The world is going through or, is rightfully anticipated to go through a third world war or a conflict synonymous with that granted, that a large military superpower Russia is currently engaged in heated warfare with neighboring Ukraine. While the war between the two countries has already surpassed the record number of casualties, injuries, and dislocation of civilians, the war remains unflinching and undeterred and the peace between the two nations looks like a far-fetched dream. The issue between the two countries is a collection of various episodes of history and a great ton of power struggles. Needless to say, the historical relations between the two, regardless of their tedious timeline, deserve a locus of its own.
While the trajectory is not as elaborate as that of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, three decades still appear to be a rather long timeline to document. As the countries of the former Soviet Union declared their independence, everyone rejoiced as the empire disappeared with minimal violence except for a few episodes of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, with time and growth in greed for global supremacy and dominance, conflict began appearing at the edges of the former USSR.
Numerous conflicts surfaced post the break-up of the Soviet Union. Small bodies of Russian troops started assembling in various places promoting separatist movements and protests. Countries like Moldova, Georgia, Chechnya, etc. witnessed a strong allocation of Russian resources concerning finances, manpower, and military. Even far-off countries like Tajikistan endured a civil war vicariously due to the bordering nation of Afghanistan whilst Russia was distantly involved in all these battles upholding the popular belief of the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was only a matter of time till the causality of Ukraine surfaced.
Ukraine was a unique, out-of-place country that came into existence post the Soviet Union. Different exercises concerning nation-building were into play, Ukraine had an altogether different approach to building itself from scratch. Unlike other nations which had a long stretch of old traditions, distinct linguistic, religious, and cultural practices Ukraine was comparatively unique on all these fronts. Except for the only similarity which was the newness of the state, the country already had a powerful nationalist movement, a vibrant literary canon, and a strong memory of its independent place in the history of Europe. The second-largest country after Russia, Ukraine was already industrialized, being a leading producer of coal, steel, and helicopter engines and therefore the competition between the two countries was bound to be soared. Furthermore, the economies of Russia and Ukraine were also deeply intertwined. Ukrainian factories in Dnipropetrovsk were a vital part of the military-industrial capacity of the USSR, and Russia’s largest export gas pipelines ran through Ukraine. Hence it would not be wrong to submit that without the existence of Ukraine’s population, industry, and agriculture during the first world war, Russia would have ceased to be a modern-day great power.
Ukraine and Russia share their differences which stemmed from linguistic distinctions that later branched into literary classifications. The speakers of both languages resided in Ukraine and the homogeneity of languages under the same roof categorized the country as a bilingual nation – a unique feat. Russian nationalist perspective had a different and convoluting opinion regarding this. Many other geostrategic points were a part of Eastern Ukraine which has always been an eye-candy for Russia. Hence for the first 20 years of independence, Russia kept a tab on Ukraine’s progress and developments and has time and again nosed itself into internal affairs but that was as far as it ever went. Ukraine’s large Russian-speaking population also guaranteed that the country cannot possibly drift completely away from Russia’s influence.
Along with the linguistic homogeneity, Ukraine had all the birth agonies of a nation like the general corrupt elites, restrictive ethnic minorities, a bordering vicious state like that of Russia, etc. And since Ukraine was a major steal in terms of its financial resources and glittering industries, Ukraine soon became a victim of increased smuggling and theft. The major Black Sea Port in the city of Odesa provided an easily accessible seaway to smuggle the equipment of the old Ukrainian army. Furthermore, unlike Russia, Ukraine had a very deep-rooted democratic political outlook that was mirrored in a time-to-time change in government regimes. The first president Leonid Kravchuk 1994 itself was voted out by Leonid Kuchma who promised better relations with Russia and also gave the Russian language equal status in Ukraine. The present President Volodymyr Zelensky was elected in 2019 and is currently serving the country in these testing times.
Why the War?
The talking point or the central crucifix rests on Vladimir Putin and his unchecked unfettered powers. The Russian leader aimed to bulldoze Ukraine and depose its government and rest it from joining the Western defensive alliance NATO. It was in this regard that the invasion was launched on 24th February 2022 as he issued a public statement highlighting the aforementioned goal. He aimed to ‘demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine” to protect Russian-speaking people in Ukraine, who, on his terms, are subjected to eight years of bullying and genocide by Ukraine’s government. While Putin said that no action shall be imposed and the intention is not to wage a war but to carry out a ‘special military operation’, the on-ground reality remains contrastingly different. Russia’s military has specifically targeted to destroy the capital Kyiv, by sweeping into it via Belarus in the north as well as South and East. Ukraine’s forces and the sheer grit and determination prosed by the Ukrainian President have caused heavy losses and, in some areas, have also driven back the monstrously large Russian forces back.
