American Oligarchs, Clinton took the decision to enlarge NATO by admitting the countries of the former Warsaw Pact into NATO, starting in 1999 with Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. In 2004, NATO added Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The objective was a gradual encirclement of Russia, with the objective of someday inducing regime change in Moscow to install a pro-Western puppet who would hand over control of Russian natural resources to Western corporations. (Boris Yeltsin himself was a Western puppet, but he had been an incompetent one, and had given everything away before the West could lay their hands on them, and it was now too late to change it.)

They were successful in this goal for nearly a decade, because they had in the Kremlin a weak and corrupt person in charge, in the form of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin — a man who did not raise any opposition as NATO went through two expansion waves, absorbing former Soviet allies and creeping ever closer to Russia.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin with US President Bill Clinton (Source: NBC News)

Unfortunately for the West, Russia acquired a different kind of leader in Vladimir Putin in 2000. While he acquiesced to the incorporation of the seven former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO in 2004, there wasn’t much he could have done to stop it, because their memberships had already been decided as far back as 1999 during the Washington NATO summit, before Putin took over; it was only the final formality of induction that happened in 2004. Yeltsin was too weak and corrupt a leader to prevent what had happened in 1999, and Putin was too new on the scene to change things. However, Putin decided that he would not allow another wave of expansion of NATO to happen once he took over in 2000.

Timeline of NATO Enlargement (Source: Wikipedia)

When NATO tried to induct Georgia in 2008, Putin went to war with Georgia to prevent its induction into NATO. NATO continued with their path, and engineered a coup in Ukraine in 2014, ousting the elected President, Viktor Yanukovich, and installing their puppet, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was pro-NATO, hoping that the new leader would be able to get Ukraine into NATO. Putin responded with an invasion of Crimea in 2014, in part because the Crimea had Russia’s most important strategic port, the fortress of Sevastopol — the heavily defended, naturally fortified port that the Nazis under Erich von Manstein took more than 8 months to conquer in 1941–42 — and which Putin was worried that the new, hostile government in Kyiv might try to forcibly take over. Putin also wanted to send a message that he simply would not stand for further expansion of NATO near his borders.

Euromaidan, the Violent Coup Engineered by the US in Ukraine in 2014

This is when the West changed tack, and started pursuing a different set of tactics. Faced with an adversary who would simply not agree to Ukraine becoming part of NATO, the West started building up Ukraine as an adversary to Russia.

NATO pursued a strategy of militarization of Ukraine and started sending in military advisors and the CIA to train the Ukrainian army and Ukrainian militia, including the neo-Nazi group, the Azov battalion — in a bid to provoke Russia into attacking Ukraine. Even though several articles appeared in the Western press about various problems in Ukraine, such as corruption and neo-Nazism, NATO kept dangling the possibility of NATO membership for Ukraine, consistently refused to disqualify Ukraine even on such serious grounds as neo-Nazism, in order to keep the threat to Russia real. The US also established biological laboratories in Ukraine to research dangerous pathogens, technology that could have dual use ability. While the US has clarified that these were not specifically to develop biological weapons (which are illegal under a 1972 UN treaty), it is not very difficult to convert a “bio-defense” lab into a bioweapons lab, because to research antidotes to new and dangerous biological agents, you must first create new and dangerous biological agents. So any laboratory that researches cures to dangerous diseases must know the means to create the pathogens that cause them.

The Azov Battalion Displaying its Neo-Nazi Insignia (Source: NBC News)

The objective of this game was to annoy the Russians, specifically Putin, with progressive escalations, in the hope that he would eventually attack Ukraine, giving the West the chance to impose crippling economic sanctions and utterly ruin Russia by economically strangling them and inducing regime change. This would finally solve two problems with one stroke — it would give the West the economic resources of both Russia and Ukraine in one fell swoop. The war would destroy Ukraine, and the sanctions would destroy Russia. As a bonus, Western control of Russia would also allow it to control the mineral-rich central Asian republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, in addition to Belarus, all of which would be too weak to resist a Western takeover in the absence of a strong Russia.

