Ukraine is no walkover and the longer the war persists, the more will it bleed Russia, former Indian foreign secretary Krishnan Srinivasan said on Sunday.
“Ukraine is no walkover. The Russians might have 150,000 troops in Ukraine at the moment. The Ukrainians have 200,000 troops. It was a very strong part of the former Soviet Union. They have 600,000 people in reserves, people who have done military service. So, they are not going to be pushovers by any means,” Srinivasan said on the final day of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet (Kalam), held in association with the Victoria Memorial Hall and The Telegraph.
Srinivasan and Nicolas Wild, illustrator and author, discussed the “world’s warzones and our differing perceptions”. They were in conversation with Paroma Roy Chowdhury, business journalist-turned public affairs professional.
“How long do you think this war is going to last,” Roy Chowdhury asked.
Srinivasan said the Russians would be “wise” to focus on “liberating the Russian-speaking areas” of Ukraine rather than conquering the whole country.
“Russians are going to find this very heavy going. I think they might concentrate on liberating the ‘Russian-speaking’ areas. I think they would be wise to do that. If they take the war to other areas, Kyiv or western parts bordering Poland, I think they will be bogged down for a very very long time. Let’s remember that for the Americans or Nato, the longer this war goes on, the better it is. The shorter it is, the more quickly it can come to an end, the better for Russia. At the moment, it looks like a very long haul indeed,” he said.
Wild, author of multiple books on Afghanistan, said: “If the war keeps on going, Russia will get weaker and weaker. I think they thought they would take Ukraine in one week through a big blitzkrieg. I think people surrounding Putin did not want to give him pessimistic feedback.”
No World War III
Srinivasan called “great pessimists” people who are fearing that the Ukraine conflict could lead to another World War.
“The conflict in Ukraine is limited although it has much wider ramifications. But it is geographically limited. I don’t think any sensible person, even none of the combatants, wants the geographical perimeter of the conflict to be expanded. Nobody can tell what the future brings. But as of now, I don't see the possibility of a third World War at all,” he said.
Asked about India’s stance on the Ukraine invasion, Srinivasan said the “Indian government has done well so far”.
“The dice has been thrown up in the air by Mr Putin. We don’t know how it is going to fall. As far as India is concerned, it is a wonderful thing to be friendly with everybody and hostile to nobody. But it is very difficult to keep that position. So far, we have kept it,” he said.
“The Americans may criticise us. But we are much more important to the US at the moment than they think. Because we are a major democracy in a very good geo-physical position in Asia and they cannot do without us. India has clout. India has leverage. There is no point whatsoever, in giving that up till we see exactly what the situation is going to look like,” he said.