The latest conflagration between Russia and Ukraine is an extension of an odd part of the evolution of nation-state concept and its interplay in the wider international arena. It took almost a hundred years for the nation-state system to show signs of consolidation after coming into being through the 17th century and by the mid of 18th century, the consolidation produced three very large conflagrations beginning with widespread Napoleonic Wars lasting for twenty years till 1815. Owing to the loosely-held multinational forum, the Concert of Europe, the world was saved from large scale conflict for almost one hundred years till the First World War broke out in 1914. First World War surprised people because it was not expected that human race would willingly destroy the fruits of technology that mushroomed in shape of factories and large industrial enterprises bringing unprecedented prosperity to the inhabitants of Europe but its outbreak ensured that human spirit is devoid of preserving beneficial sources of existence if it gets hopelessly angry and frustrated.
The horrors of First World War were not yet over when, after an interregnum of only two decades the Second World War cast its disastrous shadow over the entire world opening hitherto unimaginable theatres of murderous operations. This mortal conflict became the most disastrous occurrence in human history killing more than 50 million people and destroying entire infrastructures painstakingly built over decades. The world has enjoyed relative peace since 1945 although the simmering discontent continued in shape of Cold War for 45 long years after the end of hostilities of Second World War. The Cold War also brought unbelievable misery to vast swathes of land and uncounted number of people and left a murderous legacy that still lingers making life hell for many areas.
It is a verified testament of history that every global conflict needs just a spark to start it and ironically its perpetrators are usually unmindful of its horrible potential. But at some point during such a conflict things tend to escalate spreading it over till the nation-states participating in it forget its initial cause and become subsumed by competitive rivalry. The goal of fighting becomes the establishment of a new global order and with the increase in stakes comes an increase in the resources committed by the combatants resulting in causing havoc to the people on a large scale. The current Russia-Ukraine is brimming with conflicts considered potential harbinger for a global war.
It may be worthwhile to mention other volatile areas from where large scale eruption may occur. Ukraine is feverishly supported by the western powers that are looking for an opportunity to tackle Russia that they consider is the negative legacy of the Soviet Union still harbouring dreams of global domination. NATO has now started to encircle Russia and it is largely due to misplaced ambitions of Russian leadership that has provided the western alliance with this opportunity. The current oligarchic Russian leadership is inherently weak and is not capable of taking the Russian people along. This alienation from public sentiment came into play when a public agitation removed the Kremlin-supported regime in Ukraine that wanted to toe Russian line. Putin probably underestimates the onslaught of populist agitation as he has controlled it in Russia but his country had not tasted democracy in the real sense of the word but Ukraine had.
Russia is also not fully aware of the widespread distress caused by economic sanctions particularly when they are imposed by rich and powerful neighbours such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Overtime the European Union has become a well-knit formidable force and it would be a folly to take chances with it. Russia may soon face international isolation as China has already indicated its neutrality. Russia’s partners in the Middle East are also trying to stay clear of the fracas that they rightfully consider a European conflict. Even Russia’s long time collaborator India is hedging its bets as it considers itself as a western ally in the region and may have a lot to lose by supporting Russia. It should be kept in view that Russia was forced to use its veto power in the United Nations after a long time and that too for self-preservation. It is quite a comedown for a global power to run for cover whereas at one time in not distant a past it provided cover to others.
It is expected that Russia will see the writing on the wall as the current scenario is not at all feasible to entertain dreams of the Cold War era and think of riding roughshod over countries that want to have their own way to follow. The tactics of the past of accusing and then attacking are no more valid as even two-decades earlier. Russia-Ukraine war is taking place; the new paradigm of fifth generation warfare that is waged on multiple fronts and no one power is powerful enough to dictate its terms. TW