Ukraine war: A dilemma for Russia
AFTER almost six months of Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow considers it a tough military misadventure.
At the time of Russian attack on Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin estimated that, Ukraine will be overpowered in less than a month’s time or else President Zelenskyy, will be forced to request for a negotiations where Moscow would be at a strategic and political advantage to decide and dictate the future of Kiev.
But this didn’t happen and after a few initial successes, the Russian military started facing serious resistance from the tiny military of Ukraine which just had 246,000 soldiers compared to 1.3 million Russian military.
Besides, President Zelenskyy was considered as a soft leader compared to hardened leadership of Vladimir Putin.
This also proved otherwise, since Zelenskyy was with front-line soldiers as their commander in chief.
In fact he has proven himself as the real strength of his country with a lot of courage and determination.
Besides, there was precedence of annexation of Crimea by Russia without any resistance by Ukraine, although some military commanders of Ukraine yielded with Russia for their personnel gains.
Russia had that military cum political campaign in mind, thus decided to invade Ukraine after sufficiently degrading its eastern regions, adjacent to Russian borders.
In fact, until Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, 2022, it was perceived to be a renascent (resurgent) power that will ultimately bring a balance in the international power politics by undoing the unipolar character of global politics.
This international perception was made since Russia is a successor state of the former Soviet Union with huge military and war munitions, after the disintegration of the USSR in the early 1990s.
With a huge territory, it is a transcontinental country, spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia.
It is the largest country in the world by area, covering over 17,098,246 square kilometers which forms one-eighth of Earth’s uninhabitable landmass.
Its nuclear weapons are more than that of American nuclear weapons.
According to global estimates, today Russia has over 5,977 nuclear warheads compared to 5428 nuclear warheads of the United States.
This is the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads in the world. From the perspective of energy reserves (hydrocarbon), Moscow has “80,000,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, ranking 8th in the world and accounting for about 4.8% of the world’s total oil reserves”.
Russian proven reserves are equivalent to 60.4 times more than its annual consumption. With 1,688 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven gas reserves, Russia has the world’s largest natural gas reserves.
It’s proven reserves are 102.3 times more than its annual consumption. Traditionally, Russia has been the world’s leading exporter of natural gas and the 2nd largest oil supplier after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“It has also been the EU’s leading supplier of imported oil, gas and coal, accounting for two-fifths of gas supplies, a quarter of crude oil deliveries and almost half of all shipments of solid fuel, such as coal.”
The total share of Russian gas imports to the EU was 45% until Russia attacked Ukraine. Owing to sanctions, its gas exports to European states have reduced reasonably; 26% until June 2022.
There erupted serious energy crises for Europe after Russia stopped the supply of gas to these states as a result of sanctions on Russia by the EU and US.
European Union leaders have stepped up their search for alternative means of energy like renewable sources of energy.
Sanctions on Russia have created an economic dilemma for Moscow. Moscow feels constrained even for the continuation of war in Ukraine which is costing it heavily.
Besides, EU and US are providing huge military and economic assistance to Ukraine whose results are quite tangible, since Russian military advances have been seriously impeded despite the fact that, Moscow caused massive destruction to Kiev.
Apart from economic dilemma, Russia is facing in the form of economic and other sanctions by United States and European Union; strategically Russian is in a fix.
Its strategic dilemmas are three-fold;
a) Ukraine has been accepted as a member state of the European Union (EU).
b) United States and EU came closer to each other by overcoming the differences created during the Trump era.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they are more united to counter the Russian threats by devising joint strategies to control Russian expansion.
c) The Trans-Atlantic military alliance NATO has been further strengthened with an indirect and active military support for Ukraine.
Apart from modern military weaponry and advanced technology, billions of USDs have been provided to Ukraine for countering the Russian military advances.
At the time of attacking Ukraine, President Putin emphasized to the Russian public that “it was a matter of life and death to counter the further expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization towards the Russian border.
alliance’s infrastructure, or the on-going efforts to gain a military foothold of the Ukrainian territory.
“Putin envisioned this expansion as a US strategy for containment of Russia. Indeed, he rightly perceived and indicated the US strategy but fell into the trap, Washington laid for Moscow.
Today, after almost six months of Russian attack on Ukraine, President Putin feels highly uncomfortable in front of Russian masses over the strategic blunder, Moscow committed by invading Ukraine.
It’s a time that China should rescue Russia by opening indirect negotiations for a Russian pull-out from Ukraine
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.