BY SAEED NAQVI
The spectacle of the US fleeing Afghanistan in August 2021 became the inflection point for a changing world order. This was followed by Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin signing a historic document in Beijing on February 4, announcing a “friendship with no limits”, .further confirming the trend.
The earth was spinning on its axis like a potter’s wheel. A new order was taking shape. The West had to take action, provoking what would be advertised as Russia’s “unprovoked” invasion of Ukraine.
The change in world order entailed gains and losses in global stature. The West, led by the US would, sooner or later lose its hegemony. The instruments it had developed to advance its control of the world order would now be employed to arrest its decline – accelerating expansion of NATO, eastward.
NATO’s first Secretary General, Lord Hastings Ismay had outlined the purposes of the Military Alliance most succinctly : to keep the Soviet Union out of Europe, the Americans in and the Germans down. In a most lucid opening statement before the media on European security issues, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov made good use of the Ismay quote to explain his understanding of the Ukraine conflict.
“What is happening now is nothing short of returning to the Alliance’s conceptual priorities from 73 years ago”. He repeated for emphasis: “Nothing has changed”. Infact, NATO is determined to keep the Russians ‘out; while the American dream of keeping not only the Germans but the whole of Europe “down”. Lavrov was particularly severe: “the US has infact already enslaved the entire European Union”.
Since Germany was on the opposite side of the Allies during the two world wars, a degree of anti German prejudice was passed on everywhere even to our schools in the former colonies. India was the principal one among these. A great deal of the prejudice was drawn from war movies, of great escapes, clever spies, in each one of which the Germans were the butt of malicious humour.
During the Cold War, Germany receded as an issue but surfaced again once the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991-92. What was the need for NATO now? During a visit to Finland, Mrs Thatcher was pointedly asked : “The Soviet Union no longer exists, what then is the need for NATO and for Britain’s nuclear arsenal”?
“We still have a problem in the Middle East,” she snapped back. Informed circles in London and Washington had begun to touch on the German question in a new context. The collapse of the Soviet Union was cause for celebrations in the west, ofcourse, but the fall of the Berlin wall had caused the west to take note alarmingly of a reunified Germany.
A reunified Germany may be tempted to seek a greater role in the post Soviet World order. This idea must not be allowed to germinates. It was to nip it in the bud that Operation Desert storm was conceived and launched in 1991. It was ostensibly to free Kuwait which Saddam Husain had occupied. Had he misread a signal from April Glaspie, the US Ambassador in Baghdad?
A key event (or non event) cited as one of the causes of Operation Desert Storm is to this day shrouded in mystery. In a routine conversation with Glaspie, Saddam Husain complained of Kuwait encroaching on Iraqi oil bearing land. Wikileaks has made public the memo ambassador Glaspie sent to the state department based on her conversation with Saddam Husain. “The US government takes no position on Iraq’s border dispute with Kuwait”. This much is on record. Was Saddam guilty of having moved into Kuwait assuming that the “US took no position” on the dispute?
It turns out that it was not a story relevant to West Asia alone, Mrs Thatcher and President George Bush Senior drummed up an International Coalition of the Willing to oust Saddam out of Kuwait. With Soviets out of the way, it was said then, wars would now not be between the West and East. They would be between North and South. Is Ukraine an exception?
President Mitterrand of France who probably understood the real game, initially refused to be part of the “coalition” which was being diligently put together by the two Anglo-Saxon cousins separated by the Atlantic Ocean.
In Baghdad I realized how Mitterrand had gauged the “coalition’s” intentions right. During military action there were two separate briefings – one for American journalists and another for British. The rest of the world press twiddled its thumb on the margins of action.
The other key instrument the west was to use to control the post Soviet World order was inaugurated in Baghdad. It was the global media, exactly the one that has been brazenly used since the beginning of the Ukraine war.
Peter Arnett of the CNN beamed from the terrace of the Al Rashied Hotel a war in real time. This was the first time that a war was brought live into the world’s drawing rooms. This was to become a great resource for mobilizing public opinion across the globe.
By the same token, it had the power to divide the world, pit one group against the other. Just one telecast of Desert Storm divided the world into two inimical and sets of audiences – the triumphant west and a defeated, humiliated Iraq a country which had the sympathy of the entire Muslim world. Some of this stimulated antipathy gave a shot in the arm to Muslim terrorism.
Let me end with Lavrov’s perspective on the origins of the conflict.
“In 1990, at the closing stage of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe Summit in Paris, US Secretary of State James Baker warned the US President that the CSCE might pose a threat to NATO. It revealed the US mind set,” says Lavrov.
By persisting with NATO expansion from 16 to 32 states James Baker’s intellectual descendants are averse to anything resembling the CSCE becoming a genuine bridge between East and West. The pursuit is for war to avert the end of western hegemony.
(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)
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