The world's two most populous nations weighed in on the side of talks, negotiation and peace on the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, at the UNSC resolution vote against Russia. But for the "developed" world chest-thumping aggressively for "freedom, our values and our way of life," and blood-thirstily cheering Ukrainians from the sidelines into blood, gore and destruction – even as the Who’s Who of Hollywood indulged in fancy parties to make the statement "no war" – that had no bearing whatsoever on the issue at hand.

Both nations, China more so, appealed for talks and de-escalating tensions and against war-mongering at the Security Council, even while expressing distress at the manner in which Russia chose to draw notice to its long-standing and legitimate security concerns in the region, thanks primarily to the NATO expanding five times eastward. This was despite worrisome regional tensions between these two nations.

Analysts point out that international relations and diplomacy is about states navigating in favor of their own regional geo-political, economic and security interests as much as it is about firmly and unequivocally standing on the side of negotiated talks, instead of war, for resolution of wider concerns on a global stage. In a world overrun by Western hyperbole and rhetoric and ghoulishly celebrated, unbridled, unbending Russophobia, it was imperative that the two nations remained grounded, keeping the doors open for mediation to both sides, on talks and engagement to de-escalate the rapidly mounting tensions and to push for a negotiations-based solution to concerns.

This, irrespective of some insisting that the US would prefer Angela Merkel for mediation, if at all, despite all her “baggage” compared to China.

But it is China that has come through as the adult in the room rather than India, choosing to stridently assert that the responsibility for ending the Ukraine conflict did not stop with Moscow but as much with the US-led NATO which ignored Russia's security concerns repeatedly raised over the last three decades. The security concerns of one side cannot come at the expense of the security concerns of another on the global stage and Beijing has supported this view in the ongoing crisis.

Former Pentagon official Michael Maloof points out that China rejected economic sanctions as something that had no basis in international law. It also repeatedly urged NATO and the US in particular to rid itself of a persistent Cold War mentality. Instead of paying heed to this advice, the NATO has chosen to escalate concerns over Ukraine by moving military equipment, ammunition, arms right up to a worried Russia’s doorstep (the Baltic NATO member states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania border Russia to the West while Moldova, which shares a border with Romania but not Russia, cooperates with NATO) in the face of most reasoned experts on international relations pointing out that this would be counterproductive, exponentially hiking the chances of another world war.

US president Joe Biden prefaced his much-awaited State of the Union address with a calculated and prolonged near-jingoistic preface pegged on strengthening the US and its allies at the expense of heavily weakening Russia, received with rousing cheers of “USA! USA!” Biden’s address then went on to announce a plan to checkmate the supply chains from China (Russia’s ally) and making everything from roads, bridges, nuts and bolts in the USA again.

Now Biden has asked the Congress for some $6.4b in additional funding to pump arms/ammo and more into Ukraine, for USAID towards humanitarian assistance and for security assistance to Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states and allies on NATO’s eastern flank. Much of that, coupled with the stringent economic sanctions unleashed in tandem against Russia by the entire Western world, is expected to debilitate and decimate Russia from without and within, triggering a steady, even if slow, revolt against Putin.

The US’ ambitions at clipping Russia’s wings by using Ukraine as its playground were exposed most noticeably in the February 2014 Euro Maidan “revolution” (actually a coup) that resulted in the ouster and replacement of a democratically elected neutral government in Kyiv. Ukraine was described as a “geo-political pivot” by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Polish-born former counsellor and national security advisor to American presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter respectively, who belonged to the Realist school of International Relations.

In his book The Grand Chessboard, he homed in on Ukraine as part of a single-minded exercise to weaken Russia by drawing it into an Afghanistan 2.0 in its own neighborhood. Brzezinski’s worldview is subscribed to by Joe Biden. Both Biden and his son Hunter allegedly had interests in Ukraine, arguably among the most corrupt nations in the world, but that is not even mentioned by the American media these days.

Brzezinski wrote, “Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location and from the consequences of their potentially vulnerable condition for the behavior of geostrategic players… the very existence of a geopolitical pivot can be said to have very significant political and cultural consequences for a more active neighboring geostrategic player. The identification of the post-Cold War key Eurasian geopolitical pivots, and protecting them, is thus also a crucial aspect of America’s global geostrategy.”

He went on to list the five major geopolitical pivots as Azerbaijan, South Korea, Turkey, Iran, and Ukraine. Crucially, “Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state, more likely to be drawn into debilitating conflicts with aroused Central Asians, who would then be resentful of the loss of their recent independence and would be supported by their fellow Islamic states to the South.”

