Why is Russia attacking Ukraine? The story so far, International response and why India should be concerned?
Russia has launched a military operation in Ukraine, with explosions heard across the country and Ukraine’s foreign minister warning a “full-scale invasion” was under way.
The build-up to war
Weeks of intense diplomacy and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia failed to deter Putin, who had massed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along the borders of Ukraine.
Russia has demanded an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and said Ukrainian membership of the US-led Atlantic military alliance was unacceptable.
Shelling had intensified since Monday when Putin recognised two separatist regions as independent and ordered the deployment of what he called peacekeepers, a move the West called the start of an invasion.
In response, Western countries and Japan have imposed sanctions on Russian banks and individuals.
On Wednesday, the separatists issued a plea to Moscow for help to stop alleged Ukrainian aggression – claims the United States dismissed as Russian propaganda.
As it appeared Russia was preparing to attack, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an emotional address to the nation, saying the war would be “a big disaster”.
Start of the attacks
On Thursday morning, Putin said he had authorised military action to defend itself against what he said were threats emanating from Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said Russia had carried out missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards, and that explosions had been heard in many cities. An official also reported non-stop cyberattacks.
Zelenskyy said that martial law had been declared. Ukrainian media reported that the military command centres in Kyiv and the city of Kharkiv in the northeast had been struck by missiles while Russian troops had landed in the southern port cities of Odesa and Mariupol.
Russian troops attacked Ukraine from Belarus as well as Russia with Belarusian support, and an attack was also being launched from annexed Crimea, Ukraine’s border guard service said.
Russia’s defence ministry said it had taken out military infrastructure at Ukrainian airbases and degraded its air defences. Russian-backed separatists in the east said they had captured two towns, the RIA news agency reported.
International reaction so far
The invasion triggered swift condemnation and a wave of sanctions.
US President Joe Biden, who has ruled out putting US troops on the ground in Ukraine, said Putin had chosen a premeditated war that would bring a “catastrophic loss of life and human suffering”. He said he would speak to G7 leaders and promised Russia would be held “accountable”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s “reckless and unprovoked attack” and said NATO allies would meet to tackle the consequences.
UN chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia “in the name of humanity” to step back from what could be “the worst war since the beginning of the century with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation but with an impact we cannot even foresee”.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Russia faces “unprecedented isolation” over its attack on Ukraine and will be hit with the “harshest sanctions” the EU has ever imposed.
Turkey, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, have strongly condemned the attacks and called for immediate cessation of hostilities.
The Group of Seven industrialised nations strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said they would bring forward severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions against Moscow.
Australia and Japan have announced economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia that will take effect in March.
China rejects ‘invasion’ charges!
China rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and urged all sides to exercise restraint. “You are using a typical Western media question method of using the word invasion,” Hua Chunying, spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry told reporters.
“China is closely monitoring the latest situation. We call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control.”
The growing China and Russian ties in all spheres, especially in the defence and space sectors, and the economic gain for Russia from China in terms of bailout after Western sanctions is sure to bring the two closer than ever.
India called for an immediate de-escalation of tensions between #Russia and #Ukraine at the UN General Assembly.
“Solution lies in sustained diplomatic dialogue and we emphasise the vital need for all sides to maintain international peace and security”, said Ambassador Tirumurti.
Dr Igor Polikha, Ambassador of Ukraine to India urged India and PM Modi to meditate and bring an end to the Russian aggression. “India a powerful global player, should assume its global role. Narendra Modi ji is one of the most powerful and respected world leaders. I am hopeful that Putin can think over”, he said.
Later Thursday, Indian PM Narendra Modi and Russian President Putin held talks over the phone after the Russian foreign ministry urged the Indian counterparts for a update on the situation.
While Putin appraised Modi about the differences between Russia and NATO which lead to the attacks, PM Modi appealed for an immediate cessation of violence and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue.
Effect on India
Firstly, as crude petroleum prices are already up, a military conflict could send them higher. India expects crude petroleum prices to be in the range of $70-75 per barrel over the course of the fiscal year 2022-23. Crude prices have been above $90 per barrel and are moving in zigzag, which is not good for the economy.
Secondly, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was an important export destination for India, and it had a share of almost 10% of India’s total exports. This number has come down to less than 1% by 2020-21. India’s total trade with Russia in 2020 was $9.31 billion. There has been a systematic effort to increase trade, but this conflict and sanctions can stop business and trade growth.
Thirdly, India is over-dependent on Russia in military imports. Russia and India’s defence business is not just a buyer-seller relationship. It is in joint research, design development and production of state-of-the-art military platforms. This will get affected if there are sanctions on Russian defence procurement. India has delicately negotiated to stay out of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) with the purchase of S-400 Triumpf missile systems, which may not work when a warlike situation prevails.
Fourthly, coming together of the Russia-China nexus is not good for India as Russia is a defence source and also a time-tested friend. India is very careful not to lose Russia and check China, which is using Russia only for its personal interest to rise. In exchange for Chinese support for Russian intent in Ukraine, they would concur with Chinese initiatives in the Indo-Pacific.
Finally, one can say that India’s relationship with Russia and America is strong and solid. There is no friend or no enemy in international politics but only national interest. However, in a multipolar world, PM Narendra Modi cannot take a uniform stand and stand with any one nation. So he is not willing simply to abandon the longstanding partnership with Russia. But he also isn’t ready to let Russia have a veto over India’s relations with the United States.
India knows Russia’s growing strategic partnership with China, Turkey and Pakistan, but the relations of India-Russia are deep with trust, which will not bulge the present. New Delhi and Moscow are adapting to the changing dynamic in their respective relations with Washington and Beijing. This new geopolitical dynamic is vastly different from the great power politics that brought India close to Russia in the past. For now, India is moving forward for peace, zero terror, check authoritarian military rules in Asia and the world. It is watching the action in Ukraine, and coming days would be very crucial and time testing for Russia, India and America relations.