The Russia-Ukraine war is one of the most unfortunate one in the history of the wars. It surpasses all war the craziness including that of Hitler. Whereas Hitler was provoked by the Treaty of Versailles due to excessive financial and territorial burden that were laid on Germany, Vladimir Putin unleashed the biggest destructive war in Europe since WW II with the justification that modern, Western-leaning Ukraine was a constant threat and Russia could not feel "safe, develop and exist". He indulged in fighting a phantom war against imaginary and anticipatory war being laid by West against Russia through Ukrain. Thousands of people have since been killed, towns and cities such as Mariupol, Donbas - split by Donetsk and Lohansk, destroyed and lie in ruins, millions have been killed and 13 million people have been displaced. But the questions remain: what was it all for, what will be the consequences, what change will it bring in world geopolitics, their defense policies, how will it end and will it change in worlds’ nuclear policy? Will this war enhance the race for becoming nuclear power by more number of countries?? World is in a dangerous cross road.
Geopolitical Importance of Ukraine
If the local map is properly read one would be able to notice that in a total earth area of 17,075,200 square kilometers (6,592,735 square miles), Russia covers about one-eighth of the earth’s land surface. But this huge land mass has only two water outlets in the complete western border; one, the Black Sea and two the Caspian Sea. Ironically out of these two seas the Caspian Sea is land-locked and the Black Sea is surrounded by Europe in the West, West Asia in the South, Russia in the North and East and Georgia in the South-East with a small water channel passing through Istambul/Turkey leading towards Mediterranean via Sea of Marmara. However, it provides access to complete south east European states and through them to central and western Europe leading into Atlantic Ocean. This would be the shortest route for Russia to reach out. In this area Ukraine plays a major role being immediate neighbour of Russia and between it and Georgia cover entire Northern and Eastern shore of the Black Sea, therefore it makes strategic target anyway.
History of Ukraine.
Ukraine and the surrounding area have a long history. There had been lots of fights in this Central and Eastern Europe from mediaeval era. Ukraine had changed many hands. But for the ease of following the course of events I would, briefly, unfold the progress of the events, from a chaotic period of warfare ensued after the Russian Revolutions of 1917 till date. The partially-recognized Ukrainian People's Republic emerged on its own civil war of 1917–1921. The Soviet–Ukrainian War (1917–1921) followed, in which the Bolshevik Red Army established control in late 1919. The Ukrainian Bolsheviks, who had defeated the national government in Kyiv, established the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which on 30 December 1922 became one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union.
The Russian Empire always considered Ukrainians and Belarusians ethnically Russian, and referred to them as "Little Russians". Until the end of World War I this view was only opposed by a small group of Ukrainian nationalists. Nevertheless, a perceived threat of "Ukrainian separatism" sets in motion in taking a set of measures aimed at the “russification” (taking every small countries under its fold) of the "Little Russians".
After the Soviet military aggression by the Soviet government at the beginning of 1918, Ukraine declared its full independence from the Russian Republic on 22 January 1918, as the Ukrainian, People's Republic which existed from 1917 to 1922. The two treaties of Brest-Litovsk that Ukraine and Russia signed separately with the Central Powers calmed the military conflict between them, and peace negotiations were initiated the same year.
After the end of World War I, Ukraine became a battleground in the Ukrainian War of Independence. It linked to the Russian Civil War. Both Russians and Ukrainians fought in nearly all armies based on personal political beliefs. In 1922, Ukraine and Russia were two of the founding members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and were the signatories of the treaty that terminated the union in December 1991 after te fall of USSR.
After the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s (SSR) territory expanded westward. Axis armies occupied Ukraine from 1941 to 1944. During World War II the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought for Ukrainian independence against both Germany and the Soviet Union. In 1953, Nikita Khrushchev, a Russian, succeeded as head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union which enabled a Ukrainian revival, and in 1954 the republic expanded to the south with the transfer of Crimea from Russia. Point to note here that Putin has taken the revenge by recapturing Crimea which has given him access to Black sea.
Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine gained its independence and inherited the third largest nuclear stockpile in the world, along with significant means of its design and production. The country had 130 UR-100N intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with six warheads each, 46 RT-23 Molodets ICBMs with ten warheads apiece, as well as 33 heavy bombers, totaling approximately 1,700 warheads remaining on Ukrainian territory. While Ukraine had physical control of the weapons, it did not have operational control, as they were dependent on Russian-controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and the Russian command and control system. In 1992, Ukraine agreed to voluntarily remove over 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons.
Following the signing of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances among the U.S., the U.K., and Russia, as well as similar agreements with France and China, Ukraine agreed to destroy the rest of its nuclear weapons, and to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). By 1996, Ukraine transferred all Soviet-era strategic warheads to Russia.
Post USSR ERA
Russia is the primary de facto internationally recognized successor state to the Soviet Union after the Cold War; while Ukraine has, by law, proclaimed that it is a state-successor of both the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and the Soviet Union which remained under dispute over formerly Soviet-owned properties.
The three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – were the first to declare their independence from the USSR, between March and May 1990, claiming continuity from the original states that existed prior to their annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940. The remaining 12 republics all subsequently seceded, joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and most of the 12 joining the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In contrast, the Baltic States focused on European Union (EU) and NATO membership. Two states, Ukraine and Turkmenistan, have ratified the CIS Creation Agreement, making them "founding states of the CIS", but did not ratify the subsequent Charter that would make them members of the CIS. These states, while not being formal members of the CIS, were allowed to participate in CIS. As regards being member of NATO there is a long history on Ukraine’s journey to gaining NATO membership. Relations between Ukraine and NATO were formally established in 1992, when Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council after regaining its independence, but there have been many changes in country’s leadership as well as policy formation to join NATO due to changing political scenario and constant Russian interference and NATO policy changes. By the end of 2021 Russian plan to attack Ukraine became almost sure. Russian build up of forces continued and on 24th Feb the attack was launched: most deplorable development probably after medieval barbarity.
