Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Ukraine crisis: can India continue to balance the scales?


JTwo months after the United States first warned the world that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine, and after weeks of denying that it intended to do so, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a military operation against Ukraine, which could change the course of the world, or simply end up repeating history.

Here is the sequence of events:

Over the past month, Russia has sent nearly 150,000 troops to its border with Ukraine, then another 30,000 to northern Belarus for military drills in February, which the US and EU have warned that it was a precursor to an invasion.

What do Putin and the Russian government want?

In response, the United States and its NATO allies – the United Kingdom, European countries prepared a massive set of sanctions, including banning banks, imposing sanctions on Russian lawmakers, halting of all exports, the freezing of Russian assets, etc. US President Biden said their goals were to

However, while the US and EU claim these measures are unprecedented, the fact is that they have also announced many such measures in the past. Russia’s actions on Donetsk and Lugansk also fully reflect its past actions, all under Putin’s presidency, driven by a sense of grievance about NATO’s broken promises and threat to Russian security, as well as its desire to restore Russia to some of its former glory.

On every occasion the United Nations criticized Russia, refused to recognize the change in borders, but ultimately Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, vetoed any action against it. After the Crimean action, the G-8 expelled Russia from the group of the most developed nations in the world.

What are India’s challenges?

Officially, said Foreign Minister, India is involved in the situation in Ukraine

But there is more that makes balancing New Delhi’s relationship much more difficult:

Obviously, despite its distance from the conflict, India cannot disengage from the conflict in Ukraine. Some additional book recommendations, in case you’ve read those from our previous installment.

  • Russia already has troops south in Crimea
  • On February 21, President Putin announced that he recognized two states or oblasts in eastern Ukraine, called Donetsk and Luhansk, in the so-called Donbass region. Under the previous Minsk agreement that was negotiated in 2015, these oblasts were promised full autonomy and special status, but Ukraine failed to implement them.
  • Then Putin said he would send Russian peacekeepers to the areas, in order to protect the people of those areas from Kiev attacks.
  • On February 24, Putin announced military operations, which included airstrikes on several Ukrainian cities, targeting Ukrainian military installations in particular. According to Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky, 140 military and civilian Ukrainians were killed on the first day of the strikes, but the Ukrainian army was fighting back. The war had begun
  • As thousands of civilians flee towns and run to bunkers and bomb shelters, India has launched an operation to help evacuate its citizens too – around 20,000 who remain in Ukraine. After air routes are closed, the government is making arrangements to bring them overland to Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Slovak Republic and then bring them home.
  • At the end of the week, the United Nations Security Council held a vote on a resolution introduced by the United States and dozens of UN members, which sought to condemn Russia’s actions and called for an immediate troop withdrawal, but this was predictably vetoed by Russia. India, China and the United Arab Emirates all abstained from voting on the resolution, while the other 11 UNSC members voted yes. US says it will continue to raise issue, next time at UN General Assembly
  • End discrimination against Russian-speaking Ukrainians living in the East, who Russia says are targeted in the new republic. In July 2021, Putin wrote an essay titled “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, which explained his view of their common past
  • Security assures NATO countries they will stop the group’s eastward expansion – Specifically, Russia says it is reacting to Zelensky’s announcement that Ukraine may join the alliance of NATO defense
  • Guarantees that weapons and missiles targeting Russia would not be deployed by NATO in Russia’s neighborhood
  • Ukraine would declare itself as a neutral country, modeled on Finland’s declaration of neutrality. Many even resented the statement, and non-NATO status could have avoided war. As we discussed in WV #48, Russia has long felt that Western nations took advantage of the post-Soviet collapse and conscripted 14 other neighbors and former Soviet states into NATO since 1997, breaking a deal or ” founding pact” that NATO and Russia have signed. .
  • In August 2008, Putin sent troops to the Georgian enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, after Georgia sent troops to try to control them. The Russo-Georgian war only lasted a few days and Russia now treats the two enclaves as independent states.
  • In March 2014, after a referendum in the southern Ukrainian enclave of Crimea that voted for reunification with Russia, Putin sent troops to annex Crimea, until all hostilities ceased and a status quo is frozen until the Donetsk and Luhansk issues are resolved.
  • And now, in February 2022, 8 years later, Putin is repeating those same actions.
  1. Limit Russia’s ability to be part of the global economy – add Russia to countries like Iran and North Korea
  2. Stop their ability to fund the Russian military
  3. Hindering Russia’s ability to access technology
  1. Member of the UN Security Council this year – unlike last time with Crimea
  2. A country with major economic stakes in the region given trade, pharmaceutical exports and imports of defense parts from Ukraine
  3. About 18,000 Indian medical and engineering students based there and 2,000 other citizens working in Ukraine
  1. India and Russia have a deep historic relationship, and India is dependent on Russian military equipment, parts and technology for the foreseeable future.
  2. The standoff with Russia could see India sanctioned by the United States if it pursues the S-400 missile system deal, but could also extend to future defense purchases
  3. New sanctions could affect India’s other trade with Russia, plans to expand energy deals
  4. Western pressure on Russia will bring it closer to India’s adversaries China and Pakistan, as Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s meeting with Putin this week showed. After Crimea, China bailed out Russia from crippling sanctions by signing $400 billion gas deal
  5. The struggle between Russia and the West diverts attention from India’s main concerns in its own neighborhood and from Indo-Pacific politics. As External Affairs Minister Jaishankar visited Germany and France this week, he attended panels and conferences on the Indo-Pacific, but each was overshadowed by events in Ukraine.
  6. Failing to vote with the West to condemn Russia’s actions will alienate the Modi government from Western capitals, just as it seeks to strengthen ties with the US, UK and EU.
  1. by Alexander D’anieri comes out this month, and promises to be very timely The Ukrainian crisis: the civil divorce between Ukraine and Russia and the uncivil war
  2. Two books by Timothy Snyder who wrote: . This one in 2019 is more relevant to the question: On tyranny: twenty lessons from the 20th centuryThe Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America
  3. For those interested in the past – by Ronald Asmus A small war that shook the world: Georgia, Russia and the future of the West
  4. by Serhii Plokhy, professor of Ukrainian studies and authority in the region, whom I have already recommended for Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir PutinThe Last Empire: The Last Days of the Soviet Union
  5. Two books on Putin – one by Angus Roxburgh, a former BBC reporter and also an adviser to the Russian government in 2006. And the other, coming out this year, by Gideon Rachman. The Strong Man: Vladimir Putin and the Fight for RussiaThe age of the strongman: how the cult of the leader threatens democracy around the world

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