Know possible fallouts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict from expert

The escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine has thrown the world on the tenterhooks. No one knows what will happen in the coming days. However, it is sure that the raging tussle between them may make things a bit tougher for the rest of the world also. In such a challenging situation, Prof Ummu Salma Bava, Professor and Jean Monnet Chair, Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, has tried to clear the clouds regarding all possible repercussions for the world including India, in an exclusive conversation with Anuradha Mishra.

1- Please explain to us the conflicts and causes of conflicts between Russia and Ukraine with some historical backgrounds.

Ans: The Conflict is embedded in historical and political developments over an extended period of time. In recent times after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine too became an independent country and had adopted neutrality as a policy. Subsequently, there was the enlargement of the EU and NATO to the east. For Moscow, this was not a problem initially and during the first 10 years when Putin was in office, this was not seen as destabilising. However, unlike EU enlargement, Russia/Putin has viewed NATO enlargement as expansionism and in the last 10 years, there has been a growing discontentment that NATO is coming into its sphere of influence and is also a security threat. In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea and the pro-Russian separatists in the eastern province of Donbas also declared independence. In 2017, an association agreement is signed between the EU and Ukraine which gives market access to Ukraine and allows movement of goods and visa-free travel to the EU. From spring 2021, Russia has been slowly building up troops on its border with Ukraine. In early Dec 2021, Biden warned Moscow against imposing economic sanctions if it invaded Ukraine. In mid-December, Moscow sought a legally binding agreement that NATO will give up military activity in Eastern Europe. A month back NATO forces were put on standby and diplomatic efforts were increased to ward off a Russian invasion that finally took place on 24 Feb 2022.

2- Why has Putin taken such a drastic step and what is there in his mind, when almost the entire world is clamouring for peace, especially after Covid has done irreparable damage to the entire world and we are still to come out of this crisis?

Ans: Putin believes that Ukraine and Russia are people with a common heritage and the break-up of the Soviet Union was a disaster. Second, he wants a pro-Russia government in Belarus and Ukraine and does not want these countries to come under the influence of the West or join NATO and the EU. In part, he considers this as Russia’s sphere of influence and the idea that Ukraine will be made a NATO member, was seen as a security threat.

3- Does Putin have the popular mandate of his country for this act and how the people in his country are reacting to his action?

Ans: Putin has been in office for around 20 years now and Russia does not have a democratic system rather an autocratic system. Dissent and opposition to the government and Putin is strictly monitored and independent news as western media channels state is not allowed to function in Russia. So the only news channel is the state channel, which presents only its version of the news. Although there are periodic elections, it has only endorsed Putin back to the office. According to Associated Press, Russian State TV presents Mosco as the saviour of Eastern Ukraine.

4- Is Russia ready to bear the brunt of the sanctions being imposed against it by major powers of the world including the US, EU and UN?

Ans: Russia is taking a calculated risk as the sanctions will impose a big cost on it. It is sitting flush of forex now, but nothing can be said about the oncoming sanctions and the length of this war, so this will also have an impact on how long the country can sustain itself if it is locked out of the banking union and unable to undertake commercial activities.

5- What impacts will these sanctions have over Russia?

Ans: These sanctions can cripple the Russian economy, impact its ability to export and import and reduce the assets that it will need to sustain a war in Ukraine. It will also have domestic fallout in terms of supply-side shortages, which may be offset by China which is currently standing by Russia.

6- What is the hope for peace now when Russia appears to be recalcitrant to the pressures?

Ans: At this point, one has to wait and see what the objective of Putin regarding his plans for Ukraine is. Whether to slice up the country, replace the government or take another large parcel of territory, is not clear.

7- What will happen to the 30 lakh citizens of Ukraine living in Russia?

Ans: It all depends on where they are located and how integrated they are into the Russian system. At this point, it is risky for them to think of going to Ukraine.

8- What will happen to lakhs of people from different countries including India living in Ukraine and Russia?

Ans: India will look to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine. A clearer picture will emerge in the next few days. One Air India flight brought back people from Ukraine, and another flight was returned as the air space in Ukraine has been closed. India will also see if citizens can be taken out by moving them to the western part of Ukraine.

9- Is this conflict between these two countries going to acquire a world war-like situation? How are other countries going to react to this?

Ans: The war will remain contained only to Ukraine, although there will be countries that will politically side with one or the other.

10- How will this war have an impact on India-Russia and then India-Ukraine relations?

Ans: India has to balance its relations with both countries. Russia is a strategic partner and provides 50 per cent of India’s defence requirements and servicing of weapons. On the other hand, India imports 75 per cent of sunflower oil from Ukraine. However, Ukraine’s envoy to India has asked PM to intervene.

Exercise Dharma Guardian: 3rd India-Japan joint military drill to kick-start from 27 Feb

The contingent of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) arrived in India today to take part in the 12 days long ‘Exercise Dharma Guardian’.

The 3rd edition of the joint military exercise ‘Dharma Guardian’ between the Indian Army & JGSDF will be conducted at Belagavi, Karnataka from 27 February to 10 March 2022. The military exercise aims at enhancing inter-operability and fostering mutual understanding between the two Armies.

Further, the joint drill will focus on operations in Jungle & Semi-Urban/Urban terrains.

Tracking the journey of ‘Dharma Guardian’

The first-ever joint military exercise involving the Indian Army and Japan Ground Self Defence Force was held from 1st November to 14 November 2018 at Counter Insurgency Warfare School, Vairengte, India.

The Indian contingent was represented by 6/1 Gorkha Rifles while the Japanese contingent was represented by the 32 Infantry Regiment of the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force.

The first of its kind 14 days long joint military exercise consisted of a balance of indoor classes and outdoor training activities. The objective of the exercise was to build and promote army to army relations in addition to exchanging skills and experiences between both armies.

Notably, due emphasis was also laid on enhancing tactical skills to combat global terrorism and on increasing interoperability between forces of both countries which is crucial for the success of any joint operation.

Both sides jointly trained, planned, and executed a series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralization of likely threats that may be encountered in urban warfare scenarios.

The second edition of Dharma Guardian

The second edition of the joint military drill was conducted at Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, Vairengte from 19 October 2019 to 02 November 2019. The Indian Army and Japanese Ground Self Defence Forces (JGSDF) contingent comprised 25 soldiers each from each side.

The exercise focused on sharing experience gained during various Counter-Terrorism Operations (COO) in respective countries.

The crux of bilateral exercise

With these series of joint bilateral exercises between India & Japan, both nations aim to come together to propel their bilateral relations towards the next level. The primary focus of the exercise is to train and equip the contingents in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in mountainous terrain.

The entire curriculum of the exercise is planned in a progressive manner wherein the participants are initially familiarised with each others’ organisation, weapons, and combat skills before graduating to joint tactical exercises.

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