Baba’s Explainer – Perspectives on Russia-Ukraine War

  • IASbaba
  • October 21, 2022
  • 0
History and Art and Culture, International Relations
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  • GS-2: Policies and politics of developed and developing countries.
  • GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

Context: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb 2022 has been the turning point in History of post-cold war era. While many have condemned the militaristic interventions by Russia, the issue is not that simple. In the age where there are competing narratives on who is right and who is wrong in today’s complex geopolitics, we need to step back & analyse the contours of the history.

How has Russia evolved in Post-Cold War Era?
  • Russia has changed a lot over 30 years; it has changed fundamentally because it has opened up to a globalised world.
  • It has also produced a very open-minded middle class.
  • But certain things have remained unchanged in 200 years. And that has to do with geopolitics, where Russia found itself restricted, especially with respect to Ukraine.
  • The 1990s were a period of great trauma for the Russian people with a falling GDP, plummeting industrial growth, deep debt, secession, extremism and terrorism in Chechnya.
  • The turnaround that the Russian President Putin brought about was to consolidate Russia politically, suppress terrorism and the secessionist elements and modernise the economy.
  • Largely, Russia was able to consolidate its financial position and made efforts to integrate with the outside world.
  • US-Russia relations were in particularly good shape, Putin being the first world leader to call US President George Bush to convey his support after the 9/11 attack.
  • Russia supported the US on the latter’s forces in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda, non-proliferation, arms control and Iran.
  • Similarly, there was a strong cooperation with the EU, which became its largest trading partner.
  • Diplomatically, Russia engaged actively at the United Nations. And it nurtured its relations with India continuously while improving its ties with China 2000 onwards.
  • There is a vibrant Twitter, Facebook, Telegram community in Russia, which has not banned social media like China.
  • Putin has also nurtured a new economic leadership; the main Ministries are headed by extremely qualified professionals, all aged between 40 and 50.
  • Russia today has a far more complex and evolved political system than is normally understood by the outside world.
How did souring of US-Russia relations led to Ukraine crisis?
  • The American argues Russia took a turn towards authoritarianism between 2008 and 2009 and began pushing its policies in the neighbourhood. On the other hand, Russia claims that the US was not willing to accept it as an equal partner.
  • The first break in their relations came about over the invasion of Iraq, where Russia did not support US like it did earlier in USA’s action on Afghanistan.
  • Russia was concerned about US unilateralism, particularly with respect to existing arms control agreements.
  • The biggest bone of contention was the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Russia felt that the US was faltering on its commitments at the end of the Cold War to not destabilise the neighbourhood.
  • The US and NATO felt that it was the right of sovereign countries, which had been newly liberated in Eastern Europe from the Warsaw Pact, to decide their own destiny and join NATO.
  • There were five waves of NATO expansion which Russia objected to. But over a period of time, it opposed NATO
  • So when Ukraine wanted to turn completely towards the West in 2014, Russia turned aggressive.
Was there any peace efforts to calm the tensions in Ukraine’s Easter region?
  • Between 2014 and 2021, Russia and Ukraine tried to find the modus vivendi. This created a civil war situation in Donbass.
  • In 2015, there was an effort for mutual accommodation through the Minsk agreements and Russia was prepared to deal with Ukraine as an independent sovereign country but it wanted the Donbass region, which is Donetsk and Luhansk with almost 80-90 per cent Russian-speaking people, to be given provincial autonomy through a constitutional amendment in the Ukrainian Parliament.
  • Over a period of time Russia got the sense that Ukraine was not willing to implement the agreements.
  • Russia then concluded it was no longer possible to defend its interests in Ukraine given the direction its neighbour was setting up with prominent NATO countries.
  • With Russian aggression, Europe has practically accepted US leadership with even neutral countries like Finland and Sweden seeking NATO membership.
What are the chances of using nuclear weapons in the recent Ukraine crisis?
  • Russia has been saying right from the beginning that it would use nuclear weapons only in circumstances where its own existence was threatened.
  • The Russian position is of first use which is also the position of NATO.
    • India’s policy of no-first use is more responsible and is less liable for misinterpretation.
  • This becomes risky in times of crisis such as the one in Ukraine now.
  • However, the chances of nuclear use are minimal because both sides are well aware of the horrendous consequences that would entail.
How has western sanctions impacted Russia’s course of action?
  • Both the EU and the US made a miscalculation on the efficacy of their sanctions.
  • The Russian Central Bank and the Russian finance ministry took a number of measures to reintroduce the macro-economic stability in terms of the rouble and ensure the availability of credit internally despite the fact that a number of Russian banks were cut off from the Swift system and Russian Central Bank reserves in major Western banks were confiscated.
  • Russia is a continental economy with a huge amount of commodity resources, agriculture, a huge technological base and a very solid workforce. So over a period of time, Russia will recover despite the hits the economy is taking now.
  • On the contrary, the sanctions have had an energy impact on Europe that will impact European Politics, which is critically dependent on Russian coal, oil and gas.
  • With import restrictions and Russia turning off Nord Stream, the energy gap is impacting European politics.
How has the relations between India and Russia been in the aftermath of crisis?
  • India continues to engage with Russia bilaterally.
  • Indian private industry and the Government are careful not to transgress particular sanctions that have been imposed in the banking sector but India has continued to take advantage of discounted oil for energy security.
  • India has been consistent in our position on sovereignty and territorial integrity and the need for diplomacy and dialogue.
  • India have kept channels of communication open with both Russia and Ukraine.
  • India have participated in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meetings.
  • Some Western countries tend to fire from India’s shoulders but the true objective should be to get both sides to recognise the value of resolving these issues through dialogue. At present that is not at all visible in either Europe or the US, which is not looking for settlement till Russia is defeated militarily.
Does Russia-Ukraine war impacts India-China relations?
  • India largely depends on its own resources and policies.
  • China knows that India is no pushover. India has a sensible process of engagement.
  • The Russia-China relationship is a complex one as Russia particularly needs China at the present moment. Russian vulnerabilities are stretched in Ukraine with NATO breathing down its neck.
  • US has stretched its global arc to Europe. China is more advantageously placed in this triangular power play.
  • But there is no reason to see that the Indo-Russian relationship being affected by Russia’s tactical accommodation of China.
What does the immediate future hold?
  • Russia has clearly upped the ante by mobilising 300,000 troops, indicating it clearly wants a settlement on the battlefield.
  • By winter, the economic aspect will become bigger with the Russian economy becoming weaker and Europe deciding what its pain threshold is with regard to energy resources.

Main Practice Question: It is said that the present Ukraine crisis has its roots in dissolution of USSR. Comment.

Note: Write answer his question in the comment section.

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