By: Khushi Wazalwar and Jinen Lakdawala, SVKM’s Pravin Gandhi College of Law
Edited by The Editorial Board of SAIL.
Ukraine gained independence 30 years ago, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Since then, it has struggled to combat corruption and heal deep internal divisions. The western region of Ukraine was generally supportive of integration with Western Europe. Meanwhile, the country’s eastern side preferred closer ties with Russia.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine came to a head in February 2014, when pro-Russian protesters deposed Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, in what became known as the Revolution of Dignity. Russia forcibly annexed Crimea around the same time. With a temporary government and an unprepared military, Ukraine was in a vulnerable position for self-defense.
Putin then immediately struck Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Over 14,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict between Ukrainian government forces and separatists backed by Russia. In contrast to its response to Crimea, Russia denies its involvement in the Donbas conflict.
Russia’s political objectives
The President of Russia wants an end to NATO expansion in the eastern region, a reduction in the previous expansion, the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Europe, and the establishment of a Russian sphere of influence. Putin, on the other hand, maybe willing to accept less. The President’s primary goal is to ensure that Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia will never belong to a military or economic bloc other than those controlled by Moscow and that Russia will be the final arbiter of all three countries’ foreign and security policies. In essence, this conflict is about whether the former ethnic republics of the Soviet Union can live as independent, sovereign states 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, or whether they must still recognize Moscow as their de facto sovereign.
The demand for an exclusive sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus appears to be motivated by Russian security concerns. The Kremlin has portrayed NATO’s eastward expansion as the original sin of post-Soviet international relations with the West, which must now be atoned for. Regardless of facts, alternate interpretations, or the security concerns of equally sovereign nations, Moscow claims that in the absence of such guarantees, it will use military force to protect its security interests.
The current situation between Russia and Ukraine, the Minsk Agreement, and America’s role
The current situation between Russia and Ukraine is very sensitive with several nation-states trying to de-escalate the matter and lessen the heat between both countries. In light of recent development, the French president visited Kyiv to meet his Ukrainian counterpart. France has offered a plan to mediate between both the nation-states by implementing the Minsk Agreement which was signed in the year 2014 and 2015 but large provisions of the agreement remain unimplemented.
The first Minsk agreement was signed in the year 2014 which was after Russia invaded Crimea in Ukraine. The agreement was a 12 -point ceasefire agreement with both the national sovereign states to withdraw heavy weapons and de-escalate the ongoing tensions. Several provisions in the agreement also involved the exchange of war prisoners and humanitarian aid. However, the first agreement failed miserably which resulted in drafting the second Minsk agreement. Several nation-states were present during the signing of the agreement. Representatives of mainly Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, and the Organization for security and cooperation in Europe were present. The 13-point agreement which was drafted remains largely unimplemented. Several provisions such as withdrawal of all foreign equipment and military formations in the disputed region remain largely unimplemented. France in the instant scenario has pointed out that the Minsk Agreement is the only key to have to solve the escalating tensions between both states. However, both countries have requested a bargain to revise the agreement in question.
In the instant scenario, Russia is threatened by Ukraine joining the NATO military alliance which might be considered as a security threat to Russia and the presence of the Russian Military might be undermined. NATO military alliance is an alliance between 30 sovereign nation-states of the European Union and the United States of America. The US in the instant scenario has requested Russia to withdraw the military troops from the Ukrainian border or else they would have to face economic sanctions such as discretization of the Nord-2 gas pipeline which would increase the export of gas from Russia to Germany. The US has not sent the combat military to Ukraine because it would escalate the tensions and might lead to a possible cross-border military invasion with Russia invading Ukraine once again. Instead, the US has deployed troops in the European Union and has agreed to provide Military weapons to Ukraine. The only possible way to deescalate tensions is negotiation which involves a military ceasefire between both countries.
