From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Emerging trends from Russian invasion of Ukraine
Major wars have significant consequences for the internal and international politics of the combatant nations. Wars between great powers are far more consequential.
Geopolitical changes triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
1] New dynamism in great power triangle
- Biden hoped to distance Russia from China and focus all of America’s energies on the Indo-Pacific.
- But Putin chose to align with China and confront the US and Europe with an impossible set of demands including a sphere of influence in Central Europe and turning Ukraine into Moscow’s protectorate.
- China’s public articulation has underlined “rock-solid” support for Moscow but it is under some pressure to balance between its Russian alliance “without limits” and its deep economic interdependence with the US and Europe.
- Whichever way this plays out, the current crisis has revealed America’s pole position in the great strategic triangle.
2] Reinforced US primacy amongst the great powers
- The US primacy amongst the great powers has been reinforced by the restoration of strategic unity within the West.
- While many trans-Atlantic differences remain on the nature and extent of sanctions against Russia, the crisis has revealed the enduring sources of Western unity.
3] Disciplining of Europe
- Third is the American disciplining of Europe, especially Germany, where illusions of normative soft power and the faith in mercantilism had blinded the continent to geopolitical challenges presented by Russia and China.
- Europe’s belief that it can enrich itself in the Russian and Chinese markets while expecting Washington to do all the heavy lifting on security is no longer sustainable.
- The German decision on rearmament announced in the wake of the Russian aggression marks a definitive geopolitical turn in Europe.
4] EU’s dilemma in energy domain
- Nowhere is the EU’s Russian dilemma more visible than in the energy domain where Europe is deeply tied to Russian imports of oil, natural gas, and coal.
- The EU pays $110 billion a year to Moscow for these imports.
- While stepping up pressure on Europe to drastically reduce energy imports from Russia, Washington is reaching out to Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to fill the gap created by the planned blockade of Russian energy supplies.
5] Asia is adapting to the change
- Sensing the dangers from a Sino-Russian axis and fearing that Europe could distract America, Japan is rethinking its nuclear abstinence.
- South Korea’s president-elect, Yoon Suk-Yeol wants to strengthen ties with the US, and explore potential cooperation with the Quad.
- While the ASEAN remains torn between the US and China, many in the region are waking up to the dangers of betting that Beijing’s rise is irreversible, and that the Western decline is terminal.
Lessons for India
- The first major conflict amongst the great powers in the 21st century has presented India with multiple challenges, including its long-standing reliance on Russian military supplies.
- More immediately, the crisis in Ukraine demands that Delhi move on a war-footing towards a rapid modernisation and expansion of its domestic defence industrial base that is so critical for sustaining India’s strategic autonomy.
Unless there is an early diplomatic breakthrough, the conflict between Russia and the West is likely to sharpen in the coming days. But this hinge moment in world politics is also an opportunity for Delhi to increase its heft in the changing global balance.