Strongly disapproving of the current world order, Russia launched a multidirectional special military operation on 24 Feb 2022 to change the regime and demilitarise Ukraine. On 24 Feb, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a special military operation based on a request from the heads of the Donbas republics. The Russian leader stressed that Moscow had no plans to occupy Ukrainian territories, and the goal was to demilitarise and change the country’s regime. Russia’s Defense Ministry reported later that the Russian Armed Forces were not carrying out strikes against Ukrainian cities. The ministry highlighted that precision weapons were destroying the Ukrainian military infrastructure, and there was no threat to civilians.[i]
This campaign was presaged by specifically targeted prolonged Psychological Warfare (PW) and Information Warfare (IW) well integrated with Cyberwarfare and Terrorism. Despite widespread speculation, it was believed that Russia was amassing its troops and weapons to carry out regular military exercises and would not bite the bullet.
Russia succeeded in achieving the element of surprise by launching a special military operation, thus inflicting shock and astonishment on the US, NATO, EU and the rest of the world. On 21 Feb, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the sovereignty of Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.[ii] Both sides inked numerous agreements of friendship, cooperation and mutual aid, and Russia instantly established diplomatic relations with both DPR & LPR.
In response to a request by the heads of the Donbas republics, Russia decided to carry out the aforementioned operation to defend people who believed they had been suffering from abuse and genocide at the hands of the Ukraine government for the last decade or so. It was said that Russia had no plans of occupying Ukrainian territories. Accordingly, the operation was initiated with high precision weapons using air and sea-based cruise missiles to neutralise the Ukrainian military infrastructure. Special forces, mechanised units and firepower are leading the attack. Indeed, the Kremlin has excellent planning for such an operation to be backed by sound secrecy. Presently, nothing is apparent in the thick of war, but the Russian narrative unfolds.
What could have been the trigger of this war? Russia has felt betrayed by the persistent duplicity of the US and the western world ever since the breaking up of the erstwhile Union of Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR) in 1991. This could have triggered the present Russo-Ukraine war. Many treaties, agreements on the control of arms race, and mutual trust fostering milestones reached and comprehensions made since 1991 between Russia and the US have been derailed not by Moscow but by Washington. The following occurrences will make this shoddy history easy to understand.
- Expansion of NATO. I think NATO should not have existed after the dissolution of the Warsaw pact, but it expanded exponentially. Now NATO is in its 72nd year of raising. After the fall of the USSR, NATO, rather than playing a role of constructive cooperation between the two, heightened the tension, thus destabilising the mutual relationship.
In the early 1990s, NATO stated its intention to move away from militarism to political and economic roles. This shift was born due to established communication between NATO and Russian leadership. Baker met Gorbachev to discuss the process of German unification. He stated that it was essential to have assurances that the US may keep its existence in Germany as per the rules and regulations of NATO, and not even an inch of NATO’s present military dominion would move in the eastward direction. The discussion was relayed to the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, with Baker stating Gorbachev’s concerns regarding the leeway of the zone of NATO would be undesirable.[iii]
But contrary to its promises, since 1990, NATO indulged in five rounds of extension and growth to incorporate the former nations of the USSR. But the Rubicon was crossed when in 2008, NATO proposed membership of Georgia and increased its efforts to bring Ukraine under its umbrella. NATO’s augments were fabricated to create uneven gains, clearly against the intent of maintaining the strategic balance between Russia and the West. In 2008, the US deployed its missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. This led to mutual distrust, and multifaceted agreements were cancelled and suspended. While proposing a requisite treaty to France and Germany on European security, Russia said it would target Ukraine, blend the nationalism in Crimea, and cut its energy supplies.[iv]
- The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Discussed and deliberated upon during the final years of the Cold War, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty is often considered the bedrock of European security. The Treaty, signed on 19 Nov 1990, removed the Soviet Union’s copious numerical edge in conventional weapon systems in Europe by creating reasonable limits on the number of tanks, armoured combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the Warsaw Pact might position amid the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.
