Before becoming the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a showman, entertaining audiences with his comic routines. A showman and his stage are seldom parted, so it comes as little surprise that Zelenskyy is constantly on the hunt for stage after stage in order to once again present the same pyrotechnics that has won his country what appears to the world outside the NATO alliance to be a self-destructive level of support for a lost cause. For Vladimir Putin, retaining Crimea and other parts of Ukraine that he helped break away from the control of Kiev in 2014 is existential, and explains occasional menacing references to the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia, should there be an “existential” threat to any territory defined by the Kremlin as belonging to the Russian Federation. Given that much of his working life was spent as a comic on stage, President Zelenskyy may be excused for not comprehending the mounting risks to NATO and to the rest of the world by his brinkmanship. What is incomprehensible is how politicians such as Chancellor Scholz of Germany, who was earlier believed to have a firm grasp of global realities, has morphed into almost as much of a cheerleader for Zelenskyy as his Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock. The nominally Green leader appears to be rivalling Victoria Nuland in her obsession with humbling the Kremlin, no matter what the risk or the cost. When Putin ordered his troops to march into Ukrainian territory (albeit controlled by surrogates of the Russian Federation) in February 2022, some geniuses close to the White House must have seen such a move as another Afghan misadventure by the Kremlin, and thereafter pushed for a series of measures that (in the view of these geniuses) would push Russian forces into as deep a quagmire as the pit they got into in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
President Biden, smarting from the obloquy earned by him as a consequence of his lighting fast total withdrawal from Afghanistan the previous year, would have seen in a strategy of bogging Russia down in Ukraine a way of showing that he was at heart also a warrior, despite what happened in Afghanistan. Boris Johnson, then Prime Minister of the UK, saw in a full-blown European conflict a means of keeping him in office despite Partygate and Cakegate, and the other members of NATO fell in line with the duo. Judging by western media, their perception about Russia was the same as what Adolf Hitler had about the USSR when he invaded that country in 1941. This was that the entire state was rotting from the inside, so much so that “a single hard kick would cause it to come crashing down”. That did not happen, and the odious Fuehrer of the Third Reich almost destroyed Germany because of the error he made in invading that vast country. Given Russia’s size and armoury, there is no way Zelenskyy can get what he seeks, which is the return to the pre-2014 position where control over territory by Kiev is concerned. Those outside the charmed circle of NATO, in Asia, Africa and South America, have begun to believe the old trope that Washington cares only about Europe. This is because of the way in which Ukraine has been showered with weapons by the US that are effectively given free of cost, in contrast to Taiwan, which has been given much less hardware, and that too on fiscally extortionate terms. The sooner a cease-fire in Ukraine is declared, the better. If the next G-20 meeting is to make progress towards that, the presence of Zelenskyy at the deliberations would only be a distraction. Far better that there be a few major international conferences, including the G-20 summit to be hosted by India next month, where the showman is a No Show.