By Lily Ong
With military flaps decorated in stripes and stars, the entourage of local and foreign top-ranking officials that descended upon the Moscow Conference on International Security at the Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre seemed little disturbed by the sporadic drones entering Russian territory. The recurrent interceptions of the unmanned aerial vehicles by their vigilant host could very well have accounted for their seeming oblivion.
Indeed, the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation looked much like a placidly cool cat serving up champagne glasses for their foreign guests with one hand while thwarting drones with the other. So nonchalantly poised and unperturbed, they made the RPAS look no more than pesky flies to be waved off now and then. However, much like nuisance pests, these hasty objects have not been known to spare the innocent.
Distinct from those forums whose focus centred heavily on finger-pointing and tongue-lashing strictures, Russia appeared to take the high road at her own security gathering. Of course, archival anecdotes were replayed in nakedness, but if those who do not know history are bound to repeat them, then this endeavour of telling and retelling, however enervating, must be assumed. What is heinous, and far less forgivable, is the whitewash of yesteryear.
To the unmasked disappointment of the audience, President Putin did not show up in the flesh but via video. It was a huge pity, as his physical presence (and leadership charisma known to irritate even the least sour of grapes) would have lent substantive weight to the key event.
Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shogu took to the stage to deliver a rundown on figures from the frontline, including those of fatalities, which were much different from the statistics pumped out by the West. However, given that the Western hype of a “hugely successful Kyiv counteroffensive” has since been exposed as an unmistakeable belly-flop even by their own outlets, Shogu’s report came across with much credibility.
A branded crowd favourite for his sagacious inquiry into the most complex of issues, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov explicitly laid out the problems fronting our world. He further presented constructive solutions targeted at strengthening new and renewed multilateral associations, including those of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), and CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization).
Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin weighed in on global security issues in a multipolar world and surprised many by astutely highlighting the spiritual nature of the current warfare. Indeed, the religious component in this conflict might have emerged as secondary, but its brutal exploitation by those bearing no qualms will indubitably inflict undue harm on future generations. At the end of the day, it’s not about us, but our children and their children.
Outside the conference hall, tanks and artillery captured from the Ukrainian army were proudly displayed in a tidy row down a paved boulevard. Among them were US M777 Howitzers and M113 personnel carriers, Swedish CV90 combat vehicles, Australian Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles, and French AMX-10RCR fighting vehicles. In all solemnity, some of them looked so antiquated that it is hard to fathom they could even be deployed on a modern-day battlefield. One must wonder if some of these trophies had in fact been deserted by the opponents for lack of any worthwhile function on the field.
Of lesser revelation to the eyes was a disarray of military gear, including helmets and camouflaged outfits, pompously emblazoned with Nazi swastikas, infamous SS runes from Hitler’s time, and the Ukrainian national slogan. Of the owners who donned them, the expression of their paraphernalia inevitably reflected that which they were fighting for.
MCIS ultimately closed in a mood of conviviality seldom savoured at security summits. In the dining room, those who refused to echo the official lines of vassal states and their dominant master displayed no signs of writhing but defiantly traded amusing bets on just how long, it would take for those eulogised in hubris and jubilant heels over the handsome mutiny, to finally catch up.