The Russian Invasion on Ukraine

By Tanishka Tiwari

Published on: January 29, 2024 at 11:50 IST

The commencement of the military conflict in Ukraine in the early months of 2014 swiftly deteriorated into a protracted state of confrontation, characterized by daily artillery bombardments and skirmishes occurring along the front line that separates the Russian and Ukrainian-controlled border regions in the eastern part of the country.

Since Russia instigated a full-scale military offensive against Ukraine on the 24th of February, 2022, the hostilities have resulted in the loss of numerous civilian lives and the displacement of tens of thousands of Ukrainians, who have sought refuge in neighboring countries, most notably Poland, where the United States armed forces are prepared to assist.

The war between Russia and Ukraine unfolded in a manner that defied prediction. While it was evident that Moscow would engage Ukraine directly upon recognizing the independence of the separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, the initiation of an all-encompassing military campaign caught everyone by surprise.

A significant portion of the two regions, approximately one-third, is under the control of separatist forces, with the remaining two-thirds being under the jurisdiction of Ukrainian troops. Consequently, whether Russia would attempt to seize territory controlled by Ukrainian forces became inconsequential. Therefore, it is foreseeable that Russian President Vladimir Putin may undertake such measures.

Alternatively, one may consider the circumstance from the perspective that numerous major nations have aligned themselves with either Russia or Ukraine, thus raising concerns of an imminent outbreak of World War III, as highlighted by a report published by Sky News on the 18th of December, 2021. As countries such as the United States and NATO impose economic sanctions on Russia, other nations, including China, have firmly expressed their support for Russia’s position.

To address the presence of Russian forces near Ukraine’s border and to reassure NATO allies, President Joe Biden of the United States authorized the deployment of approximately 3,000 US troops to Poland and Romania (both NATO member states that share a border with Ukraine) in early February 2022. Satellite imagery revealed the most significant deployment of Russian forces near its border with Belarus since the conclusion of the Cold War.

Despite efforts by the United States, Russia, and European nations, particularly France and Germany, no agreement could be reached. While Russia issued a statement claiming a reduction in the number of troops stationed along its border with Ukraine, allegations have arisen regarding an increased Russian military presence.

The conflict’s historical roots can be traced across the annals of time. In July 2021, an essay authored by President Putin underscored the profound historical and civilizational connections that bind Russia and Ukraine. The President recently made a statement asserting that Ukraine has never truly existed as an independent nation and has perpetually remained under Russia’s dominion, thus discrediting Ukraine’s claim to sovereignty. Russia’s primary demand was for Ukraine to stay within its sphere of influence and refrain from joining NATO. Russia has harbored longstanding grievances against the United States and Western Europe.

Russia strongly opposed NATO’s expansion, which commenced during the Cold War, as it encompassed former Communist nations in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly encroaching upon territories that once belonged to the Soviet Union. Despite Russian apprehensions, NATO expanded its membership in 1997 and 2004 to include former Communist states. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Russia unequivocally supported America’s war on terror in Afghanistan.

Conversely, the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty the following year without consulting Russia. In 2003, the United States launched an assault on Iraq despite Russia’s opposition, further exacerbating President Putin’s grievances against the US and NATO.

President Putin vehemently criticized the United States’ unilateralism and its policies of humanitarian intervention during the Munich Security Conference in February 2007. The 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia further deepened the rift between Russia and NATO. Russia also took issue with the United States’ endorsement of regime change, which is sometimes referred to as the “colour revolution.”

The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, also called the “Dignity Revolution,” witnessed the participation of millions of individuals who took to the streets of Ukraine during this period of political upheaval. Their primary demands were focused on the president’s resignation, whom they accused of engaging in corrupt practices. In response to these protests, the president resorted to employing escalated levels of violence in February of the subsequent year, thereby transforming the demonstrations into full-fledged riots.

Consequently, the casualty count reached a staggering number, with over 100 demonstrators and 18 police officers tragically losing their lives. However, the culmination of these tumultuous events resulted in the impeachment of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the removal of the Ukrainian government from power, and the subsequent organization of fresh elections.

On June 27, 2014, Petro Poroshenko, assuming the President of Ukraine, endorsed the Association Agreement with the European Union. This particular development served as a poignant blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he had endeavored to incentivize Ukraine to abstain from joining the European Union and even convinced the previous president to refrain from signing the agreement.

