Russian Military Operation in Ukraine Was Necessity, Says Ex-Indian Diplomat
05:37 GMT 09.04.2022 (Updated: 09:49 GMT 10.02.2023)
© Sputnik / Viktor AntonykMilitary hardware is pictured in Bugas, Donetsk People's Republic. Tension began to escalate in Donbass on 17 February, with the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic reporting the most intense shellfire in months. Early on 24 February, Russia's President Putin announced his decision to launch a special military operation in response to requests from the leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic.
© Sputnik / Viktor Antonyk/
Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February. Since then, there have been several rounds of talks between Russia and Ukraine, but there have been no concrete results. The Russian foreign minister said that Kiev's new draft peace agreement was very different from the proposals laid out at the latest talks in Istanbul.
J.K. Tripathi is a retired Indian Foreign Service officer. He has served as ambassador of India to Zimbabwe, consul general of India in Sao Paulo, Brazil, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of India to the Sultanate of Oman, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of India in Venezuela, and deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of India in Sweden.
In an interview with Sputnik, J.K. Tripathi discussed various aspects of the Russian military operation in Ukraine and its impact on the geopolitical situation across the world.
Sputnik: How do you see Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine?
J.K. Tripathi: I think Russia’s military operation was a necessity, rather a compulsion, because of the liability imposed on Russia by NATO members. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, there was absolutely no need for the continuation or existence of NATO. However, Russia didn’t object to it, but during a meeting between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, it was decided that NATO would not expand towards the east. Though this was not written, verbal assurance was given.
Even James Baker, US secretary of state, clearly stated that NATO will not be allowed to go eastwards even by an inch. Though he later retracted his statement, the then US ambassador in the USSR corroborated that Baker said this. This was even corroborated by the then German foreign minister as well as the French foreign minister. Despite that, NATO kept on expanding toward the east notwithstanding any Russian objections or security concerns.
So, what happened in the early 2000s? When Putin attended a security conference in Europe, he jokingly asked Bill Clinton if Russia could join NATO, to which he said ["Why not?"], [but the US delegation was] very much worried that if Russia joined NATO, US hegemony would come to an end.
In 1990, then Secretary General of NATO Manfred Worner went on record as saying that the fact that [NATO is] ready to not place the NATO army outside German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee. But defying all those guarantees, all those assurances, they kept on moving towards the east.
Therefore, when it was declared that Ukraine would be inducted into NATO in the near future, it was a make-or-break [situation] for Russia. This is why Russia had to start this operation.
Sputnik: Do you think that the media reporting on the conflict is biased, as the Western media is showcasing Ukraine as the victim and Russia as a villain?
J.K. Tripathi: I strongly agree to this that the media reporting has been totally biased. If you see, when the military operation started there was absolutely no news from Russia in the first 10-15 days. Each and every [piece of] news that was circulating on the Internet was from Western media and it was full of lies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been quoted time and again [claiming that] Ukraine has destroyed so many Russian fighter jets, aircraft, and tanks and killed so many Russian soldiers. But I fail to understand this, since they claim to have captured 15,000 Russian soldiers alive, [as well as] destroyed more than 50 tanks and more than eight fighter jets per day in the first 10-15 days itself. This is beyond anybody’s imagination.
Apart from this, they have been saying that buildings have been destroyed and shelled by missiles. Had the buildings been shelled by missiles they would have been demolished. One needs to understand that the attacks were targeted especially on buildings from where the Ukrainian army was operating. The Ukrainian army was putting the lives of civilians at risk, but on the contrary, the media has been accusing Russia of targeting civilian establishments. So that was totally information warfare in favour of Ukraine.
Sputnik: With so many sanctions in place, how do you think Russia will deal with the economic challenges?
J.K. Tripathi: I don't think that there will be many problems, because people have misunderstood Putin. They thought that he is naïve and will succumb to the pressure. But they didn't know that having been a KGB [foreign intelligence officer] for years, he is very strong mentally.
Russia started its new system SPFS [ed. a Russian equivalent of the SWIFT financial transfer system] in 2014, when the Crimea operation was over. So, at that time Russia began shifting from the SWIFT platform to its own platform, SPFS.
Apart from this, Russia also became a member of the Chinese CIPS system, which is equivalent to SWIFT. Also, in the last few years, Russia has very wisely shifted most of its gold reserves from the West to Russia and other friendly countries.
