US praise for Modi’s stand, with what was virtually a call for greater political and diplomatic intervention at the highest level, came even as Moscow signaled it is ready to intensify the conflict by calling up 300,000 reservists. Proxies of the Russian and western leadership also made brazen threats of nuclear weapons use even as world leaders gathered in New York City for the annual UN General Assembly meeting, where President Biden is expected to address the Ukraine conflict among other issues later in the day.
Describing Modi’s reported remarks to Putin at the SCO summit last week as “a statement of principle on behalf of what he believes is right and just,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Washington welcomed the stand and urged New Delhi, which he said has longstanding relationships in Moscow from the very top all the way through the Russian government, “to continue to reinforce that message that now is the time for war to end.”
“And we would like to see every country in the world making that case. They can do it publicly if they like. They can do it privately if they like. But sending that clear and unmistakable message to Moscow at this time is the most vital thing I think we can collectively do to produce peace in that region,” Sullivan said at a White House briefing.
Praise for Modi also came from French President Emmanuel Macron, who told the UN General Assembly that the Indian Prime Minister was right when he told Putin in Samarkhand that now is not the time for war, while urging countries not to sit on the fence on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“There are countries that have chosen a form of neutrality vis-à-vis this war. Those who are saying that they’re non-aligned are wrong. They are making a historic error…Those who are keeping silent today are in a way complicit… Russia is today seeking to uphold a double standard but the war in Ukraine must not be a conflict that leaves anyone indifferent,” Macron said.
Both France and the US appeared to recognize India’s perceptible shift on the issue, while implicitly urging New Delhi to use its influence given its longstanding ties with Moscow. Modi is not coming for the UNGA session this year, but External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar, who is heading the Indian delegation, will be in the thick of meetings with his western counterparts who are increasingly looking at India to play a role in defusing the situation.
On Tuesday, surrogates for Russia and the west exchanged nuclear threats over the airwaves even as intense lobbying was on at the UN to enlist support for their respective narratives.
Putin’s former advisor and Russian political scientist Sergei Markov wasted no time in pleasantries after a BBC host wished him good morning, saying it was not a good morning for everyone while conveying his impression that Putin is ready to use nuclear weapons against western countries and specifically Great Britain.
Hours earlier, in a rare speech to the Russian nation, Putin insisted he would use “all means” necessary to defend Moscow’s interests. “If there is a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, and in protecting our people we will certainly use all means available to us – and I’m not bluffing,’ he said during his televised address.
In a TV show in Moscow, two Russian hosts, Olga Skabeyeva, dubbed Vladimir Putin’s ‘Iron Doll’ in the west, and co-host, Andrey Gurulev, spoke about nuclear war with a guest, saying Russia should have nuked UK during Queen Elizabeth‘s funeral. “When Britain is turned into a Martian wasteland, what will NATO’s Article 5 [defending collective security] be about?…There will be nothing left,” Gurulev said.
In Washington, the White House slammed Putin’s threat, amplified by his surrogates, as “irresponsible rhetoric” saying the remarks are “not atypical for how he’s been talking the last seven months and we take it seriously.”
“We’re monitoring as best we can, their strategic posture so that if we have to, we can alter ours. We’ve seen no indication that that’s required right now,” White House spokesman John Kirby told ABC’s Good Morning America, even as other western proxies responded with counter threats.