Feb 10: Russia-Ukraine Standoff – https://youtu.be/lsbP_XPrRss
- GS-2: International Relations
Context: Russian aggression on its border with Ukraine has triggered one of the greatest security crises in Europe since the Cold War. In 2014, Russia had seized Crimea, an important port region in Ukraine. Conflicts between the two militaries continue till this day but the recent Russian build-up of 100,000 troops along the border has escalated tensions to unprecedented levels. The Ukrainian capital is located just about 75 miles south of the border with Belarus, and the West fears that Russia could use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine.
- Ukraine has termed it “psychological pressure”.
- While France, which is trying to broker peace through negotiations with both countries, has also called the drills as a “violent gesture” by Russia.
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called it the biggest security crisis in decades.
- The US has warned that an attack from Russia could come at any time. Although Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine.
- What is happening at the Ukraine-Russia border: Russia is deploying troops, around 100,000 personnel.
- Why: Ukraine made friends with NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
- Did it become a member of NATO: No. It wants to, but it hasn’t been invited for membership yet. But, Ukraine has NATO’s 2016 Comprehensive Assistance Package, through which the Eastern European country is encouraged to beef up its security and defence sector.
- And Russia is furious because: Russia has always thought of Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence. When Ukrainians voted out a pro-Russian head of state in 2014, Russia must have got a little worried, because it took Ukraine’s southern Crimean peninsula and egged on separatists to go take over eastern Ukraine. It didn’t please Ukraine, obviously, which then reached out to NATO for help.
Could Russia stage a full-scale invasion?
Most military analysts say this would be unlikely because it would involve a long and messy war with unavoidably heavy casualties. They expect Russia to opt for crushing air strikes and/or limited land grabs rather than all-out war including battles for major cities.
Putin would be likely to face qualms from his own public about waging war on a fellow Slav nation, as well as intense anti-Russian sentiment within Ukraine. He has also been warned by the West that Russia will be hit with unprecedented sanctions if it attacks Ukraine.
- NATO has stepped up deployment of troops to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank.
- The US has begun to move the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s stryker squadron from Vilseck, Germany, to Romania, which borders Ukraine. About 1,700 US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are going to Poland and about half have now arrived, with more expected to flow in during the coming days.
- Britain also has pledged to send 350 more troops to Poland and already has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.
What are India’s stakes in its ties with Ukraine & Russia?
In 2014, the Russian annexation of Crimea created problems for India. And if Moscow again takes military action against Ukraine, it will significantly complicate India’s objectives vis-à-vis Russia, China, the US, Europe, and even Ukraine.
A. It would hinder Delhi’s interest in preventing a further deepening of Russia’s ties with China.
- Potential Russian military action against Ukraine and western backlash would mean that Moscow will need Beijing’s diplomatic support even more.
- Beyond the strategic challenge that a close Sino-Russian partnership poses for India, a Moscow that is more beholden to Beijing would be particularly problematic at this moment when India is dependent on Russian military supplies and Sino-Indian border tensions could flare up again.
- If Beijing asks Moscow to take some steps (for instance, stall military supplies to India), what will Russia do at a time when its need for China is acute due to a crisis with Ukraine? It’s worth keeping in mind that in 1962, when Moscow needed Beijing’s backing during the Cuban missile crisis, it resulted in Soviet support for ally China versus friend India at a crucial moment in the China-India war.
B. Russian military action against Ukraine would also impede Delhi’s suggested approach for stalling Sino-Russian ties or fuelling friction between them — that the West, particularly the US, stabilise relations with Russia. For this reason, Delhi welcomed last summer’s Biden-Putin meeting — it would also help if two of India’s key partners were not at loggerheads. But another Russian invasion of Ukraine would put paid to any near-term prospect of a rapprochement between the West and Russia.
C. Russian military action against Ukraine would complicate India’s efforts to maintain a delicate balance between its partnerships with the US, Europe, and Russia.
- Delhi could try its posture, post the Russian annexation of Crimea, of neither openly criticising nor endorsing Russian actions. However, its silence will be seen as an endorsement.
- Moreover, even as Moscow might seek support from Delhi, it will sell India’s silence as an endorsement, as it did in the case of Crimea, and recently when it unilaterally issued a joint statement on Afghanistan.
D. A worsening Russia-Ukraine conflict would also bring India-US and India-Europe contradictions on Russia to the fore. The western response will involve even more sanctions that will further hinder India’s ability to do business with Russia and diversify Russia-India ties. And all this could come at a time when Washington is considering a waiver for India from CAATSA sanctions.
E. India has economic and defence trade ties with Ukraine, as well as 7,500-odd citizens residing there.
- India is Ukraine’s largest export destination in the Asia-Pacific and the fifth largest overall export destination.
- Moscow’s justifications for its actions against Ukraine are similar to those Beijing makes versus India: Historical claims, ethnic linkages, and Indian steps that it says threaten China. And Russian military action would go against respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty that Delhi frequently advocates.
F. Sanctions on Russia would affect equity investors and mess with India’s LNG (liquified petroleum gas) plans
Can you answer the following questions?
- How is it the Ukraine-Russia standoff impacting the world and India? Discuss.