The Conflict over Ukraine – Western sanctions, options for Russia and effect on India

Nobody expected the world’s attention would shift to Ukraine when Covid-19, its origin, vaccine, Iran Nuclear Deal, Yemen Crisis, Afghanistan: Taliban, American exit, China-Taiwan to South China Sea crisis, India-China border tensions due to the acts of China occupied the major space. But the sudden crisis in Ukraine and the incidents in Donbas changed the scenario. Few countries tried to play politics for their narrow national interests, but like-minded countries from France to India asked for diplomacy and peace.

Ultimately, Russia scored a point by recognising Donetsk and Luhansk of Eastern Ukraine as the independent states and sent peacekeeping missions to protect newly created independent states. Russian 190000 soldiers, tanks, jets, Maritime Support, Z form attack and more are followed to defend Donetsk and Luhansk borders.

Western intelligence officials also fear the recognition of the breakaway republics is just part of a bigger war plan that’s now unfolding to launch a full-scale offensive. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy said the country is well-protected, and Ukraine reserves the right to defend itself from further Russian aggression. “We are on our land. We are not afraid of anyone or anything,” Zelenskiyy declared. Russian leader Vladimir Putin denied the very existence of a country called “Ukraine” in his recent address to the Russian public.

What actions, safeguards, and sanctions can America, England, France, Germany, and others take on Russia? Is it a lesson for others or a warning to follow? Here are certain scenarios. Firstly, Russia is the source of gas for Europe. It receives about 74% via pipelines. The rest arrive in liquid form, typically on specialised cargo ships.

Russia is the largest supplier of fuel to the EU countries, with about 35% of total imports arriving via multiple pipelines. Russia gets good revenue from gas. Russian natural gas to the EU is a must for electricity generation, industrial applications, and commercial and residential use. Nord Stream Project 2 to Germany is a great Russian-German Project. If Russian Gas is sanctioned, Nord Stream 2 Project is halted, Russia can be forced to talk and come for negotiations or mend its acts.

Secondly, America is considering imposing export controls on Russia, restricting Russia’s ability to obtain the integrated circuits necessary for a range of technologies, including smartphones, televisions, aircraft avionics and machine tools.

Thirdly, economic sanctions can toughen the existing ones or expand the list of financial institutions facing curbs, adding some private Russian banks, stopping Russia out of the SWIFT financial system used by banks around the world.

Another possible strong financial measure against Russia would be blocking Russia’s access to the US dollar. 735 Russian individuals are still under US sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea. The US and British governments had threatened to sanction Moscow’s elite if Russia invades Ukraine.

Few US lawmakers want the Biden administration to consider sanctioning Alina Kabaeva, an Olympic gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics, reported to be the longtime partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin. US lawmakers have proposed sanctions against the Russian president as well. The UK government may cancel golden visas granted earlier to business people worldwide, with Russian investors among them.

Effect on India

Firstly, as crude petroleum prices are already up, a military conflict could send them higher. India expects crude petroleum prices to be in the range of $70-75 per barrel over the course of the fiscal year 2022-23. Crude prices have been above $90 per barrel and are moving in zigzag, which is not good for the economy.

Secondly, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was an important export destination for India, and it had a share of almost 10% of India’s total exports. This number has come down to less than 1% by 2020-21. India’s total trade with Russia in 2020 was $9.31 billion. There has been a systematic effort to increase trade, but this conflict and sanctions can stop business and trade growth.

Thirdly, India is over-dependent on Russia in military imports. Russia and India’s defence business is not just a buyer-seller relationship. It is in joint research, design development and production of state-of-the-art military platforms. This will get affected if there are sanctions on Russian defence procurement. India has delicately negotiated to stay out of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) with the purchase of S-400 Triumpf missile systems, which may not work when a warlike situation prevails.

Fourthly, coming together of the Russia-China nexus is not good for India as Russia is a defence source and also a time-tested friend. India is very careful not to lose Russia and check China, which is using Russia only for its personal interest to rise. In exchange for Chinese support for Russian intent in Ukraine, they would concur with Chinese initiatives in the Indo-Pacific.

Finally, one can say that India’s relationship with Russia and America is strong and solid. There is no friend or no enemy in international politics but only national interest. However, in a multipolar world, PM Narendra Modi cannot take a uniform stand and stand with any one nation. So he is not willing simply to abandon the longstanding partnership with Russia. But he also isn’t ready to let Russia have a veto over India’s relations with the United States.

India knows Russia’s growing strategic partnership with China, Turkey and Pakistan, but the relations of India-Russia are deep with trust, which will not bulge the present. New Delhi and Moscow are adapting to the changing dynamic in their respective relations with Washington and Beijing. This new geopolitical dynamic is vastly different from the great power politics that brought India close to Russia in the past. For now, India is moving forward for peace, zero terror, check authoritarian military rules in Asia and the world. It is watching the action in Ukraine, and coming days would be very crucial and time testing for Russia, India and America relations.

(The writer is a political analyst, columnist, international affairs & Korea expert. This article was first published on Republished with permission)

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By Chandrashekar TS

M.AM.PhiL/(PhD SNU South Korea)

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