Ukraine crisis: The result of Putin’s slaughterhouse

Tehelka’s Cover Story in this issue by Gopal Misra explains how the Bear almost gave a kiss of death or fatal hug to Ukraine. The die was cast when Vladimir Putin mounted an assault on Ukraine, with the sinister design of reclaiming its erstwhile territories of the former colonial Russian empire. Apparently, this was because of the failure of the West to check Russia. This was also because of the limitations of the world’s most powerful country, the US, whose reputation had earlier taken a beating following withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan.  Alongside, Russia’s success in small wars against Chechnya and Georgia, and power games in Syria, Kazakhstan and across Africa, emboldened it to invade Ukraine with an aim to extend its rule beyond its borders to catapult its status to a “great power”.

The act of President Vladimir Putin made it clear that objective was taking Ukraine under control and ensuring a regime in Kyiv that was pliable to Moscow. By doing so, Russia violated the principle of respect for the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of a State which is a recognized member of the United Nations, and whose sovereignty Russia too has recognized for the past three decades.

In national interest, India has so far walked a tightrope on the crisis in Ukraine and has not taken sides. It has resisted pressure to toe the US line to criticize Russia and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, however, told Putin that violence must cease. The External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has rightly observed that the crisis has its roots in post-Soviet politics and expansion of NATO. It is a fact that for a long Putin had been exerting pressure on Kyiv to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed after seizing it from Ukraine in 2014 and dropping its bid to join NATO. This stems from Russia’s fears that it will be under pressure from the US and its allies once Ukraine enters the NATO club.

Ukraine’s invasion is bound to have strategic consequences in geopolitical and geo economic terms. First, thousands of Indians, mostly students, find themselves trapped in war-torn Ukraine because of the closure of the Ukrainian airspace. Our government has, however, started evacuating them through land routes.

For India, the tough US sanctions on Russia may impact our defence supply line with that country as well as future acquisitions like the S-400 missile system. More than 90 per cent of the Indian army’s 3,000-plus main battle tanks are Russian T-72 and T-90S. India was reportedly in advanced talks to procure another 464 Russian T-90MS tanks from Russia.

On the oil front, India and the rest of the world will suffer high oil and gas prices indefinitely. Oil prices have surged to an eight-year high of around $105 a barrel, which may lead to a spike in inflation. While stock markets have become volatile, yellow metal has touched a 15-month high.