Opinion Columnists 19 Nov 2022 Saeed Naqvi | Unwoun ...
The writer is a senior journalist and commentator based in New Delhi

Saeed Naqvi | Unwounded in midterms, will Biden explore Ukraine peace?

Published Nov 20, 2022, 12:10 am IST
Updated Nov 20, 2022, 12:10 am IST
A file photo of US President Joe Biden (Photo: AP)
 A file photo of US President Joe Biden (Photo: AP)

America’s electorate had been “willing to wound” President Joe Biden in the midterm elections, but clearly “afraid to strike” hard enough, largely because Donald Trump as an opponent clearly put off voters. With this ambiguous verdict in hand, Mr Biden doesn't need an endless war in Ukraine to redeem himself.

The Western coalition he had forged was beginning to tear at the seams a long time ago, but such was the strength of the media propaganda that there was scant notice of the stories to the contrary. Take the crucial case of France.

What Emmanuel Macron told France’s top diplomats at a closed-door meeting in August 2022 about the “changing world order” would have caused the Western resolve on Ukraine to collapse had it been a public statement before TV cameras. “I must admit Western hegemony is coming to an end”, he had said, in one of his statements. A verbatim report was of his remarks found its way to some of us.  

In August, it was the first “on record” statement of a key member of the so-called “unshakable” Western alliance. When I published the contents of Mr Macron’s statement on August 26, I expected brickbats. But so completely sold on the Western propaganda on the Ukraine war was the Indian media that the story got no traction.

An earlier TV interview with Valery Fadeyev, adviser to President Vladimir Putin, invited not curiosity on what the Kremlin was thinking in the early months of the war, but rather suspicion of “anti-Ukrainian” propaganda. One distinguished editor thought the interview with Mr Fadeyev was “bad journalism” as no questions had been asked about the massacre of innocents at Bucha by the Russians. Time proved that Bucha had been set up by the propaganda arm of the Ukrainian campaign.

During wars like Ukraine or the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, or proxy wars in Libya and Syria, what is mostly missing is an Indian perspective. Elections are around the corner in Nepal. The outcome is of supreme interest to New Delhi and Beijing. I would not be surprised if news bureaus representing the official Chinese media have already taken up position in Kathmandu. There is no evidence that any Indian channel has taken any initiative.

While we scream “atma nirbharta” (self-sufficiency) from the rooftops, the entire Indian media is totally and abjectly dependent on Western sources of information.

This worked while Indian foreign policy was tilted towards the West, a stance which prospered most since the 1992 collapse of the Soviet Union when New Delhi basked under the sole superpower. Ukraine has totally changed that.

A new foreign policy demands a self-sufficient media, independent of the bloc which has so far been the solitary source of information on world affairs. New centres of information may emerge with India as the regional power. An active Saarc could be a reality if the unthinkable happens with Pakistan and China after the 2024 general election.

A basic provocation for such fanciful thinking is located in Mr Macron’s candid sharing of ideas with his officials. As I said, there was an initial lack of interest, partly because the ideas seemed remarkably outlandish in the midst of the conventional wisdom forged by Western propaganda. Indeed, the absence of any reaction to my story published in August led me to doubt my own sources. A fake story may have been planted on me to discredit the independent line I had taken on the conflict from the day it erupted. I am taking up the document now, for a second time, because I now know that France’s ambassador to New Delhi, Emmanuel Lenain, was, like all other French ambassadors, present at that crucial meet. The document now stands authenticated.

Let me now pick some of the nuggets from Mr Macron’s statement:

*Because of Nato’s existence, it is very difficult for Europe to form another European army, and as long as a “European army” doesn’t exist, Europe will be controlled by political instructions of the United States.

*Yes, the US is an ally, a long-term ally, but it’s an ally which has been kidnapping us for a long time.

*Taking Russia out of Europe may be a far-reaching strategic mistake.

*If the West keeps pushing harder, will Russia and China still say they will not form an alliance? Is the enemy of our friend necessarily our enemy? In other words, if Russia is the enemy of the US, must it be an enemy of Europe?

*We need to build Europe’s own security architecture, because if we don’t ease relations with Russia, there will be no peace on the continent.

*I asked the Americans to swap Russia and Canada.

*Ultimately, the world will revolve around two poles -- America and China, and Europe will have to choose between these two.

*But there’s a way out: Only France can re-establish a profoundly European civilisation.

*When we discuss European sovereignty, we must also include the United Kingdom very deeply, regardless of the final outcome of Brexit. European sovereignty includes the United Kingdom. 

In the midst of a war in which Western hegemony of the world order is on the line, the leaking of Mr Macron’s candid thoughts must have been highly disruptive. But now the chips in real life are falling approximate to the general drift of Mr Macron’s thoughts.

The congressional elections haven’t left Mr Biden like a wounded stag, nor is he brimming with over-confidence. The voters have nicely put him in his place. From now till November 2024, the electorate has left him to handle a cluttered domestic agenda.

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