From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Russia Ukraine war, India-Russia relations
- Russia marks two anniversaries the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Union and the 31st anniversary of its dissolution. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, the Soviet Union was proclaimed on December 30, 1922. Until its dissolution on December 26, 1991.
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How India looks at Russia?
- Special Strategic Partner: Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to be valued as the heir to the Soviet Union and as a special strategic partner.
- Ukraine war has not affected the ties: Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and his brutal bombing of its civilian population, which Moscow claims is an integral part of Russia, has hardly made a dent in the way the Indian political classes think about the crisis.
- Russia as anti-imperialist: On the left and centre of the Indian political spectrum, the Soviet Union has been viewed purely through the ideological lens of progressive politics nationalist, internationalist, communist and anti-imperialist. That lens, however, is detached from the history of Russia and the continuing struggles for its political soul.
- Russia as best friend forever: Within the strategic community, the conviction that Russia is India’s “best friend forever” leaves little room for a nuanced view of Russia’s domestic and international politics.
Understanding Russia’s behaviour through Russian History
- The Bolshevik Revolution: It is initially sought to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church, eventually leveraged it in the deification of the Soviet state and lent a religious colour to the claim of Russian exceptionalism.
- Alliance with orthodoxy: Putin has taken the alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church to a higher level. For the Russian nationalists today, the effort to take back Ukraine is a “holy war”.
- Limited sovereignty to other communist state: After the Second World War, Soviet Russia insisted that fellow communist states had only “limited sovereignty” and Moscow had the right to intervene to keep them on the straight and narrow path of socialism and prevent their destabilisation. The military invasions in Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), and Afghanistan (1979) were motivated by this impulse.
- Russia has not given up Imperialist tradition: In claiming that Ukraine has no sovereignty of its own, Putin is merely following that imperial tradition as well as the conviction that Ukraine, Belarus and Russian-speaking people everywhere are part of the “Russkiy Mir” or the “Russian world”.
- Mao’s characterization of Russia: After he broke from the Russian communists, Mao began to characterise Russia as an “imperial power”. Mao had not forgotten the persistent tension between the Chinese and Russian empires.
Analyzing Russia’s internal politics
- Weak federalism by Lenin: The founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin warned against the dangers of “great Russian chauvinism”. He insisted on structuring a federal polity with the right of various nationalities to secede.
- Strong soviet by Stalin: Stalin, however, turned Russian federalism into a hollow shell and erased the difference between the “Soviet Union” and “Soviet Russia”.
- Putin refuse to recognize Ukraine: Putin denounced Lenin for giving a separate identity to Ukraine. “Modern Ukraine”, Putin said, “can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine’.”
- Stalling the democratic process: The enduring autocratic impulse in Moscow that is rooted in the stalled democratic revolution. Traditionally, the Russian fear of disorder has left the population to put great faith in strong leaders.
- Centralising tendency: The frequent but unsuccessful efforts at political liberalisation have left a fertile ground in Russia for centralising power under leaders like Putin and increasing the chances of grave miscalculation.
What should be the India’s approach towards Russia?
- Not directly criticize Russia: Although it has been reluctant to directly criticise Russian aggression, official India is not blind to the fact that Putin’s “special military operation” has gone horribly wrong.
- Taking note of changing world order: India will inevitably find ways to adjust to the tectonic shifts in the world order triggered by Putin’s misadventure.
- Learning from Putin’s mistake: The Indian political and strategic communities must come to terms with the many complex factors that have contributed to Putin’s egregious errors in Ukraine.
- To understand how the war in Ukraine might play out and its longer-term consequences for India, India’s discourse must pay greater attention to the turbulent history of Russia and its troubled relations with its Central European neighbours.