The CFE Treaty envisioned forestalling any alliance from building up forces that could engender nuclear weapons in response. However, the threat of such an offensive disappeared with the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Though, NATO continued to expand by disregarding Moscow’s reservations. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan endorsed the modified CFE Treaty in 2004. But still, NATO included Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia as members that year and refused to sign the Treaty against the genuine concerns of Moscow. On top of it, NATO defended this rejection by stating that the initial CFE Treaty does not hold an accession clause. Thus On 12 Dec 2007, President Putin suspended Russian participation in the CFE Treaty before declaring a unilateral moratorium. However, in 2011, the NATO nations discontinued divulging further details to Russia.[v]
- Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is dead now. This Treaty was an arms regulating agreement between the US and the Soviet Union and was signed on 08 Dec 1987 by US President Ronald Reagan and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. This Treaty eliminated 2,692 US and USSR nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles ranging between 500 and 5,500 kilometres. However, on 2 Feb 2019, the Trump administration declared its decision to suspend US obligations under the Treaty and its intention to withdraw from the agreement within six months. The US withdrawal from the Treaty took effect on 2 Aug 2019.[vi]
- Open Skies Treaty. In 1992, Russia and the US signed yet another treaty with 32 other countries. This Treaty was known as the Open Skies Treaty (OST). It permitted the member states to carry out (without weapons) surveillance flights in each others’ air space unannounced to gather information on the activities of militaries. The Treaty intended to boost mutual understanding, build confidence, and advocate military forces’ sincerity, transparency, and actions.
Nevertheless, after Russia intervened in Georgia in 2007, the US officials stated that Russia was disrespectful to the agreements reached through the OST. The US quoted that Russia was confining the US and European Union observation flights over Kaliningrad and parts of Georgia.
But Russia contested the charges, and rather than sorting out the differences through intense discussions & dialogue, taking a wrong decision, the Trump Administration revoked the Treaty in November 2020. And the Biden Administration acknowledged later that it had no desire of rejoining it again despite the US European allies’ request.
Faultlines of Russia-Ukraine relations. Centuries of bloodshed, foreign domination, and internal divisions have left Ukraine in a precarious position between the East and West worlds.
Ukraine and Russia have a common heritage that goes back to the 9th century AD when Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, became the first Slavic state-Kyivan Rus, the origin of both countries. In 988 AD, Valdimir-I, the prince of Novgorod, embraced the Orthodox Christan faith in the Crimean city of Chersonesus. Since that moment, it has been considered that both Russia and Ukraine are one single entity with the same ethnicity.[vii]
Ironically, in the past ten centuries, Ukraine has been moulded by the various competing powers of the world. Mongols invaded from the east and subjugated Kyivan Rus in the thirteenth century. The Poland and Lithuanian confederation raided the western part of Ukraine. The war between Poland-Lithuania and the Tsardom of Russia in the 17th century AD resulted in the occupation of the lands east of the Dnieper River under the control of Russia. East came to be known as Left-Bank Ukraine, and the areas to the West of the Dnieper River as Right Bank Ukraine under control of Poland.
In 1793, the Russian rulers attacked the western part of Ukraine and brought it under control. Then the process of Russification was initiated, wherein the Ukrainian language was banned, and people in large numbers were converted to the Russian Orthodox faith of Christian.
Ukraine suffered a lot throughout during 20th century AD. After the communist revolution of 1917, Ukraine fought a brutal civil war, ending in being fully absorbed into USSR in 1922. In the early 1930s, to compel peasants to organise collective farming, it is believed that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin engineered a famine that resulted in the starvation and death of millions of people in Ukraine. In the wake of the famine, which came to be known as the Holodomor, which means death by hunger, many people from Russia were shifted to Ukraine to change the demography.
