Not Black and White 

US President Joe Biden in his first State of the Union address has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that “he has no idea what’s coming” in retaliation for the latter's invasion of Ukraine. He said that while Putin “may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run." US lawmakers in the audience applauded and roared with many of them waving Ukrainian flags and wearing the country's blue and yellow colours. West has already imposed severe sanctions on Russia. Even the west’s  leading corporate behemoths are pulling out of Russia or breaking their partnerships with their Russian counterparts.  Biden in his address further ratcheted up sanctions, joining the European Union and Canada in banning Russian planes from US airspace announcing that the US Justice Department would seize the yachts, luxury apartments and private jets of wealthy Russians with ties to Putin.

Meanwhile, the human tragedy is unfolding in Ukraine on a vast scale in terms of the deaths of civilians. More than 450,000 people have fled Ukraine to Poland, and a further 113,000 to Romania.

The war has rallied western nations and many other countries from around the world behind the US. And suddenly all we are hearing is a predominantly western narrative on the war. Social media companies have censored Russian state-sponsored media so there is little in the public domain that can be called an alternative discourse. And this is creating a situation we are all so familiar with. West has again put on a moralistic lens on the war: a conflict between flawless virtue and pure evil. Putin is being projected as a reincarnation of Hitler. In fact, Time magazine’s latest cover page shows Hitler’s face lurking under that of Putin.

It is a familiar script that has earlier played out in US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and in the case of the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen. In the case of war in Iraq, it was the cooked up intelligence about the then Iraqi president Saddam Hussain possessing the Weapons of Mass Destruction that became the basis for war. And western media acted as cheerleaders for the destruction of Iraq.  The point is that it is not the reality on the ground but the west’s core interests that determine what is good and what is evil. Otherwise, the reality of Russian invasion of Ukraine is very complex. It is rooted in Russia’s legitimate fears of being encircled by the west and the NATO military bases reaching its doorstep. Many of the Eastern European countries which were once a part of the USSR-led Warsaw Pact have become a part of the NATO, heightening Russia's insecurity. Now the growing likelihood of Ukraine also joining NATO became the last straw for Putin. While it is nobody’s case to countenance the invasion of a sovereign smaller country by its powerful neighbour, the solution to the evolving fraught situation can be resolved if the US-led West and Russia sit down and work towards addressing each other’s grievances and fears.

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