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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

India must track the dangerous developments in Ukraine

🔴 Current military tensions are symptom of structural conflict. India will benefit from reconciliation between two sides

By: Editorial |
Updated: December 27, 2021 8:47:54 am
The good news is that US President Joe Biden, focused on the China threat, is ready to take a fresh political look at Russia. Putin, in turn, sees the value of ending Russia’s prolonged confrontation with the West.

A crisis in the heart of Europe may look distant to India, but South Block must track the dangerous developments in Ukraine that promise to end either in a full-blown military confrontation between Russia and the West or a long-overdue mutual political accommodation. Either turn would have big consequences not only for India’s relations with the US, the European Union, Russia, and China, but also the larger dynamic of Asian geopolitics. The crisis has boiled over in recent days with the massive Russian military mobilisation on the border with Ukraine. Moscow says it is merely responding to provocations from the West. But the current military tensions are a symptom of a deeper structural conflict in Europe.

Moscow has never really reconciled itself to the break-up of the Soviet Union, but the loss of Ukraine and Belarus is especially painful. Moscow wants to reconstitute the former Soviet Republics into a Russian sphere of influence. Meanwhile, the US and the EU have sought to draw the former Soviet republics into the western orbit. The western pull was reinforced by the eager push of many sections of the newly independent republics to join the EU and NATO. These trends came into conflict in Ukraine during 2013-14 when Kiev sought to defect to the EU, and Russian forces annexed Crimea, supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine, while the West sanctioned Moscow, and promised to absorb Ukraine into NATO. Since then Ukraine has been at the centre of Russia’s conflict with the West. If Washington and Brussels seemed insensitive to Russian security concerns, Moscow deepened its strategic partnership with Beijing to counter the West across multiple theatres.

The good news is that US President Joe Biden, focused on the China threat, is ready to take a fresh political look at Russia. Putin, in turn, sees the value of ending Russia’s prolonged confrontation with the West. He has proposed a series of agreements that would keep Ukraine out of NATO and limit NATO’s military activities. While calling many of Putin’s terms for peace unreasonable, the West has agreed to start talks with Russia and raise its own concerns about Moscow’s destabilisation of Europe. The bad news, however, is that agreements will be hard to negotiate, given the deep political divisions within the US and Europe and between them on the Russian question. India will benefit from a reconciliation between the two sides. South Block hopes that a Russia at peace with the West in Europe will be less inclined to back China’s quest for Asian hegemony. If Moscow is poised to maximise its new-found leverage in the Sino-American rivalry, Delhi will hope that Putin will not be tempted to overplay his hand.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on December 27, 2021 under the title ‘The Ukraine front’.

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