Saturday, June 4, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine (Vol.1): Significance of the War

 Significance Ukraine-Russia War

As Russia-Ukraine war completes 100 days with no end in sight and Ukrainian President himself conceding that ‘Russian forces had captured one-fifth of the territory of Ukraine’[1], consequences of the war are more than visible. Food and energy prices are soaring world-wide following sanctions and dislocation of supplies. Horrific images of the dead civilians and large-scale destruction of cities, towns, farmlands, villages, neighbourhoods and public infrastructure in Ukraine suggest that soon very little may be left in Ukraine to re-build. On the other hand, Western sanctions, imposed in five tranches, seem to have had done little to shake Russian determination on Ukraine. Rather enterprising middlemen are raking moolah out of distressed Russian crude sale at one level and overall shortages on the other. Some are already eying lucrative post-war reconstruction opportunities in Ukraine.

Russian forces appear to have established almost full control of industrialised Donbass region, capturing almost all key cities in a campaign that has been excruciatingly slow yet steady. Ukrainian forces have put up determined resistance, even recapturing small number of habitation in an area, where Pro-Russian local militias had already     been controlling a significant area including controlling Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Occasional counter-attacks from Ukrainian sides reflect resilience of the resistance that the Ukrainians have put up so far as well with possible intelligence and otherwise support from the Western sources. Going has definitely not been as easy and smooth as the Russian side may have anticipated. Russia to give up on its earlier strategy of possibly toppling Zelensky by encircling Kyiv and overwhelming Ukraine from all sides.

Large-scale casualties and destruction is going to leave bitterness that may persist much longer, if not forever. These may fracture the common civilizational identity of erstwhile Russian empire or the former Soviet republics that the President Putin was seeking to restore. Many Western analysts have described graphic depiction of war miseries in media as setback for Russia and victory for Ukraine in larger information warfare. A few friends in strategic community East Europe have observed that it may appear a moral victory for the United States and the Westers Europe as they succeed in their  objective of inflicting a big blow to President Putin’s aspirations to regain territorial integrity of ‘Kievan Rus’ (or Kyivan Rus) and establish pre-eminence of Russia in all the territories that had once been part of Czarist Russia and erstwhile Soviet Union. But flawed strategy of President Putin and his inability to usher in genuine democracy in Russia is equally responsible for this humiliation of almost entire Eastern Europe.

East Europe and West Europe had always been two separate civilisational entities and there has always been some degree of competition between the two, notwithstanding their own internal tussles, turmoil and conflicts. Ukrainians have paid a huge price in terms of loss of human lives and large scale despoilation of their land. It is indeed difficult to differentiate Ukrainian and Russian blood as there has been huge intermixing and for a variety of reasons ethnic Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Germans etc who constituted population of Ukraine around or before first world war have learned Ukrainian language and assimilated into a common Ukrainian identity. A significant section in the East have retained their exclusive Russian identity and President Putin had charged Ukraine of carrying out genocide against them. Unfortunately, over 25 million Russian speaking people had suddenly become foreigners overnight when 15 Soviet Republic had turned independent following fall of Gorbachev. Their relationship with their non-Russian speaking states remains complex and tenuous.  

But the larger human and material const that Ukraine has paid to gain popular sympathy is probably far too high. Further, Western strategy or support for the Ukraine or leadership of President Zelensky is not going to alter the eventual outcome of war, even if alters geopolitical equilibrium of the region. These are only going to stretch the agony, pain, trauma and losses for people of Ukraine manifold.  Other in the region absorbing refugees or impacted by disruption of supplies in some form or the other are also going to suffer to varying degrees. 

President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has shattered the belief that conventional wars were either unlikely or no longer needed in an increasingly interlinked and integrated world. This War has also exposed the vulnerability of the larger freedom that the mankind has substantially enjoyed from the war since the middle of 20th century. Overall military costs including Western aid and spurt in military spendings of most states in the region is going to witness decline in share of public investments in human development and social-welfare projects world-wide. These can permanently distort the trajectory of progressive evolution of democracies all over the world and plight of masses may deteriorate all over the world.

In the event of failure of his so-called grand agenda of Putin, probability of his taking recourse to desperate measures, periling security of both his own people as well as that of others, appears a reality. Though the world has so far ignored the potential threats of nuclear war by Putin and his associates, the spectre of even biological, chemical or a limited nuclear war remains on the horizon, albeit quite distantly at this stage. They have consistently reminded, if not threatened, the world about potential consequences of a limited nuclear war. Yet there is no worthwhile global initiative or leadership that appears capable of halting this war to usher in an early and sustainable peace or even ceasefire.

  We are already witnessing far reaching consequences of this war where few are enriching at the cost of the rest. These include miseries of people in Ukraine and families of the Russian soldiers as well as people suffering to varying degrees due to dislocation of food and essentials. The pace and scale of devastations, combined with larger implications for global geopolitical equilibrium, peace and security, far more exceeds consequences of several prolonged skirmishes, border conflicts, sustained counter-insurgency or anti-insurgency operations or military interventions as well as a few prolonged wars like the one between Iran and Iraq in 1970s that the world has witnessed over the past few decades. Russia, a direct party in this war, has not only been a top nuclear power but also one of the biggest producers of oil, gas, grains and fertilisers. Russia and Ukraine, together, have been described as bread basket of the world.

Rapid assessment report of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had assessed, soon after Putin’s invasion, that this war would lead to: a) escalation of cost of food items globally, exposing several nations in Asia and Africa, as well as a few even in Europe, to supply shocks; b) limited disruption of transportation of container cargo; as well as c) increase in oil gas prices impacting larger investment, inducing instability in financial markets and squeezing real income in many developing nations etc.[2]

These assessments have turned out to be correct by the end of May 2022. Prices of many essentials have risen in most developing nations and disruption in global supply and investment chains seem to be leaving their impact quite significantly. UN Secretary General Guterres observed on June 03 that ..”the conflict has already taken thousands of lives, caused untold destruction, displaced millions of people, resulted in unacceptable violations of human rights and is inflaming a three-dimensional global crisis – food, energy and finance – that is pummeling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies,”[3]

(To be Continued )

Russian Invasion of Ukraine (Vol.1): Significance of the War

  Significance Ukraine-Russia War As Russia-Ukraine war completes 100 days with no end in sight and Ukrainian President himself conceding ...