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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 48, November 22, 2014

US shows ‘Pure Evil’ to Russia, is pays back

Saturday 22 November 2014, by M K Bhadrakumar

by M.K. Bhadrakumar

The Islamic State [IS] missed its timing by a whisker in making the announcement that it beheaded an American aid worker. The announcement should have been made a day earlier just when the G-20 summit was getting underway and Russian “aggression” in Ukraine was about to be brought to the centre-stage as per the pre-planning by Western countries led by the United States.

The IS could easily have put President Barack Obama on the horns of a dilemma and his Australian sidekick might not have resorted to such boorish behaviour either.

There is some poetic justice nonetheless that in the event, the US’ triumphalism of turning the G-20 into a pulpit to bait Russia proved short-lived.

The IS has reminded Obama that the US has a lot of blood on its hands and murder begets murder. By the way, it is not Muslim blood alone; the “regime change” Obama presided over in Ukraine in February has so far killed 4000 people. What is one American life in Mesopotamia in comparison? Yet, Obama calls it “pure evil” when the IS killed a single American.

The G-20 at Brisbane could have been turned into a creative forum to try to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis. Instead PM Tony Abbott got a midnight phone call from Washington to turn the summit arena into an Orwellian animal farm. Which he did loyally.

The problem begins only now.

One, the Ukraine situation is going to take a turn for the worse. Much bloodshed can be expected. Russia is determined to safeguard its national interests and after what happened in Brisbane, it will be strengthened in its belief—and rightly so—that Ukraine is only the symptom of a concerted US strategy to contain Russia’s emergent role as an independent power-centre in world politics.

Clearly, Obama wants a “frozen conflict” in Ukraine, which creates an obstacle in Russia’s relations with the Western European states in the short and medium term and, in turn, helps to consolidate the US’ trans-Atlantic leadership, apart from giving new verve to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Two, the bitterness created at Brisbane in Russia’s relations with the West will vitiate the climate of world politics as a whole. The bad blood in US-Russia ties will find its echo in the United Nations Security Council while that body is called upon to address the “hotspots”. It will outlive the Obama presidency.

Obama’s calculation could be that with Iran on his side, the US doesn’t need Russia’s cooperation in the Middle East. Equally, Obama could be factoring in that the mesmerising prospects of a “new type of relationship” between the US and China would keep Beijing in abeyance from teaming up with Moscow in a veritable alliance against Washington.

However, both assumptions can go wrong—or worse still, be rendered irrelevant—because there are power-centres other than Russia, China or Iran in world politics. In fact, the IS just underlined it.

Again, what happens if Russia abandons its self-restraint and switches gear to active opposition to the US’ policies—from one of passive non-cooperation? So far this hasn’t happened for a variety of reasons. Is the G-20 at Brisbane a defining moment, finally, for the Russian elites who pander to the West?

The point is, to borrow Obama’s own expression about the IS, Russia just experienced “pure evil” from the US. What was exhibited at Brisbane was malignity of the sort that is “motiveless”—like Iago’s in William Shakespeare’s play Othello.

Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.