Sri Lanka should take a leaf out of Putin diplomacy

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(April 01, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Vladimir Putin called Barak Obama on Thursday, March 27, 2014 and spoke to him for an hour. That’s right. While the world expected a spat between the US and Russia, Putin placated Obama quite genially he had no intention of invading Ukraine all the while Russian troops were surrounding it. Boris Yeltsin in his drunken stupor conceded Chechnya and allowed Kosovo to be invaded by Serbia with US backing and the ensuing debacle is well documented. The latest news is that Putin has ordered a partial pull-out of its troops from Ukraine’s borders as he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Putin’s timely action and diplomacy in the wake of the Crimean war which claimed hundreds of lives in the preceding months before Ukraine went to the polls is a lesson Sri Lanka should take a lesson from if it were to avert international condemnation and subsequent sanctions which can hurt its economy perilously and there is every indication the masses would rise up against the cost of living ensuing by sanctions.

Sri Lanka has no breathing space now to find excuses like it had done for the last five years since the noose is tightening and the pressure intensifying for the government to take immediate action to seriously implement UNHRC recommendations post-haste.

A Serbian journalist colleague explained to me that the trouble with former Yugoslavia is that none of its small states could agree with one another and they take pleasure in disagreeing than consenting or co-operation to make it a unified state.

Mikhail Gorbachev gave Russia an opportunity to come out of its closet of communism to embracing glasnost and perestroika thereby paving the way for a semblance of democracy in Russia. But US had other plans.While it pressurised Russia to dismantle its nuclear weapons it was keeping its own nuclear stockpile intact and it did not enter into the treaty for nuclear disarmament. Its rationale is that it needs to be prepared for any calamity such as nuclear threats from Iran, North Korea and Russia not to mention India and Pakistan which were advancing its nuclear technology and manufacturing its own nuclear missiles Agni and Preethvi respectively to safeguard South Asia against western dominance and intimidation.

One can draw parallel to Russia’s predicament to that of Sri Lanka, albeit in a small way (Sri Lanka is small change to Russia’s position in the world order, in terms of size, power and economy), in the recently conducted UNHRC sessions. While thumbing its nose at UNHRC probe the Sri Lankan government still had to send its emissaries to argue its point that Sri Lanka is devoid of terrorism and peace reigns after nigh on 30 years of LTTE horror.

Keeping soldiers forever on the ready in the North and East when it declared the war with the LTTE is over borders on pure paranoia and its power hunger for holding onto Sinhala hegemony and enslavement of its minorities. Post UNHRC resolution, the President is defiant accusing UNHRC of interfering with a sovereign state towards which it has no moral or political authority and that he would not issue visas for UNHRC investigators to conduct inquiry into war atrocities.

If Sri Lanka is not willing to abide by UN standards then it should not seek US or EU support to lend it monetary aid.

Where will this leave the government? UNHRC has clearly proved with evidence gathered over the five year period since war ended on May 2009 that Sri Lanka post war is a failed state and that it is incapable or unwilling to conduct its own independent investigation into the conduct of its security forces who are accused of massacring well over 40, 000 civilians which is a conservative estimate by NGOs, INGOs and ICRC. These are not figures to be taken lightly.

To comprehend the cold war it is necessary to go back many years. Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin whose Russian Federation, which firstly argued that Chechnya had not been an independent entity within the Soviet Union—as the Baltic, Central Asian, and other Caucasian States had—but was part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and hence did not have a right under the Soviet constitution to secede.

The First Chechen War took place over a two-year period that lasted from 1994 to 1996, when Russian forces attempted to regain control over Chechnya, which had declared independence in November 1991. Despite overwhelming numerical superiority in men, weaponry, and air support, the Russian forces were unable to establish effective permanent control over the mountainous area due to numerous successful full scale battles and insurgency raids. For three months, Russia lost more tanks (over 1,997 tanks) in Grozny than during the Battle of Berlin in 1945.

On 21 May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum to determine whether to end its union with Serbia. The results showed 55.4% of voters in favor of independence, which was just above the 55% required by the referendum. On 5 June 2006, the National Assembly of Serbia declared Serbia to be the legal successor to the former state union. The province of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. Serbia immediately condemned the declaration and continues to deny any statehood to Kosovo. The declaration has sparked varied responses from the international community, some welcoming it, while others condemn the unilateral move.

Incidentally Motenegro voted against Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the new Serbia which showed no compassion for the former Russian states within Yugoslavia and which sought to deprive Muslim states within its territories such as Kosovo of their rights.

Now that the election fever is over it cannot rest easy that it can reign until 2016 without repercussions from the world players who voted against Sri Lanka at UNHRC. Complacency on the part of Sri Lanka is tantamount to digging its own grave.

Sources: BBC; Wikipedia

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at