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Ukraine crisis is a litmus test for all — US, EU, UN, and also for India

After the chaotic end to the US-led war in Afghanistan, the Ukraine crisis is now proving to be the real test for countries and for multilateral bodies like the UN.

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While the world is still debating whether or not Russia will invade Ukraine, despite Moscow announcing pullback of its troops from the border areas, the crisis has blown the lid off for countries and multilateral bodies like the UN, forcing everyone to take a position of sorts. For a world still reeling under a pandemic, the Ukraine crisis can emerge as another huge challenge that will require wide-ranging discussion and manoeuvring

Whether it’s the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, or even India, everyone is being pushed by the other to take a stand and proclaim ‘Russia’ to be the enemy coupled with Ukraine, which has always remained the world’s favourite battlefield, ever since the World War II and then during the Cold War.

This is one of those crises that isn’t letting countries look the other way even as they all are engaged in reviving their respective economies while the pandemic rages on. And if not addressed diplomatically, the crisis around Ukraine’s sovereignty and its potential membership to the intergovernmental military alliance NATO can all but lead to another global war which will bleed the world.

Perhaps not a war, but the Ukraine crisis will certainly coax countries to prove their reliability as an ally in their own geostrategic sphere of influence and that is why Ukraine is ThePrint Newsmaker of the Week.

Also read: Ukraine crisis is India’s problem too, not just big powers’ fight for influence

Ukraine and shadow of WWII

Ukraine, which witnessed the loss of 8-10 million lives — the population of modern-day Austria — during the Second World War, fought on both sides. It became a cannon fodder for both Hitler as well Stalin during the war. Today, Kyiv is precisely trying to shed that very image.

Ukraine desperately wants to come out of the shadow of WWII by becoming part of the elite NATO, the US-led alliance that was formed in the aftermath of the war. If Ukraine succeeds, it will boost Kyiv’s defensive strength, which Russia can never allow to happen.

According to NATO’s founding treaty, the political context behind the alliance’s birth was precisely the “hostilities that had characterised relations between Soviet and Western powers since 1917 gradually re-emerged at the end of the Second World War.” Russian President Vladimir Putin is well aware of this and hence he is vehemently opposed to NATO being expanded in its backyard.

Challenging Putin, who has made it amply clear that he will not allow Ukraine to be part of NATO, US President Joe Biden told the “citizens of Russia” from the White House last week that “You are not our enemy. And I do not believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine — a country and a people with whom you share such deep ties of family, history, and culture.”

“Seventy-seven years ago, our people fought and sacrificed side by side to end the worst war in history. World War Two was a war of necessity. But if Russia attacks Ukraine, it would be a war of choice, or a war without cause or reason,” Biden added.

Even NATO is circumspect about Ukraine becoming a member because it means permanent confrontation with Moscow. Russia can attack its neighbouring country anytime and under the collective defensive principle of NATO, all members would have to plunge into the fight, whether they like it or not and that can drag on for months, if not years. Besides, inducting Ukraine in the grouping won’t be easy for NATO because it would require obtaining consensus from all 30 members.

Ukraine was promised membership by NATO in 2008 but none of the member countries worked towards that. It is clear why.

Antagonising Russia has been the fear all along. No wonder everyone is talking of a diplomatic solution now, by way of the Minsk Agreements and Normandy Format.

In fact, when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this month, he clearly mentioned that inducting Kyiv in NATO was “not on the agenda”. Zelenskyy said NATO membership is a remote “dream”.

While Putin has tried to downplay the crisis by constantly harping about how he does not want a war, amassing reportedly 1,30,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders is clearly a threat. The Russian President has also asserted that he is against any kind of expansion of NATO and has demanded security guarantees from the US. Moscow has forwarded two draft treaties to Washington DC.

Stressing on the need to implement the Minsk pacts, Putin has spelt out that he wants to “establish a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Luhansk and the legal formalization of the special status of Donbas.”

Also read: US, Western media’s outlook on Russia isn’t about Ukraine. The conflict lies somewhere else

Litmus test for countries

While the US and the EU are clear that any Russian attack on Ukraine will have “massive consequences”, especially economic sanctions, Germany’s role so far has been questioned, even being labelled as Europe’s weak link.

“Germany’s evident hesitation to take forceful measures has fueled doubts about its reliability as an ally — reversing the dynamic with the United States in recent years — and added to concerns that Moscow could use German wavering as a wedge to divide a united European response to any Russian aggression,” said a report in The New York Times.

The European Union has said that countries that boast of being like-minded partners under the larger Indo-Pacific strategic framework, which includes New Delhi, must together call Russia out.

Questions were asked previously also and even now of the role played by the UN. Russia is, after all, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Some analysts have also raised the question of Turkey’s geopolitical relevance.

The US has expressed hopes that India will take sides and support Washington in the event Moscow attacks Ukraine since New Delhi adheres to a rules-based international order. India, on the other hand, has taken a neutral stance, repeatedly stating in the UN that it is supportive of “quiet and constructive diplomacy”.

However, it will not be easy for New Delhi, which is now a key member of the Indo-Pacific framework plus a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is expected to take a stand at the ongoing Munich Security Conference. It remains to be seen if he can walk the tightrope as the crisis deepens.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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