In the same book, he also identified India as an important geostrategic player, maintaining “although all geostrategic players tend to be important and powerful countries, not all important and powerful countries are automatically geostrategic players.” His roll call on this includes the United States, Russia, China, India, Germany and France but not Great Britain, Japan or Indonesia.

For India, the Ukraine-Russia conflict has been more of a tightrope walk, “a balancing act” as geo-strategist and specialist in international security and arms control issues Bramha Chellaney puts it, given the long standing historic, tried and tested ties with the USSR on the one hand, and a new-found, post-Cold War closeness with the USA on the other.

Soviet military support – the USSR’s use of its veto in the UN to checkmate the USA and allow India to intervene in the independence movement in E Pakistan and its role in preventing China from intervening directly – all played a role in India’s victory in 1971 over Pakistan time and again on key concerns, quite aside from the defence ties that have persisted for decades and crucially inform Indo-USSR/Russia ties.

It was logical that New Delhi would appreciate the Russian Federation's security concerns and choose to abstain in the UNSC vote.

However, India, in playing it both ways, failed to come out strongly, in its explanatory statement, on its disapproval of the manner in which Russia chose to address its own security concerns in Ukraine. In that, as Congress MP and ex UN man Shashi Tharoor suggested in a recent TV interview, India missed a big opportunity to take a mature stand that would have allowed it to convey this strongly even while abstaining on the UNSC vote.

Instead, government apologists and spokies, in the face of pressure from a new generation of Indians to go with the flow of a narrative firmly controlled and managed by the Western powers on the issue of Ukraine-Russia conflict (actually, the conflict between the US-led NATO and the Russian Federation demonstrated through the proxy war in Ukraine), found themselves falling between two stools.

This they did by arguing, miserably post the UNSC vote, that not a single Western nation, led by the USA, had come out with a statement condemning China’s encroaching on Indian territory. In effect, the UNSC abstention was a sort of tit for tat. In doing that, the Modi government – which appears to often conveniently obfuscate the line between partisan domestic and ruling party advantage and genuine national interest in the regional and global stage – seemed to forget that it was PM Modi himself who had categorically denied that any Chinese intruders had entered Indian territory.

And then, government apologists insisted that abstention did not mean standing in support of Russia. As if desperate to take the sting out of the persistently rising criticism among vocal sections at home on the abstention in the UNSC vote, the Modi government then rushed to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Prioritizing partisan domestic politics aimed at favoring the governing party rather than keeping centrally in mind India’s long term interests on the global stage, the Modi government also chose to twist and turn when it came under immense pressure – in the middle of a crucial election to the politically most potent state in the country – on the issue of thousands of Indian students caught in the middle of a proxy war against Russia that the US-led NATO had initiated on the soil of Ukraine.

PM Modi, shockingly, dissed the Indian students choosing to study (in affordable and good medical courses inaccessible to many within India itself) in "small nations here and there" rather than at home. Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, something that he may have also missed. That thousands of students from home preferred it as a destination for medical studies was well known and documented.

Another minister from the government Pralhad Joshi went further, claiming that most of the students failed local exams to practice medicine after their return to India, casting aspersions on the quality of medical education their families had battled hard economically to afford for them, something India has failed to ensure at home.

As if on cue, other apologists of the government chipped in aggressively, some claiming that the students had gone to Ukraine for personal benefit and the government had no bounden duty to airlift them out of Kyiv and other cities. By that time, official carrier Air India had already been sold recently to the group headed by the Ratan Tata group on easy terms and flights out of Kyiv for desperate students were as high as Rs 60,000/ticket compared to the usual Rs 30,000/ticket.

The government’s advisories to Indians in Ukraine failed to convey a sense of urgency and quite aside from ensuring that those far away from Ukraine’s western border reached exit points safely, Modi’s rushing several ministers to the bordering nations of Ukraine in Europe was used as a ballot ballast in the UP elections. Apologists for the government also simultaneously tweeted against the family of Naveen Shekarappa, the student who was killed in shelling in Kharkiv, in what was a revolting display of pettiness and ugliness.

Interestingly, mainstream news channels known for long to be servile, captive to the government’s agenda on all fronts, also suddenly lent themselves to the one-sided information tsunami from the West, choosing to demonize Russia, amplifying the view that Vladimir Putin was a “mercurial despot” and “ambitious tyrant” keen on taking over all of Europe and becoming the new Czar. Leading suggestions and questions dominated “debates” including “What is the end game of despotic Putin?” and “A look at the career of the former KGB man leading the Russian Federation”.