These legacies of a brutal history created permanent faultlines, as eastern Ukraine came under the occupation of Russia much earlier than western Ukraine. Naturally, the people of the east have stronger ties with Russia and have supported the Ukrainian leaders having leaned toward Russia for a long. At the same time, western Ukraine, having been under the influence of European powers such as Poland and the Austro-Hungarian empire, has leaned toward the West. Also, in western Ukraine, people speak the Ukrainian language and follow the catholic faith of Christianity. Contrary to it, the people of eastern Ukraine speak the Russian language and follow the orthodox faith of Christianity.
Ukraine became an independent nation when the USSR collapsed in 1991, but uniting various parts was difficult. The switching over to democracy and capitalism was very painful and full of chaos as the people of east Ukraine longed for the association with Russia. This divide further deepened, and the tragedy of Ukraine was exploited during the 2004 Orange Revolution. Thousands of Ukrainians extended their support to integrate with Europe. It was a widespread belief that the West engineered this revolution.
Similar to its 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russia has yet again exploited these faultlines interwoven in the web of history.
Consequences of the Russo-Ukraine conflict. The world is still combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the global supply chain has been disrupted, and many world economies are struggling to maintain the positive growth of their economies. The geopolitical risks have surprisingly been worsened due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. The crisis has come at a time when the whole world struggles to find ways to revitalise its economy and normalise the growth chart. Startled with these unexpected intimidating developments, the response of world leaders, including North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, is, to begin with, drastic sanctions against Russia that could ruin the international trade outcomes and likely cut off the Russian economy. In a highly abutting world, sanctions could affect many economies connected with Russia.
As the news of the Russian special military operation broke, the stock market tumbled globally, and the effects were felt in India too. Sectors like oil & gas, metals, telecom and realty were significantly adversely affected in India. A particular concern is the possibility of crude oil prices touching the 2008 high of $140 per barrel. However, it is hovering around $100 per barrel as of now. India is the third-largest importer of crude oil after China and the US, and its import accounts for 20% of the total import value. Indeed, it would affect the Current Account Deficit (CAD), bring down the GDP growth and push inflation up. And this all depends upon how crude oil prices behave and how long they stay at a higher pedestal.
High volatility in the global stock markets, currency, commodity and energy prices tend to increase inflationary headwinds posing challenges to Central Banks. The way to policy normalisation is set to hit the wall with the softer stance to continue overcoming the ongoing impacts of war.
The humanitarian calamity in Ukraine, the destruction of life, livelihood and property, could cause massive irreversible losses that will take many years of agony to reconcile. Even though the diplomatic channels of the world are working, the assault of incipient geopolitical risks triggers acute ambiguity and peril.
The Russia–Ukraine conflict would transform Russia and the West into a new cold war. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has unlocked the likelihood that other alliances could be put to the test and that new regional arms races could reoccur. We are once again back in a sort of clash of partnerships. This time the borders of the Western bloc have been moved eastward compared to the Cold War era. Peace in Europe has taken the back seat, and confidence in Russia has been devastated. It will take time to re-establish the trust between the West and Russia.[viii] The situation might come up where the in-between spaces will be challenged, where the capability of NATO and the EU to protect power will be questioned. This will be more about preserving the countries in these alliances rather than seeking alignment.
As in the Cold War era, the European countries will become more and more dependent on the US to guarantee their defences, and those against the borders to Russia’s sphere of influence will become militarised. The US-led NATO would now reactivate the old concept of containment of Russia. This implies the strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank and deterrence against Putin. Now it’s defending the NATO members from Romania to Bulgaria. These countries are better placed as NATO states and can endure the possible aggression by Russia. Germany is now likely to face intense domestic and international pressure to boost its defence spending and re-equip its army.
Now the world seems to be more unsafe due to geostrategic changes. Many security analysts believe it is now a world where political relations could become increasingly determined by military strength.
India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This conflict has put India’s foreign policy in a quandary. On the one hand, we have our growing relationship with the US and the West, and on the other hand, we have Russia, with whom we have got a friendship treaty. Moreover, India can not forget Russia’s help in Indo-Pak War in 1971.
