The War in Ukraine

Photo Source: Institute for the Study of War/The New York Times
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The War in Ukraine
Russia’s Endgame

  Genesy B

About the Author

Genesy B is a Research Intern at NIAS. The comment is published as an outcome of the War in Ukraine workshop held on 05 August in collaboration with University of Madras and India-Office KAS Office, New Delhi. 

The Russia-Ukraine War is a complex and ongoing conflict that has had far-reaching consequences for both countries and the international community as a whole. Russia annexed Crimea, a region of Ukraine having historical ties to Russia, in 2014. The annexation set in motion a chain of events that culminated in a full-fledged military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Territorial issues, political conflicts, and conflicting visions for the region's future characterise the war. It has also been characterised by allegations of Russian military involvement, support for separatist organisations, and human rights violations, all of which have resulted in broad humanitarian effects. The battle had far-reaching regional and global ramifications. It has damaged Russia-Western relations, leading to sanctions and geopolitical tensions.

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?
One of the primary motivations for this invasion was to safeguard Sovereign territory. The initial Russian reason for such an invasion was to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine. The story of "denazifying Ukraine" is part of Russia's larger geopolitical ambitions in the region. The nature of left-aligned countries' ideological evangelism is to accept responsibility for liberating right-wing supremacy and protecting the state. Both the right and left extremists are antidemocratic, claiming to be on a mission to bring about a revolution and blaming all of the nation's issues on a specific group. This has been a consistent tendency throughout history. The Soviet Union's support in the liberation of Auschwitz is one example of such a tendency of accepting responsibility to protect the state. This tendency backs up Putin's assertion denazifying Ukraine.

Surges of nostalgia for Soviet-era economic and social programs might be seen as an attempt to re-establish a lost sense of connectivity to the world and oneself. This is because, despite the fall of the USSR and the establishment of a new system, Russia retains parts of left ideology that cannot be totally eradicated from its people due to a shared cultural and social history. It is also related to the fact that Russia has always had a powerful state but a weak society with a skewed sense of national identity. This derives from imperial Russia, where Russians identified with the empire rather than developing national unity amongst themselves, whereas the West established a common identity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the independence of two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, just days before invading Ukraine. The strategic geographical location of the two warring countries, as well as Putin's recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk, in Ukraine are both significant. Russia wants to keep its influence in Ukraine and keep it from completely integrating into the European Union and NATO. Russia has deliberately played the game in such a way that even if Ukraine joins NATO, Russia will be protected since both of these regions will operate as a buffer zone, protecting NATO's direct influence in Russia. NATO's refusal to admit Ukraine as a permanent member makes it far more likely that Russia will not be at war with NATO.

One of the major challenges that Russia faces is warrants. Russia is now subject to over 13,000 restrictions which is further than Iran, Cuba, and North Korea put together. Russian GDP declined by only 2.1 percent in 2022 and is anticipated to grow in 2023, contrary to the UK frugality. In the short term, sanctions have helped Russia by separating it from global shocks, while damaging it in the medium and long run. Another component of Russia's reaction to sanctions has rebounded in Moscow strengthening connections with various countries.
Russia has evolved into state capitalism, in which enterprises are subservient to the government, in discrepancy to the Western model. China's government’s foundations in communism along with capitalist market impulses, are diametrically opposed to and parallel to free market capitalism in the West. As a result, Russia and China, and their growing commercial ties in recent years, are extremely important. Russia's relationship with China aims to reduce the dollar's impact. The much-touted de-dollarization of the Russian economy is just becoming yuanization. Russia does not want the West to be the sole strong force in the globe, diminishing its reliance on the dollar. Not only Russia, but countries in the global south are breaking away from the US-led world order by substituting different currencies for the US dollar and expanding their self-sufficiency. The latest summits between China, Russia, and North Korea also indicate the strengthening of this trilateral bloc and Russia's efforts to recruit allies to the east.

The change in global order is one of the major inevitable effects of this conflict. Sharp geographical variations in opinions about the war, democracy, and the global balance of power suggest that Russia's invasion marks the advent of a "post-western" international order. With the new development of power, different countries emerge with different models and methods that are advantageous to them in order to defend their security rather than to seek new change. The preference for moral superiority over rule- grounded order, on which the West focuses, is dominant, favouring a non-aligned and neutral posture if given a choice. Thus, current trends and former strategy documents allude to increased geopolitical conflict, more economic protectionism and fragmentation, and a loosening of the transnational order's structures. In the face of multiple issues such as the climate crisis, information weaponization, and public opinion manipulation, the multilateral system is under tremendous strain and risks losing legitimacy and efficacy in addressing global challenges.

The gap between the global north and the global south is having an increasing impact on global order. The conflict in Ukraine has exacerbated the north-south divide.  This is about various priorities as well as relative influence and status inside the international system. It has strengthened western governments' commitment to liberal values, norms, and institutions. There are many more active and influential players in the international system and therefore an agreement is much harder to achieve.

The Ukraine conflict is still a very complicated and fluid conflict with numerous scenarios and possible outcomes. This scenario may have serious consequences for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The conflict might worsen, with far-reaching implications for regional stability and global security.

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