The conflict in Ukraine has already stretched beyond three weeks of devastation, resulting in over three million refugees, numerous military and civilian casualties, and intermittent reconciliatory tones of hopeful dialogue, alternated with rhetoric from opposing sides to continue fighting for their country.
…but NATO is very much part of the conflict through economic war, information war, diplomatic war, political war and other instruments of Non-contact warfare.
While the West continues to give standing ovations to President Zelensky’s emotional speeches and responds with a package of military hardware and funds, it is pouring fuel to the fire by prolonging global agony and encouraging Ukrainians to fight to the death in order to weaken Russia.
While NATO can claim that Ukraine is not part of it; hence its not obligated to join fight with Russia through ‘No Fly Zone’ as repeatedly requested by Zelensky, risking the potential to trigger Third World War/Nuclear war, but NATO is very much part of the conflict through economic war, information war, diplomatic war, political war and other instruments of Non-contact warfare.
Any offensive into another sovereign country has disastrous consequences for the people and must be condemned, whether it’s current Russian offensive in Ukraine or earlier NATO invasions in Iraq and other parts of MENA.
With few security guarantees, this was avoidable, but the big power contestation continues to spiral it, with display of heroics of President Zelensky, failing to read the extent, depth, and impact of Western support and President Putin’s resolve, least realising that the nationalism and his peoples resolve is being used as an instrument to prolong an unwinnable, proxy war, leading his country to disaster.
How has Battlefield ‘Ukraine’ shaped up after Three Weeks
After three weeks, the shaping of battlefield by Russians seems to make strategic sense, but at a very heavy cost, which is increasing consistently. Russian main offensive is towards Kyiv, which is the Centre of Gravity to achieve political objective of imposing No-NATO diktat on its political leadership or force a regime change, through the shortest route from Belarus.
The Russian military aim to demilitarise Ukrainian military to ensure that Ukraine cannot be used as a launch pad by NATO to threaten security of Russia…
The complete isolation of Kyiv is yet to be achieved and the political consolidation is not in sight. Given the spirit of nationalism among Ukrainians, stoked by Zelensky’s sentimental appeals and bolstered by western information warfare, Russians need to moderate their political objective from regime change to imposing a No-NATO Agreement with Zelensky, because any pro-Russian puppet regime, even if imposed, is unlikely to survive.
The Russian military aim to demilitarise Ukrainian military to ensure that Ukraine cannot be used as a launch pad by NATO to threaten security of Russia, has been partially achieved by extensive air and missile strikes to neutralise air defence capability and air assets to achieve favourable air situation, pulverising military targets, claiming to have destroyed most of them, including air fields and military installations in Ukraine. It is increasingly capturing strategic installations to step up pressure on Zelensky.
The offensive from South is aimed at cutting off Ukrainian access to Black Sea and Sea of Azov by securing a permanent land corridor from Russia to Crimea with an end-state of landlocked Ukraine. R ussians have been able to achieve most of the corridor except Odessa, with intense fighting in townships. The offensive from the East is aimed at liberation of complete Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where intense fighting continues despite initial gains.
Ukraine’s strong resolve to resist Russian offensive under leadership of President Zelensky, has been noteworthy, having deliberately prepared for the conflict. To overcome the asymmetry in military asset holdings, the Ukrainian force deployed smartly in densely populated areas to fight pitched battles in townships, despite losing air cover in the early phases of the conflict.
With adoption of urban insurgency model, the war has thus morphed from conventional to hybrid war.
The strategy is to deploy military assets in civilian areas, turn towns into fortresses, and residential areas into pillboxes, incite mercenaries and civilians to fight as part of the war machine, launch sniper attacks, ambushes, small team operations, drone attacks on softer convoys, and provoke Russians to target residential areas in order to gain propaganda advantage from civilian casualties through superior information warfare, backed by the west to demonise President Putin.
With adoption of urban insurgency model, the war has thus morphed from conventional to hybrid war.
The Ukrainian strategy seems to have succeeded in delaying Russian operations and placing Russia in an awkward position of having to choose between fighting in populated, built up areas, which is cost prohibitive in terms of human and equipment casualties in favour of defender, or isolating, bombarding townships, residential areas alleged to house military assets, disrupting essential services, and pressuring Zelensky, at the cost of risking international condemnation. The Russians appear to have selected the latter option.
Are Actions by West Helping Ukraine?
US and western allies are claiming to be helping Ukraine through financial and diplomatic sanctions on Russia and military hardware support to Ukraine of the type (smaller calibre) which can improve staying power of Ukrainian fighters, and induce long term insurgency in Europe, even if negotiations reach some conclusion in due course. The aim is to permanently weaken Russia by weaponising Ukrainian nationalism, posing Zelensky as hero, to continue fighting with their proxy support.