By abstaining from voting against Russia at the UNSC, India has displayed its interests as it depends on Russia to boost security in the ever-changing northern borders. India’s import of military equipment from Russia is roughly 60%, and the US is well aware of it. This includes some critical technology for submarines and missiles. Reliance on Ukraine is minimal. Some people suggested that India should have taken a principled stand and voted for the resolution.
In the past, five permanent members of the UNSC have blocked every effort since 1945 to democratise the basic functioning of the UNSC. They are habituated to using the veto power and thwarted many resolutions which should have been passed. They used their veto to guard their interests.
India has at all times raised the issues of the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for dialogue and diplomacy to settle disputes. India’s abstention can not be viewed as support for Russia, and it has recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk. India appealed for immediate termination of violence and called for concentrated actions from all sides to come back to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue. India has abstained from voting on the United Nations Security Council resolution that deplores Russian aggression against Ukraine in a pragmatic move. Indian Prime Minister spoke to the respective presidents of Russia and Ukraine twice and urged them to talk and find an amicable solution.
At present, the security of Indians staying in Ukraine is of paramount importance. Under the operation Ganga, India has successfully evacuated about 25,000 students out of Ukraine.
“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen,” said Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Today, this quote describes what the world is experiencing and what is there in store. The world is witnessing an unprecedented change, which happened overnight in concurrence with the violence in Ukraine. It produces deep uneasiness and instils fears globally. How will this affect the rest of the world? The world will not be the same in the days to come.
Ukraine’s regime change and demilitarisation imply a combination of decapitation of the regime and neutralisation of Ukraine’s armed forces. Indeed this would leave Ukraine a shovelled country having a govt supported by Russia. What would follow after that if Russia succeeds? Nothing is clear. But if this logic is implemented, Poland and other Baltic states could be the next target. Indeed, this will lead to the destruction of Europe. That is why the European Union is alarmed and in a state of shock.
Putin has his task cut out to restore the lost glory to Russia. The infamous Russian empress Catherine preceded her attack on Poland by stating that Russia needed a window to the world. One might think Putin could be on a similar path due to his invocation of the glory of the Russian empire and the blunder committed by Lenin. Only time will tell for certain. Putin had a point when the USSR collapsed, and the cold war ended; then NATO had 16 member countries, and now it has 30 countries. Why and what for? Russia considers this a violation of mutual trust. Russia felt underseiged.
Though Putin is alone responsible for this war in Ukraine, the West played a significant role in shaping the Russian trajectory after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The West, led by the US, focused on the dispersal of capitalism rather than democracy. Had Russia become a democratic country, things could have been different. China might gain significantly from this war. After the sanctions, Russia would route its trade through China. The attention of the US has already been shifted from China to Russia.
The great tragedy is that this entire affair could have been avoided had the US and EU not come under pressure of vanity, ambitious thinking and liberal idealism. Instead, they should have relied on realism’s core insights, and then the present chaos and confusion could have been avoided. Globally we are paying a heavy price for relying on the flawed theory of world politics.
Indeed, the concept of the alliance has to be re-visited. War is always a possibility; nations compete for power and sometimes use force to protect themselves or garner advantages over others. There is no way to know what others may do in future, and hence reluctant to trust one another. Therefore nations hedge against the possibility of harm by other states. New world order would take shape as clouds of war disappear.
[ii] Decision on deployment of forces in DPR, LPR to be made depending on situation — Kremlin
[iii] NATO and Russia: A Defensive Expansion? https://www.e-ir.info/2022/01/31/nato-and-russia-a-defensive-expansion/ JULIAN IZZO, JAN 31 2022. Accessed on 25 Feb, 2022.
[iv] Luca Ratti, “Back to the Future?,” International Journal: Canada’s Journal of Global Policy Analysis 64, no. 2 (2009), P-415
[v] EurAsian Times – Latest News & Analysis On Defense …
https://eurasiantimes.com. Invasion of Ukraine: Persistent Betrayal & Back-Stabbing Of Russia By America Since 1991 Could Be The Trigger By Prakash Nanda February 27, 2022
By: Deutsche Welle