The Unresolved Stand-Off: Putin’s War on Ukraine Disturbing World Peace

Manas Mukul Bandyopadhyay & Gouri Sankar Nag

As the 21st century progresses, the invasion of one State by another State is a matter of disgrace to modern civilization. It has not even been eight decades since World War II came to an end and men breathed a sigh of relief. The atomic bombs that shattered Hiroshima & Nagasaki once in Japan were so horrible that humanity declared itself against all future wars. 

This found a practical expression in the foundation of a UNO, based on a charter of national rights and duties. The charter recognized the possibility of unappeasable rivalries between nations, but by the subtle device of the veto, exercised by 5 Permanent members of the UN Security Council, it immunized their militant expression. It is interesting to note that the system worked well for a certain time.

Given a truly peace-loving nation, like India, for example, is always ready to mediate in the interest of peace, it was found effective in establishing ‘cease-fire’ agreements between warring States, wherever it may be. But as the years roll by and memories of WW II fade away from the human mind, serious doubts arise whether this easy way of establishing peace will be effective any longer. The issue can be understood by looking at the work of the UNO; it is limited only to condemning evil.

However, it is a fact that the ground for entertaining this unhappy fear is the feverish efforts of the big powers to utilize the resources of science for the destruction of civilization and mankind. The plea that ‘preparedness is the best preventive of war’ is an exploded fiction. It is true that governments in different developed States spend money and labour to invent and manufacture weapons instead of constructive development, in order to create employment to stave off the crisis of overproduction, but they certainly do so with a dim consciousness that there will be opportunities to use them. The threat of war will increase as the arsenals of nations keep piling with weapons and ammunition.

The question of maintaining international peace in the wake of the Russian-Ukraine war is once again arising. Hence this time we shed some light on the beginning of this war. The current ongoing problem between Russia and Ukraine has slowly begun to have its effects on the world sporadically and it is getting more and more complicated day by day. The different States, no matter how large they may be in terms of education, culture, development, scientific achievement etc. are still driven by petty interests and arrogance. A State that is powerful in a broader sense tends to show a kind of grandeur in international politics.

Ukraine’s relations with present Russia have been bitter in recent years. It is worth mentioning here that the Ukraine region was formerly known as a republic of the erstwhile Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics. But after the break-up of the erstwhile superpower USSR, during 1990-91, the Ukraine region became known to the international community as an independent & sovereign State. Relations between the two States have been strained more since the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution ousted the then pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovych.

Surprising the world, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. It was utterly an illegal action on the part of Russia. Actually, it began in February 2014 following the Ukrainian Revolution, and initially focused on the status of Crimea and parts of Donbas, internationally recognized as part of Ukraine. Intentionally concealing its Soviet involvement, present Russia gave military backing to the separatist militia in the Donbas from 2014 onwards.

However, it should be remembered in this context that when Ukraine surrendered all its nuclear weapons to Russia once in 1994, the three musketeers Russia, the USA and England, sought to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity through Budapest Memorandum. It is also to be noted here that Ukraine is not a member state of the European Union and NATO.

Incumbent Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky after coming into power in 2019 was expected to boost the bilateral relations between Ukraine and Russia. But over time, that changed. Finally, on 24th Feb 2022, Russia launched an attack on Ukraine. And such an attack happened at a crucial time when the whole world was in danger of being hit by the Covid-19 Pandemic. On the other hand, when the Taliban group illegally seized political power in Afghanistan, ignoring America’s warning. Thus after Putin’s launching of war, Zelensky proclaimed Martial rule in Ukraine and formally cut off diplomatic relations with Russia.

It is seen that Putin’s attack gradually moved beyond a level creating complexities on all sides. With the objective of demilitarization of the two parts of the Donbas region (Donetsk & Luhansk), he recognized those protesting parts situated on Ukraine’s eastern border. This act is a gross violation of the Helsinki pact (1975) and poses a threat to international law. Moreover, Putin was requested to stop the attack but he paid no heed. Ukraine, however, did not give up. The Ukrainians are dealing with the Russian attack in a deadly way, although their country is suffering a lot.

