On the borderlands: the Russian bear
War and conflicts are categorised within the frame of social problems of the contemporary era originating as a result of the prisoner’s dilemma between the states or the acquisition of national interest by powerful rulers. The Russia-Ukraine war is the modern-day example of the Cuban missile crisis as the nuclear dimension can be brought into this crisis as well as this conflict exhibited major powers’ state behaviour in times of an existential threat.
As contemporary conflicts are collated and contrasted, social Darwinism reigns supreme in these clashes, the survival of the fittest. The anarchic structure and the hegemonic designs of the international arena compel the states to adopt the principle of self-help, a key manifestation of neo-realism, as military power is believed to be the only rational solution to aggression. In addition to this, the media has led to a distortion of truth rather than making it easier to distinguish between truth and lies.
What led to the Russia-Ukraine war dates back to the decision made by the USA in April 2006 to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, setting the grounds for a security dilemma which was further followed by a change in the Ukrainian regime as Russian-supported leader President Yanukovych was dethroned and replaced by pro-American President Zelensky. Actions were taken by the West which further ignited the flame as the Russian radar system detected British drivers within twelve nautical miles in the Black Sea and the USA’s strategic bombers hovering over Russian skies within thirteen miles from the coastal area of Russia back in the year 2021. The decision to make Ukraine a de-facto member of NATO was responded to by the Russian annexation of Crimea and the takeover of Sevastopol.
The US and EU blamed President Putin and his expansionist agenda of a resurgent Russia behind this war. For this reason, European states halted trade with Russia, disturbing the global market and the international economy. Classical realists blame the egoistic nature of the leaders responsible for an act of aggression. An advent of war is stated as a collapse of the rationality of states as well as the international system.
Reviving the old title from the Soviet past, the Russian president Vladimir Putin, in a speech made at Kremlin back in 2014, used the geographic title Novorossiya or New Russia once used for the Ukrainian territory which Russians won from Ottoman Turks back in the eighteenth century and later, it was made part of the great Soviet Union. By emphasising the old lost title, he further added that these territories were lost by Russia after the fall of the Berlin wall but these divided Russian lands are still united by the people living there.
The current conflict has reintroduced polarisation of world states along the lines of alliances and counter alliances. As this conflict has brought Russia closer to China and it presents Resurgent Russia with an opportunity to manoeuvre along the political as well as economic lines and to lay hold of new bases all across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe as well across the Eurasian chessboard.
The Ukrainian conflict has somehow metamorphosed into a global war with the US and Western powers playing the “war of sanctions” strategy which Russia is countering by earmarking Ukrainian heartland industries and targeting maritime trade, hence, building up deterrence and exerting pressure on the West. The traditional conflict has a domino impact on the non-traditional sector as well, endangering the food market and oil economy.
The world, rebuilding from the repercussions of Covid19 and facing new non-traditional challenges in the face of the climate emergency, encountered a new peril on the 24th of February, 2022 in the form of the Ukrainian war. This conflict is threatening food security as the war is waged between two states dominating the agricultural product market.
Russia and Ukraine, the breadbaskets of Europe as well as for part of the Middle East and Asia, have turned into a battlefield. Hence, it results in cutting the supply of wheat production and other agricultural commodities. These two powerhouses are responsible for wheat agriculture, for around 30 percent of the world wheat harvest is supplied from these two war-prone states to importer countries around the globe.
The impacts of this war are not only limited to Europe. The economies of less developed states like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and most of the least developed parts of Africa are bearing major consequences. The direct relation between the political instability in the Eurasian region and a hike in food prices across the globe can be analysed throughout history. The estimated records depict that almost most of these least developed states are dependent on Ukraine and Russia for grain imports. This war has resulted in far greater reverberations like a limited supply of overpriced agricultural products.
In addition to this, another gap in supply that is faced in the wake of this Ukrainian war is the global oil supply from Russia. The international sanctions which are imposed on Russian exports of oil and gas by the USA and the west in order to attain a stalemate in the Ukrainian war, result in a hike in oil and fuel prices. Russia supplied around 10 percent of global oil to most of Europe and across the Asian states. Now the importers are seeking oil substitute exporters like Australia and Canada but the cost is sky-high and now the world is facing another energy shock as a result of this conflict.
The reactions of global state actors are diverse from each other with respect to the Ukrainian invasion by the ‘Soviet bear’, Russia. Most of the countries adopted the strategy of “don’t poke the Russian bear”; while the other half silently feed the Russian bear with sweet honey and the rest of them openly condemn the evils of war. The international dialogue on one of the resolutions to bring an end to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis is by appeasing Putin. The proposal to countenance Putin to hold eastern Ukraine, especially the Donbas and surrounding regions brings about memories of the betrayal of the Munich agreement at the hands of Hitler.
The seeds of peaceful resolution can be sowed by engaging states in economic activity as wars breed nothing but human suffering and loss. The majority consensus should inculcate in domestic affairs and international organisations should be more transparent and should work for the common interest rather than the interest of powerful states. Policymakers need to evaluate the situation before further actions are taken. This crisis, unlike the Cuban missile crisis, can end up in a nuclear cloud or mutually assured destruction. States must avoid war, as in the era of a globalised social world; chaos and destruction have a domino effect, impacting world peace.