In his recent state visit to China, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, during talks with President Xi Jinping, again urged Beijing to use its influence on Russia to stop the war.
His visit came on the heels of the G-7 meeting held in Muenster’s town hall – which local officials say was last used to host an international diplomatic event in 1648 to sign the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the 30-year war.
The G-7 meeting was held to reaffirm “alignment and consistency” on Ukraine and several other issues.
Presumably, while their concern was to keep the bloc together in the face of the Ukrainian conflict, other issues brought into focus were the global shortages of food and energy as famine looms in parts of Africa; winter approaches in Europe, and price caps on Russian energy imports aimed at further stifling Russia’s income — a move that some hope might help convince the Kremlin to stop the fighting and engage in diplomacy.
If the German Chancellor had come to meet Xi Jinping with his peace conviction, he should have suggested a united or a China-Germany joint mission to push the warring leadership to the negotiating table.
But he chose to call on Beijing to tell Russia to stop the war while continuing to flood Ukraine with powerful German weapons. In the lines to follow, we shall see the real objective of the German Chancellor’s trip to Beijing.
What wishful thinking the G-7 meeting in Muenster entertained was that China, the United States, Britain, Germany, and France would work together to press Kyiv and Moscow to sit at the negotiating table.
That means all the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus the European Union’s most powerful states would be the negotiators, and that is all. These countries signed the condemnation resolution at the UN against Russia.
Chinese mediation, and that too on the prompting of NATO countries and the US, is a far-fetched idea and bereft of ground reality. If China is to dissuade the Kremlin from action in Ukraine, what need has she to reduce her international status and become an adjunct to a delegation comprising the NATO members?
The reality is that the West is arming Ukraine with the most lethal weapons in its arsenal. Germany takes the lead. They have an objective for doing so. They will show no interest in peace overtures until that objective is realized.
A fair judgment will have little hesitation in calling it the West’s proxy war. And a proxy war that leaves vast space for denial is less expensive but more lethal.
While the West is unrelenting in its propaganda against China, it has now found a pretext of undermining China’s self-esteem as a superpower by Beijing not prevailing upon Moscow to end the war in Ukraine.
Big powers are not looking for advisers. We think Putin will not forgive Modi for taking liberty with his friendship during the Samarkand summit for his much-lionized quip.
Three weeks ago, the House progressives urged Biden to push toward directly engaging diplomatically with Russia, calling on the president to “pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.”
A day later, facing critics from different sides, the caucus chairwoman had to offer an apologetic explanation for withdrawing the letter. Additionally, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was upbraided by his coalition partners for undertaking a journey to Beijing.
This indicates that the West and the US aim for something other than a peace process in Ukraine. That is precisely the characteristic of a proxy war. Their foremost concern is to send more lethal weapons to Ukraine.
West Fighting A Proxy War
In August last, US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, acknowledged that 40 million people worldwide would become food-insecure and that sub-Saharan Africa would be hit worst due to the war.
This is an underestimated number indeed. We find that China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, the Vatican, and at least half the countries in South America, the 22 member states of the Arab League, and the 55 member states of the African Union have appealed for immediate peace talks.
These voices of the Global South represent the majority of humanity. Yet the West dares to ignore this enormous voice of humanity and claim that they have a soft corner for the African continent’s poor.
“Most puzzling to us is the idea that a conflict like this is, in essence, being encouraged to continue indefinitely,” said a top African diplomat quoted anonymously by Reuters. Indeed, Africa is hit worst by food shortage.
A more in-depth analysis will show that the Western countries are in a state of dilemma about how they have to deal with the situation unfolding in Ukraine. For example, as usual, it ignores the rest of the world while claiming to speak on its behalf.
Recently, speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is of Ukrainian descent, was asked by an African Development Bank official whether the West was neglecting the needs of the African continent.
She made it clear that “defending democracy” took priority. She said: “People themselves can only defend democracy if they’re prepared to die for their democracy” and that “[Ukrainians] are fighting for themselves. … The countries of Africa … this is a choice they need to make for themselves. … We have to set aside paternalism.”
This is the crux of the issue. If democracy is to be defended, then why become a proxy of somebody? Why accept paternalism? Becoming a proxy means being prepared to bear the consequences. This is precisely why Moscow began its “defensive action” in Ukraine.
The West’s warnings to Russia began to pour in soon after last year’s G-7 meeting in Liverpool. In response, Russia said it was not contemplating war against Ukraine.
Since delivering the initial warning to Moscow – two months before the invasion was launched in late February – the G-7 nations have followed mainly through with their vow to punish Russia. However, sanctions have done little to deter the Kremlin.
In this volatile situation, the potential world food crisis was averted when Russia agreed to rejoin a wartime agreement that allowed Ukrainian grains and other commodities to reach global markets. But other emergencies are looming large.
They include the energy crisis, Russia’s claims that Ukraine is preparing to use a radioactive “dirty bomb,” and suggestions that Moscow might respond with nuclear weapons. This is not at all an optimistic scenario.
US officials had said that the G-7 would be looking to harmonize their policies related to Chinese investment in their countries and caution against the aggressive moves that Beijing might take against Taiwan.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz became the first European leader to make a trip to Beijing since the war in Ukraine began. Chinese investment in a major port project in Germany has raised concerns in Washington and other capitals that China might gain a controlling interest in critical infrastructure in the heart of an allied country.
According to knowledgeable sources, the G-7 also considered Iran’s indirect role in the Ukrainian conflict. The reports of the Iranian theocratic regime’s brutal attacks on women protestors have caught the attention of the West and the free world.
But more than that, Iran’s supply of drones to Russia for deployment in Ukraine has caused much concern to the NATO countries, resulting in the EU dragging its legs from continued negotiations on lifting the sanctions on Iran. That is not going to happen so soon.
Amid all these discouraging developments, the news has come that Pakistan and Ukraine are perhaps conducting preliminary talks to transfer the technology for producing nuclear weapons to Ukraine.
Pakistan is faced with a financial crunch, and she wants money to export nuclear technology. And, of course, the NATO proxy would look up to the “parental” to foot that bill.
In the final analysis, while one-half of the world is likely to be adversely affected by the ongoing war, the world powers have to think coolly about what kind of role they are expected to play to bring about an end to a hazardous situation with which the entire globe is faced with.
- Padma Shri KN Pandita is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University. Views expressed here are of the author’s.
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