On the other hand, it is important to consider Putin’s attitude. Vladimir Putin has made a number of allegations against Ukraine. Chief among them is the possibility of Ukraine joining the international military front NATO. In fact, the US-controlled NATO is at the tip of the nose of Russia. Of Course, this is not the first time that this possibility has been created. NATO’s eastward expansion has been quite controversial. In 1990, the US Secretary of State, James Baker promised the then-President Mikhail Gorbachev that there would be no further expansion beyond the borders of East Germany. However, that promise has been thrown into the dustbin.

Besides, Russia does not want NATO to expand furthermore into areas such as Ukraine & Georgia since these areas border Russia. At the same time, Russia has instructed NATO authorities to withdraw their defensive deployment like the pre-1990s level, and Russia also warned against placing any intermediate-range missiles in the border areas. 

It is also an interesting point to note that at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO had only 15 member-States, but now the number has increased to 30 member-States, many of which are parts of erstwhile Soviet Russia and Russia’s neighbours.  Russia is thus terrified by the growing fear of being encircled by the US-led NATO member-States. As a result, Russia’s grievance or anger or fear, whatever it may be, over Ukraine’s possible accession to NATO is quite reasonable from the perspective of international power politics.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lasted nearly 87 days, but neither side showed signs of stopping the aggression. Ukraine has already suffered a lot and the suffering is growing anew. This crisis has posed a major challenge to the global order.  The net result of this belligerency is mounting of tensions between Russia and America along with other western States just like in the traditional cold war period. Actually western States are behind Ukraine, and the USA previously ensured Ukraine that if Russia invaded, it would ‘respond decisively’. A

Even a small country like Ukraine is in some way preventing Russia from going to war. On the other hand, a powerful state like Russia has not yet been able to capture the capital city of Ukraine. One thing that is clear from this situation is that the Western forces are behind Ukraine. Otherwise, Ukraine would not have been able to compete with Russia alone.

But if the war continues like this, will it lead to another World War again? In the current world situation, that is a million-dollar question. Russia has so far ignored the requests of various States to stop the invasion. Although the United States is not directly involved in the war with Russia, the USA continues to issue warnings or threats occasionally.

Moreover, the US is imposing several economic sanctions against Russia so that Russia will be compelled to stop fighting. On the other hand, Russia is not sitting idly by. Russia also continues to use its close relations with other foreign countries in various ways. However, many States are maintaining relations both with Russia and America, keeping in mind the national and international interests of their own countries. Thus a lot of States are hesitant to maintain a neutral relationship and it is becoming quite uncomfortable for them. Here we may cite the example of India. This war has undoubtedly created an uncomfortable situation for India.

We can observe that no anger or grievance or threat can be considered as an excuse for this invasion. Here it should be remembered that under no circumstances can we use any excuse to kill or attack our neighbour with a weapon. That is exactly what Russia is doing today. However, it is to be pointed out here that if Russia is to blame in this case, then so is America previously.

This dilemma of international politics may concentrate more power in President Putin’s hand, or it might be that Mr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, may return to winning the war as an international hero. But there will be none to wipe away the tears of poor commoners who are suffering from this horrible situation.

Millions of people are lost and refugees are scattered in various adjacent states of Ukraine. No one will come forward to take the responsibility for the children who are orphaned and wandering in the ruins of war in search of a little food. And this is surely the defeat of humanity. Any war, be it Syria or Ukraine, Vietnam or Iraq, can push out our civilization far behind in one fell swoop. In this case, the major responsibility lies with Russian President Putin. The whole world should be vocal in its protest against the Russian invasion in unambiguous terms.

Read more by Gouri Sankar Nag and Manas Mukul Bandyopadhyay here:

Agonies of the Divided Island| 18 May 2022

The Cycle of Democratic Crisis in Pakistan| 28 April 2022

The Toxicity of ‘Pegasus’ Expose| 3 August 2021

About the Authors

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Dr Manas Mukul Bandyopadhyay, Associate Professor of Political Science at the PG Department of Political Science, Hooghly Mohsin College, West Bengal. 

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Dr Gouri Sankar Nag, Professor in Political Science at Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University.