War of Nerves
If the future of Ukraine hangs in the balance, much depends on the fate of President Putin and the resilience of Ukraine along with its allies to defeat Moscow’s territorial ambitions.
One year after the outbreak of Russian-Ukrainian war, not only the European region has been destabilized but rupture in the supply chain of fuel and food tends to cause enormous hardships to people in different parts of the world. During its one year military engagement in Ukraine, Russia lost more than 15,000 military forces which are more than its physical losses in 10 year of its military intervention in Afghanistan during late 1970s and 1980s.
If Ukraine has been resilient in countering massive Russian attack on February 24, 2022, Russia has also not given it up to gain territorial edge in that country. Starting from Moscow’s occupation of Crimea, the part of Ukraine in 2014 and some areas in the Russian-populated eastern parts of that country, Russia decided to attack Ukraine in February last year when it was convinced that the regime of Volodymyr Zelenskyy was determined to deepen its nexus with the United States by joining NATO. The encirclement of Russia through its policy of containment is an age-old ambition of the West starting from the Crimean war of 1856 and reaching its peak during the Russia-Japan war. Furthermore, the formation of NATO on April 4, 1949 was aimed to contain the then USSR and salvage Europe from the emerging Communist threat.
Ukraine was termed as a ‘bread basket’ of former USSR and its independence from Moscow was irreconcilable for Russia. The Russian President Vladimir Putin shares the grief of his countrymen that it was Ukraine from where the state of Russia originated in 10th century till the time it was occupied by the Mongols in 13th century. For Russia it is unpardonable that how can Ukraine take an anti-Moscow stance particularly when the very state of Russia was established over there more than one thousand years ago.
The encirclement of Russia by NATO would have got an impetus had Ukraine joined the NATO and Moscow wanted to pre-empt that eventuality by launching an attack against that country. However, Russia miscalculated the manner in which Ukraine resisted foreign invasion which led to massive material and physical losses of Moscow. Resilience and war of nerves also took the toll of Ukraine in the form of millions of people displaced, cities destroyed and infrastructure losses of over 50 billion dollars. Accusations of human rights violations by the invading Russian forces against Ukrainian people compelled the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take notice and launch a trial of Russian generals alleged to have been involved in massacres.
The abject failure of diplomacy and peace efforts led to the augmentation of human miseries and plight of the people of Ukraine. In the cover story entitled “What Victory Looks Like” of The Economist (London) issue of February 25, 2023 stated: “whatever happens, Ukraine’s need for weapons will endure for at least a decade and possibly longer. Just now it is firing roughly as many shells in a month as America can produce in a year. Its spring campaign needs munitions, spare parts, air defence systems, long-range artillery and, ultimately aircraft.” So far NATO including the United States has provided billions of dollars of weapons to Ukraine to counter the Russian military invasion but asymmetrical nature of war reflecting Moscow’s land, air and sea superiority is still unmatched. Mobilization of resources from Western allies of Ukraine in the form of sophisticated weapons; providing humanitarian assistance for Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and elsewhere tends to provide some relief to Kyiv. Even Japan, which is not a member of NATO but an American allay, has announced to provide 5.5 billion dollars of humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president has warned that his country is a frontline state because if Russia succeeds in taking control of Kyiv, its capital in that case, it will have a direct access to other NATO members of Eastern Europe and democracy will be threatened. Whereas, the Russian President Vladimir Putin has also expressed resilience by sustaining military engagements against Ukraine despite heavy physical, military losses and sanctions imposed by the West. Condemning Russian attack over Ukraine in the UN General Assembly has not weakened the nerves of President Putin and he is determined to sustain military pressure over its weak and beleaguered neighbour.
The writer is Meritorious Professor of International Relations and former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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