The country which was a former part of the Soviet Union cannot alone face the wrath of the deadly Russian military who might annex some part of Ukraine again. Ukraine is getting military supplies from the USA however the USA has denied Ukraine of providing the combat troops as military aid because they might escalate the tension. After the French president visited Ukraine, they have concluded that the only way to deescalate tensions is to revisit the old 2015 Minsk agreement. Ukraine has warmly welcomed the conclusion by the French minister however, they have requested major changes and negotiation in the agreement which might not entirely be in Russia’s favor. This might also be possibly Ukraine joining the NATO military alliance which might threaten the military security in Russia. Constant talks are being made by the USA and the European Union to deescalate the tensions, unfortunately, neither country can come to a consensus that might deescalate the tensions. Ukraine is however getting major political support from almost all the superpowers which are very beneficial to them. The reason behind the huge scale political support is that Russia is wrongfully invading Ukrainian territory and affecting the sovereignty of the nation-state of Ukraine.
The ongoing crisis has put India in a tough spot to choose sides. On one hand, India has Russia as its strong ally and on another, it’s improving its relationship with Washington. India in the Security Council abstained from its procedural vote on discussing the Russia-Ukraine situation. However, the vote did not happen in favor of Russia and the matter was discussed with the US leading the discussion with 10 countries in its support.
India after a long silence on the matter has expressed its concerns and requested Russia and Ukraine to have negotiations over the matter. India is in a controversial position and taking sides over the matter might lead to India suffering huge losses. India is currently importing the S-400 military equipment from Russia and is hoping on evading the US sanctions. Taking sides might lead India to suffer financially. In case of a military invasion in Ukraine, might lead the energy and petroleum sector to suffer immensely. Russia plays a major role in the energy and petroleum sector. A possible military invasion might lead to imposing sanctions on Russia which would eventually increase the price of gas and petrol. India is already suffering a price rise in petrol; a possible invasion might lead to aggravating the current inflation and badly affect the economy of the country. The price rise in petrol might also put the future of the present union government who rode on a sympathy wave and promised “Ache din” to the people of the Indian economy.
The only possible way for India to dodge the situation is by Russia and Ukraine settling the matters through negotiations. India cannot bear the sadness of the US as well as Russia amidst the current economy recovering from Co-vid.
What would happen if this invasion takes place?
If all troops on the border crossed into Ukraine, it would be the largest invasion since World War II. According to the Pentagon, Russia has amassed enough combat power to take cities and large swaths of territory in Ukraine.
According to US intelligence estimates, 25,000 to 50,000 civilians would be killed or injured if Russia continues to strengthen its forces and then launches an all-out attack to try to take over the entire country. The extent of the toll would be determined by how much fighting occurred in urban areas.
According to the estimates, between 3,000 and 10,000 Russian troops and 5,000 to 25,000 Ukrainian troops would be killed or wounded, with one million to five million Ukrainians displaced.
In the event of an invasion of Ukraine, the US has stated that it will impose new economic sanctions on Russia, targeting major banks, state-owned enterprises, and key imports, though the targets have yet to be confirmed. Mr. Biden has also stated that the United States and NATO would consider increasing their presence in Eastern Europe.
Experts say that despite Moscow’s efforts to sanction-proof its economy since sanctions were imposed after it annexed Crimea, harsher measures could cause the country widespread economic harm.
Russia Ukraine’s standoff has been a long-going conflict. In the instant scenario, Russia is threatened by Ukraine joining the NATO Military Alliance along with the western and other European countries. If Ukraine joins the military alliance, other former Soviet Union countries will follow the same pattern, and Russia’s military hold in the eastern region will decrease. Increasing the shelling near the Ukraine border and threatening for a possible annexation is targeting a countries sovereignty which is not acceptable in the international community. If Russia wrongfully annexes a part of Ukraine like Crimea, it would face wrath from its Western European allies in form of sanctions which would impact the international community as the prize for resources such as oil and gas will increase amidst the ongoing inflation.
The only way to decrease the escalating heat amongst both nations is negotiation in a third country that has no vested interest. The negotiation can be in the form of reinforcing the Minsk Agreement signed in 2015 by bargaining certain provisions in the agreement, which are not feasible for both countries to follow.