Putin was caught in a bind. If Ukraine were to join NATO, NATO could install nuclear missiles in Kharkov, near the Russian border, facing Russia, under their policy of nuclear sharing, as they had already done in five other countries. One didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know which way nuclear missiles stationed in Kharkov would be pointing. Should Putin ignore the threat of possible nuclear and biological weapons on his border, or should he invade Ukraine to neutralize the threat, which seemed to grow by the day? But Putin also knew that if he were to invade Ukraine, the West would impose massive sanctions that could destroy Russia economically, and so he hesitated for a long time, even as he built up his fallback options, in the form of deepening cooperation with China as well as with African countries. Western commentators started noticing as far back as 2016 the “startling” deepening of cooperation between Moscow and Beijing, when Putin erased decades of distrust to build better ties with China, in order to overcome the weight of Western sanctions in response to Russia’s Ukraine invasion in 2014. Starting in 2014, Putin also started divesting Russia’s huge dollar reserves that were gained on the back of oil and gas sales and started investing in gold reserves. Russia now has nearly 2300 metric tons of gold, the fifth largest in the world. Under Putin, Russia also managed its finances since 2014 very well, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of only 16%, compared to nearly 100% for both the USA and the EU. This put Russia in a very strong position financially and in good position to withstand economic sanctions.

Russia’s Gold Reserves, 2000–2021 (Source: TradingEconomics.com)
Putin with African Leaders in 2019 (Source: Washington Post)

The West was undeterred, and kept up the pressure, in the hope that Putin would eventually crack and lose patience. In addition to the ongoing militarization of Ukraine, the West also further upped the ante by sending destroyers through the Black Sea in “freedom of navigation operations” and started flying aircraft close to the Russian border. The Russians were also incensed about reports of atrocities against ethnic Russians in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk (the Donbas) said to be committed by the Ukrainian military. The pressure was working. As Russian foreign minsiter, Sergey Lavrov, put it, “We reached our boiling point.”

The British Warship, HMS Defender, arriving at the port of Odessa on June 18, 2021 (Source: Voice of America)

The strategy of the West finally paid off, and Putin attacked Ukraine because the West had him in a double bind. If he did not attack, Ukraine might become part of NATO, and Russia would be encircled; if he did attack, the West would impose sanctions and strangle him. He chose to fight and take his chances. It is for this reason that Putin visited Beijing just before the invasion, in February 2022; he wanted to shore up Beijing’s support before the sanctions that he knew were coming his way. In many ways, Russia too, just like Ukraine, was a pawn in the Great Game of the West. They were manipulated into taking a decision that they would much rather not have taken, by confronting them with an existential threat that they could not ignore.

Vladimir Putin with Xi Jinping in Beijing in February 2020

The prize of Russian resources is irresistible to the West, and it can only be achieved through economic warfare, because unlike Iraq, Russia has nuclear weapons, making an invasion as in Iraq’s case impossible. But such economic warfare against Russia is going to have major consequences for Western populations. They will suffer terribly through commodity shortages and rising costs of living (even as Russians suffer even more — at least that is the calculation, whether or not it happens), because of Russia and Ukraine’s combined share of natural resources, as listed earlier. Already, there are reports about possible starvation in African countries as a consequence of this war. America and Western European countries will not be unscathed, either.

And so, economic warfare against Russia is not possible without a compliant population that is willing to suffer in order to inflict that suffering on the Russian people. This is where the role of Western media comes in. As is generally known to educated and informed people, most Western media are run by big Western corporations. For instance, for a very long time, until General Electric ran into financial trouble, it was the owner of NBC studios. Big corporations have major ownership stakes in most American media companies. Ownership means that the owners can dictate the policies of these media outlets. And so, historically, American media companies have worked to serve the foreign policy aims of the US government. For instance, in the 2003 Iraq war, thanks to relentless propaganda on American media outlets, 57% of mainstream media viewers believed that Iraq had substantially helped Al Qaeda, when no such link was ever proven or had even existed; 69% believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks, which, given that Iraq had no connection with al-Qaeda, was a bare-faced lie; and 22% believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), a lie which the US finally admitted to be one, even though it misled the people of America and the world before the war that Iraq had WMDs.

In similar fashion to 2003, Western media has once again effectively brainwashed the people of Western countries and whipped them into a frenzy by playing up the emotional angle of the suffering of the refugees of this war, without explaining the role of the US and NATO in precipitating this crisis, and without highlighting Zelenskyy’s treachery.

