The Ukraine flashpoint

Published: 11:13 PM, 26 Feb, 2022
The Ukraine flashpoint
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The year was 1991, when the Soviet Union came to an end, and many countries were born in its wake. Russia and Ukraine are the most prominent. The World thought at the time that this was the victory of Western Democracy and the ultimate and final defeat of Communism and Russian ideology as a whole, but as the last ten years have proven, is far from the truth. Even after the end of the Cold War, Russia kept the vision alive of a powerful and prosperous Eastern Europe as per the wishes of the Russian people. Ukraine, after its independence from the Soviet bloc, began its journey towards Westernization. Meanwhile, NATO countries continued their expansion Eastwards. And with the inclusion of Latvia, Romania and Poland into the fold, the present crisis was born and is now a flashpoint like no other in the globe. There are three sides to the conflict, the Russians, the Americans and the European Union and finally, the most affected; the people of Ukraine.

In 2014, when Ukraine attempted to sign a powerful trade deal with the EU, the same was bitterly opposed by Moscow, and with the right pressure, it was exchanged with a deal with the Kremlin. Massive protests broke out across Kyiv and the then Prime Minister had to flee the country. Within weeks, the deal with Europe was signed. The people of Ukraine wanted to become a Democracy reminiscent of the progress and economic well-being of Western Europe. In the same year, Russia responded by moving its tanks and soldiers into the Southern region of Ukraine called Crimea and annexed it in a colonial-style take-over. Europeans responded with sanctions and peace talks but to no avail. Vladimir Putin was in no mood to negotiate and to this day, Crimea remains under Russian control.

On the other hand, Kyiv kept its vision of moving closer to the West. Economically, strategically as well as in military infrastructure. And when the deal started taking shape in 2020, for Ukraine to formally join the NATO military alliance, Russians moved over 100,000 troops with tanks across its border with Ukraine.  And now the world has been alarmed towards an invasion of a sovereign nation by a military might that is many times in size. It is an event that can cause chaos in regional and international stability.

First and foremost, the Ukrainian people are ready to fight. There will be massive casualties in case of an invasion. Kyiv has been importing state-of-the-art military equipment including anti-tank and anti-air missile technology but it is still no match for the Russian military might. In fact, the presence latest weaponry on the side of Ukraine will authorize the Russians to use the latest military equipment of their own. There will be massive displacement of refugees and the human cost could go into millions. As of mid of February, over 130,000 soldiers with tanks are ready to move into Ukraine while they ready their meagre force against this onslaught. The result will be a blood bath.

Secondly, the invasion of Ukraine and its take over by Moscow will wreak havoc with International law and the credibility of the West and its allies. Europe has been sponsoring economic ties and bolstering Ukraine against Russia, and without a military response and repulsion of Russia, the Western bloc of nations will be plunged back into the cold war where any powerful nation with a massive army can simply annex another nation with the principle of “Might is Right”. In International diplomacy, the successful invasion of Ukraine will embolden other powerful countries like China to do the same in Taiwan or India in Kashmir. This will also be yet another failure of International diplomacy and International Government Organizations like the United Nations and NATO as a whole.  The World Order will be destabilized end to end.

The expected response from the European Nations and the Americans is that of sanctions, economic isolation and diplomatic censure of Russia. Ironically, Moscow is already aware of these sanctions and has already placed in plans to address and mitigate the response of the West. Still, no nation, including the United States has mentioned anything about a military response to a Russian invasion but it seems the International pressure could spark skirmishes. Apart from that, it is clear that economic sanctions, cutting Russians out of the Western Banking and financial system will not yield the desired results, at least not in the short run.  Putin is convinced that defending the regional security, by acquiring guarantees that Ukraine will never join the NATO, and never allowing Western or American military bases inside Ukraine is of utmost primal significance. Putin is a man who has always relied on tough politics and there is no scenario where he has shown weakness. Experts around the world are confident that an invasion is imminent even amid talks and negotiations.

A crisis and war in Ukraine will impact the entire world. Energy supplies across the globe will be disrupted which will boost the prices of fuels. Consumption patterns will be disturbed in all continents. Nations struggling with fuel prices and inflation will be hit by another wave of cost-push shocks. Pakistan in particular will be hit hard with a larger import bill, that will destabilize the economy and push prices of everyday commodities out of reach of the public. In such a scenario, extreme measures like cutting down transportation, shifting the majority of schools and offices to online operations to save fuel consumption and import bill, are the initial issues that will crop up if the invasion goes ahead. In oil and fuel producing nations like Saudi and Qatar, amid others, will have to beef up production to make up for the lack in supply, which will give them a considerable say in International diplomacy and bargaining chips with powerful nations. The crisis will test the strength of all developing countries, especially those who are struggling with the balance of payment.

There will be other significant challenges, as Russia and Ukraine account for 30% food supply to Europe. This will cause another disruption in International food prices, and the shockwave will originate in Europe. And with the presence of Russian troops on European borders, the European military budgets and production will reach new peaks, taking the focus away from welfare and economic activities. Ukraine crisis is the flashpoint of the entire World. Like a nightmare of the past, where small countries and their people were pitched against enormous armies of World Powers, it is a déjà vu of the worst kind. It appears, war is a constant for mankind, war never changes and its shadow hangs over generations after it. It seems it’s true, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Categories : Opinion
Imtiaz Rafi Butt

The Writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation.