The discipline that I’ve always been interested in, is ‘Geopolity’. Be it from the subject point of view or from the current affairs’ angle, having an inclination towards the subject would always give you an edge. And it won’t be erroneous to say that it is an undisputable factor which influences the world politics even today. It plays a very significant role in determining the salient happenings in the world around.
Reviewing the concurrent ‘Geopolity’, some of us might be oblivious to the context and basis of this Russian invasion on Ukraine but most of us are surely conscious of the fact that something had been cooking up in terms of war, since long. However, this neither the Ukrainians want nor does the world order and may be the Russians too. In the succeeding paragraphical read, here is an effort to demystify the ‘Whys’, ‘Whos’ and ‘Whichs’ of the unwarranted crisis, we are privy to. It has literally awakened Europe from its peaceful ‘slumber’ after decades. Although there were times when there were ideological conflicts or military standoffs between neighbours, a full-fledged war never happened, of late. The world was initially swept by scepticism regarding the possibility of a war in Ukraine but that was soon overturned with a fear of what actually it witnessed. What initially started off as a ‘special military operation’ by Russia has wrecked havoc in the lives of 44 million Ukrainians. As per reports, many have lost their lives, families, jobs, homes and many more have been forced to move to greener pastures from the war-torn eastern and northern regions of Ukraine, in want of the past perfect normalcy. But what lies within the truth and conviction of Russians to go ahead with a full-fledged invasion against those who were united with them, sometime back as super power soviets? There are reasons too many, to ponder. Let’s swim through the river Dneiper to get into the region’s history, since all this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are a multitude of geopolitical reasons that contribute to explain why Russia has finally declared a war on its western neighbour Ukraine.
Both the countries that have now taken up arms against one another, share a common lineage. Their shared history and ethnic culture remind them that they had a common origin, along with Belarus. The three nations were a part of the Slavic state of Keivan Rus’, centuries ago. Even as the fate would have it, Volodymyr (Zelensky) and Vladimir (Putin) have their names derived from the same word, with variations in their respective languages!
Aforesaid, Ukraine had always been an indispensable part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, headed by Moscow. And post-World War II, the drift in the allied powers led the globe being divided into two spheres of influence, backed by the superpowers, communist Soviet Union and capitalist America. This was the point of time when an ideological warfare between the two sides erupted in the form of cold war. Very soon, the tensions and distrust fuelled and widened the gap between the two, compelling them to form even military alliances; the western alliance being formalized into NATO and the eastern one being grouped into the Warsaw Pact.
During this very phase of global crisis, Ukraine became the nuclei of Soviet arson and high-tech research. The Ukrainian republic was also turned into a Soviet military outpost later. All this herald that Russia had been considering Ukraine an overriding territory, time and now! Thus, the end of cold war and subsequent collapse of the fifteen soviet states in 1991 would certainly have made Russia upset!
For Russia, the disintegration resulted in defence industries, large agricultural fields and supremely valued nuclear arsenal being transferred to the newly formed state of Ukraine. However, it never possessed the operational powers of the nuclear weapons and thus, the nukes did not add to Ukraine’s advantage. But Russia had long wanted to own them. This led to a state of morbid tussle between these erstwhile Soviet friends. Reactionary to this, Ukraine, in 1994 agreed on entering a dialogue called the ‘Budapest Memorandum’ with Russia, wherein it gave up the nukes and in turn, satisfied itself with assured security by Moscow. And history reminds us of the times when it was respectively breached! However, after signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Ukraine became a non-nuclear state. The same year, Ukraine extended its reach and came to be associated with NATO as a peace-keeping partner. And this was not digested by the upset ‘soviet successor’, as enemies of the bigger corridor were trying to intrude to the inner walls of the Russian hegemony.
