The Russian invasion of Ukraine – one year on
This time last year Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine in an act of aggression which rekindled memories of the early days of World War II. At the time, the overwhelming view was that the ‘military operation’ as was dubbed by the Russian command, would last a few weeks at the end of which Ukraine would surrender or be conquered. One year down the line, however, this war is still raging on with little prospects of ending any time soon. While on one hand the determination and resolve of the Ukrainians to stand up and defend their homeland has to be commended, the other side of the coin is that this prolonged war is posing serious questions whether it may escalate further. In turn, this will have more global ramifications which will impact on food and energy prices.
From a military perspective, Putin’s announcement about the suspension of the New Start nuclear arms control treaty does not bode well at all. On the other hand, US President Joe Biden has pledged to keep supplying arms to Ukraine through NATO while warning that they would defend every inch in case a member of the bloc would be attacked.
Looking ahead, there are several lessons to be learnt. First of all, the long-held assumptions about peace in Europe has been shattered from the foundations. The perception that our continent is immune to military conflicts or that we no longer face such threat is very dangerous. Indeed, Europe could be reaching a stage whether it has to choose between defending freedom at all costs including by military means, or appeasement in the hope of avoiding war. While diplomacy should be given every chance, there have been instances whereby appeasement was the recipe for disaster, despite the noble intentions of those advocating peace at all costs. It happened with the Sudeten crisis in 1938 which vindicated Hitler’s stand. In this case any proposal to give territorial concessions to Russia in return for peace would only serve to vindicate Putin’s decision to go to war, if not whet his appetite for more.
Whatever scenario, the bottom line is that we will have to pay a hefty price. In case of a military escalation, more lives would be lost and thousands more would end in misery. From an economic perspective, this would also result in higher inflation which in turn would erode workers’ spending power further.
However, trying to seek peace through territorial concessions would legitimise the use of power over diplomacy and the rule of law. In that case any short-term gains in terms of stability could be obtained at the cost of a bigger long-term threat as this would set a dangerous precedent.
The situation is very delicate indeed. Let us hope we will not reach the situation whereby world leaders will find themselves between a rock and a hard place. So far it seems that Russia has miscalculated the costs of this war as was the case with the US in Vietnam or the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This could be key, as it could sway the political mood in Moscow to the point that the only solution would be to find an ‘honourable exit’ as the best viable option. This is why unity is key to face this crisis, as any cracks or open discord would only serve to fuel more aggression.