A year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, there are signs of escalation everywhere.
Why did Russia invade Ukraine?
The reasons behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are complex and multifaceted, and there is no one single cause for the conflict.
- Geopolitical Interests: Ukraine has long been considered a strategically important country for Russia, both as a buffer zone and as a source of natural resources. Russia has historically sought to maintain its influence in Ukraine and may have viewed the pro-Western government that came to power in Ukraine in 2014 as a threat to its interests.
- Ethnic Tensions: There are significant ethnic Russian populations in Ukraine, particularly in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russia has claimed to be protecting the rights of these populations, although Ukraine and other countries have accused Russia of fomenting separatism and supporting armed groups in the region.
- Historical Ties: Russia and Ukraine have a long history of cultural and economic ties, and the two countries were part of the Soviet Union until Ukraine gained independence in 1991. Russia has claimed that it has a duty to protect the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, while Ukraine and other countries have accused Russia of using this as a pretext for its actions.
- Territorial expansion: The invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea were widely popular among the Russian population, and they helped to boost the popularity of Putin. His commanders had said, on record, that Russia wanted to take the whole of Ukraine’s east and south.
Present status of the ongoing war
- West arms Ukraine: The West has recently announced the supply of more advanced weapons to Ukraine, deepening its involvement in the conflict.
- Escalation towards nukes: As the war is extended, risks of a direct confrontation between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) both nuclear powers, are also on the rise.
- Increased offensive: In response, Russian President Putin, has already reinforced positions along the 1,000-km long frontline in Ukraine with hundreds of thousands of troops.
- Suspending security alliances: It announced the suspension of his country’s participation in the New Start treaty, which could trigger a nuclear arms race.
Who could win the war?
- Huge counter-offensive by Ukraine: Given the power asymmetry between Russia and Ukraine, Russian troops’ performance in the battlefield was underwhelming.
- No decisive victory for Russia: If one looks at Russia’s declared goals and what they have achieved in the 12 months of fighting, it’s not difficult to see that they are still far from meeting those objectives.
How has the West responded?
- The West’s approach has been two-fold:
- Punish Russia’s economy through sanctions
- Weaken the war machine
Western support has played a critical part in Ukraine’s resistance by-
- Military aid by US: The US is Ukraine’s biggest aid provider — it has pledged military and financial assistance worth over $70 billion. The EU has pledged $37 billion and among the EU countries, the UK and Germany top the list.
- Advanced weapons: West came to Ukraine’s rescue once again, with more advanced weapons, including missile defence systems, armoured vehicles, tank killers, battle tanks and precision bombs.
How Russia is escaping Sanctions?
- Exploring alternative markets: Russia took a hit, but it found alternative markets for its energy exports in Asia, redrawing the global energy export landscape.
- Emerging energy giant: Despite sanctions, Russia raised its oil output by 2% and boosted oil export earnings by 20%, to $218 billion. Russia also raked in $138 billion from natural gas, a nearly 80% rise over 2021 — and this was in spite of the European push to cut gas imports from Russia.
- Growth forecasts by IMF: The Russian economy was estimated to have contracted by 2% in 2022, but, according to the IMF, it is expected to grow 0.3% this year and 2.1% next year.
Possibility for a negotiated settlement
- Grain initiative: In July, Turkey brokered a deal on taking out Russian and Ukrainian food grains through the Black Sea.
- Prisoners exchange: Warring parties had also reached some prisoner exchange agreements.
Issues needed to be addressed to stop this war
- For any peace plan to succeed, two complex issues should be addressed —
- Ukraine’s territories
- Russia’s security concerns
India’s subtle approach on the war
India’s tightrope walk on the Ukraine war has been described as “strategic ambivalence”. Its position has been articulated by its diplomats through several statements-
- Slight condemnation: The needle moved after the Bucha massacre in which innocent civilians were killed and India joined the western chorus in condemning the incident, and even asking for an international probe.
- Dint resent Russia: India had said it was “deeply disturbed”, but did not name Russia at all. Our PM took courage to tell Mr. Putin in a live conversation that “this is not an era of war”.
- Immediate cessation of violence and hostilities: India had maintained that cessation of hostilities is a broader term that is more permanent in nature, and had used it instead of a ceasefire— which is perceived as a narrow term.
- Shown respect for territorial integrity: It called for respect for “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, and respect for UN charter and international law.
- Advocating talks and diplomacy: It maintained that dialogue and diplomacy is the path forward. This has been Delhi’s prescription when it comes to its own border standoff as well.
Why is India siding away from Ukraine?
Ukraine should not try to moralize India’s stance over the ongoing war because-
- Ukraine blatantly condemned India’s nuclear tests of 1998.
- It had sold (rather donated) Pakistan T-80 tanks worth $650 mn during Kargil War.
- Ukraine voted several times against India at the UN over the nukes and rebutted India’s bid to get a permanent seat at UNSC.
- It has openly voiced for UN intervention in the Kashmir issue and holding a plebiscite on Pakistan’s terms.
Reasons behind India’s soft corner for Russia
- All-weather dependable partner: Russia is viewed as having been a sturdy friend of India’s going back to 1955, when Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev publicly declared Moscow’s support for Indian claims over Jammu and Kashmir.
- Time-tested friendship: Moscow did not ally with or arm Pakistan against India; it supported New Delhi against U.S. pressure during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war; and it has never criticized developments in Indian domestic politics, unlike the US.
- For permanent UNSC seat: India’s reluctance to denounce Russia, even when its actions are deemed objectionable and at times detrimental to India’s crucial interests, is strengthened by the need to maintain Russia’s support by respecting its veto power.
- Dependence for arms: India’s continuing dependence on Russia for military equipment only deepens its reluctance to alienate Moscow in any way. This aspect has received a shot in the arm since the war broke out.
Risks accompanying India’s ‘neutrality’
- Skewed neutrality: India’s positions expose the inconsistency in commitment to protecting the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific over that in Europe.
- Sino-Russian growing affinity: Indian ambition to have Russia in its efforts to checkmate China may yet fail. It is rumored that China is helping its ‘iron brother’ Russia by sending some mercenary troops.
- There is little doubt that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has confronted India with difficult strategic choices.
- Consequently, its decision to avoid all public criticism of Moscow is, in the estimation of Indian policymakers, the best of the bad choices facing New Delhi
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