The other side that was led by the USA, during and post-cold war period, in the form of NATO, stuck to its initial maxim which remains unchanged till date: An attack on one of them would be considered as an attack on all the members of the alliance, forging a policy to help one another in times of crisis. And this alliance was strengthening gradually by swallowing new nation states and even the ones which once fell in the communist sphere of influence. Then, there came a time when NATO’s boundary with Russia became the largest, fearing attacks from the other end. Now only Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus were the few post-soviet countries left between Russia and NATO and more importantly, independent of NATO’s influence in the region. So, Russia made these its prime targets and tried hard to not let go of these mere nations. It kept on meddling in the affairs of the sovereign states and endeavoured to overthrow the respective governments or install puppetry regimes to retain a control over them, in some form or the other. And history bears the evidence that Putin has long claimed Ukraine as a part and considers the Russians and Ukrainians as ‘one people’!
In 2013, when Ukraine was close to signing a deal with the European Union and subsequently entering into a close dialogue with it, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych kept something else in mind, which was a part of his own vendetta i.e., no point scuffing with the ‘Big Brother’. Known for being corrupt and openly pro-Moscow, he chose to strengthen national ties with Russia through a bailout, instead of signing the EU deal. The gentry felt as if their custodian had sold them out to Russia! Yanukovych’s move stirred great tensions among people and they took to streets in order to protest their minds against Russia’s puppet! The ‘Euromaidan’ took an international stage, with the West supporting the Ukrainians and Russia backing Yanukovych. Ensuing the crisis, it took no time to find that his government toppled and the so-called Russian sycophant, Yanukovych had to step down. But this too wasn’t as easy as it seemed; a problem still persisted. Although most of the Ukrainians found it fine, but the Russian-speaking minority in the east i.e., the people from the ‘Donbass region’ felt vulnerable. They thought that they had lost their representative and even across the border, Russia seemed to be fuming with fury! Therefore, in order to salvage the situation, Russia attempted to annex the disputed ‘Crimea’.
Crimea had been a bone of contention for both Russia and Ukraine, ab-initio, akin to a crown in the jewel. In 1954, the then-president Nikita Khrushchev had handed over the Crimean peninsula, which had a great strategic importance, to Ukraine as a ‘gift’, not anticipating the fact that USSR could someday be non-existent! And as the soviets got disintegrated, the Ukrainians took back their gifted peninsula. But this always irritated Russia. And they did not shy away from expressing their military occupation to invade it when Yanukovych was ousted. The series of events were followed by a referendum for the inhabitants to cast their votes, based on their readiness to join Russia! The world poured in sympathies for the Crimeans, who had fallen prey to nothing but the age-old domestic politics and an attempt by Russia to restore its superpower image, which, somehow, it was fending to find.
Later, Russia shifted its focus on the Donbass region, consisting of Donetsk and Luhansk. These were backed by Russian rebels, who fought against the locals and later the Ukrainian military. This subsequently led to Russia, stepping in and signing ‘Minsk Agreement’ with Ukraine to stop further violence and adopt a safe measure of ceasefire. Later, elections too were held in the peninsula to show the world that democratically-chosen government exists there, too. But it has almost been 8 years now, the agreement signed by the two countries and the west, remains unimplemented with standoffs and shelling across the border being rampant. And this time, a real war has been waged…And recent reports suggest that Ukraine, too, isn’t sitting quietly and just pleading to others to lend a hand, rather it is trying its best not to lose out on the territories and most valued treasure, Ukrainian citizens. The fact that Russia’s flagship Black Sea missile cruiser, the Moskva, had sunk after being ‘seriously damaged’, shows how Ukraine has still not given up!
Now comes the question as to whom should India support or favour? So far, India has wisely been able to abstain itself from voting either sides in the UN meets. It has diplomatically continued to win both the sides by remaining ‘silent’ unlike other leading global powers. But undeniably, it has been caught up in a ‘stalemate’, constantly trying not to upset the US-backed Ukraine or Russia because losing either of them would lead India into a very uncomfortable position on the global stage. Aforesaid, India has chosen not to speak up against its strategically old friend, Russia or the present superpower, the US. Although it hopes to have it all stopped, like all of us…..With the Russian ‘Victory Day’ around the corner, are we in for something more??