Vladimir Putin has also been personally demonized. US President Biden is on record as calling Putin a “butcher,” a “killer,” and many other things. Putin has also been depicted as a modern-day Ivan the Terrible or a Russian Genghis Khan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Being Depicted as an Asiatic Warlord (Source: Wall Street Journal)

As a result, most citizens of Western countries are filled with righteous anger and want their own countries to further involve themselves in this war, even so far as to want to actually get involved on the battleground. This is very dangerous for the whole world.

But Western governments need a certain amount of this righteous anger in their citizens, appropriately controlled, because the imposition of sanctions on Russia is going to lead to enormous economic hardships for their own people, coming immediately after the hardships of Covid-19, and these people have to believe that they are suffering for a just cause. This cannot be achieved without huge public outrage.

The economic suffering of Western populations will be “acceptable collateral damage” in the principal US government mission of delivering profits to Western companies, just as the physical suffering of Russians and Ukrainians today is. The people of the West will be even more impoverished than they are today because of these sanctions against Russia, but that will not be a problem if they are willing to endure that suffering. This problem is likely to be more acute in Europe than in the US, because of Europe’s huge dependence on Russia for its energy needs — Russia supplies 40% of the EU’s total natural gas needs. While gasoline prices in the US will go up, the US is today largely self-sufficient in oil, and was only importing 8% of its needs from Russia, so the effect of sanctioning Russia will be small on the US.

Western media is also presenting this as a conflict between Western democracy and Russian autocracy. This is plainly propaganda, because it does not explain why America had no qualms in supporting dictators around the world, be they the dictatorship in Argentina in 1976; General Branco’s dictatorship in Brazil in 1964; the support for the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1969–1979 under Pol Pot, which led to the death of 2 million Cambodians; the ouster of democratically-elected Salvador Allende and the installation of General Pinochet and his death squads in Chile from 1973 to 1989; the ouster of a democratic government in Iran in 1953 headed by Mohammed Mossadegh to re-install the despotic Shah of Iran; the support for the coup by General Suharto in Indonesia in 1969, who killed half a million Indonesians; the installation of Saddam Hussein as Iraq President in 1979; the installation of Syngman Rhee in South Korea, a brutal dictator who killed 100,000 Koreans; the installation and support of the brutal Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza from 1936–1979, a man who massacred and raped with impunity — the man about whom US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, “He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch”; the ouster of democratically-elected President Patrice Lumumba of Zaire (now Democratic Republice of Congo) and his replacement by General Joseph-Desire Mobutu in a CIA-backed coup; and many more instances.

Consequences For the Global South

The rest of the world understands very well what is going on, even if the citizens of the US and European nations, brainwashed by their media, do not. It is for this reason that four countries joined Russia in opposing the UN security council motion to condemn Russia for its invasion and to demand that it pull back its troops; 35 countries, mostly Asian and African, abstained from the vote; and 12 countries did not register a vote. It is instructive to look at who abstained from voting and who did not vote at all, as well as those who voted against the motion. Even though 141 out of 193 countries voted in favour of the motion, these numbers do not tell the whole story.

First, let us look at the two big countries that abstained. Both China and India abstained from the vote. They have a combined population of 2.8 billion people out of an estimated total of 7 billion people, or 40% of the global population. China and Russia have a deep economic partnership that has been built over several decades, and China is a huge importer of Russian oil, buying $27 billion worth of oil in 2020. The Russians are also building a gas pipeline to help China with its energy needs. Russia also provides China with high-tech military equipment.

Russia has been the largest provider of defence equipment to India for decades, and India is still heavily reliant on Russia for equipment and spares. Most recently, it bought the most advanced missile defence system in the world, the S-400 Triumf system, from Russia, despite American objections. Despite several threats by the US to sanction India over the purchase of the S-400s under the CAATSA law, the US has not done so. India has a complex relationship with both Russia and the West. It is tightly enmeshed with both sides in this conflict and hence unable to take sides. The US, for its part, is engaged in a struggle for global dominance with China, and it cannot afford to antagonize India, which is an important trading and defence partner for it and, equally importantly, its hope to counterbalance the growing power of China.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia exported around $28 billion worth of arms between 2016–2020. The major buyers were India ($6.6 billion), China ($5.1 billion), Algeria ($4.2 billion), Egypt ($3.3 billion), Vietnam ($1.7 billion), Iraq and Kazahstan ($1.2 billion each).

