BY : Amal Rohail
Ukraine Crisis is a violent protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the control of Donbas, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine.
If one recalls the 2014 Ukrainian revolution also referred to as the “Revolution of Dignity”, a power vacuum seems to had been generated when (then) President, Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital after protests broke out against him and his government for not signing a political association and free trade agreement with EU. Russia was “brought” into this matter asking for assistance by Yanukovych.
Russia, on the other hand, declared the ousting an “illegal coup” and intervened militarily, setting her foot on Ukrainian soil with pleasure.
Events following Russia’s intervention included the signing of the EU agreement and constitutional amendments (another episode of domestic instability and a question mark on Ukraine’s democratic legitimacy).
Does anyone talk about facts in international politics?
At least Russia does not. Let’s start with the fact that Crimea and Donbas were “internationally” recognized parts of Ukraine.
Secondly, the referendum held in Crimea under Russia’s control was highly criticized yet it directed the actions that followed. Russia has been playing chess with only one player playing on both sides.
The deadlock, however, has been lifted by Russian aggression through the Ukrainian invasion in 2022.
International law, as to speak of, had also been ‘covertly violated’ and may I stress enough on the term “covert” here as it holds so much importance for state actors and their actions.
Now, let’s say clearly how Putin is striving to revive Russia’s long-lost global influence.
Putin had embraced the cold war dynamic very dearly or at least it seems that way.
The fleeing of Yanukovych, the 2014 uprising in Ukraine, political unrest within Russia, etc., all of these events were perceived to be backed by the USA according to Putin.
As Mearsheimer likes to call him – a “first-class strategist” – that he proved to be, tackled diverse threats coming from within and outside the state of Russia very strategically to tilt the balance of power towards his unilateral policies.
Further, to counter the partisan divide within Russia, he used the “common enemy effect” – a social psychological concept – to regain his legitimacy at home by putting the United States as the target of being Russia’s adversary.
After succeeding Medvedev, Putin emerged with surprisingly a very different foreign policy
Most analysts had believed that the policies won’t shift much after Medvedev, as Putin was a paramount decision-maker when Medvedev was in power.
But, he changed the political route of Russian foreign policy by getting involved in zero-sum terms with the United States.
Is the international playground this rigged? Or is there no morality in international politics?
The answer is very simple and disturbing. “Politicized morality” – is (/has been) practiced.
An actor just has to choose a “justifiable” cover for the actions and the ground is theirs to play on.
Vladimir Putin, in this case, takes NATO’s expansion as a reason to justify her Crimean annexation and intentions for Eastern Ukraine.
But, one might think, “Was Russia too weak for a decade or two after 1999 when NATO actually started expanding”?
Or was the state relying too much on the “era of cooperation” between the two countries?
To answer shortly, Russia launched two wars in Chechnya that cost more than the Crime an
Secondly, the era of cooperation started in 2009 and remained in good effect through 2012.
The century has seen different foreign policies of Russia. But, one cannot blame every aggressive action of Russia on sole NATO’s expansion, just a portion of it.
Because there’s more to it: the political shift and realist agenda involved in Russia’s foreign policy.
On the Western side, the United States has sanctioned Russia heavily since the start of the Ukraine Crisis.
According to a report in Bloomberg, the sanctions have cost Russia a total of 6% of its GDP from 2014 to 2018.
Under the Biden administration, there have been three-fold efforts to bring Putin to the table through, strategic stability dialogue, the NATO-Russia Council’s meeting, and that of OSCE. All of which failed.
The United States, however, seems to have a strong partisan divide between the stances of democrats and the republicans.
Joe Biden’s government, however, has been successful in decoding Russia’s false flag operation against the Ukrainian government.
Russian agents were revealed to have hacked official systems of Ukrainian government officials to prove that the government is plotting against the Donbas separatists to provide Russia a reason for intervention.
Moreover, the United States has continued providing Ukraine with financial and military aid.
Despite this, Russia stationed its troops near the Ukraine border, and on the night of the 24th , they launched a military offensive (air + land) against Ukraine leaving hundreds either dead or wounded.
While we talk about the neo-cold war. let’s not forget the differences between both Cold War situations.
The United States, NATO, and western bloc against the Soviet Union and pro-Soviet bloc are much different than today’s US versus Russia in their military might both in conventional terms and nuclear strength.
Can today’s Russia rely on its own Collective Security Treaty Organization against the West?
The answer is plain, no. moreover, is the Cuban Missile Crisis the same as that of Ukraine? How high are the stakes of the USA in Ukraine? All of these questions point out the stark differences between the old and the new cold war.
Instead of nuclear deterrence, there is an energy crisis to dominate.
The United States being an economic giant holds power to strangle Russia economically yet, the States is not without constraints in doing so, seeing the interests of other European states involved.
Europe’s economy is much more integrated with Russia than the States. This posed a major restraint on US sanctions to stop Nord Stream-2.
Although, US sanctions held a bit of Russia’s reign but did not stop her significantly.
South Asia, on the other hand, seems to support different powers this time.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared publicly with Putin a few hours before the Russian attack on Ukraine.
As always, Pakistan stands tall on its geostrategic location that serves more complexity than it ever has. On its North-Western side stands Tajikistan – a central Asian state – who very much falls prey to Russia’s economic intimidation.
The West borders Iran, which blames NATO-led provocative measures as a reason for Russia to invade Ukraine in an effort to contain USA domination once again.
China, being on the North-Eastern border plays
a key role in supporting economic stability in Pakistan.
China’s economic corridor requires Pakistan to be stable which cannot be subsided in the new cold war era (if we see one).
Afghanistan, which shares the North-West border with Pakistan stands neutral as of now.
India, however, seems to be hyped up with Russia’s Pro-Islamic stance and is expected to stand with the West in the new cold war.
On a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Modi and Putin, India urged him to adopt diplomatic means of negotiations.
Modi called for the instantaneous cessation of violence in Ukraine on which Putin asked Modi “not to take sides” in this conflict according to the press release made by the PM’s office.
Russia still sees the previous countries of the Soviet Union as areas of “privileged interest”.
The central Asian states are already under Russia’s economic influence. Moreover, Putin does not intend to stop in Ukraine.
It is in fact an attempt to redefine the European balance set since 1945 by American aegis.
One can clearly see the overshadowing of diplomacy by Putin’s intent to stack up to his power.
The new age of power competition has emerged with new challenges, Alas! It has become an era where diplomacy has failed and where human lives are nothing more than objects living inside the politically administered territories waiting for their leaders to play their bets internationally and on losing the game getting themselves killed.
The stakes are much higher. The cost is greater than ever. Borders are yet again coming to a new change.