Realism about Russia, great powers and greater self-interest

The spectre of Russian interference as visualised by TVOntario, a Canadian publicly funded English language educational television station

India and China are proving the US president wrong. Joe Biden says Russia is “isolated from the world”. But India and China have been willing, even eager, to welcome Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to their capitals.

The Biden administration says it’s “time to stand on the right side of history…for freedom, democracy and sovereignty with the Ukrainian people, and not funding and fueling and aiding President Putin’s war”.

But India is considering rupee-rouble trade – a throwback to the system that has existed for long periods of time during the 75 years India has been an independent country. On April 1, Mr Lavrov spoke from New Delhi to express gratitude for the support.

It wasn’t an April 1 joke.

China, meanwhile, has expressed discontent with the US and Nato’s position on Russia and refused to condemn Moscow for invading Ukraine.

What does this say?

Russia is hardly a world pariah. Though sanctions on Russia are crippling, they’re limited mainly to Nato members and Australia, Japan and South Korea.

India and China are at the head of a bloc of other countries, which includes BrazilPakistan and South Africa, that resents western fiat and refuses to doff its cap and fall in line.

This much had become apparent within days of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, as I wrote here, here, here and here.

As said before, the non-western world has offered a nuanced response to the Russian invasion, with China and the three giants of the global south – India, Brazil and South Africa – refusing to explicitly denounce it. Add to that the apparent desire of several African countries to continue with business as usual (or even more business than usual).

Unsurprisingly, the Russian foreign minister has rather smartly summed up current developments as follows: that Russia, China, and other like-minded countries would “move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order.”

That’s a self-serving way to regard the situation. It’s more about great powers and even greater self-interest for everyone concerned.