Russia-Ukraine War: A Clear Example of Fear and Power Game

Growing Russia’s influence and Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas has alarmed the US and its position in Europe

ukraine war
Service members of pro-Russian troops, including fighters of the Chechen special forces unit, stand in front of the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict (Reuters Image)

By Kashif Anwar,

With the Russia-Ukraine war turning a year old, it’s no way away from being resolved or peace being established in Ukraine. With Russia’s emphasis on Ukraine being neutral and Ukraine’s push for NATO membership, today, war is far away from such a narrative. Today, the conflict in terms of its impact and involvement of other players in the form of military hardware or standing in solidarity with Russia or Ukraine has become the new norm. However, for many European countries,terms like neutrality and aim for peace and stability were closely associated with the continent for a long. Growing Russia’s influence and Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas has alarmed the US and its position in Europe. In recent years, a call for Europe’s army by French President Macron in 2018 or Europe aiming for strategic autonomy, caused by former US President Donald Trump’s policy, the US under the Biden administration finds such developments conflict with its interest in the Atlantic Ocean region. To understand the cause behind the Russia-Ukraine war, it has caused fear among Europeans, pushing them to maximise power, benefitted the US, and left the scope of neutrality far behind.

Power Tussle: Neutrality vs Fear

In International Relation theory, many scholars from the prominent school of thought attempted to understand the reason and cause behind any conflict and how it could be addressed to achieve power, peace, and stability. In such context, the Russia-Ukraine conflict reflects a clear example of fear, self-help and power maximisation being highlighted from Europe’s stand on how to counter Russian aggression. Prominent people and scholars like John Mearsheimer and Henry Kissinger are valuable references to understanding the Russia-Ukraine war. With the Russian invasion starting as a special operation and continuing to promote it, the conflict has been completely transformed. It saw the use of a wide range of weapons with the display of impact and calibre of drones in a conflict that has put Russia against NATO, and Ukraine became a theatre of power tussle.

With peace and resolution to the conflict is nowhere to be achieved soon, the West’s supply of advanced and calibre and potent weapons to Ukraine, like an agreement to supply advanced and heavy tanks like M1 Abram tanks and Leopard tanks from the US and EU, respectively, will intensify the conflict. Moreover, as neutrality is no longer being talked about or considered one of the solutions to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Sweden and Finland’s push to get NATO membership has only ended the scope of neutrality in Europe. Today, due to the conflict, more European countries are worried about Russian aggression or destabilising them through a coup like in Moldova, as it is looking to end its neutral status.

Along with the US and Russia, major European powers like France and Germany are aware of growing fear and call for help from smaller and militarily weak European countries,allowing them to take advantage of the situation. Further, it has also distanced Europe from achieving strategic autonomy as they viewed it as a means and mode to loosen itself from the domination, influence and interference from the US, Russia and China. The EU saw an approach would make them a prominent player in International Politics again. With US and NATO arming Ukraine to withstand the Russian onslaught, on the other hand, with Iran and North Korea assisting Russia and now the US claiming China would arm Russia will only intensify the conflict, which will have a far-reaching impact. Such developments will increase fear among European Nations, with growing alignment and partnership between China and Russia. It madeEuropeanuneasy and pushed them to align with America strategically to counter Russian and Chinese threats, which undermined itself being considered an independent power, something China wanted Europe to be in the first place.

As the conflict became a challenging event today with the war continuing to extend, more European countries will increase their defence budget,impacting funds meant for social and economic development. Furthermore, the way multinational companies have laid off their employees recently and China’s recorded low economic growth rate highlights that the world economy is moving toward a global recession in 2023. In such a situation, with neutrality no longer an option, major powers are more concerned about squeezing out a large chunk of power for themselves from the conflict.

With conflict not only being fought on the ground, statements from the state’s head and use of information warfare to spread disinformation have showcased the dreadful side of power politics of major power. With more Europeans coming to Ukraine’s rescue, like Britain and France militarily and Estonia calling to stop Russia to prevent wider conflict, the West planned to impose big Russia sanctions around the war anniversary. The conflict has also become a means for the West, and especially the US, how it blows up the Nord Stream to increase its power and counter Russia in achieving any of its hidden and open objectives from the conflict.

Moving Forward

With resolution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict remains a distant dream, with NATO and Russia are at head-to-head to carve out a sphere of power and influence in Eastern Europe. As Austria, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, and Switzerland remain in-NATO members, and Sweden and Finland aiming to be a part of NATO,the US-led allies in Europe will ensure the Russian threat continues will further armEurope – largely procured from the US – and rely on the US instead going for strategic autonomy. Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has allowed the US to take a lesson and prepare for a possible conflict with China over Taiwan.

As the US views the parallel between both events and addresses the challenges,it will face in case of a Taiwan conflict. The conflict has showcased fear has masked the relevance of neutrality in Europe, and there is growing trust deficiency and peace being viewed as a distant option. With UK and Poland agreeing to increase their support to Ukraine, with Poland becoming a linchpin for NATO’s assistance to Ukraine, US support for conflict was reflected by US President Joe Biden’srecent visit to Poland and Ukraine. Further, the UK will supply Challenger 2 tanks and plans to send long-range missiles soon.

The West hasn’t opted to crush Russia or cause a regime change; rather, they aim to ensure a Russian defeat in the conflict, ensuring no Red Line is crossed, which will cause a nuclear catastrophe. On the other hand, Russia is aware of such a situation and has prepared for a long conflict and built up a military strength to sustain fighting. The West’s global push to pressurise Russia resulted in a divided global response, with countries worldwide aiming to secure their national and strategic interest first. Ukraine is heavily dependent on the supply of weapons and ammunition from the West, especially from the US, and always looks for a new shipment after every two weeks.

Extension of the Russia-Ukraine conflict will not be good for Ukraine, as it has put Europe and US to look for ways to address concerns around their ammunition stockpile and its inventory and production capacity. It will also not be good for the global economy, considering Ukraine’s role and position in the global food supply chain and the semiconductor manufacturing process. Further, as Russia continues to change its objectives, stand and hold in the conflict since February 24, 2022, followed byUkraine President Zelensky’s statements, the West’s position will only extend the conflict.Fear being exploited and the West turning the European issue into a global phenomenon which India’s Foreign Minister Jaishankar refuted.In a year, the conflict has become a clear example of power and blame game with winning the conflict has become a priority for major powers than ensuring and achieving peace.

The author is Research Associate, Centre for Air Power Studies.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.

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First published on: 18-03-2023 at 15:14 IST
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