Yet, in the end, Putin found himself unable to exert control over the Ukrainian populace, who spearheaded a revolution leading to the president’s overthrow. Consequently, the newly elected president endorsed the agreement with the European Union. Putin’s dismay was palpable upon realizing that his efforts had been futile and that he was gradually losing his influence over Ukraine.

In March 2014, the Crimean region of Ukraine was subjected to the control of Russian troops, subsequently leading to the formal annexation of the peninsula after a disputed local referendum in which Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation.

The rationale behind this action, as stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, was the protection of the rights of Russian citizens and Russian speakers residing in Crimea and southeast Ukraine. This crisis resulted in the exacerbation of ethnic divisions, culminating in a referendum held two months later by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, who sought to proclaim their independence from Ukraine.

From April 2014 onwards, violence has plagued eastern Ukraine, with casualties exceeding 10,300 and injuries approaching 24,000, according to conservative estimates, as a result of clashes between Russian-backed separatist militants and the Ukrainian military. Despite consistent denials from Moscow, both Ukraine and NATO have confirmed the presence of Russian troops and military equipment amassments near Donetsk, along with instances of Russian cross-border firing.

The downing of a Malaysian Airlines aircraft in Ukrainian airspace in July 2014 further exacerbated the situation in Ukraine, transforming it into an international crisis that placed the United States and the European Union (EU) at odds with Russia. After the invasion, Russia proceeded to erect a high-security barrier along the Crimean-Ukraine border and initiated the construction of infrastructure.

Russian jurisdiction now extends across the entirety of the Crimean peninsula. However, Ukraine’s president contends that Crimea remains Ukrainian territory, emphasizing the liberation of the region as a foremost priority for Ukraine. Conversely, Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains that Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia.

In October 2015, it was determined by Dutch air accident investigators that a surface-to-air missile of Russian origin brought down the jet. Since February 2015, France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine have been working to negotiate a cessation of hostilities through the Minsk Accords. These accords stipulate a cessation of hostilities, the removal of heavy weaponry, and the Ukrainian government’s complete control of the conflict zone.

Unfortunately, attempts to reach a diplomatic settlement and a satisfactory resolution have been unsuccessful. In April 2016, NATO announced that four battalions would be deployed to Eastern Europe, with soldiers rotating through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, to prevent future Russian actions in other parts of Europe, particularly in the Baltics.

These battalions were joined by two US Army tank brigades, dispatched to Poland in September 2017 to enhance the deterrent presence of the alliance. Since the onset of the crisis in 2014, Ukraine has been targeted by numerous cyberattacks. In December 2015, an attack caused a power outage for over 225,000 people across Ukraine, and a similar strike against a Ukrainian utility company once again disrupted power supply to parts of Kyiv in December 2016.

Another significant cyberattack, NotPetya, occurred in June 2017 and affected the computer systems of the Ukrainian government and corporate entities. This highly damaging attack, attributed to Russia, had global ramifications and resulted in billions of dollars in losses. During the Trump administration, security assistance to Ukraine was further expanded, along with increased pressure on Russia for its involvement in eastern Ukraine.

In January 2018, the United States imposed fresh sanctions on twenty-one individuals, including several Russian officials and nine companies connected to the conflict. The State Department approved the transfer of anti-tank munitions to Ukraine in March 2018, marking the first such shipment since the crisis began.

In October 2018, Ukraine engaged in a series of large-scale aerial exercises in western Ukraine in collaboration with the United States and seven other NATO members. These exercises followed Russia’s most prominent annual military exercises since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in September 2018.

The primary objective of the military action, as stated by the Kremlin, is to safeguard the Russian-speaking populace residing in Donetsk and Luhansk, who were previously under the authority of Russian-backed rebels. President Putin has expressed his desire for Ukraine to be demilitarized. However, how Russian troops have conducted aerial, naval, and missile attacks on numerous Ukrainian towns suggests that Putin aims to weaken and neutralize Ukraine to such an extent that it no longer poses a security threat to Russia.

Additionally, he seeks to compel the United States and NATO to consider Russia’s objections and concerns. The withdrawal of the United States and NATO from Afghanistan, coupled with the realization that Europe and NATO would not engage in armed conflict with Russia over Ukraine, a non-NATO member, may have bolstered Putin’s resolve.

It is worth noting that Russia possesses a foreign exchange reserve amounting to 600 billion dollars, enabling the nation to endure for an extended period. Although the annexation of Crimea by Russia in the face of sanctions imposed in 2014 posed a challenge to Moscow, it was not a significant one.

