Russia invading Ukraine: How does it expose the world order?

In this article…

As I have anticipated in my last article “Russia-Ukraine conflict: Geopolitical turmoil of the Black Sea“, Russia was testing the time to attack Ukraine, which has become reality now. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker met Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in 1990. He assured Mr. Gorbachev that “there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction one inch to the east”. But the same promise was broken by the end of 1991 when NATO adopted an ‘open door policy’. Since then till 1999, NATO has added 14 new members.

The presence of British and U.S. warships in the Black Sea began to increase and Ukraine expressed willingness to join NATO. Putin tried to capitalize on the willingness of the Ukrainian president to join NATO as a reason for the invasion. Putin has demanded a ban on further expansion of NATO in Russia’s neighborhood and rolls back its military deployments to the 1990s level. With these demands, Russia tested the mood of the global society. Once Russia got satisfied with its panning, it launched an attack on Ukraine.

Why Russia is invading Ukraine?

It is often said that history repeats itself. When France was defeated – Seven weeks war – in the hand of Germany, Bismarck punished France. He imposed war indemnity and heavy penalties. He also took away the mineral-rich region, Alsace Lorraine. France sought revenge and after 50 years when first world war took revenge from Germany. Germany was defeated and France group became victorious in the first world war. Through the treaty of Versailles, France took back the same Alsace Lorraine region and imposed heavy penalties.

Similarly, when the USSR became weak during Gorbachev, the US expanded its collective defense – NATO – in the backyard of Russia. The US failure in west Asia, the sudden withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan similar to Vietnam, refrain from helping Kurds in Syria against Russia backed Bashar al-Assad, global financial crisis 2008, absence of the US leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the weak response of the US in the black sea with respect to Crimea as well as Ukraine show US weaknesses. When the US weaknesses became visible, Russia starts asserting itself back in its backyard.

However, the US has ruled out changing NATO’s “open-door policy” – which means NATO could induct more members, but the US is neither willing to send the army in support of Ukraine nor her talks or sanctions have the energy to contain Russia. We may now call it a Gorbachev moment for the US. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged US President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO. But Biden lacks the capability to protect its allies. The power of economic sanctions of the US has been evaporated into thin air.

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A crisis in the making

Recently, S Jaishankar rightly diagnosed that ‘Most countries looking for a diplomatic solution to Russia-Ukraine crisis.’ The US has rejected the option to send military support to Ukraine. The US is trying to control this situation through economic sanctions but this means to deal current world order has become a matter of the past, but the US is yet to be realized the same. The US under Biden has been failed in the destabilizing backyard of Russia and China. The US can neither expect the same service from India as it got from Pakistan in the past. The US has also failed in providing security Umbrella to its allies like south Korea.

Apart from this, a clear divide is seen in P-5 members, where three countries – the US, and the UK along with the EU has had already imposed economic sanctions. While China is accusing the US of this crisis and refrained from terming it an “invasion.” China termed the US sanction “unilateral” and was also accused of creating fear. However, France is trying to find a diplomatic stand on this issue since France is a ‘resident power’ in the Indo-pacific. It shows that the cohesiveness of the P-3 group is loosening.

A clear divide in European countries can also be witnessed. EU has huge energy dependence on Russia. EU imports 39% of its total gas imports and 30% of oil from Russia. In central and eastern European countries, energy dependence on Russia is almost 100%, as claimed by prof. Harsh V Pant. Apart from this, France is using this moment of crisis to showcase its own leadership credentials. For example, President Macron Macron has been asking the European Union to take decisions independent of the U.S. to express ‘strategic autonomy’.

Apart from the weak US, division on P-3 nations, and cracks in Europe, strong China also creates a layer of support for Russia. China is testing the US’s reaction on Ukraine so that it could replicate the same in the South China Sea – in the context of Taiwan. Russia also knows that the US’s economic sanctions can’t affect India in South Asia. Thus, Russia’s backyard in the south and east is intact that creates fertile ground for Russia.

Is Russia violating international norms?

