View from Delhi: ‘Novorossiya’, as the alternate reality of Ukraine, rising from ashes like Phoenix

11:42 11.03.2024 •

The Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting in Moscow with top officials of economic ministries and leaders of the southern and Azov sea regions — ‘Novorossiya’ historically ‘New Russia’ — signifies a major initiative in the Kremlin’s geo-strategy, with global ramifications, as the conflict in Ukraine meanders toward a new phase, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer.

What lends poignancy to the occasion at once is that Putin is beating the swords into ploughshares at a juncture when the US and its allies sounding bugles. Indeed, one way of looking at this meeting is that it is a riposte to the fanciful conjecture 10 days earlier by French President Emmanuel Macron that European armies might march into Ukraine to push back Russians.

Putin signalled something profound — that war cries to defeat Russia is already time past. With the capture of the strategic town of Avdiivka and the rapid advance further west since then, cities like Pokrovsk, Kostyantynivka and Kramatorsk are now facing a fast-approaching front line, littered with signs of approaching Russian army.

As the Russian forces gain more momentum in the Donetsk region, the question of where they will stop is becoming increasingly difficult to answer. There is much unfinished business still. A big concentration of Russian military facing Kharkov is ominous. Odessa is also in Russian sights.

The progress of Russian operations may seem ponderous. In the past month, Russian forces gained only around 100 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory (according to Belfer Centre’s latest Russia-Ukraine War Report Card) but then, in a war of attrition, tipping point comes most unexpectedly, and before one catches breath, it’s all over. The Wall Street Journal wrote that Ukraine has few remaining military strongholds in Donbass, which means that with each Russian advance, Ukraine must retreat to often underprepared positions.

A New York Times report  titled Mutual Frustrations Arise in U.S.-Ukraine Alliance ended on a sombre note citing Western officials and military experts that “a cascading collapse along the front is a real possibility this year.”  

President Joe Biden was conspicuously taciturn in passing judgement on the war in his State of the Union Address at the US Congress, except to warn the Kremlin rhetorically that “(we) will not walk away. We will not bow down.” The cryptic remark could mean anything, but he did acknowledge that “Overseas, Putin of Russia is on the march…”  

Importantly, Biden put in cast iron his past commitment not to send troops to participate in the war in Ukraine. And his focus was on the Bipartisan National Security Bill in the pipeline that would resume large-scale military aid to Ukraine whose future is now even more uncertain what with Donald Trump’s unstoppable surge as the candidate of the Republican Party.  

The fear that the US is walking away from the war is gut-wrenching for Europeans. The French President Emmanuel Macron’s remark last week on Monday on the dispatch of Western ground troops to Ukraine was reflective of belligerence and bravado that often accompanies frustration. Macron urged Ukraine’s allies not to be “cowardly” in supporting Kiev to fight Russian forces; on Thursday, he went further at a meeting with party leaders to advocate a “no limits” approach to counter Russia.  

But there is a big picture, too. On Thursday, Macron met with Moldovan President Maia Sandu, pledging France’s “unwavering support” for her ex-Soviet country as tensions mount between Chisinau and pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway province of Transnistria. During the Macron-Sandu meeting, the two signed a bilateral defence deal, as well as an “economic roadmap,” although no details were provided.  

The timing of France’s defence deal with Moldova, which follows a security pact with Ukraine last month, hints at geopolitical considerations to get a toehold in that vital region — where Dniester River rising on the north side of the Carpathian Mountains and flowing south and east for 1350 kms drains into the Black Sea near Odessa — to challenge the rise of Novorossiya, which is in the throes of renewal and regeneration.  

For more than three decades, Transnistria has been considered a possible flash point for a conflict. The endgame in Ukraine has a domino effect on Moldavia, which, encouraged by the West, step by step, is strategically defying Russia to “erase” its influence, and move into the EU and NATO camp. Russia has been watching closely but patience is wearing thin.

Therefore, Macron’s recent remarks on western combat deployment in Ukraine must be understood properly. He is by no means spiting the Biden Administration — nor is Germany differing from him — as he pushes the envelope and hopes to salvage victory out of the jaws of NATO’s defeat in Ukraine. Biden administration will be quietly pleased with Macron’s tantrums against the Russian windmill in the regions of Novorossiya and the Black Sea.

France tasted blood in pushing a similar strategy in Armenia, which has virtually moved out of the Russian orbit and is jettisoning CSTO membership while seeking EU and NATO membership. Its focus will be to evict Russian military presence in Transnistria.

Reacting to the West’s thickening plot in Moldova, Transnistria has sought protection from Moscow. There is a big population of ethnic Russians in that region. The response from the Kremlin has been positive and swift. Shades of Donbass!  

The crux of the matter, in geopolitical terms, is that Novorossiya is rising from the ashes like the phoenix and becoming, as Catherine the Great envisaged, Russia’s most important all-weather gateway to the world market connecting its vast untold mineral resources and huge  agricultural potential. George Soros knows it; Wall Street knows it; Biden knows it. For France and Germany too, it is invaluable as a resource base if it is to ever regain its economic dynamism…

Russia has requested a Security Council meeting on Ukraine for March 22. Polyansky said Russia will expose the diabolical plots of France, Germany and the US.

…What is Novorossiya – ‘The New Russia’? The historical map from 1897 shows the borders of this part of Russia:


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