Both the Russian action against Ukraine and the provocation by the West are unacceptable
The Russia-Ukraine conflict shows the stark reality of the changing or changed geopolitical map of the world. If (bitter) truth is to be faced and digested, the first wholesale change of the modern world map took place in Africa in the 19th century, sugar-coated with a somewhat civilised term — western historians call it ‘Partition of Africa’ — as if forced partitioning of foreign countries is a heroic act, worthy of emulation.
War (including civil war), invasion and conflict constitute the core factors which have shaped or re-shaped, made or unmade maps of the world since time immemorial. One instance will suffice. There have been 40 major invasions of India in the past 1,000 years which understandably changed the political maps thereof. The English did not come to India as invaders per se. Nevertheless, during the course of their quest for “ease of doing business”, they resorted to playing every possible role: invader, looter, dacoit, conspirator, murderer, racist ruler and destroyer of indigenous industry.
Not strangely, and true to the forces of world history, the Englishmen were ably assisted by a large section of Indians themselves, preferring foreigners to their own country cousins owing to a broad perception that the London lords somehow appeared better administrators than the local looters, notwithstanding the variety of crookedness adopted by the former.
Contextually, today’s Russia-Ukraine conflict shows the stark reality of the changing or changed geopolitical map of the world. Whether the conflict is termed a war or not, I see it as an extension and continuation of a fratricide resulting in an avoidable conflict for Ukraine and an equally unavoidable ‘civil’ war for Russia, with the USA-led West being the real target. Purportedly though, it’s also for territory reclamation or retention on part of yesterday’s blood relations and today’s differences of opinion pertaining to allowing or disallowing a rank outsider (akin to a third person singular number) from across the Atlantic trying to enter the Azov Sea.
If (bitter) truth is to be faced and digested, the first wholesale change of the modern world map took place in Africa in the second half of the 19th century, sugar-coated with a somewhat civilised term — western historians call it the “Partition of Africa” — as if the forced partitioning of foreign countries of another continent is a heroic act, worthy of emulation.
Thus, seven European countries spearheaded their “Mission Dark Continent” (how derogatory is that!). England, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Germany shredded Africa into pieces like a pack of hungry hyenas, the essence of which was penned with profound sensitivity in the soul-felt stanza of rhyme, rhythm and imagery by Rabindranath Tagore in his memorable and lyrical composition, Africa.
Virtually every corner of the African continent, which today consists of 54 countries, was penetrated, mostly by “botanist and buccaneer; Bible and the bureaucrat” followed or accompanied by “banker and the businessman”. To express the superiority of white Europeans, the Africa conquest was referred to as the mission of the “white man’s burden” to civilise and discipline the natives.
Thus, whereas less than one-tenth of Africa became European colonies in 1875, by 1895 only one-tenth thereof remained unconquered or unsubjugated. The following decades, however, saw speedy conquests by the white Europeans, thereby creating new maps across the globe.
Between 1871 and 1900, the British Empire added 4.25 million square miles of territory and almost 70 million people. France added 3.5 million square miles and 26 million people. Simultaneously, Germany, Belgium and Italy each acquired new colonial empires; and at the turn of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, there emerged the “historical novelty”. Most of the world now belonged to a handful of “great” European powers. It was “Life Divine Rule of Nine” over the “One World Supine”. England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark were in control. Neither Russia (the biggest land power) nor India (the second most populous geography) was ever on the scene.
Fast-forward to the mid-20th century and beyond. Both India and Russia overnight break into pieces. In 1947, India’s geographical area of 42,24,000 square km was reduced to 32,80,000 square km. Its 42-crore population fell to 34 crore as eight crore became Pakistanis. The eternally squabbling, quarrelling and myopic Indian leaders fell into the trap of the British who were “happy” to grant “independence” to the fratricide-prone, fractious demography of the Indian geography, further filled up with 565 “states within the British India state”.
Forty-four years after India’s Independence, it was the turn of the mighty USSR, which crumbled like a house of cards in 1991, thereby shrinking from 2,24,02,200 square km to 1,70,98,200 square km. Its demography, too, dwindled by 50 per cent. Overnight, the Soviet Union’s 29-crore populace (much more than its arch rival USA’s 24 crore) was reduced to Russia’s 14.5 crore. Again, it was the complacent but incompetent, inefficient and clueless Communist leadership of the Moscow Marxists who ruined their own nation, getting hypnotised by Glasnost and Perestroika, and lured by the magnetic and irresistible purchasing “power of the dollar”. “Gone with the wind” was “the dictatorship of the proletariat” and leader of “Comintern” (Communist International), thereby leaving the field open for a unitary “international order”.
Understandably, the USA arrived and made use of the empty stage, expanding, conquering, invading, consolidating, corrupting the system of its old foe. It’s but natural. Following the footstep of preceding imperial powers of the West. Why not? Who will miss a chance? Morality or no morality! Power play is the reality. It was an unusual and unique opportunity which was fully (over-) exploited by the USA to reach the shoreline of the former USSR, which (indeed) is the “underbelly” of Moscow.
A cursory glance even by a layman will make it clear that every country, especially a comparatively ‘big’ power, has (and always had) an underbelly, colloquially referred to as “spheres of influence”, notwithstanding the “rejection” thereof by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her speech in New Delhi recently.
How many “underbelly/spheres of influence” does the UK still have? What happens if Spain claims Gibraltar (Spanish water), the Falklands (more than 10,000 km from UK) by Argentina, and the Ascension Islands are helped big by a power inimical to London? How will China react to an adversary wooing Mongolia, and encouraging Manchuria to secede?
How come the West and China deliberately don’t understand Delhi’s ‘security threat perception’ pertaining to the sub-Himalayan region and the nations around it? Where were those preachers when China and Pakistan together violated India’s sovereignty through the BRI and CPEC? Aren’t J&K and Ladakh India’s own territory? Can it be said that it doesn’t fall under the Delhi “spheres of influence”? There still are several countries in the West whose “spheres of influence” and “interest” extend far beyond their geographical boundaries and sovereign territories.
Seen thus, it’s undeniable that the geography of the Azov Sea falls under the Moscow ‘sphere of influence’. But the Russian action today is totally wrong and it must cease fire. Nevertheless, the provocation by the West, too, is evident and, hence, unacceptable. It takes two to tango. In war and peace.

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