Russia’s Defence Exports

But there are more important reasons than trade why Asia (with the notable exceptions of Japan and South Korea, which are practically Western countries in their outlook and ties) and Africa, by and large, do not wish to condemn Russia for this invasion.

Most countries in Asia and Africa either abstained or did not vote at all. A list of the Asian countries that did not vote to condemn Russia reads as: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The list of African countries that did not condemn Russia at the UN reads as: Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equitorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

World Map Coloured by UNSC Vote Condemning Russia on Ukraine Invasion

All told, well over half the Earth’s population did not condemn Russia for the invasion. This is clearly a Western project. This itself should give pause to Western people. Why does the Global South not share their passion for this war?

It is not that the Global South does not sympathize with the suffering of the Ukrainian people. Indeed, the people of the Global South have seen more suffering than what is going on in Ukraine, many times over. So they understand the pain of war. The reason the Global South will not condemn Russia is that they know an imperialist land grab all too well. Most of these countries have suffered at the hands of these same Western powers who invaded, looted and plundered them, and they understand that this is an attempt by the West to dominate Russia and Ukraine, and want absolutely no part of it. The Global South is also aware of how the West lies in order to achieve strategic objectives, as it did in Iraq. It is much more sensitized to hypocrisy than the gullible populations of Western countries, and is not taken in by the moralistic pontifications of Western countries as their own people are. These are countries that have experienced the “morality” of the West all too well, in the most horrendous ways.

China, in particular, is keenly aware of the larger geopolitical implications of this war. It knows only too well that if the US succeeds in defeating Russia in this economic war, China will be next. Its dreams of world leadership and for a golden age for its people will come down crumbling like a pack of cards, and China will be open to the depredations of American capitalism, just as it was in 1840, when its “century of humiliation” at the hands of the West began. If there is one thing the Chinese wish to avoid, more than anything else, it is to return to a similar period of domination by the West.

Today, the Chinese are able to control what the West is able to sell in China, and able to compel foreign companies to disclose their technologytopics that causes much friction with the United States, as evidenced during the Trump years. But if the West is victorious in Russia, then they can force China to open its markets so much and to make so many concessions to the West that its own companies suffer in order to benefit Western corporations. That is the ultimate goal in this Great Game of the West — the control of resources all over the world — and China understands this.

Hence, for the Chinese, allowing a Western victory against Russia is unconscionable. That is why China has been closing ranks with Russia. It has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that it will continue to trade with Russia. Russia and China have also decided to trade in their local currencies, and to make use of China’s digital payments system, CIPS, so that their trade is not hampered by the western ban of Russia from SWIFT.

China has also been making overtures to India and indicating that it wants to address its oustanding issues with India, such as the border question, and work towards achieving a lasting peace with India. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi visited New Delhi just days ago on a surprise, unscheduled visit, to talk with Indian foreign minister Jaishankar, and has invited Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Beijing for further talks. The Indians, for their part, seem to have understood the changing nature of the world, and realized how the West is trying to precipitate a new Cold War, and are carefully resisting any moves by the West to bring it into the Western camp. It is in India’s interest as much as China’s to resist the domination of Russia by the West, because the West will next move to dominate India’s resources, which will be catastrophic to Indian independence.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar in New Delhi (Source: Hindustan Times)

The other countries of Asia understand the calculus very well. Russia and China are in an ironclad partnership, and these are the two countries that dominate Asia. Being in partnership with both of them will be beneficial both to the security and prosperity of Asian countries. Already several Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan (which calls China its “all-weather ally”), Bangladesh, and many more are partners in China’s giant Belt and Road Initiative, which closely binds their economies to that of China. So China’s support for Russia means that these countries will also support Russia.