Initially, there was a big hue and cry when ruble went down, but now it has come back strongly. So, this shows that the sanctions have not been effective against Russia and that’s a cause of increasing frustration in NATO.
Sputnik: The crisis has posed a huge economic challenge across the world, with crude oil prices going significantly up. What impact will this have on the Indian economy?
J.K. Tripathi: Certainly, there will be an impact on the Indian economy and we are already seeing that oil prices have gone significantly up. We are getting most of our oil from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and some from Nigeria and Russia. We are not buying oil from Iran because of sanctions imposed on it. Apart from this, now we are getting oil from Venezuela, where sanctions were imposed earlier.
We are buying oil from Russia despite pressure from the US, as we clearly told them that it is our necessity and [Washington] even understood that. Now the US is trying to wriggle out by saying that we should not buy oil in abnormally high quantities. This is just a face-saving exercise.
Efforts are being made to stabilise the economic challenges by reviving rupee-ruble trade so that we don’t have to go to the SWIFT payment system, which means that we will be able to import oil in high quantities too.
Sputnik: How do you think the geopolitical situation in the world will change due to this conflict?
J.K. Tripathi: Russia started this military operation with four objectives and most of its objectives have been achieved. [Among the key] objectives which Russia [announced] are that Ukraine not join NATO, the demilitarisation of Ukraine, that Ukraine recognise Crimea as Russian territory, and that Ukraine recognise Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states. Most of the objectives have been achieved. So, I think that this military operation will end in Russia’s favour.
As far as the overall outcome of this military operation is concerned, I feel that Russia will be a bit weakened, because however hard the economic sanctions are and whatever steps Russia is taking to counter them, it will have a cost for Russia. The Russian economy will feel a pinch from this military operation. Although the magnitude of this is still not known, there will be some impact.
Apart from this, NATO will also become weaker as it has been discredited. Now China will gain big from all this because it is not actively supporting the operation and is playing safe. Also, in my opinion, the US will also suffer a lot because as it will lead to a decline in Joe Biden’s popularity. You see, despite Zelensky’s repeated calls to send NATO forces, the US didn’t send any forces because its citizens will not allow any of their soldiers die in a foreign land, and that is why it withdrew its forces from Afghanistan.
Sputnik: Ukraine earlier asked India to intervene in the crisis, and several other leaders have also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mediate between Moscow and Kiev. Do you think that India's position is strengthening?
J.K. Tripathi: Certainly India has emerged as a stronger country despite facing the fallout of the military operation, leading to an economic crisis. The reason behind this is that India withstood the pressure from the West and the US on oil purchases and support for Russia.
India has emerged as a country that is always propagating and advocating peace and denying any sort of use of force wherever it is not necessary.
As far as mediation is concerned, the consent of both parties is required. Ukraine has been asking India to mediate, but Russia has not explicitly requested India to mediate. So, India will not do that.
The reason behind this is that India has maintained a policy that bilateral issues between two countries should be resolved by themselves and no third party should intervene. If you remember, [former US President Donald] Trump tried to mediate several times, but India clearly refused. So in such a situation, India will not jump into the issue out of nowhere.
India’s strong position can be understood by the fact that despite being a NATO member, Turkey is under sanctions for [the purchase of Russia's] S-400 [air defence system], whereas India, not being a NATO member, is not. This can also be seen in a way that strategically and economically we are in such a situation that not only Russia, but the US also needs us in Asia.
Sputnik: India and Russia have enjoyed a great friendship for the last 75 years. With India taking a neutral stance on the situation, what impact do you see on the relations of both countries?
J.K. Tripathi: India’s friendship with Russia is not only 75 years old, but it goes back to India’s pre-independence era. India faced a lot of problems during the initial years of independence and Russia helped us at that time, not the US.
We approached the US for help during the 1950s, to which it asked about terms and conditions and all that, but when Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the then ambassador to the Soviet Union, approached the leadership, they immediately asked him the quantity of the wheat required and the port where the ships can be rushed.
Although he asked to discuss the terms and conditions and prices, the Russian leadership refused to do so and said that it could be done afterwards, because the immediate need was for wheat. So, India cherishes such a relationship with Russia.
Apart from this, Russia has been standing strong with us during various wars with Pakistan and China. However, in the recent skirmishes with China, it has maintained a neutral stance, but that doesn’t mean that Russia has abandoned us. The relationship between both countries is still intact.