A noted TV anchor argued that (new found and Ukraine-centric) “morality” should govern India’s decision at the UN and that it should not be “on the wrong side of history,” (a phrase popularized by the West) or “be on the same side as China and the UAE,” adding, “I mean, is that where we see ourselves?”

Most media underplayed, even actively dissed, assertions by analysts on international affairs and diplomacy and seasoned Russia observers that it was unfair to describe Putin’s valid security concerns as despotic or tyrannical and that there was little evidence to support the view that Russia had plans to take over Europe and not just stop with asserting its influence in Crimea and the Donbass region of Ukraine, in the interests of Russia’s security.

Most of these commentators also asserted that those security concerns notwithstanding, war should not be an option to resolve the issues. But this attitude of the mainstream media – all rabid pulpit thumping and little history or reasoned, intellectual exchange – appears to have helped the government’s own seeming keenness at home, in tune with partisan domestic politics, to be seen as “even-keeled” while rebuffing critics on the UNSC abstention and coming through to the West as a nation that has a free media irrespective of the government’s own official position on the conflict.

So for now, at least, Islamophobia is on the side burner and Russophobia is the beast to be lynched as part of the new media mantra.

Irked with the abstentions by the two most populous nations in the world on the UNSC vote, the US-led NATO carried the resolution against Russia to the UNGA, too. Almost as if, piqued by the results at a game, the top gamesters churlishly upset the board and started afresh, with a preset upper-hand. Along with China and India, some 35 African nations also abstained in a vote that was meant to stridently “send the message to Russia.”

But hey, they’re just those black people from malnourished, impoverished nations of people with no blonde hair or blue eyes, so who gives a damn, right?? Unsurprisingly, it was packaged in the pliant media as proof that Russia still had influence in (sniff!) Africa but that wasn’t something that couldn’t be handled firmly.

On the world stage, even as the West farcically invoked international law (which they violated with impunity the world over from Palestine to Iraq to Syria and Afghanistan to a whole host of other nations in the name of a War Against Terror and other such self-glorifying labels), the sovereignty of nations and so on in the case of the Ukraine conflict, they continued to dangle (but not actually deliver on) carrots such as NATO and EU membership to Ukraine (presumably because they “are people like us, blonde-haired, blue eyed Christians from Europe,” as several Western media outlets rammed home, displaying overtly racial overtones).

Notably, although Ukraine president Zelensky’s appeal for EU membership received accolades, no real assurances were held out at a meeting of the Commission on fast-tracking Ukraine’s candidacy status. Many pledges were made on fund support and commitments to military equipment and arms, without actually putting boots on the ground. The disappointment on Zelensky’s side, when Russia’s “special military intervention” actually began, was obvious when he tweeted that NATO had led Ukraine “up the garden path and pushed it off the cliff.”

That may have been compounded after Poland, reportedly preparing to send several fighter jets to Kyiv, put out an official statement denying this, presumably on the apprehension that this could spread the war to the rest of Europe even as Kharkiv and other cities get pounded by Russia, in what appears to be a preamble to a similar fate being meted out for Kyiv. Unless, working against most projections, the talks between Ukraine (under the US’ direction) and Russia, or even other such attempts yield some positive results.

Brahma Chellaney points out that international laws remain “powerless against the powerful and powerful against the powerless.” In short, the rules-based order that the West talks about is mostly about rules to order less powerful nations. There were times not too far back in world history when “Say No To War” meant resolving conflict through talks instead of fisticuffs and had some value, as did ducking draft conscription and mounting immense pressure on the government at home to turn off the giant, free-flowing war funding tap.

Today, “No To War” means beating the war drums loudly, aggressively, to turn on the tap full force. Uber war, including not just military equipment but also weaponizing economic sanctions, weaponizing energy and brazenly one-sided information as a deterrent to war is today both normalized and legitimized by international law and rules-based order.

Not just the leaders of self proclaimed super powers, but ordinary people on the streets by the millions are buying into this illogic. To sum up, here’s what one war reporter speaking to BBC World said: All war has to be posited in a historical context in order to get the macro picture. Without that, war is just war wherever it happens, people being mean to each other, being cruel and inhuman..

Prabha Jagannathan is a senior journalist.

US stance on Ukraine, Taiwan uniting China, Russia - Asia Times