by Syed Suhail Yaqoob
The Russian invasion of Ukraine will bring out the loopholes in NATO and USA will be seen as a drowning power. It is also possible that China and Russia may patronise a regional anti-US grouping.
Russia and Ukraine are in the middle of a war. The devastation is visible on the TV screens. A large number of civilians are killed, mostly Ukrainians. A huge infrastructure, especially social infrastructure, has been destroyed that is sure to make the lives of innocent citizens difficult. Many believe the worst is yet to happen as Russia is continuously pushing towards Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.
There are many theories why a powerful country like Russia went to war against a non-nuclear country. Some analysts believed that it has to do with the inclinations of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He wanted Ukraine to join the most important and powerful organization, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This might have pushed the Russian president into activity given that there is a history of fighting between the Soviet Bloc and NATO. Ukrainian attempts to join NATO would have a powerful impact on the Russian security establishment. It was unimaginable for Russia to see NATO at its borders.
Why Russia invaded Ukraine has its explanation in the Cuban crisis when Russia planted its weapons close to the United States of America. The security perceptions of Russia might just explain its earlier invasion into Crimea. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea.
Other theories have to do with the personality of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. He is recognized as a powerful dictator with imagination in Russia’s past. The president believes in the past glory of Russia before it broke up before 1991.
It is important to notice that The Russian president chose an important timing in attacking Ukraine. After the breakup of the erstwhile USSR, the United States of America emerged as a single powerful country. The world was considered as a unipolar world with the USA as its head. Russian president must have observed the decline in the power of the USA. The retreat of the USA and NATO from Afghanistan was a significant loss to power of both the USA and NATO. In order to fulfil the gap, Russia has stepped in.
Although the USA and its allies responded with clear sanctions, however, these will not deter Putin to take the step back. The president must have noticed the weakness of NATO and its allies, especially the USA. The USA is already under strain owing to the weak economy, loss of international power owing to retreat from Afghanistan and the Covid crisis.
For Russia, the die is not cast. Being a powerful country with huge arms, it is sure to achieve its strategic objectives, which keep NATO in check. Just like the USA showed its power to Japan and the world by bombing its two cities with nuclear warheads, Russia will also show its power by wiping out any resistance from Ukraine.
For Ukrainian forces, the resistance to Russia will be not a strategic step. It will embolden Putin to take in more concrete steps. Each resistance by Ukraine will lead to more bombing of the territory, more deaths and causalities. Putin has called for surrender.
As a dictator of one of the most powerful countries, resistance from a non-nuclear state will simply lead him into a personality crisis. Putin started the war and he has to end the war to make sure that he retains the perception of being a ‘strong and powerful leader”. He has to retain his powerful position and he will do it through any means. Recent reports have suggested that Putin has put his country’s nuclear deterrence on high alert. The world opinion will strongly now favour talks as war can get out of hand at any moment.
Putin has also strongly now recommended the need for talks. There is a Russian delegation currently in Belarus trying to have some headway in talks with Ukraine. In international diplomacy¸ there is a need for a show of power. Russia has already gone to war; the next step might just include the total devastation of Ukraine, which will have the least probability. Putin clearly knows the implications of the war from Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan. An endless war will only lead to a crisis in Russia. The world especially Europe has in the strongest terms condemned the Russian attack and also public opinion might just tilt in favour of Ukraine.
However, China has strongly backed Russia. It has refused to call it an invasion. It is pointed out that Putin’s visit to China in the winter Olympic Games was to garner support for a Russian attack on Ukraine. The presidents of the two counties have gone well with each other over the years.
It might be possible that Russia might have shared its plans for attacking Ukraine with China’s president. Without China, it would have been difficult for Putin to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. China is recognized as a global superpower both militarily and economically. In the Covid crisis, it was the only country showing a positive rate of gross domestic product. It now sits over a vast amount of foreign exchange reserves, has huge investments in almost every country and is a big exporter of goods. Russia must have been provided guarantees over the crisis especially the financial crisis over its attack on Ukraine.
Most of NATO countries tried to impose sanctions on Russia. With Chinese backing, Russia will not feel any burnt for sure. For China, the Russian attack on Ukraine is a win-win situation. The Russian attack will only expose the USA further and NATO even further, thus paving the way for Chinese domination across the world. Although China has recommended peace talks it clearly indicates that in this crisis it is China more than Russia that is the winner. It’s secretive backing of Russia will bring these two countries closer than ever. Russia needs China and the latter needs the former more.
In the crisis, it was the prime minister of Pakistan that landed in Moscow. The visit was strongly condemned by some quarters. Imran Khan’s visit was a surprise but it was a strategic move. After the retreat from Afghanistan by the USA and its allies¸ Pakistan lost its status as a frontline state. Being a frontline state, Pakistan was provided with both financial and diplomatic cover by the USA. However, the policies of the USA have continuously flattered with respect to Pakistan. It has its own and disowns history with Pakistan. Pakistan under Imran Khan has continuously tried to mend ways with Russia. These two countries have a bitter past. During the cold war, Pakistan was a prime country, which led to the dismemberment of the USSR with secret help from the USA and its allies.
Now Khan’s presence in Moscow signifies the warmth in their relationship. Pakistan has become a new geopolitical focal point connecting two important countries in Asia; China and Russia. Political experts opine that it is a new block in the making with Turkey. The block has become a headache for the USA and its allies.
China is a growing economy, with huge industrial infrastructure and billions of dollars expenditure on its army. It is Pakistan, may believe, that will take advantage and become a glueing stick for Russia and China. Further Afghanistan has also stabilized after the establishment of the Afghan government. Pakistan has significant influence over Afghanistan and China is sure to take advantage of the situation.
India is siding with the west. It had a ‘Neighbour First’ policy. Look-East and Look West were its core foreign policies. The Ukraine crisis will, however, place it in a difficult situation. India has no option except to side with the west in the Ukraine crisis. The country’s relationship with the west especially the USA has become more compact over time. Its policymakers are, however, sure that Russia will be offended in the process. Russia is signalling a close relationship in future with Pakistan. Their armies have done joint operations and Russia has sold some arms to Pakistan. Russia has done it despite their objections from India.
This is despite India abstaining from a UN meeting on the conflict, insisting it wishes to stay neutral and help the parties to get into peace mode, again.
The Ukraine crisis will lead to many geopolitical changes. Russia is sure to come out as the winner; however, it is China that shall be recognized as the world leader now. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will bring out the loopholes in NATO and USA will be seen as a drowning power. It is also possible that China and Russia may patronise a regional anti-US grouping.
(Syed Suhail Yaqoob is teaching economics at Cluster University Srinagar. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)