- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.

US Affecting New Delhi's Interests by Pushing Russia Towards China, Says Veteran Indian Air Marshall

© AP Photo / Rebecca BlackwellA fan gets a Chinese flag painted onto his face (File)
A fan gets a Chinese flag painted onto his face (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.03.2022
India has been caught in a most precarious situation as two of its closest strategic and military partners - the US and Russia - have entered into a strategic confrontation over Ukraine.
India’s neutral stance on Ukraine and its abstentions on several United Nations (UN) resolutions labelling Russia the “aggressor” has been praised by Moscow.
But this has raised some concerns in the US and among some of its western partners about New Delhi's reliability as a strategic partner.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.03.2022
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Sputnik caught up with Air Marshal Muthumanikam Matheswaran, a former fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and a founder member of India’s Nuclear Command who has also served as the deputy chief at the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS).
Matheswaran is now president of the Peninsula Foundation, an Indian policy research think-tank focused on foreign affairs and security matters.
The Indian defence veteran explained how he interprets the ongoing developments in eastern Europe and the larger geopolitical implications of the present security crisis.
Sputnik: Who's to blame, in your opinion, for the present security crisis in Ukraine?
Muthumanikam Matheswaran: One of the most important points is that Russia has been pushed into this conflict. Russia is not only the successor to the former Soviet Union but also a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). So, it's only natural that it is sensitive about its security interests.
It was a given at the end of the Cold War that many of the European nations would integrate culturally and economically with the European Union (EU). However, western security systems to deal with the Cold War remained intact.

I would argue that since the Warsaw Pact had been dismantled then the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) should also have been dismantled. However, there was no moral compunction on the part of the US and its allies to dissolve NATO as they were in effect the victors.

NATO’s relevance or irrelevance should be looked at from two perspectives. It has been used, whether in Yugoslavia, Iraq or Afghanistan, to bypass the United Nations (UN). It is a tool to ensure America's power throughout the world. And obviously, NATO’s expansion into former Soviet republics - for instance Hungary or Poland - is pushing Russia into a place where it would react.

Therefore, I would say the US and NATO, and their aggressive expansionist policy into eastern Europe is the reason for the present crisis. The plan to get Ukraine into NATO was the last straw.

Sputnik: How do you assess Russia’s military capabilities in Ukraine?
Muthumanikam Matheswaran: The view of certain western countries that Russian forces are struggling to achieve their military goals in Ukraine is deliberately misleading. I see it as western propaganda.

Russia's forces are not in Ukraine to occupy territory. Does Russia want to subject Ukrainians to severe privations? Certainly not. So far as I can tell, Russia's military operation is very localised, focusing on critical centres of gravity with military facilities. Avoiding civilian casualties in Ukraine also seems part of Russia’s strategy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin  - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.03.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
Putin Says Tasks in Ukraine Solved Only by Professional Military
President Vladimir Putin wants to send a message that Russians are not enemies of the Ukrainians and there seems to be a focus on building bridges with them. There are already several regions in Ukraine with a large Russian-speaking population and affinity with Russia.

Although Ukraine's resistance to Russia’s operations is only strong and natural, I would still say that Russia is firmly in control of its operations in Ukraine and what we are seeing on the ground is part of Russian military and political strategy.

Sputnik: Do you believe New Delhi’s neutral stance on Ukraine would affect its ties with the US?
Muthumanikam Matheswaran: India is a rising power and it must keep in mind its relations with all the major powers, be it the US, Russia, China or the European Union (EU).

We know that India has a long-standing military and strategic partnership with Russia. Most of India’s military equipment is of Russian origin. The strategic partnership also expands into other domains, such as energy or nuclear power. So, there is a lot of depth in the India-Russia strategic partnership.

At the same time, India has also been growing its ties with Ukraine, particularly in the science and technology sector.
I would say that the most important thing for India is for it not to jump onto a US-led chorus to isolate Russia economically, culturally and politically. This would be bad not only for India but also for the rest of the world.

And I don’t think that India’s stance on Ukraine would seriously affect its relations with the US. I believe India is too important a partner for the West in the long run. Being neutral is also about sending out a message to the US that we won’t be part of any future alliance. Neutrality is also the hallmark of India’s policy as a rising power.

So, India's policy of abstaining from partisan voting at the UN and encouraging a dialogue between Russia and the West is quite correct and a stance I fully support.
Sputnik: How do you think China will be affected by this crisis? Does it gain from it or get adversely affected?
Muthumanikam Matheswaran: Well, the point of expanding NATO into eastern Europe is essentially to enlarge the EU’s economic and strategic power. This, in turn, is designed to hurt - either directly or indirectly - Russia’s influence in the Eurasian region.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping during their meeting in Beijing - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.12.2021
Beijing Says There’s ‘No Limit’ to Russia-China Cooperation After Putin Touts Strategic Partnership
And all this is happening as the international order is being restructured because of the ongoing geopolitical rivalry between the US and China. So, all these factors are bound to bring China and Russia closer to each other, be it politically, economically or militarily.

I would argue that by trying to isolate Russia, the US and its European allies are further pushing it towards China. This won’t be bad only for the West, but also for India.

Sputnik: China has expressed concerns about the alignment of interests between India and the US in the Asia-Pacific region. India and China have also been embroiled in a tense military stand-off at their shared border since 2020. So, should India be worried by the fact that Russia and China are bound to get closer in the future?
Muthumanikam Matheswaran: As far as Russian-Indian ties are concerned, Moscow has always played a positive role in New Delhi’s foreign policy. Russia may even effect a dialogue between China and India to resolve their differences.
But let’s be clear about one thing: the border stand-off has to be solved bilaterally by India and China, both of which are rising powers. They have to find a middle ground.

However, ties between China and India will be increasingly shaped by Beijing’s perceptions of New Delhi as the latter aligns its interests with the US. China has been accused in the past of curtailing India’s strategic development and power.

These factors are going to remain in play between the two countries for some time.
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