"O pickled Cabbages
O tickled Kings,
Why does suffering Bachchoo
View the world through these happy things?"
From Quwaal Keh Sawaal, by Bachchoo
Donald Trump, former US President and close to being a future denizen of an American penitentiary, gave a gathering of Republicans his strategy to end the Russia-Ukraine war. The US, he said, should send in bomber planes disguised as Chinese ones and so cause a war between Russia and China, forcing Vladimir Putin to lose the will and means to battle on in Ukraine. Simple!
The suggestion was not delivered as a joke, though perhaps it was. It was more likely a further indication of Mr Trump’s dementia. Joe Biden may be old and is constantly taunted by Mr Trump and the Trumpers for being somnolent, senile and seditiously elected. Mr Trump’s strategy, on the other hand, is straight out of some video wargame for four-year-olds. Which assessment of his intellect was picked up by a recent cartoonist who depicted the Donald holding a completed jigsaw puzzle, boasting that he had completed it "in a week, when the box said 2 to 4 years"!
And even if he intended his China-baiting strategy as a joke, is it in the best of taste to even approach the subject of the tragic and criminal invasion of the Ukraine in such a facile vein?
Democracies function differently. India, for instance, has never and never would, elect anyone as dumb as Mr Trump. Our Indian politicians are much too intelligent to, for instance, believe that Mr Putin, seeing as there are a considerable number of Russian-speaking individuals on the beaches, in the drug dens and casinos of Goa, is preparing to invade and annex it as part of the great Russian Democratic Republic.
The latter is, of course, the way the Kremlin’s ubiquitous propaganda machine would like the world to think of Russia’s criminal state. Mr Putin has characterised the Ukrainian government as Nazis, but is at a loss to explain why they have a Jewish President. Yes, the Ukrainian regime will not tolerate the Ukrano-Russian minority within their country who wish to secede from it and take territories into Russia.
They may oppose, even violently, such a Crimean transition, but they don’t lock up Opposition leaders, inject dissidents with Novochok to kill them and shut down the media which oppose their policies. Unlike Mr Putin’s propaganda, they don’t lie about his targeted bombing of civilian cities in Ukraine.
As I write this, I have arrived in India to be at the Jaipur Literature Festival and haven’t had a chance to read in any depth the stance Indian newspapers and the media take on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
And yet I have met Indian friends who seem to support the Russians and even go so far as to say that the West and the BBC, on whose broadcasters I am, as a Londoner, bound to rely, are peddling false news. One of these dear friends went so far as to say that the United States is the aggressor in this and other wars.
I have heard the same opinion from lefty friends in Britain. While being no advocate of American foreign policy and having rich memories of protesting in demonstrations in Mumbai shouting" hamara naam, tumhara naam, Vietnam, Vietnam" — and later protesting strongly against the Iraq war, I take a different view.
No doubt, gentle reader, you have a view of what this conflict is about. My assertion is that it is a war and an unwarranted invasion which is claiming lives. I would have added "needlessly", but then when is there ever a need to bomb civilian populations going about their business?
Vladimir Putin is not mad. He has, in his long and unhappy reign, witnessed the pull towards or establishment of democracy in Chechnya, Georgia, Belarus and certainly in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. To state the obvious, the Soviet empire no longer exists.
Some commentators say the assault on Ukraine is the first step in a series to re-establish it. That’s a pipe dream. Mr Putin wants to make sure Russia is not, at least on its western flank, bordered by "democratic" countries. His Russia is a mafia, capitalist state which denies its citizens, through threatened punitive measures and force, free speech and free elections and, on the backs of their labour, enriches beyond the dreams of Croesus an oligarchy that enjoys private yachts, property, the ownership of football clubs and the freedoms available in the Western countries into which they have access.
Democracy, Mr Putin reckons, is like Covid — it has demonstrated that it can and does spread!
An indication, perhaps as yet a feeble one, of such contagion are the demonstrations against Mr Putin’s war in Russian cities and the arrest of thousands of protesters. To see Mr Putin’s aggression in this context is not to deny that the UK has encouraged the Russian mafiosi to camp in Britain, launder its money through its institutions and buy up billions of pounds worth of property. If there is evidence that the financial sanctions that BoJo and Hedgie Moonak have imposed on Russia will cause great grief to the Russian population and get them to rebel, I haven’t seen it — yet.
Not buying Russian gas and oil may cause serious problems there and of course in Europe. But then, supporting democracy, even nascent ones, always has a price.