For a country like Iran, which faces sanctions from the US, support for Russia should be easy. This is because economic sanctions are a crime against humanity, and Iran, like other countries such as Iraq, which have experienced the cruelty of American sanctions, understands their pain. This is because in the modern world, no country, except perhaps a very large country like the US, produces everything it needs. The reason, of course, is that we live in an interconnected global world with global trade. As a result, countries that can produce a commodity most efficiently will out-compete producers in other parts of the world and become dominant in the market. All countries accept this as the natural consequence of trade, and so nobody tries to produce everything. Countries depend on other countries to produce the things they do not. Even within any single country, no province produces everything that is needed by the residents of that province. Engineering goods may be made in one province, cars in another, dairy products in a third, and so on. And so, the world is very interdependent. The consequence of this is that a country’s basic needs may not be met if sanctions are imposed on that country. This is tantamount to depriving that country of basic human rights. Economic sanctions are tantamount to economic terrorism. They punish ordinary citizens for the actions of their leaders. The US is the worldwide leader in the immoral and unethical use of economic sanctions as a weapon. Economic sanctions were found by a study in the Lancet medical magazine to have led to the death of more than half a million children in Iraq due to malnutrition, to which US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, responded that it was a “price worth paying.”

A malnourished and starving child due to the effect of sanctions in Iraq in 1998

The problem for the West with neither India nor China joining the sanctions regime is that the West cannot punish either India or China for their defiance. China is the top international supplier of goods to the US, accounting for 19% of total imports in 2021 for a total value of $541 billion; India accounted for 2.7%, at $77 billion; Russia was a mere 1.1%, at $31 billion. On the exports side, China is the US’ third export destination, accounting for 8.8% of all exports, at $151 billion; India accounted for 2.3%, at $40 billion, and Russia was a mere 0.3%, at $6.4 billion. India also exported around $134 billion worth of software and IT-enabled services in 2020–21 to the US. So while sanctioning Russia was a piece of cake for Joe Biden, sanctioning India and China would be fairly costly to big American corporates, who are the ones calling the shots, which explains why the US was willing to look the other way when India did not go along with the West on the UN resolutions against Russia, and will not even dream of sanctioning China. (China’s monopoly in the production of various minerals, as discussed earlier in the section on Russia and Ukraine’s natural resources, is another reason why an embargo of China is simply impossible.)

Given that the US has essentially banned Russia from using SWIFT, this means that countries like India, China, and the various Asian and African countries that refused to condemn Russia need to find an alternative so that they can continue to do business with Russia. There are several alternatives available, from the Chinese CIPS system to the Russian SFPS system, as well as bilateral trade in national currencies. All this will have the effect of de-dollarization of the global economy and the end of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Such a move would end the ability of the US to impose sanctions on countries that refuse to do its bidding, and seriously undermine US hegemony. Needless to say, both CIPS and SFPS are not as well-developed as SWIFT, but a crisis like this can accelerate development of these platforms and bring them up to speed. They also are not as patronized as SWIFT is today — for example, only 2% of global reserves are held in renminbi, as opposed to 60% in US Dollars and 20% in Euros, but that, too, can change very fast when countries, especially in Asia and Africa, have a pressing need to do business with China and Russia to avoid economic catastrophe in a world where serious shortages are quickly expected to develop in the near future.

A Concise Summary: Russia and Ukraine, 1991–2022

It should be clear from the foregoing what has happened in Russia and Ukraine, and why. I will sum this up in a few words, so you can understand how the story has developed historically, in a coherent way.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. This had been the dream of American foreign policy, driven by American corporates, for 70 years — ever since the formation of the Soviet Union in 1919. With the fall of Communism, American capitalists were very hopeful of gaining control of the natural resources of former Soviet republics. Unfortunately for them, the transition to capitalism in post-Soviet Russia was very haphazard, and the agricultural land, mines, oil fields, and gas wells held by the former Soviet Union were all grabbed by a few Russian oligarchs before Western oligarchs could lay their hands on them.

The quest of Western oligarchs to somehow possess these natural resources has been the driving story of the last 31 years in Russia and Ukraine.

To this end, they revived NATO in 1996 with an eventual goal of encircling Russia and achieving regime change so that, in a new regime, they would finally oust the existing Russian oligarchs and get control of these resources. Things went according to plan for the first few years. By 2004, ten former Warsaw Pact countries had come into NATO’s orbit, and it was creeping ever closer to Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

But when Vladimir Putin took over in 2000, he decided that he would not allow any countries that were on Russia’s borders to join NATO, barring the three Baltic republics, whose accession to NATO had been decided before he took power from the spineless Yeltsin.

In 2008, NATO proposed to make Georgia and Ukraine part of NATO, and Putin responded with an invasion of Georgia to prevent this from happening.

As a result, the US and NATO decided to change tactics. Since Russia would not allow itself to be taken over peacefully, they would destroy it economically so it would have no choice but to be taken over. It would have to be destroyed economically since a war with Russia would mean nuclear annihilation of the planet.

So, in 2014, the CIA orchestrated a coup in Ukraine to depose the then-President and replace him with their puppet. In response, Putin annexed the Crimea. Next, NATO accelerated the militarization of Ukraine and started biological research laboratories in Ukraine to further provoke Russia. When this, too, did not sufficiently provoke Russia, the West upped the ante by sending British and American destroyers through the Black Sea in a “Freedom of Navigation” operation and started flying NATO aircraft close to the Russian border.

The West was playing Russia like a pawn in their great geopolitical game, and finally, Putin gave in and took the bait, exactly as planned. On 24 February 2022, he invaded Ukraine.

A massive slew of sanctions descended on Russia immediately, thus setting NATO’s plan of economically destroying Russia into motion.

The question is: Will the plan to destroy Russia succeed?

What the world is facing today is a choice of two possible futures. That the present Ukraine war itself will end with victory for the Russians is settled — it is only a matter of how long this will take, and how many people will die, because the West will not militarily intervene.

But what will happen when the war ends?

Future Scenario A: The West Succeeds

The first possible future scenario is that the West succeeds in this audacious gambit for the control of Russia’s and Ukraine’s resources. The war itself ends in another month with the complete destruction of Ukraine, fueled by the West smuggling small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine to prolong the war and inflict maximum physical damage on the Russians. Russia occupies the whole of Ukraine after reducing it to rubble and installs a puppet government in Kiev, annexes the whole of Eastern Ukraine and does forced ethnic cleansing to make them purely Russian provinces, to eliminate the possibility of future insurgencies.

But the economic sanctions tighten, even as the guns and the aircraft fall silent, and over the next year or two, the Russian economy is brought to its knees. Despite China and India doing business with Russia using CIPS and SFPS, Russian living standards worsen. In about a years’ or two years’ time, Europe makes a move towards green energy and moves in a large way towards wind and solar energy to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, and using more oil from Gulf countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia and even some of the huge US strategic reserve to bridge the gap. Of course, during this time, Western populations, especially those of European countries, will undergo huge economic hardships and shortages, and their standards of living will drop, but they will be constantly reminded of why they need to sacrifice, by daily media bombardment about the moral outrage that happened in Ukraine in March-May 2022.

Wind and Solar Farm in Germany (Source: Euronews)

Eventually, Russia collapses economically, there is a coup in the Kremlin, Putin flees Russia to safe haven in China, the West takes over Russia, and even engineers a regime change in Belarus. Russian oligarchs are all jailed for their support of Putin, and their assets in Russia are stripped from them and given to Dow, DuPont, Alcoa, US Steel, Huntsman, Newmont, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill, and other Western giants. The Western grand game has won, as Western corporations now control the natural resources of three large former Soviet republics: Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. With their dominant position in Russia and Central Asia, it would be very easy to take control of all the Central Asian Republics as well.

Roman Abramovich, a Prominent Russian Oligarch Living in the UK (Source: DW News)

Faced with this overwhelming economic dominance, China and India, too, cave in, because now the power of sanctions is all-encompassing, and can even choke a giant, developed nation like China. Nobody can now say or do anything that offends the West. All countries, whether in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia, must allow their natural resources to be exploited by the West to make products, with factories that are located in their own countries, which products the West will then sell to them, with the profits flowing back to Western countries. The West would have taught the upstart Global South a lesson and shown them who is boss. And, having subjugated the bulk of the world’s peoples, the people in the West would again enjoy high living standards with the profits earned from selling these products, much as Englishmen enjoyed high standards of living while exploiting India and keeping it in abject poverty for nearly two centuries while selling them cotton textiles made with the cotton farmed in India.

An Englishman Getting a Pedicure from an Indian While Another Fans Him to Help Him Stay Cool (Source: Telesur)

Wait a minute. All this seems familiar. Oh yes. It already has a name. Colonialism.