EU’s support to refugees from Ukraine is the only positive humanitarian support, where UK and US seem to be shying. Like earlier invasions, the humanitarian disaster does not appear to be decreasing great power contestations.
If the war gets prolonged further, Ukraine will be destroyed physically, Russia will suffer punitive financial cost, EU will lose long lasting peace and energy security, and the entire world will suffer economically.
While Russia can be accused of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity despite signing the ‘Memorandum of Security Assurance‘ in Budapest in 1994, NATO can be accused of incremental encroachment eastwards despite James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance, adding 14 countries to NATO, providing Putin with sufficient excuse to physically secure Russian security interests by launching offensive to occupy strategically sensitive areas in Ukraine to avoid future NATO deployment in his backyard.
If the war gets prolonged further, Ukraine will be destroyed physically, Russia will suffer punitive financial cost, EU will lose long lasting peace and energy security, and the entire world will suffer economically. Ukrainians and Russian residents and soldiers will bear the brunt of the consequences. While the EU is presenting a bold, united front with the US in order to weaken Russia, it has its limits, up to the point when its gas supply is choked, with risk of insurgency at its doorsteps.
In the short term, the US may appear to benefit from Russia’s weakness by increasing arms and oil exports, but in the long run, it will lose credibility and reliability globally. China will emerge wiser, learning from Russian experience and assessing the risk profile of the US, whose leadership is fixated on the wrong adversary and unable to combat the real competitor in the Indo-Pacific. Diversion of focus from China to Russia will speed up US decline as superpower, faster than what its strategists anticipate.
Sanctions will eventually lose their lustre, as more sanctions may lead non-western countries to seek an alternative financial system that is not dependent on the West, jeopardising their long-term interests. The world is more intertwined than it was previously, and with the economic fulcrum shifting from the West to the Indo-Pacific, a de-dollarised financial system could be the most significant future risk to the US.
Ukraine has never been accepted into NATO and is unlikely to be welcomed in the future…
For European security, a neutral Ukraine is the best option. Ukraine has never been accepted into NATO and is unlikely to be welcomed in the future, as it has never met the basic criteria of a peaceful internal and exterior situation, having been involved in conflicts/disturbances in both dimensions.
It is preferable if Ukraine and Russia face reality as soon as possible and resolve the issue through direct dialogue, putting rhetoric, egos, and sentiments aside. It might be a better idea for the West, too, to encourage a ceasefire through discussions, addressing the legitimate security interests of all parties, rather than adding fuel to the fire by imposing more sanctions or providing more hardware support to prolong the war.
Excellent, very excellent comments and analysis.
I really worry that unstable Russia that can not secure all their nukes.
And some nukes are hijacked, stolen by terrorists, then the entire world is at risk.
A Russian defeat is Nato’s goal but the deadly risk is the thousands of nukes could easy fall into hands of terrorists.
Sir, any assurances by NATO, any treaties signed by Ukraine does not make any difference. Russia is after one thing and one thing alone. It has is clear. One look at the map and historical actions by Russia starkly Shows the reason. Russia want to ensure that it has a warm water port like forever. The rest is just smoke screen to hide this and just try and fool own people.
your entire “Way Ahead” paragraph looks like a copy-paste exercise from of Lord Halifax’s journals 🙂 , who wanted to do a deal with Hitler.
Putin has already lost, There’s eventually going to be a regime change in Russia , and then it will be a part of Euro-zone after democratizing completely.
Indian “strategists” seem to be stuck in the past – almost hoping that Russia in its present strong-man, barbaric regime should survive — why ?
all the events of the last century have FORCED changes upon India. No change has come to india from within – except negativity , intolerance and indian cultural fascism and endemic corruption – Military included.
1914-1918 : WW-1 and indian contribution to the war effort raised indians’ stock. they demanded more freedoms . British refused, It FORCED the Congress moderates to give way to “purna swaraj” seeking MK Gandhi.
1939-1945 : WW-2 bankrupts UK, so they were FORCED to leave India. India is FORCED by events to partition, or face a perpetual civil conflict/unrest (thereby imploding).
1971 : Nixon’s anti- india stand left Indira no option but to go to the Soviet camp. she was FORCED to become USSR client state.
1991: Soviet collapse. India is FORCED to open the economy, other option being a sovereign default.
2022: Strongman Putin’s collapse. India can either join the west , or pay a heavy price . Sanctions is not the only route that Western democracies can hurt india. India owns no tech. India will NEVER own tech. because india is tribal , backward and authoritarian/majoritarian culture.
India has NEVER taken initiative in anything. India is a sabji-mandi. and will ALWAYS remain so. The west and Japan are 50 years ahead of India technologically. And will ALWAYS remain so. in fact that gap may well increase, with alt. energy tech.
The west decides where they want to manufacture the tech they OWN. india is not the only option for them.
It for India to decide on which side of history it wants to stand.