In February-March 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and occupied Crimea. This led to Western condemnation and the imposition of sanctions. Historically, Crimea had been part of Russia since 1783, when it was occupied after defeating Ottoman forces. It remained part of Russia until 1954 when it was transferred from the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
No reason was given for the transfer at the time, as the USSR was never expected to disintegrate in 1992. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea legally became a part of Ukraine. The occupation of Crimea resulted in Russia’s ousting from the G8 group of countries, currently known as G7) and the imposition of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
Economic sanctions include preventing Russian banks from doing business in the EU, restricting imports and denying access to critical technologies. Diplomatic sanctions prevent some Russian entities from entering the EU. The sanctions still continue today. Last week’s G7 statement said: “We call on Russia to respect its end of the bargain and proceed with the implementation of Minsk. Ukraine is not a member of the EU. At the 23rd EU-Ukraine Summit in October, EU President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We share a commitment to strengthen Ukraine’s political association and economic integration with the European Union and progress has been made in many areas. “
Ukraine is expected to apply for EU membership in 2024 and join in the 2030s. Ukraine is also not a member of the US-led NATO, although it aspires to be. . In 2008, the United States promised Ukraine and Georgia to become members; however, no time limit has been set. It is currently a NATO partner. This prevents it from being protected by NATO’s fundamental philosophy of collective defense.
Ukrainian forces had participated in operations with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the hope of being inducted into NATO. For Russia, Ukraine’s accession to NATO would imply encirclement, while for NATO, the Russian occupation of Ukraine would place it at its doorstep.
The current crisis that has emerged with the mustering of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders has led the G7 and the United States to warn it of serious retaliation. The G7 statement released to Russia last week said: “Russia should have no doubts that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and a high cost in response. Although the nature of the consequences has not been specified, it should be additional economic and diplomatic sanctions as well as increased defense aid to Ukraine. Active military support is unlikely.
US President Joe Biden held a virtual summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last week on Ukraine. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken then said: “We have made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a series of high impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past.
Russia, for its part, is seeking a guarantee that NATO does not bring Ukraine into its fold. The message conveyed by the EU and the United States implies that they are unwilling to accept any border changes, especially since it would be beneficial for Russia. The second message is that the United States and NATO will not support a partner militarily; instead, they will impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on the aggressor. Will the sanctions hurt Russia and force it to change its plans, provided it seriously considers attacking Ukraine? This remains a silent question.
Finally, he projects that the United States will be reluctant to bring Ukraine into NATO because it would anger Russia. The only nation that would closely observe the growing dispute between the United States and Russia over Ukraine is China. The military silence on Ukraine would strengthen its confidence in the reconquest of Taiwan, which remains an ally of the United States, in relation to Japan, South Korea and the Philippines with which defense pacts exist. US and European sanctions can be effective against an economically weak Russia, but with China still controlling global supply chains, such sanctions can be counterproductive and hurt the economies of the countries that impose them.
These nations (Ukraine and Taiwan) can be armed to some extent, but their adversaries are powerful and can impose their will with sheer military might. The fact that China and Russia are nuclear powers limits the level of US military interference. For Taiwan, the message conveyed by the current warnings to Russia is that the United States can take non-military actions only in the event of Chinese aggression, which may not be enough to deter Beijing.
For the small ASEAN countries involved in disputes with China over islands in the South China Sea, the impression conveyed is that proximity to the United States does not automatically imply support, because the United States United are unlikely to involve their military in conflict. These nations, even if they develop military capabilities, would be unable to stop a Chinese assault. So supporting any US-led bloc would only anger China by making it more aggressive, while the US could ignore it at a crucial time. Therefore, engaging China and seeking a diplomatic solution is a better option.
For India, the message conveyed is that it must develop its own military and technological capabilities supported by a strong economy, if it seeks to keep aggressive China at bay. The support of the members of the bloc and the allies would be diplomatic, sharing information and technical inputs as well as possibly the provision of military equipment. This is the reason why India must take a pragmatic view of its threats and future military capabilities, which will result in the allocation of sufficient funds to ensure that it remains militarily capable of deterring China.
Theater commands to project integrated military power must be vigorously pursued. India needs to understand that it will have to fight its own battles, as it always has in the past. America’s reluctance to support Ukraine militarily gives the impression that it cannot be trusted to support nations in conflict with Russia or China. His announcement on the form of support for Ukraine will have an impact on its global position as a guarantor of the stability of the democratic world.
(The writer is a retired Indian Army Major-General)