The reason behind the war remains translucent and even volatile. However, a major part can be ascertained that Russia does not exactly support the fall of the Soviet Union and the ‘disintegration of historical Russia’. The Russian leader has ever since been wanting to reverse the collapse of the Soviet Union and has further claimed that Russians and Ukrainians are one people and therefore, the idea of Ukraine veering towards the West – EU and NATO do not sit well with Putin. The war, in simple terms, is organized by Russia to accomplish its mission of neutralizing the militaria resources of Ukraine to stop it from being acceded into the EU or NATO.
Implications of War in the Global Market?
India is already feeling the tremors of the chaos that is happening between Ukraine and Russia and so is the whole world. The world is already managing to move on its already dwindling set of knees that have not been properly recovered by Covid, and the jacked-up fuel prices because of war is an added salt to the wounds. The impact therefore of the Russian-Ukraine conflict is immense.
- Costlier Oil and Gas
The crude oil prices have soared after Russia invaded Ukraine reaching as high as $139. Sanctioning Russian oil is bound to trigger an energy crisis, particularly in the poor and developing economies as they try to recover from the Covid-19 shock. The rising oil prices are a worry for India’s economic recovery even though Russia is not among the top suppliers.
Europe hugely depends on both Russia and Ukraine extensively for food as both these countries are major suppliers of food grains and edible oil to the world. Both the nations are collectively responsible for about 30 percent of wheat and 20 percent of maize. Furthermore, Ukraine is the largest supplier of sunflower oil while Russia is the second-largest accounting for about 60% of the world’s total production of sunflower oil. Therefore, as a consequence of war, the supply of food grains, maize, and edible oil is disrupted. Now if the war strides on, it could trigger food worries not only in Europe but also in Africa and invariably to the whole world.
- Costlier Gold and Setback to other Industries
Russia is the third-largest supplier of gold in the world market after China and Australia. As a result of the war, the gold prices in the global market have jacked up to a 19-month high in the last month. It was only the initiation of peace talks that aided in bringing down the gold prices. Along with gold, several other industries such as aluminum, copper, platinum, nickel, and steel are also facing a major setback as the prices of the said materials have risen about 30 percent since January. The nickel industry is also suffering a similar fate as the prices of the meta have soared over 75 percent which in turn has affected the automobile industry as Nickel is the key metal in making lithium-ion batteries.
Semi-conductor chips which are a key requirement in manufacturing modern-day vehicles, computers, smartphones, and home appliances are facing an acute shortage in the global market. These chips are made from two raw materials – neon gas and palladium, and this is where the consequences of war come into the picture. Ukraine provides more than 90% of high-grade neon for semiconductors while Russia on the other hand is responsible for one-third of palladium. Hence the regular bombardment and allocation of both time and energy in the course of the war have affected both these industries and the world at large.
The world is already reeling from a Covid-struck market where industries and the global economy are crumbling, fighting, and grappling for their existence. In such a situation, the Russia-Ukraine war is only multiplying the casualties borne by the industries during the lockdown, therefore limiting and further disrupting the supply chain. While the apparent impact looks time-limited i.e., till the war draws on, the economic impact could be long-term and even irreparable.
Every day the war draws on and Putin refuses to stop the world gets closer to the gates of hell. With each news item, tik-tok, video over social media depicting Putin’s brutality, it will be harder and harder for the world to look away. The anticipated dread of war at the behest of nuclear weapons in the heart of Europe simply horrifies the world. The situation in the region is extremely grim with the capital city Kyiv reduced to rubble, with thousands of dead and many dislocated, Ukraine is mirroring the conditions of Afghanistan a few days back during the Taliban takeover, spilling out refugees and chaos.
The war in its entirety leaves with at least three plausible outcomes. Firstly, Putin’s inherent motivation now is not just limited to keeping Ukraine away from NATO. His appetite has grown far beyond that and is gripping on the whole narrative of believing Russia and Ukraine are one entity and exceedingly “one people”. This narrative therefore just not only is limited to Ukraine but to all other Russian-speaking countries which belonged at some point to Russian stardom. Therefore, Putin’s determined belief that it is right and duty to challenge the rule-based system can prove to be extremely lethal, and therefore any power, be it the US or its allies, that tries to intervene in its mission should be ready to face “consequences they have never seen”, thereby making the current war extremely lethal.
The second outcome, though extremely optimistic is less likely to happen. It is only miraculously possible that Ukraine’s military and people can hold out the Russian forces until the economic sanctions start deeply wounding the Russian economy consequently resulting in a ceasefire. The reason behind this outcome not seeing the light of the day is not only the military inferiority of Ukraine but the requirement of Putin to admit that he was unable to achieve his vision and aim, despite huge economic setbacks and the deaths of Russian soldiers.
The last and least likely scenario is the Russian population standing tall against its ruthless leader and delivering salvation by ousting Putin from office. This outcome is completely in the dark as minor protests against the leader were also forcefully restricted and put to dust. Hence it only rests on time and God’s honest will which would determine the fate of this war and exceedingly of Ukraine and the rest of Europe.