The "Budapest Memorandum" refers to agreements signed at the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Budapest, Hungary on 1994. It was originally signed by Russia, the UK and the US, who provided assurances against threats or use of force. As a result, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons.
According to the three memoranda, Russia, the US and the UK confirmed their recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and effectively abandoning their nuclear arsenal to Russia and that they agreed to the following:
1. Respect the signatory's independence and sovereignty in the existing borders.
2. Refrain from the threat or the use of force against the signatory.
3. Refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by the signatory of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.
4. Seek immediate Security Council action to provide assistance to the signatory if they "should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used".
5. Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against the signatory.
6. Consult with one another if questions arise regarding those commitments.
Putin was, however, always interested on some pretext or other, to reclaim the Crimea which Russia obtained from Turk and always considered Ukraine and Belarus as a part of Russia as Ukraine would open the Russian door to the world and provide depth to the mainland Russia. Besides Russia has had an eye on growing Ukraine. The geopolitical situation as shown on the map proves that.
So in 2014 Russia captured Crimea and successively attacked Ukraine on 24th Feb 2022, initially with a bid to capture Ukraine, when that failed now trying to consolidate the Eastern and Southeastern part of Ukraine i.e. Donbas and self-declared provinces Donetsk and Luhansk with the help of ethnic Russians settled in that area.
Putin’s aggressive poise forced all the USSR satellite states to join NATO or European Union. The map below will show how the small states started going en masse to join NATO to secure safety from Putin’s threat to again Russianise with the liberated states. He seems to be obsessed to reverse the clock to reopen the USSR chapter.
February 24, 2022, is likely to engrave itself on the history template of the contemporary world. Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified and barbaric invasion of Ukraine is not only a manifestation of a huge security danger that has shattered peace in Europe, as well as the world, it also shows the ill effect of too much dependency on other country on food, industrial produce and defence umbrella. It is dangerous to assume that the war on Ukraine is a limited conflict: it has made dent in scenario of food and industrial supply chain and military alliances with dependability on various countries with military becoming less certain. With gradual sliding on the efficacy of the world defence bodies, dependability on these alliances is becoming less and less. Any small trouble anywhere would have world-wide effect.
All world efforts comprising security and confidence-building measures, or institutional arrangements designed to preserve peace, suddenly look very fragile when faced with blunt force. The suffering of Ukraine presents a moral challenge to Europe and the world. Human rights and the UN Charter have been trampled upon and our values mocked. This is a war against the “collective west too”. Putin and his aides have chosen to abandon the rational caution exercised by the majority of his Soviet predecessors and all world leaders. Entire world power could not, so far, stem the devastating security and economic change that are setting in.
With or without a nuclear threat dimension, Russia’s neighbours already have valid reasons to fear the Russian predator. They feel that, if Ukraine cannot be helped to stop it, Putin may entertain aggression against other territories. The historic decision, taken by both Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership, point to the gravity of this threat. Small countries, such as Moldova and Georgia, Moscow’s formal allies such as Kazakhstan, may fear becoming Putin’s next target. The Kremlin has not made any attempt to assuage these fears, but has instead amplified them via direct menaces, propaganda and intimidation levers.
Before start of Russian invasion into Ukraine the world generally believed in the deterrence value of nuclear weapons and on regional defence alliances, basically based on political alliances led by powerful countries which would restrict the individual arms race.
This war has proved that wrong. There seems less likelihood in future on dependability on non-proliferation treaty or grand alliances. Only way to save one is to acquire nuclear weapon which may create race amongst all the countries to acquire that and make the earth sit on a most dangerous volcano ever conceived.
It again proves, with the stalling of Russian advance, that it is nearly impossible to win a people’s war as we experienced over fifty years ago in Vietnam or Afganisthan or Bangladesh etc. The tremendous increase in lethality of the weapons, available to both the attacker and defender, could not change the ground reality. Besides, magnitude of destruction that would be caused in today’s war would be much more devastative than the gain made, therefore, does not make it worthwhile. Even if Ukraine falls Russia will get a destroyed country.
Manner of ground fighting is changing. War is going to be fought more from distance to destroy the enemy resources than fighting close quarter. Ground operations will be much more costly in terms of man and material. Long range artillery, drones, aircrafts will be more on use.
World will no longer be a place to live. Besides, we are fast destroying the resources of the earth, which take millions years to form, in a couple of minutes. We tend to forget that we are depleting our natural resources beyond recouping capability.
The point remains that there is no guarantee that such fight will remain localized. The world has become very aggressive in order to establish individual hegemony. Bigger the country bigger is the stake. If we look around such possibility around our own border is not unanticipated.
India must take the lesson from Ukraine war, though the geopolitical situation is not same but we may get involved in such kind of situation and we need to be ready for that.
India needs to have long term political direction, economic and industrial development and strong defense forces.
This war has shown the ugliest face of human negativity. It is impossible to even imagine that a man can be so ruthless of not having any compunction in killing his fellow beings. Though we have such past history but it has surpassed all of them. So let us be ready.