This is what the British, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians, the Dutch, and the Belgians, and even the Americans, did to the Third World from the 1400s to the 1900s. This is what the countries of Asia and Africa fought against for a century and obtained their “independence” from.

The West would have re-established the “global rules-based order.” The majority of the world’s population would have been pushed back into economic slavery and poverty, and would exist solely to serve the rich countries of the West.

Future Scenario B: The Global South Succeeds

A second possibility exists, and in fact has a high chance of success, if countries understand the seriousness of the situation and act accordingly. In this scenario, China, Russia, India, Iran, Pakistan, the Central Asian Republics, and most of the other countries in Asia, with the exceptions of Japan and South Korea, and most of the African nations close ranks behind Russia (a starting point would be the 40 nations that did not vote to punish Russia in the UNSC resolution, but this number will grow as more join this group) and continue to resist Western financial pressure and sanctions by bypassing the Western system. If this has to happen, the rest of the world must decouple itself from the West, because the West will choke any attempts by anyone to do business with Russia.

Leaders of the BRICS Group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) at the Osaka Meeting in 2019 (Source: Wikipedia)
18th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2019

For this to be successful, two things need to happen. The first is the decoupling of the world economy from the dollar. The Global South will have to use an alternative to the dollar, and this could be the Chinese Digital Yuan, in combination with its payment system, CIPS. This is because the current system, under which any country can only trade with any other country using the dollar, cannot work when one or both of them is under sanctions by the West. The CIPS system is not capable today of handling transactions at a global scale, and so must be upgraded and improved tremendously. If this model works, it would wall off the people of the world into two camps — the Western, dollar-based economy, and the Eastern, yuan-based economy — which will be closed off from each other.

The second is the need for China (and, to a lesser extent, India) to step up to protect the countries that wish to band together and close ranks with Russia, because the West’s immediate retaliation and vengeance against this act of defiance will be terrible. The West will not hesitate to impose punishing sanctions on utterly impoverished countries like Mali and Guinea to deny even essentials like milk formula for babies, because in a game of such high stakes, there is no room for mercy. They may hesitate longer to sanction India and China, for reasons already outlined, but eventually they must, as things in the East gain momentum. But a giant human catastrophe for the poorest nations in the world can only be avoided if China and India join hands and use their massive economic resources to help these countries out. China is already uniquely placed to be able to do this, with its excess productive capacity and its Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI can be the catalyst for this global transformation.

It will not be easy to prevail against the military and economic might of the West. But if leaders of the Global South act with wisdom, foresight, and a united vision, and learn to put aside their differences in pursuit of the greater good, it is possible for the Global South to usher in a new model of cooperative coexistence and put an end to the Western practice of constant war and exploitation.

If the Global South acts with intent, the balance of probabilities suggests that success is guaranteed, because economics, at its core, depends on markets. Without people to buy goods, companies will have to close down. Western populations are small and stagnant. To understand this, consider that in 2017, the population of the USA was around 330 million, and of the European Union was around 440 million. The population of South America was estimated to be 437 million in 2019. China’s population, in comparison, is around 1.4 billion, as is India’s, and as is Africa’s. In addition, Western and many South American countries have prosperous populations that already have most of what they need. Most of their needs are to replace existing equipment and infrastructure, and occasionally some new technology. In contrast, most populations in the Global South do not have basic needs — a fridge in the house, a fan to cool the home, piped water, potable water, a basic transportation infrastructure, etc. So the emerging markets for most products exist mainly in the Global South. The West understands this, and that is why CNN has a weekly program called “Marketplace Africa.”

And, therefore, if the Global South is walled off because of a new Cold War, the most probable outcome is that the Global South will succeed, provided it chooses peace, prosperity, and cooperation with each other.

A Call To Action

It is, therefore, imperative that all the major countries of the Global South realize that they are at a critical juncture in their history, and must work together with a sense of urgency to look past their historic differences which, howsoever great these may have seemed to them in the past, are minor compared to both the dangers and the opportunities they are faced with — dangers and opportunities that they did not seek, but which have come to them nevertheless.

This bright future is for them to choose or discard — but it can only be achieved if they work with a sense of purpose, urgency, and cooperation.



Seshadri Kumar

Seshadri Kumar has a B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and an MS and PhD from the University of Utah, USA, in Chemical Engineering.