Shashi Tharoor and Samir Saran have rightly concluded in their book, “The World Disorder and the Indian imperative” that currently the world is facing the world disorder. As per the UN charter, Russia is violating the international norms and helping in exposing the world order. First, Article 2(4) of the UN Charter says – ‘All states must refrain from the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’. If Russia attacks Ukraine, it is nothing but a clear violation of this rule.

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Similarly, Second, Article 51 of the UN charter recognizes a country’s right to self-defense. It also includes pre-emptive self-defense. Third, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine 2005 asks to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. The US under Biden’s leadership fears in taking a front lead for responsibility to protect as it has done in the case of Libya. Fourth, Article 2(5) of the UN charter requires the states to settle their dispute by peaceful means in order to preserve international peace and security. But Russia has chosen violent means.

Fifth, Apart from this, UNGA resolution 3314 defines aggression as the use of force against the sovereignty and integrity of any state. Additionally, allowing one’s territory to be used by another state for aggression against a third state, also qualifies as an act of aggression. For example, Belarus can also be categorized as aggression since it is allowing space for Russia to invade Ukraine.

What are the challenges in the world system?

The World system is facing serious challenges and the Russia Ukraine crisis is merely a manifestation of it. First, the world system lacks global consensus. For example, the meaning of terrorism varies from state to state – Whom India sees as terrorists, Pakistan sees as Mujaheddins. Second, there are different levels of division in the world order. For example, the north-south divide, ‘haves and have nots’ in the context of a nuclear weapon, and power asymmetricity in the united nation in terms of voting and veto are also posing a serious threat to the world system.

Third, Article 51 of the UN charter talks about pre-emptive self-defense but it comes with subjectivity to a great extent. With the help of this act, India has justified Balacot strikes in POK. Similarly, Russia is justifying its act on the notion of the right of pre-emptive self-defense. It poses some questions – Can an invasion be tagged as pre-emptive self-defense? Are there any checks of P-5 countries?

Fourth, In the context of Russia’s veto as a permanent member of the UNSC, we can’t expect any decisive and binding action against Russia from the UNSC because it is a perfect case of conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is solved with the help of morality but unfortunately, morality in international politics is a bird that doesn’t exist. Fifth, If Ukraine approaches the international court against Russia, enforcement of any orders from the court will require UNSC resolutions, and thus Russia can easily ignore any order through veto power.

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Sixth, It is true that Article 51 of the UN charter recognizes a country’s right to self-defense, but what if there is a power asymmetricity as we have been witnessing in the case of the Russia-Ukraine case? Additionally, any country is not willing to send military forces to assist Ukraine at this time due to the bad examples set by the US forces in a foreign land.

In conclusion

Since the world order is in a transition period due to the weakening of the US, there is little expectation from the world system which would probably contain Russia. It might be another Crimea moment for Russia and the world would move ahead with Russia’s annexation to Ukraine on the line of Crimea. China has been trying to topple the US leadership through the Russia-China axis – a mix of ideological as well as cultural thrust to the west.

Since, Ukraine’s position on India’s critical issues like nuclear test 1998, UNSC voting, and Kashmir issues have not been in favor of India, India should choose a diplomatic stand. India should also now abstain from voting in UNSC and call for peace in the region. As prof Happymon Jacob right says – “Putin is the west’s problem, not ours. NATO expansion is Putin’s problem, not ours. China is our problem. Thus, To deal with the ‘China problem’, we need both the West and Putin”.

Footnotes

  1. The Hindu | Putin’s moves are hardly ‘chess thumping’, Rakesh Sood, 2022.
  2. The Hindu | Most countries looking for a diplomatic solution to Ukraine crisis, S Jaishankar, 2022
  3. Times of India | A link between Taiwan and Ukraine
  4. The Hindu | China says U.S. creating ‘fear and panic’ over Ukraine
  5. The Hindu | Inflection point for the West-led global order, Harsh V Pant, 2022. 
  6. Book | The New World Disorder and the Indian Imperative, Shashi Tharoor and Samir Saran, 2020. 
  7. United Nation | Article 2(4) of the UN charter
  8. OpIndia | Ukraine had condemned India after the 1998 Nuclear tests, 2022. 
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