Furthermore, Moscow benefits from over 40% of Europe’s gas and oil being sourced from Russia, causing apprehension among several European countries, including Germany, about implementing stringent measures. Currently, Europe exhibits a unified stance opposing what it perceives as unwarranted Russian aggression.

Currently, as per Russia’s account, it has initiated a “distinct military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine. Russia asserts that the eastward advancement of NATO and Ukraine’s aspiration to align with NATO are the justifications for the deployment of military forces along the border, aimed at safeguarding its security considerations.

On June 6, 2023, a significant dam in the Southern Ukraine region, known as the Nova Kakhovka dam, reportedly collapsed, thereby giving rise to the peril of flooding in the neighboring areas. It is purported that Russia is responsible for this inflicted damage. The most recent reports indicate that drone strikes targeted civilians in Moscow, causing injuries to two individuals within the vicinity.

Ukraine has been held accountable for this offensive. Russia is actively seeking guarantees that the United States will abstain from inducting Ukraine into NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The war between Russia and Ukraine has resulted in heightened tensions between the Western nations, who support Ukraine and Russia.

Despite deep-rooted cultural connections spanning several centuries between Russia and Ukraine, the latter functions as a buffer state positioned between Russia and the West, with the United States and European Union exerting their influence. Notably, Russia, the United States, and the European Union possess vested interests in Ukraine. It is directly intertwined with all the preceding issues within the recent Russian troop deployment near the Ukrainian border. Russia is adamant in securing a commitment from the West that Ukraine will not be incorporated into NATO, an alliance that harbors anti-Russian aspirations, in the future. However, the United States remains unconvinced by Russia’s demands.

The provision of more advanced weaponry to Ukraine by the Western nations has been recently declared, thereby intensifying their involvement in the conflict. Consequently, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has already fortified Russian positions along the extensive 1,000-km frontline in Ukraine.

The escalation of the war has also heightened the possibility of a confrontation between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), two nuclear powers. Russia’s objectives encompassed the installation of a regime in Ukraine that would be amicable towards Moscow, as well as the annexation of the entirety of the eastern and southern regions, spanning from Kharkiv in the northeast to Odesa, the port city on the Black Sea, in the southwest, thereby transforming the country into a landlocked remnant.

Regrettably, Russia has been unsuccessful in achieving any of these aims. Nevertheless, substantial Ukrainian territory, including Mariupol, has fallen under Russia’s control. The territorial gains made by Russia in Ukraine reached their peak in March 2022, encompassing approximately 22% of the pre-2014 Ukrainian territory. Ukraine has managed to recapture some land in Kharkiv and Kherson. Nonetheless, Russia still maintains control over about 17% of Ukraine. Intense fighting has persisted in various flashpoints along the frontline, such as Bakhmut, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia.

In the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Russia expresses its opposition to NATO’s eastward expansion, which includes the inclusion of Finland. Russia’s objective is to establish Ukraine as a neutral state under its sphere of influence. Russia seeks written assurances of security not only within Ukraine but also about the withdrawal of NATO forces from Poland, as well as the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Russian President defends the actions taken in the Ukraine crisis based on security interests and the protection of the rights of ethnic Russians. Russia now seeks reassurances from the Western perspective that Ukraine will not be permitted to join NATO. The United States and its Western allies deny Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO, arguing that Ukraine possesses the freedom to determine its security alliances as a sovereign nation.

The crisis has strained relations between the United States and Russia, thereby increasing the possibility of a more significant confrontation in Europe. As a result of the security obligations tied to their alliance, tensions are expected to escalate between Russia and nearby NATO member nations, with the United States likely to be involved in the process.

Moreover, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is anticipated to have profound and extensive ramifications, particularly for the relationship between the United States and China, as well as for future collaboration on crucial matters such as the regulation of weaponry, the safeguarding of cyberspace, the prevention of nuclear proliferation, the assurance of energy security, the combatting of terrorism, and the attainment of political resolutions in Syria, Libya, and other regions.

India has embraced the strategic autonomy approach to optimize its policy space, prioritising National Interest over the block politics that have influenced India’s acquisition of discounted Oil, fertilizers, and other commodities from Russia. Through diplomatic activism, India has successfully evacuated more than 22,500 Indian and foreign nationals from 18 different countries as part of a mission called Operation Ganga.

