Russia’s Devastating Attack on Ukraine
‘Not an inch to the east’
Russia’s attack on Ukraine is potentially the onset of war in Europe on top of Russia’s demand for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion from Germany to its borders. The major invasion began with air and missile assaults on Ukrainian military targets before troops and tanks entered across the country’s northern, eastern, and southern borders. On many fronts, the Ukrainian military fought back but it cannot withstand the mighty Russian onslaught given the lack of outright support from NATO.
Ukraine has been living in fear of war with Russia for many years, especially since the invasion of Crimea in 2014. The two countries have long been at odds, with Russia claiming Ukraine as part of its country and opposing its developing ties to the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to recapture the former Soviet republic. He has requested that the Ukrainian military put down their arms.
Genesis of the Conflict
- The heat between Russia and Ukraine has existed for a decent amount of time, and began to escalate out of control in early 2021. Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president hinted to US President Joe Biden to allow Ukraine to join the NATO forces in January of last year.
- This highly infuriated Russia, which began sending soldiers near the Ukrainian border for “training exercises” in the spring of last year and boosting the number in the fall. The US began to hype that there is a deployment of Russian troops, and Biden threatened Russia with heavy sanctions if Russia attacked Ukraine.
- Russia wants a legally enforceable promise from the US that NATO forces will not conduct any military operations in Eastern Europe, especially in Ukraine. According to Putin, Ukraine is merely a puppet of the US and was never a real sovereign country in the first place.
- This isn’t the first time that conflict has erupted between Russia and Ukraine. Russia had previously invaded Ukraine in 2014, when pro-Putin separatists captured major swaths of eastern Ukraine, and they have been fighting the Ukrainian army since the invasion. Russia also annexed Crimea at the time.
- Ukraine has extensive social and cultural ties with Russia, and Russian is widely spoken there, but those ties have deteriorated since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.
- When Ukraine’s pro-Russian president lost election in early 2014, Russia launched an offensive. It is estimated that more than 14,000 people have been killed by the continuous war happening in the east.
- The Minsk peace agreement was signed by Russia and Ukraine to end the violent armed conflict in east Ukraine, including the Donbas region. However, as the armed conflict continues, Russia said it would be sending “peacekeepers” to the affected region.
- The rising tension between Russia and Ukraine, which shares a border with the European Union, has ramifications for the EU. This is why the EU has joined the USA in declaring penalties against Russian firms, the majority of which operate in NATO member states.
- India is also calling for a diplomatic solution, through talks, to the present violent conflict. Putin has reportedly promised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Russia will ensure the safe evacuation of Indians from Ukraine. Over 20,000 students have already been evacuated safely to India but about 300 are still stranded in Sumy, which is under heavy bombardment from Russian missiles and artillery.
For months Putin denied that he would invade his neighbour, but then he tore up a peace deal and sent forces across Ukraine's north, east and south. As the number of murdered climbs, he is now accused of shattering peace in Europe and what happens next could jeopardise the continent's entire security structure.
Within a few days Russia is likely to capture the capital Kyiv after having captured the second largest city Kharkiv. Putin then is likely to declare the ceasefire after installing a puppet government of his choice.
These are terrifying times for the people of Ukraine and horrifying for the rest of the continent, witnessing a major power invade a European neighbour for the first time since the Second World War. It will seriously affect the world economy, especially in Russia and India, where fuel prices have already risen by Rs 12.
The invasion has had knock-on effects for many other countries bordering both Russia and Ukraine. Latvia, Poland and Moldova say they are preparing for a big influx of refugees. A state of emergency has been declared in Lithuania and Moldova, where thousands of women and children have already entered.
This is not a war that Russia’s population was prepared for either, as it was rubber-stamped by a largely unrepresentative upper house of parliament.
Nato has reportedly put its warplanes on alert but the US-led alliance has made it clear there are no plans to send combat troops to Ukraine itself. Instead they have offered advisers, weapons and field hospitals.
Meanwhile 5,000 Nato troops have been deployed in the Baltic states and Poland. Another 4,000 could be sent to Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia.
Meanwhile the West is also targeting Russia's economy, industry and individuals.
- The EU has promised to restrict Russian access to capital markets and cut off its industry from the latest technology. It has already imposed sanctions on 351 MPs who backed Russia’s recognition of the rebel-held regions.
- Germany has halted approval of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a major investment by both Russia and European companies.
- The US says it will cut off Russia’s government from Western financial institutions and target high-ranking “elites.”
- The UK says all major Russian banks will have their assets frozen, with 100 individuals and entities targeted. Russia's national airline Aeroflot will also be banned from landing in the UK.
Ukraine has urged its allies to stop buying Russian oil and gas. The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have called on the international community to disconnect Russia’s banking system from the international Swift payment system. This would badly impact the US and European economies.
Putin wants Nato to remove its forces and military infrastructure from member states that joined the alliance after 1997, and not to deploy “strike weapons near Russia's borders”. That means Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Baltics. In Putin's eyes, the West promised back in 1990 that Nato would expand “not an inch to the east” but did so anyway.
PK Vasudeva is a scholar of international trade