Strategic Discussion | Reviewing the Ukraine Crisis
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Well over fifteen days into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the VIF strategic discussions group convened on 15 March 2022 to review the ongoing developments and to deliberate on the future trajectories of the evolving geopolitical situation. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director VIF and was attended by Amb. P.S Raghavan, Lt. Gen. Rakesh Sharma, Lt. Gen. Ravi K. Sawhney, Gen. N.C. Vij and Brig. Vinod Anand. The ensuing discussion identified the role of American rebalancing in the region and the emergence of an increasingly divided Europe as key determinants of the ongoing conflict. The European security architecture has been in flux and the varying geopolitical strategies and grandstanding by countries pursuing their interests in the region have finally brought down this house of cards. The British destroyers entering the Black Sea, Turkish drones attacking Donbas and the extensive training of the Ukrainian militia added fuel to the fire thus resulting in the present conflict.

The discussants also reflected on the Chinese position and noted that the conflict in Ukraine brings to the fore the question of security in Central Asia, with a reduced Russian role opening up space for greater Chinese involvement. While assessing the Indian approach, the discussants stressed the need for India to maximize its opportunities and to take advantage of the developing situation wherever possible. As a holder of a large volume of Russian military hardware, India will need to assess the impact of the conflict on this dependence; the supplies and support of this hardware may get impacted if Russia focuses on supplies for itself. The effects of India’s balanced approach via its abstention in international platforms on matters regarding Russia will also need to be watched out for. It may inadvertently impact India’s economic and diplomatic interactions with key partners.

In the assessment of the Russian military operation, it was highlighted that the present war is a discriminate war with a distinct lack of irregular and urban warfare. The discussants’ review of the Russian military objectives and action highlighted several logistical weaknesses, issues in maintenance, poor communication, losses in men and material, inadequate tactics and poor techniques and procedures. There also seem to be serious integration issues, at the level of the ground and the air force and even amongst the ground forces.

While ruminating on the future trajectories of the conflict, the discussants concluded that it seems highly unlikely that the Russian forces will vacate the southern areas as the Crimean land corridor was a primary objective and has been stressed as vital to sustaining Crimea. There is also the superficial possibility of the West capitalizing on this opportunity to destabilize Russia from within and overthrow Putin. Irrespective of the outcome, it is crucial to focus on the Russian dependency on China; and ponder the question of whether the unfolding scenario will increase the dependence or will the two be pushed apart? This is an aspect that needs to be assessed further. Any negotiated settlement between the conflicting parties will have to involve the United States as the greater war is between Russia and the US/NATO. Their involvement is imperative for a lasting solution. Unless there is direct or indirect involvement of the US in a negotiated settlement, the Russians will not be in a position to withdraw. As the war expands and extends further, there seem to be no easy solutions for Putin.

Event Date 
March 15, 2022

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