The Flames Of The Future

The Flames Of The Future
Sergei A. Karaganov’s article – A Difficult but Necessary Decision - that appeared in Russia’s weekly Profile Magazine, on 13 June 2023, spurred a debate about his recommendation of using nuclear bombs in the Ukraine War. He envisages a wide scale conflict unfolding in Europe in the days to come, which he believes the Americans are fueling. More fuel, however, came from the dramatic events of last week, when a band of paramilitary troops, turned against Russia and took control of the Russian military HQ in Rostov-on-Don. These mercenaries are known as Wagner group formed in 2014, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, which was fighting alongside the Russian army in Ukraine. This revolt lasted less than 24 hours, but has left a cocktail of questions and consequences behind.

What Karaganov writes cannot be ignored. He has been an advisor for two Russian presidents – Vladimir Putin and Boris Yeltsin. He currently serves as an honorary chair of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and academic supervisor at the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow. We can better understand Karaganov if we dive a decade back, at the onset of the Syrian civil war, following the Arab Spring of 2010. In the wake of those events, Putin had published an article - A Plea For Caution From Russia - in The New York Times on Sept 11, 2013.  Certain analogies between the two articles, by Putin and Karaganov, may help us determine the gravity of the situation and the problem between Russia and the West.

Putin wrote in 2013: ‘The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the Pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders.’ And now, more recently, Karaganov echoes the same message for the West: ‘if we correctly build a strategy of intimidation and deterrence and even use of nuclear weapons, the risk of a “retaliatory” nuclear or any other strike on our territory can be reduced to an absolute minimum. Only a madman, who, above all, hates America, will have the guts to strike back in “defense” of Europeans, thus putting his own country at risk and sacrificing conditional Boston for conditional Poznan. Both the US and Europe know this very well, but they just prefer not to think about it.’

Again, on the cultural hegemony and an air of supremacy of the West, Putin wrote: ‘And I would rather disagree with a case he [Barak Obama] made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.’ And now see how Karaganov reiterates the same idea by attacking the Western socio-political philosophy: ‘Failing internally, Western elites began to actively nourish the weeds that had come through after seventy years of well-being, satiety, and peace ― all these anti-human ideologies that reject the family, homeland, history, love between a man and a woman, faith, commitment to higher ideals, everything that constitutes the essence of man. They are weeding out those who resist. The goal is to destroy their societies and turn people into mankurts (slaves deprived of reason and sense of history as described be the great Kirgiz and Russian writer Chengiz Aitmatov) in order to reduce their ability to resist modern “globalist” capitalism, increasingly unfair and counterproductive for humans and humanity as a whole.’

This analogy indicates that Karaganov’s notion of a preemptive nuclear strike in Ukraine does not occur somewhere outside of the Russia’s state policy – and therefore, it may be understood as a potent threat. Russia hasn’t forgotten the wounds of 1989, when the West brought the USSR down. The Russian establishment harbors an anti-West, anti-capitalism sentiment, and that it is up against what the West calls ‘our way of life’, which they have been exporting to the rest of the world – the Russians are not ready to accept it as a ubiquitous way of life. The Russians are nurturing this discourse, with a tremendous potential to woo the non-Western countries, especially those who have felt oppressed by the Western powers - their economic system, sanctions, and cultural onslaught - in the post-Cold War era.

So, how does it all concern Pakistan?

In the wake of these developments in Eastern Europe, which is just behind Afghanistan and Central Asian states – not very far from us - poses enormous challenge for Pakistan in the days to come. And there’s another worry - Pakistan’s archrival India is growing military and economic collaboration with the US, and on the other hand, Pakistan is caught up into a quagmire of political unrest and an economic turmoil. These matters take most of our media attention – it sells. Nobody in Pakistani media or government seems to have heeded this bulging question – what if the Russia-Ukraine war spills out of the region, along with a nuclear threat, as suggested and advocated by professor Karaganov?

Shall we choose to keep living in oblivion and wait for it to dash out of the woodwork or do something substantial about it? Karaganov tells loud and clear that the Third World War is already in the offing, and it only remains to be seen when it engulfs the others parts of the world. In that scenario, how ready is Pakistan to absorb this jolt with its crippled economy, confused political system, and an identity crisis? How clear-headed Pakistan is when it will come to taking sides – us or them? Shall we, then, again fall for a few billion dollars? And then chill out, buy more cars, go shopping, secure university funding for kids, plan visits to exotic locations – like we always do!

The author holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow, UK. He hosts a political talk show on TV and appears as a political commentator in TV shows.