Geopolitical wrangle on the eastern front
By Sankalp Singh
The Global world order is witnessing a series of tribulations from which the Russia and Ukraine conflict has caught the eye in the storms. In terms of Geopolitics and International security, it is of particular interest as this conflict throws light to the paradigm that we are witnessing post-cold war and the Soviet Union disintegration in 1991. The likelihood of threats between Europe, the US, and Russia was the least, but following the developments of territorial claims, it has only grown exponentially. Episodes of crisis in Georgia in 2008 led to ousting of Russia from the prestigious G-8 (Batchelor 2017) . In defending the actions, Russia further claimed that expulsion from such groupings does not affect the aims of Russia to become a global power. Exactly 6 years after, the crisis in the Crimean peninsula in 2014 was witnessed with worldwide censure (Kruk. 2019) .
These two geopolitical conflicts, combined with the recent crisis of sovereignty as well as territorial claims of Luhansk and Donetsk regions tell us that the status quo of Eastern Europe is not stable, and therefore requires urgent attention. In the recent televised address to the State of the Union, President Biden explained how the sanctioning of Russia and military assistance to Ukraine, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania is going to transform the crisis into legitimate and stable Eastern European world order . This situation demonstrates that Russia is not acting as a responsible neighbor, as the hostile acts in Georgia, Crimea, and Ukraine give a foresight of collective security that the European region urgently needs. Russia has its own growing insecurities that came from as far as the Warsaw pact, which was aligned to serve the international security protection to USSR . Poland and Romania, for instance, have signed up to become a part of NATO, which geopolitically means that these two countries do not legitimize the collective security clause that the Warsaw pact has to offer. According to the recent Munich Security Conference report, the Russian leadership; is believed does not share the collective security order and a common European identity, which is based on the principles of Humanitarian and Independent decision-making powers .
While claiming that Ukraine ‘does not share any history, Russia misses the part of how Ukraine has got an important role to play in the development of Commerce in the European region. For countries like India and much of South Asia, Ukraine is a large supplier of domestic cooking oil (Economic Times 2022) .
Russia is trying to reactivate the glory of the phase of Stalinism that Russia had during the Soviet period, but the very notion that NATO is enlarging ipso facto reveals that the Soviet Union has collapsed and is not able to make a dent in post-cold war realignment and integration. The key point being missed here is that this situation is not a ‘League of Nations’ moment, where a select group of countries are forming their board room minutes and handling global issues. Today, Nations are independent and even taking leadership roles for collective growth and development. For instance, India’s ‘one-world, one-sun, one grid, Japan’s ‘Resilient Infrastructure initiative’, and the South-South grouping like IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) have taken responsibility for underdeveloped economies.
Russia has been quite influential in conveying its tendencies of political authoritarianism to its neighbors. Belarus has turned into a rogue system due to the dictatorial tendencies shown by its leader (The Week 2021) . However, it could not exercise much of its influence on the people of Belarus, as they have continuously protested and called for exercising the democratic franchise in making a better Belarus. Ukraine has suffered much from the recent alleged proclamation of independent republics of the region of Luhansk and Donetsk as a claim that has been propagated by the state of Russia (Basak 2022) . This critically asserts pressure on Ukraine to declare its sovereignty over these regions, which has never happened before. Russia is missing a major point. The very stance of Moscow, as witnessed recently, tells us that Ukraine and its security will be enhanced only through its induction in NATO. Recently, Neutral Countries like Switzerland have spoken of the illegal occupation by Russia (Shields & Silke 2022) , while Germany has declared in public that it is going to supply weapons to Ukraine to help Ukraine defend its national interests. USA has also asserted that the bullying tendencies of Russia towards select individual states have brought the attention of a ‘Collective Trans-Atlantic’ order , which is to provide the necessary support to nations who are victims of such authoritarian intimidations to the point that Russia recently exercised its right to Veto over the likely resolution of Ukraine Crisis in the United Nations (Nichols, M. & Humeyra 2022) .
But NATO as an institution does not echo the same voice as countries mentioned above do. The Bucharest Summit of 2008 gave a green light to Georgia and Ukraine to help them become members, but the same has not been materialized both in terms of paper or an official stance . “Does Ukraine fulfill the collective security issue of NATO and vis-à-vis Europe?” is the question asked by some NATO allies. Some measures like stopping SWIFT operations of Central Banks of Russia and blocking the international transactions of Russia’s dollar reserves ($618 Bn.) are focused on the deterrence side. Geopolitically, this offensive realism as explained by realist scholars like John Mearsheimer depicts the gravity of the crisis the Eastern European region is currently facing. In Ukraine, Men are supplied with arms, while women are told to extend wishes to their men so that they face the battle with strength. This is a classic case of Athenian and Spartan political order, where men were reserved for the army to defend the regions. Some of the immediate solutions to at least contain the crisis lie in going back to the 2008 Bucharest take-away, which focused on the membership action plan and the likelihood of extending its rooms to nations such as Ukraine.
In his telephone call to NATO secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg, Ukraine has promised its reforms in the defense sector, which indicates a strong signal at breaking away from the shackles of its past Soviet phase. Moreover, the Global order has got convinced that Moscow’s policy of aggression and annexation has led to further calls for Ukrainian integration and consolidation into the European Union. The depth of this crisis has become so severe that even the constitution of Ukraine in its recent provisions mentions clauses that describe the process to become a member of groupings like NATO and EU (Kyrychenko 2018) , and Turkey has announced its active participation in the crisis by using the options available in Montreux Convention that intends to implement some of the geographical tools in the Dardanelles and Black sea regions (Reuters 2022) .
On the defensive front, Russia’s media campaigns have proclaimed that the West’s policies are sidetracking the aims of Russia in its neighborhood, which is to make Russia and its adjacent region strong and vibrant. There have been calls for cyber disinformation and cyber-sabotage campaigns, and solving them through credible diplomacy and respect for international law charters seem to be a way out.
Even a Nordic country like Finland has reiterated the ‘Helsinki Spirit’, which does not only talk about freedom of choices in exercising foreign policy options but also focuses on the growth of the military and economy.
The Russia and Ukraine crisis, clubbed with its ramifications in Eastern Europe emphasizes calibrated tightening on deterrence, and resolving through diplomacy. Countries like India, Germany, and Switzerland have shed their old stances and come out in public for the ‘cessation of violence’ and ushered to readjust focus towards respect for international laws and UN Charters. There is a likelihood of Russia being on the red radar if the initiated measures by the International Criminal Court against Genocide hold water. Moreover, USA is bringing all the possible help for the recuperation of Ukraine over the committed crimes as perpetrated by Russia. This is a situation where we cannot declare World War III, but we cannot shy away from speaking the truth about mass suffering and the assertion of regional authoritarianism in the region of Eastern Europe. If Diplomacy is the way forward, then military nuances is the way backward. It is pertinent to bring Ukraine and Russia on the table and arrive at a conciliation wherein the solidarity of the people of Ukraine is a priority.
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Sankalp Singh has been a former research and development intern in Niti Aayog, Government of India. Currently, He is associated with Global Counter Terrorism Council as a research coordinator. Views are personal.