Thugs, Despots, Dictators and Populists
No peace... in their time
Today’s TAT is a two-part post.
First, an update on yesterday’s missile event in Poland, a NATO ally.
Secondly, a look at India under Modi and the degree of trust that the US should place in Modi regarding matters of national security, especially as it pertains to China.
Yesterday’s missile event in Poland involved at least one Russian missile, but is being portrayed as an, S-300, air defense missile fired by Ukraine against a massive, day-long barrage of incoming Russian missiles, intended to deny Ukraine power for the upcoming winter. As NATO Secretary-General, Jan Stoltenberg stated in a press conference, the fault is all Russia’s. It’s not likely that this event was Russia’s intentional targeting of Poland but their recklessness of operating so close to NATO turf with munitions less than precise could, under certain circumstances, trigger a conflict more akin to WW III, than anything else.
I appreciate the caution and slight ambiguity coming out of NATO and the US until the investigation is complete. In that time, this potentially catastrophic, triggering event will hopefully lose steam as a catalyst to a NATO vs. Russia full-scale war. NATO’s Article 5 and its requirement for common defense, more than any other single factor has kept the bear at bay, since the NATO Treaty was ratified in 1949.
Creating a slight ambiguity around the event, also relieves some of the pressure to act immediately. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail in the interim. Still, this provides those supporting Ukraine the perfect opportunity to “lay down the law” to Putin. Putin, as noted in yesterday’s TAT post, is set on sustaining the war until he gets his way, which he won’t.
In the light of the G-20 joint statement yesterday, Putin is in this no-win situation, mostly alone. Even China and India, who depend on Russia for 70% and 49% respectively, for their weapons imports, voted to criticize Putin’s genocidal war… sort of. This leads us to look at China and India, relative to the G-20 joint statement and their maneuvering since Putin launched his cruel invasion in February.
(Front L-R) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, U.S. President Joe Biden, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, (2nd row L-R) European Council President Charles Michel, World Bank Group (WBG) President David Malpass, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and other leaders attend a mangrove planting event at the Tahura Ngurah Rai Mangrove Forest Park as part of the G20 Leaders' Summit in Denpasar, Indonesia, 16 November 2022. The 17th Group of Twenty (G20) Heads of State and Government Summit runs from 15 to 16 November 2022. MAST IRHAM / Pool via REUTERS
Now, a brief look, at where, how and why China and India are to be carefully scrutinized. Yesterday’s joint statement at the close of the G-20 Summit in Bali, more or less condemning Putin’s cruelty had a few hesitant world leaders. Most prominent were Xi of China and Modi of India.
The declaration said, "most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy."
- Joint statement on Ukraine
G 20/ Bali
Here’s the big picture to provide some context. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of an outward-looking, commercially powerful China, the world has been in transition. New alignments of allies, spheres of influence (an often-criticized term) and new centers of power are reshaping the world, folks my age grew up with.
As often happens during these historical transitions, there comes a wave of populism, which we are just now starting to transition out of. The last time was post WW I which led to the wave of fascism, populism and nationalism in the runup to WW II. The best examples of these modern populist leaders/ threats are Putin, Bolsonaro, Modi, Trump and others of their ilk. All have now peaked and to a man, their futures not as certain as they imagined a year or so ago. Some, like Bolsonaro and Trump are already experiencing their predictable demise.
Now, back to Xi and Modi. Xi, a genocidal maniac himself, has converted modern China into a dictatorial threat, grounded in the propaganda of uniquely Chinese, racist nationalism where only Han Chinese matter. Regionally, he competes with Modi in India for primacy in Asia. Xi wields classic, emperor styled power and like many over the past 4,000 years, isn’t shy about genocidal pursuits. In his current phase, it’s the Uyghurs of Xinjiang and countless other minorities present in China’s rich cultural landscape. Modi holds power via Hindutva, a racist, extremist version of Hinduism. If this sounds like white supremacist’ religious beliefs, it’s because it is the same dynamic.
Modi’s absolute power is showing signs of strain as is Xi’s. Both are unpopular outside their own base, but both so brutal as to not be challenged. This is why Putin’s genocidal behavior in Ukraine, is no big deal to either.
On the other hand, both Xi and Modi depend on cheap Russian oil for their own floundering energy needs. Both China and India are commercial powerhouses globally and both require energy to sustain their climb to the top. Neither have any real resources available to them domestically. Both largely depend on Russian weapons and weapon’s systems for the majority of their hardware. Weapons and fuel bind Modi and Xi to Putin like he’s an umbilical cord for their future growth. For this reason, and their own penchant for domestic brutality, neither are willing to clearly condemn Putin, genocide or other, well-documented war crimes.
Somehow, we have allowed ourselves to become partially dependent on India as a key power player to resist Chinese aggression. We often will tolerate behavior from Modi that we would condemn in any other nation. Those who have studied Modi since his earliest forays into politics, see a far more jaundiced man at the helm of what is technically the world’s largest democracy. In actuality, under Modi it’s far less democratic.
Since the US and the rules-based, international order is in flux during this generation of transition, I would suggest that it’s time to set new and firmer standards for alliances. To put this on a personal level for readers; “would you remain friends with someone who actively participated in public holocaust denialism?” “Would you accept a trusting relationship with a card-carrying ISIS or Klan adherent?” Rhetorical questions to be sure but in Modi’s case, it’s reality. In Xi’s, it’s also reality but it’s also publicly acknowledged.
Next year, leadership of the G-20 passes to India from Indonesia. Considering who Modi is and what India has become under his rule, is this wise? Some of our interests may align with India but her actual, not-stated values are recklessly divergent than those who stand against all manner of human rights abuses, especially on a genocidal level.
From my professional perspective, Xi cannot modify his character. Modi’s is becoming more suspect by the month. India’s placement and access on the global power, chessboard, while of immense value to the rules-based nations. Her operating values are the opposite. We need far more from Modi before I would be willing to risk so much on her possible exit from toxic, religiously based populism. But that’s just me. Food for thought for y’all… I hope.
Happy “hump day” to all,