January 5, 2023

Book Review: RUSSIA UKRAINE WAR: THE CONFLICT AND ITS GLOBAL IMPACT

Written By: Maj Gen Dhruv C. Katoch

 

Ukraine became an independent country in 1991, following the break up of the Soviet Union. On 24 February 2022, Russian forces moved into Ukraine, to halt what Moscow perceived to be a deliberate attempt by NATO to continue with its eastward expansion, which could potentially result in Ukraine joining the grouping. That was a red line which Moscow would not allow to be crossed, and was presumably the trigger that led to Russian forces invading Ukraine. But the events leading up to the Russian attack had been brewing since the Orange Revolution of 2004. Ukraine became an area of contestation between the European Union and Russia, which in turn divided the country into two blocs: A pro-European Western Ukraine and a pro-Russia Eastern Ukraine. This tussle led initially to the Orange Revolution, then to the Euromaidan protests of 2014 and finally to the Russian invasion of 2022.

In 1954, the Russian-populated oblast of Crimea was transferred from the Russian to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. At that time, since both were part of the Soviet Union, it mattered little, but control of Crimea, which had a 75 percent Russian ethnic majority was vital to the security interests of Russia as its Black Sea Fleet was headquartered there. Following the Euromaidan protests in 2014, Russian forces seized control of the Crimean region on 18 March 2014. In April of that year, fighting broke out between the Ukraine army and pro-Ukraine forces on one side against those supporting an independent Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), which had been self-proclaimed in April 2014. That conflict, since then has led to thousands of people being killed and over a million being internally displaced.

The Minsk accords, first agreed in September 1914 and later revised in February 2015 as Minsk II, could have led to peace and stability but they were violated and the self-governance promised to the Donbas region did not come about. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine continued to rise, till on 22 February, Russia formally recognised the DPR and LPR and then two days later, invaded Ukraine.

Most military observers were of the view that the Russian military would bring the war to a quick closure. Russian aims were initially limited to affect a quick change in regime and install a government which was not hostile to Russian interests and which would commit Ukraine to not joining NATO. A combination of military ineptness on the part of the Russian military leadership plus the rallying of the people by President Zelensky has seen the war drag on now for over 10 months, with no signs of the conflict coming to an end any time soon. Russia has taken most of the Donbas region, and the Zaporizhzhiya and Kherson oblasts to give it control over the entire northern coastline of the Black Sea bordering Ukraine, less the city of Odessa. This has linked Crimea to the Russian mainland by the land route, passing through Donbas and Zaporizhzhiya, and has secured Russian access to the Atlantic via the Mediterranean Sea. But at the same time, a fresh set of challenges, which make conflict resolution a distant dream has been thrown up.

For Russia, it would be politically unacceptable to give back what it has gained on the battlefield. Similarly, for Ukraine, the minimum acceptable solution is a return to the status quo. How such irreconcilable positions can be addressed remains to be seen.

This book, “Russia Ukraine War: The Conflict and its Global Impact” delves a bit into history, but for the most part is focussed on the conduct of military operations. The last quarter of the book looks into the geo-political impact of the war and the economic consequences for the world which the war has caused, especially as it comes just when the world was emerging from two years of an economic slowdown caused by the Covid Pandemic.

How the war has been fought so far has been analysed with clinical professionalism, to include the planning and preparatory phase of operations, followed by the actual conduct of operations by the Russians as well as the counter offensive by Ukraine. The wealth of details brought forth in the book makes it a delight for the military professional to understand various aspects of the war-fighting that has taken place as also, where things went wrong for the Russians in terms of conduct of operations at the operational and tactical levels as also weaknesses at the military leadership level. The host of military and political lessons which the war has thrown up need to be seriously studied, for they have applications for India as well as all other militaries and governments across the world.

The last quarter of the book gives out a set of scenarios which could bring about the end game, but the book also looks into the possibility of the war degenerating into a nuclear conflict which could have horrific consequences. The Russia-China convergence has also been covered as has the NATO angle in this war. Importantly, the book looks into the global impact of the war and how this could lead to a new world order. It ends with a well-thought essay on the lessons which India could learn from the war.

The war is not over and doubtless, much of the information about the conduct of operations remain classified and not open to the public. But even so, the book remains an important source document, with a wealth of analysis on different aspects of the war as well as on its geo-political and geo-economic impact. The author, Col Ajay Singh as well as those who contributed to it deserve to be congratulated on taking out this very educative volume. Meticulously researched and impeccably presented, the book is strongly recommended for all those who have an interest in the military and in international relations as also for the lay reader.

Author Brief Bio: Maj. Gen. Dhruv C. Katoch is Editor, India Foundation Journal and Director, India Foundation

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