As the imminent war casts its shadow, its repercussions are evident in the financial sector. The surge in crude oil prices, inflation, and the monetary policies of the US Federal Bank have resulted in a decline of India’s Forex Reserve to approximately 570 billion dollars, representing a decrease of around 10%. Additionally, the prices of natural gas have risen by over 50%, exacerbating the crisis of fertilizer availability. It is worth noting that Russia accounts for 15% of the global nitrogenous fertilizer trade and 17% of the international Potash fertilizer trade.

India’s import of sunflower oil stands at 1.9 million tons, with Ukraine responsible for 1.4 million tons. Moreover, Russia is a significant producer of Titanium, Palladium, and other valuable resources. In the event of war and sanctions against Russia, India’s diamond industry would suffer, as would the semiconductor industry, due to disruptions in the supply chain.

As a major arms supplier, Russia has long been regarded as India’s reliable and time-tested friend. Recently, India has chosen to remain silent on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, thereby implicitly advocating for a peaceful resolution through diplomatic means. In a United Nations resolution aimed at upholding Ukraine’s territorial integrity after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, India abstained from voting, expressing hope that the situation would be resolved peacefully while maintaining a patient approach.

There is a possibility that the US may impose sanctions on India for its acquisition of the S-400 defense missile system under the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). To maintain a balanced strategic calculus, India also seeks the support of the United States and the European Union.

The Ukraine war has provided an opportunity to exercise strategic autonomy. Adopting neutrality, India has maintained its connection with Moscow while expressing support for global peace. India circumvented Western sanctions to purchase oil from Russia. Russia accounts for up to 25% of India’s oil purchases, compared to less than 2% before the war.

India recently abstained from a UNGA resolution on the first anniversary of the war, which asked Russia to withdraw from its territory, citing limits in achieving the long-term goal of securing enduring peace. New Delhi has abstained from all three votes on the Ukraine situation at the UN General Assembly since the Russian incursion. However, the longer the war lasts, the more pressure India faces from the Western alliance to select the “right side.”

As the conflict remains ongoing, reaching a definitive conclusion is impossible. Analysts and experts can forecast and speculate regarding this profound predicament. Notwithstanding the objective articulated by the Kremlin for initiating military action against Ukraine, which is to safeguard the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, Russia’s genuine apprehension stems from the close relationship between NATO and Ukraine.

The prospect of Ukraine aligning itself with NATO is disconcerting for Russia, as it would be encircled on all fronts. It is worth mentioning that Russia and the United States have never enjoyed amicable relations, with Russia persistently enduring economic sanctions imposed by the US. Thus, this constitutes another motive for Russia’s opposition to Ukraine’s accession to NATO.

Conversely, specific nations and politicians perceive Russia’s actions as an attempt to intimidate Ukraine into reaching an agreement with the United States, potentially in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Consequently, they assert that no action should be taken.

The state of affairs necessitates an immediate cessation of hostilities, given that the world still grapples with the enduring repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the most impoverished nations. This ongoing conflict has the potential to exacerbate the already existing economic downturn. Following the Minsk Agreement, the United States and Western nations must pressure both parties to restart negotiations and fulfill their obligations. This pragmatic approach offers a viable means to reinstate a semblance of tranquility to the Russia-Ukraine border dispute.

It is imperative that the warring factions promptly return to the negotiating table, as the intensification of hostilities and violence serves no one’s best interests. Established international norms and legal principles unequivocally dictate that all parties engaged in armed conflicts must refrain from targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

The international order, which is predicated on the tenets of international law, the United Nations Charter, and the preservation of all nations’ territorial integrity and sovereignty, must be strictly adhered to. These fundamental principles must be upheld unconditionally.

India is tasked with striking a delicate equilibrium between the demands exerted by its strategic partners, namely the United States, France, and Japan, to censure Russia for its transgressions against international law. Nonetheless, India is compelled to articulate its historical affinities and legitimate concerns. The Indian nation encountered a comparable predicament during the Crimea crisis in 2014, an episode it adeptly navigated. This pattern of behavior has persisted throughout the intervening period and will continue to do so.

Owing to its nascent status as a developing nation, India must adroitly navigate its economic commitments. A government characterized by its fiscal prudence must proactively reduce fuel levies to preemptively curtail inflationary tendencies, mitigate consumption levels, and uphold India’s frail economy in the aftermath of the global disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through a judicious approach, the India-Russia relationship ensures that New Delhi is not marginalized in matters on Central Asia, negotiations surrounding Afghanistan, and the corresponding influence wielded vis-à-vis the United States.


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