Conflict Alerts # 492, 30 March 2022
In the news
On 24 February, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin began the invasion in Ukraine, launching troops into Ukraine. The launch marked the start of the war in Europe since World War II.
On 27 February, the EU announced a ban on airspace to prevent Russian aircrafts from entering its space. The EU and its allies agreed to cut down Russian banks from SWIFT along with the US. It is the most relied financial telecommunication system of Russia used in oil and gas exports.
On 03 March, the International Criminal Court launched an investigation on Russia to look into committed war crimes and violence against humanity in Ukraine. It accused Russia for carrying out crimes against the internal community.
On 13 March, Russian troops advanced into western Ukraine, launching 30 cruise missiles into a military base in Yavoriv. It is considered the closest attack to eastern Europe, 25 kilometres from Poland.
On 21 March, Ukraine rejected the ultimatum from Russia after the residents of Mariupol were encircled by the Russian troops and were asked to surrender. Mariupol became the center of bombardments and a series attacks, pushing thousands of civilians to suffer food and water shortage.
On 24 March, NATO, EU, and G7 leaders, and the US met in Brussels to discuss the next move and strategies against Russia. In the summit, the leaders agreed to intensify the sanctions, securitising eastern Europe and strengthening support for Ukraine.
Issues at large
First, from east to west, on-ground developments. After recognising the separatist groups, Russia began the invasion by sending its first set of troops into the Donbas and Luhansk region. Russia’s first target was to expand on the sides of eastern Ukraine, targeting Melitopol, Zaphorizhzhia, Dnipro, port cities, Kherson, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Chernihiv. Later Russian troops advanced to the west carrying out specific attacks in Kyiv, Yavoriv and Lviv. Keeping the vulnerable position of Mariupol in mind, Russia, by encircling the city, has turned Mariupol as bait to threaten Ukraine. Apart from Mariupol, it has also been attempting to capture the arc of towns, Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, to enclose and capture the capital city Kyiv to take over the leadership. Ukraine, using its military forces and external support, has pushed back Russian troops from various west and eastern cities, including Kyiv, Mykolaiv and Lviv. Due to this move, Russia is slowly shifting its strategy from taking over the capital to focusing on adjoining east Ukraine with Russia. Regarding Mariupol, the Ukrainian forces have yet to evacuate the civilians and capture back Mariupol.
Second, military capacity gaining or failing. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Russia currently possesses 280,000 troop forces, 2840 battle tanks, 5220 fighting vehicles, 4684 artillery pieces, more than 1500 air defence surface-to-air batteries and 150 ballistic missiles. When it comes to Ukraine, has 145,000 ground forces, 858 battle tanks, 1,184 fighting vehicles, 1,818 artillery pieces, more than 75 air defence surface-to-air batteries and 90 ballistic missiles. In terms of international support, Ukraine beats Russia with NATO’s supply of arms, which has been critical in slowing and deterring the Russian military. About the US and the UK, the shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, US-made Javelin, and UK-supplied NLAWs have been strategic for the Ukrainian military. Russia’s forces also shifted their war tactics from attacks on the army to civilians and cities using artillery and long-range missiles. But to end the war or win over Russia, Ukraine will need more support than ever from the international, as there are still reservations among the West in supplying Ukraine with a high-range weapon system.
Third, failure of diplomacy. From the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have been constantly trying to resolve the conflict through diplomatic talks, from Normandy format to direct negotiations with President Putin. None of the acts has helped in getting near to ceasefire or positive development. Besides the individual players, there is an emergence of mediators in the conflict, including Belarus, Turkey, Switzerland and China. Although Turkey has succeeded in bringing both parties to the discussion table, the negotiations have shown no breakthrough.
Fourth, economic repercussions. The sanctions at the financial and individual levels, was extended to import, export and travel levels except energy and humanitarian aids. The parties who began the sanctions game were the US, the EU, Germany Australia and Japan. As the invasion continued, Canada, Iceland, Taiwan, France, Italy, Norway, South Korea and Switzerland joined the list in sanctioning Russia. Some countries that have refrained from sanctioning are China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. The sanctions overall slowed down Russia’s economy from its growth. Still, it has been very well anticipated by Russia, in terms of other economies except for the UK and the US, the dependency on Russia in agriculture, micro and macro industry, energy supplies, and trade commodities has had a dual effect, forcing them to search for an alternative source. Recuperation of Russia’s economy and bigger powers is expected to bounce back with MNCs starting back their operations after the war, the state of Ukraine’s economy will remain a question.
Fifth, the state of Russians and Ukrainians in the war. In the initial stages of the invasion, the challenges faced by the Ukrainian government was evacuating its people through humanitarian corridors. At first, there were six agreed corridors to move people out of Ukraine. But with Russia breaching the corridors by targeting attacks on the civilians and causing blocs to prevent the supply of humanitarian aid, the state of the civilians has only worsened day by day. In terms of Russia’s shift in the war tactics of shelling residential buildings, transferring a mass into Russia and in process of helping in evacuation has displaced more number people across Ukraine. Therefore, the count of deaths, refugees and displaced seem to be on the increasing trend week after week.
First, from the point of Ukraine. One could observe that all the promises made by the international powers to support Ukraine in case of an invasion is neither immaterial nor realistic. Keeping the stress on war de-escalation, the external powers seem to have underplayed in bringing the war to end.
Second, from the point of view of Russia. One month of war does not seem to be enough to settle down its negotiations. From the aim of capturing the Kyiv, it has shifted its focus to redrawing the borders of eastern Ukraine and joining with the Russian territory.
Third, from the point of view of external actors. The one month of war seems like a warm-up for a longer struggle invoking a fear of China’s involvement and a larger threat to secure Europe as Russia gets closer.