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One Year of Russia-Ukraine Conflict

  • 24 Feb 2023
  • 9 min read

Prelims: New START treaty, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Black Sea Food grain initiative.

Mains: Impacts of Russia-Ukraine conflict on India, Global impacts.

Why in News?

A year after start of Russia-Ukraine conflict, there are still signs of escalation everywhere. Calculations on both sides that this would be a short, swift war have proved wrong.

  • The anniversary of war comes in the backdrop of Russia’s withdrawal from New START treaty.

What is the Current Status of the War?

  • The West has recently announced the supply of more advanced weapons to Ukraine, deepening its involvement in the conflict.
    • In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already reinforced Russian positions along the 1,000-km long frontline in Ukraine.
  • Risks of a direct confrontation between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), both nuclear powers, are also on the rise as the war is extended.

  • Russia wanted to install a Moscow friendly regime and to take the whole of Ukraine’s east and south, stretching from Kharkiv in the northeast through the Donbas in the east (which comprises Luhansk and Donetsk) to Odesa, the Black Sea port city in the southwest, turning the country into a land-locked rump. Russia has failed to meet any of these objectives.
  • Nevertheless, Russia has taken substantial portions of Ukrainian territories, including Mariupol. Russia’s territorial gains in Ukraine peaked in March 2022, when it controlled some 22% of pre-2014 Ukraine.
  • Ukraine recaptured some land in Kharkiv and Kherson. But still, Russia controls some 17% of Ukraine.
  • Focused fighting has been going on in some flashpoints along the frontline including Bakhmut, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia.

What has been the West’s Response?

  • Approach:
    • Punish Russia’s economy through sanctions and thereby weaken its war machine.
    • Arming Ukraine to counter the Russian offensive.
  • Major Aid Providers:
    • The U.S. is Ukraine’s biggest aid provider — it has pledged military and financial assistance worth over USD 70 billion.
    • The EU has pledged $37 billion and among the EU countries, the U.K. and Germany top the list.
  • Evaluation of Western Response:
    • While the approach of arming Ukraine has been effective in at least halting the Russian advances, hurting Russia economically has been a double-edged sword.
      • Sanctions on Russia, one of the top global producers of oil and gas, hit the global economy hard, worsening an inflationary crisis across the West, particularly in Europe.
      • Russia also took a hit, but it found alternative markets for its energy exports in Asia, redrawing the global energy export landscape. In 2022, despite sanctions, Russia raised its oil output by 2% and boosted oil export earnings by 20%.
      • The Russian economy was estimated to have contracted by 2% in 2023, but, according to the IMF, it is expected to grow 0.3% in 2023 and 2.1% in 2024.
      • In comparison, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is expected to grow 0.1% in 2023, while the U.K., Ukraine’s second biggest backer, is projected to contract by 0.6%.

Is there a Possibility for a Negotiated Settlement?

  • Both sides had exchanged several drafts about a potential peace plan in March 2022, but the U.S. and the U.K. staunchly opposed Ukraine reaching any agreement with Russia. Talks collapsed in March.
  • In July 2022, Turkey brokered a deal on taking out Russian and Ukrainian food grains through the Black Sea known as Black Sea Food grain initiative. Also, Warring parties had reached some prisoner exchange agreements.
  • But barring these, talks between the two sides are non-existent.
    • Russia, despite the slow progress of its “special military operation”, remains adamant.
    • Mr. Zelensky recently stated that he would not reach any agreement with Russia making territorial compromises.
    • There is absolutely no push from the West for talks.
    • China has stepped in with its own peace initiative, which is not in public domain yet.
  • For any peace plan to succeed a few Key issues are to be addressed.
    • Ukraine’s territorial concerns.
    • Russia’s security concerns.
    • Washington and Moscow should reach some kind of understanding as Ukraine, given its dependence on the West, would require clearance from west for any final settlement.
      • However, in context of Russian withdrawal from New START Treaty, possibility of such settlement in the near future looks bleak.

How has the War Reshaped Geopolitics?

  • Increased focus on Security and Defence:
    • The war has re-energized the Europe-US security alliance. NATO has opened its door to the proposed inclusion of Sweden and Finland, that will, once in (Turkey’s approval is awaited), form the new military frontiers of the alliance against Russia.
  • Trust Deficit:
    • The trust deficit between Russia and the West is at an-all time high. The US-led alliance is pouring weapons into Ukraine.
      • Though US President seems reluctant to accept all of Ukraine’s demands, including for combat aircraft including F16s, perhaps mindful of the risk of widening the war.
  • China Factor:
    • Moscow formalized its friendship with China in 2022 as “limitless". But China also does not want to jeopardize its Europe ties.
    • China has not contributed with weapons to Russia and also expressed its reservation against nuclear war.
    • However, the US and Europe remain concerned about Chinese arms supplies to Russia.

What has been India’s Stand?

  • The Ukraine war has been an opportunity to practice strategic autonomy. Adopting a neutrality India has maintained its relationship with Moscow while iterating support to global peace.
  • India worked around Western sanctions to buy oil from Russia. As much as 25% of India’s oil purchase is now from Russia, from less than 2% before the war.
  • Recently, India abstained on a UNGA resolution on first anniversary of the war, asking Russia to withdraw from its territory as the resolution had limitations in reaching the lasting goal of securing lasting peace.
    • India has abstained on all three votes so far on the Ukraine crisis at the UN General Assembly since Russian invasion.
  • But the longer the war continues, the more pressure on India from the Western alliance to choose the “right side”.
  • India has expressed the hope that it can use its G-20 presidency to bring peace.

Way Forward

  • There is an urgent need for the parties of the war to return to negotiation table as the escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest.
  • International principles and jurisprudence make it clear that parties to a conflict should ensure civilians and civilian infrastructure are not targeted, and the global order is based on international law, the UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. These principles must be upheld without any exception.


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