Ukraine makes strange bedfellows

Monday, 28 February 2022 — Indian Punchline

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed Ukraine developments on phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, February 27, 2022

The world community is aghast over the acute tensions between the United States and its NATO allies on one side and Russia on the other, which is poised critically on the brink of a military confrontation, the like of which the world didn’t see in the entire Cold War era.

The shocking part is that it has become a no-holds barred struggle that is being fought with tooth and claw, as hidden racial and religious prejudices lying just below the surface have welled to the surface in the Western world.

The amusing sight of western TV Channels openly discussing why an open door policy toward refugees from Ukraine is warranted in European countries underscores the subterranean cultural cross currents beneath the thin veneer of modernity.

The western journalists have argued passionately that these refugees are not like those sub-humans from Muslim countries who knock on the doors of Europe seeking asylum, but these Ukrainian refugees are Christians — and that too, with blond hair and light eyes!

It is when traumatic times come that the veneer of culture and modernity of the Europeans peels away and true human nature surfaces in all its naked crudity. This is not a matter of education or wealth.

We have seen that even António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres is a changed man nowadays. He behaves more like a westerner from Portugal and a Roman Catholic than as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. After Dag Hammarskjöld, Guterres is the first secretary-general of the UN who has clashed with a permanent member of the Security Council — or, more precisely, identified totally with one of the UNSC members against another.

Hammarskjöld’s clash with the US was not personal, but on principles and ideology. Whereas, Guterres’ motives are dubious. (Is it a coincidence that his special representatives in the trouble spots in the world wherever western interests are at stake — be it Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan or Venezuela — happen to be nominees from the Western countries?)

Of course, Guterres won’t meet with the tragic fate of Hammarskjöld (whom the CIA eliminated) because Russia doesn’t do such ghastly things. But Guterres demeans his own organisation where the big majority of countries are from the non-western world.

Not a single Muslim country has voiced support for Washington in its confrontation with Russia. Although they are stakeholders in a Third World War, they prefer not to think about it. The heart of the matter is that they think this is another crusade of the Christian countries — cloaked as values and ‘rules-based order’ — which they’ve experienced so often. They see that the Western countries are back to their bestial wars endemic to European history through centuries.

If reports are to be believed, Saudi Arabia point blank refused to pay heed to the Biden Administration’s entreaties to break up its energy alliance with Russia known as OPEC+ which fine tunes the supply position in the world oil market. Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran and Syria have openly supported Russia.Turkey offered mediation between Russia and Ukraine and indeed had a hand in arranging the talks in Belarus.

However, it is Israel that made the most memorable overture to Russia of a historical nature suffused with great poignancy. Israel prevented the US from transferring to Ukraine its Dome missile defence system which would have been a game changer in the present conflict on the plea that it did not want to act against Russia!

Both Washington and Tel Aviv hushed up this spat until its disclosure recently by the media. Then came the request from the Biden Administration seeking support from Israel to co-sponsor its resolution in the Security Council regarding Ukraine. Israel refused! The US made its displeasure known.

Following that, in a conversation at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, the Israeli ambassador was apparently asked by the Russian side whether his country wasn’t aware of what’s going on in Ukraine — where the calculus of power lies in the hands of Neo-Nazi groups acting with the support of the western countries.

To be sure, Israel must be well aware of the situation. Ukraine is not like any other country for Israel. It was the country where the horrific massacres took place in late September 1941 when the invading Nazi army, SS and German police units and their auxiliaries perpetrated one of the largest massacres of World War II.

It took place at a ravine called Babyn Yar (Babi Yar) just outside the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev. According to the Holocaust Encyclopaedia, “Germans continued to perpetrate mass murders at this killing site until just before the Soviets re-took control of Kyiv in 1943. During this period, Germans shot Jews, as well as Roma, Ukrainian civilians and Soviet POWs. In the decades after the war, Babyn Yar symbolized the struggle over the memory of World War II and the Holocaust in the Soviet Union.”

We will never know the Israeli ambassador’s reaction to the Russian demarche, but Moscow had a pleasant surprise when Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday offering mediation on Ukraine. The Russian readout said briefly, “In his turn, Naftali Bennett offered Israel’s mediation services in order to stop military actions.” Putin of course briefed Bennett on the special military operation to defend Donbass and explained that Moscow “is ready for talks with Kiev’s representatives, who have shown an inconsistent approach so far and have not yet used this opportunity.”

Israel finds itself in a delicate situation. The US is Israel’s close ally and Bennett has been treading a careful line not to let differences with the Biden administration become disputes — unlike his abrasive, acerbic predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu.

On the other hand, Israel has a very special relationship with Russia in terms of the fact that it also had suffered greatly at the hands of the marauding Nazi invaders. After all, over 20 million Soviet citizens perished during World War II.

Equally, Israel is acutely conscious that Russia is deeply committed to the campaign against fascism at a time when the western world has turned its back on it and has decided to not only move on but also acquiesce with the recrudescence of Nazi ideology in the European societies lately.

Surely, German involvement with the Neo-Nazis in Ukraine must be known to the Israeli intelligence. But what can Israel do on its own? It is a deeply painful reality for both Israel and Russia that in the western political ecosystem, Nazi ideology is no longer reprehensible.

Isn’t it amazing that two of the three Abrahamic religions are in a quandary over the war cries in the Christian world? The crisis over Ukraine indeed makes strange bed fellows. The UAE, a staunch ally of the US in the West Asian region, abstained twice in the recent days over the US-sponsored resolutions condemning Russia at the UN Security Council.

Guterres has taken personal charge of marshalling support for the US at the special session of the UNGA today regarding Ukraine. American diplomats are pulling all stops. If a big chunk of UN members still choose to abstain, it will be a big blow for Guterres personally. Will he quit if that happens? Of course, that is too much to expect. Americans simply won’t let him, having retained him for a second term.

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