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President Putin’s diktat challenged but global power balance intact

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Only time will tell whether Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority has been significantly eroded as a result of the unprecedented challenge that was posed recently to his diktat by Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. However, it could be safely assumed that Russia’s political leadership would be having a massive internal damage-control exercise on its hands from now on if the Putin regime’s hold on power is to be sustained.

Some international observers have noted that there have been no spontaneous and marked gestures of support for President Putin on the part of the Russian public in the wake of the attempted armed power take- over and they are to date correct. This ought to disconcert Russia’s rulers and should be taken into consideration by them in their future efforts at power consolidation.

What could be expected, though sometime in the future, are government-orchestrated shows of mass scale popular backing for the Putin regime. It will be up to democratic opinion in Russia to prove that they have the numbers in the face of these state propaganda exercises. However, they would need to brace for stepped-up state repression from now on.

International opinion is correct as well in wondering at what may be called the leniency shown to Prigozhin and his supporters by the Putin regime. Despite their having committed ‘treachery’ from the viewpoint of the Putin administration, they are being allowed to go scot-free, as it were, with guarantees of security in Belarus. The arrangement seems just too good to be true, considering the severity with which dissension is handled by the Russian authorities back home. If there has been a ‘deal’ between the sides here, what its terms are, emerges as a matter of the first importance.

Meanwhile, the international power balance could be expected to be intact in the near term in the wake of these developments. This is mainly in view of the fact that China has called the attempted power grab a matter that is ‘internal’ to the affairs of Russia and, therefore, a development that does not justify China in making any comments on. That is, the China-Russia alliance could be expected to continue unruffled. It is plain that the events in Russia could have no immediate major impact on current global power configurations.

However, these developments could have some consequences for the China-Russia bilateral relationship. If the latter has been seen thus far as an alliance between equals this could no longer be the case.

Since President Putin’s image as an unchallengeable, supreme leader has been considerably dented in the recent attempted power grab, the relegation of Russia to junior partner status in China-Russia bilateral ties could not be avoided.

It is a matter for the future whether the Putin regime could command the same degree of authority and respect in its bilateral dealings with China and in its multilateral engagements with the wider international community. However, as mentioned, the global power balance would continue for the time being with its basic features intact.

It does not follow, though, that the international power system would not be witnessing any modifications in the medium and long terms in particular. This is in view of the currently strengthening US-India alliance. If Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent state visit to the US served to emphasize anything, it is the core political values and ideals the two vibrant democracies continue to share.

While India would be careful to ensure the flourishing of its bilateral ties with China and Russia, it sees itself as having a basic bonding with the US, which India perceives as being in its interests to perpetuate strongly. Needless to say, this commonality of interests is upheld and celebrated by the US’s ruling strata as well.

The warm sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Modi on the US-India alliance while in the US and the exuberant welcome accorded to him by the US Congress alone are proof of the strong ties that are seen as binding these major powers in the political sphere. The sense of commonality between the countries was neatly summed-up by the Indian Prime Minister when he told the US Congress: ‘There have been many advances in AI – Artificial Intelligence. At the same time, there have been even more momentous developments in another AI – America and India.’

At this juncture, the commentator would not be wrong in taking the position that the US needs India as never before. While the countries’ shared political values play a significant role in cementing their alliance, besides common interests in trade, commerce and advanced technology, to name a few such areas, it is the need to check China’s growing global influence and power that motivates the US to ensure that its bridges with India are unshakable.

However, given its growing economic power and its position as the head of the G20 grouping, an obligation is cast on India to ensure that the current world economic downturn is stemmed to the extent possible. As a country that has its roots in the developing world, India, one believes, needs to see it to be in the interests of both North and South to lay the basis for stronger economic links between the countries of the two hemispheres.

India is in a unique position to achieve this because it enjoys vibrant ties with the foremost powers of the West, such as the US, while being a principal power of dominant Southern-based economic groupings, such as BRICS. Indeed, India could do much to make the West as well as the East to look beyond Realpolitik to a world order where East-West cooperation would be the dominant tendency.

India and the US, one believes, should explore the possibility of energizing and strengthening democratic development the world over. This is another way in which their shared political values could be made to matter much in the present world order. They are obliged to utilize their shared democratic identity to ensure that anti-democratic, authoritarian tendencies are stymied in the international system to the extent possible. In this enterprise they need to be proactive. They could begin by seeking to be more assertive against those authoritarian tendencies within the UN system.


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