Umair Jalali looks at a grim possibility of Russia invades Ukraine
Russia invades Ukraine in a bizarre televised event the Czar-like Putin sought permission from his subservient lawmakers to use military force outside the country’s highly increasing risk of a military confrontation with Ukraine it was thought that he was bluffing. This impression was conveyed despite the fact troops had already moved into rebel-held areas implying that an invasion has already started. In his session with lawmakers he was frequently testy and appeared to be forcing them to agree with what he desired. In the end he got what he wanted and then he quickly moved ahead proving that he simply was not bluffing. To add to drama in a pre-dawn TV statement Putin said Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine and demanded that its military lay down their arms. And moments after attacks were reported on Ukrainian military targets with Ukraine announcing that Russia has launched a full-scale invasion.
Minutes later it became clear that Russia’s military breached the border in a number of places, in the north, south and east, including from Belarus, a long-time Russian ally. At least seven people are known to have been killed, including civilians but a Ukrainian presidential adviser said that more than 40 soldiers had died and dozens more were wounded. Warning sirens blared across the capital which has a population of almost three million. Traffic queued to leave the city during the night and crowds sought shelter in Kyiv’s underground metro stations. Several neighbouring countries have begun preparations to take in a large number of refugees.
Apparently, Russia first launched strikes on Ukraine’s military infrastructure and border guard units then Russian military vehicles crossed the border near Kharkiv in the north, Luhansk in the east, Russian-annexed Crimea in the south and from Belarus too. Belarus’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko said his country’s military were not involved but could be if needed. Russian tanks were later seen on the outskirts of Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people. Russian forces also reportedly landed by sea at Ukraine’s major port cities of Odesa on the Black Sea and Mariupol on the internal Sea of Azov. Ukraine’s army said Kyiv’s Boryspil international airport was among a number of airfields that had been bombed, along with military headquarters and warehouses in the big cities of Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Mariupol. It was well-known that Russia had positioned almost 200,000 troops and thousands of combat vehicles on Ukraine’s borders.
The Russian leader launched the special military operation by repeating a number of unfounded claims he has made including alleging that Ukraine’s democratically elected government had been responsible for eight years of genocide. He said the goal was de-militarisation and denazification of Ukraine. Hours earlier Ukraine’s president had asked how a people who lost eight million of its citizens fighting Nazis support Nazism. He questioned that how could he be a Nazi as he is himself Jewish. The sound of distant blasts were picked up in a live TV broadcast, gunfire rattled near the capital’s main airport and sirens were heard over the city. Explosions have also been heard in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa and in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv. Media reported that military command centres in Kiev and Kharkiv had been struck by missiles while Russian troops had landed in Odessa and Mariupol.
There was an immediate response to the invasion from neighbouring countries. In the Baltic republic of Estonia which borders Russia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that number of NATO allies sharing borders with Russia are preparing to begin consultations under NATO’s Article 4 under which the forces of the defensive alliance can be brought together if any member fears their independence or territory is under threat. As cars queued on Ukraine’s border with Moldova, the country’s pro-EU president, Maia Sandu said she was declaring a state of emergency and was prepared to give help to tens of thousands of Ukrainians. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda also said he was signing a state of emergency to be approved by parliament.
As UN Secretary General has pleaded Russia under the name of humanity to bring its troops back The worst fear of Ukraine’s Western allies have come true as they had repeatedly warned that Russia was poised to invade, despite repeated denials from Moscow. The US, EU, UK and Japan imposed sanctions against leading Russians, Russian banks and MPs who backed the move. President Biden said Washington and its allies would respond to the invasion in a united and decisive way to an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces on Ukraine and that the world will hold Russia accountable.
In a sharp reaction, European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen reiterated the support of the EU for Ukraine adding that Russia’s target is not just Ukraine, the target is stability in Europe and the whole international rules-based order and for that they will hold Russia accountable. The EU’s foreign policy chief expressed that these are among the darkest hours for Europe since World War Two. Fears of a Russian attack have been rising for months as Putin had repeatedly accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining the NATO military alliance and offer Moscow security guarantees. Kyiv and its Western allies have repeatedly rejected as absurd Putin’s claims that Ukraine was being run by neo-Nazis, instead pointing out that Ukraine was now a nation with growing democratic institutions, unlike an authoritarian Russia.
The EU’s 27 leaders were due to hold an emergency summit meeting during which they are expected to announce further sanctions targeting strategic sectors of the Russian economy by blocking access to key technologies and markets. They will also look to weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernise and freeze Russian assets in the EU and stop the access of Russian banks to the European financial market. The impending plan to adopt more sanctions against Russia comes after an initial package of measures was introduced earlier and in it, the EU went as far as sanctioning Russia’s defence ministry and Putin’s chief of staff.
It is also mentioned that by invading Ukraine Putin will gain territory in the short term along with military advantage over Kyiv but he will damage Ukraine’s economy. Also Putin stands to lose friendly relations with Germany and with other European countries and he would come as a pariah. It is also pointed out that Putin, through Russia’s prodigious oil and gas exports, has already profited from the crisis, as energy prices have surged but over the medium and long-term this crisis reinforces a European transition to energy supply that does not rely on Russia.
In this context it is predicted that Nordstream 2, the recently-constructed Russian gas pipeline to Germany whose opening has now been delayed by Berlin will never come online, no matter what the outcome in Ukraine, where Russia controls two separate pipelines to Europe. The European Union, which has an integrated system of gas supplies, will now never grant required agreement to its use. In whichever way the crisis ends, many observers believe Putin has already lost. He has pushed NATO toward greater unity, sparked Ukrainian nationalism and even greater anti-Russian feeling and ended up with more NATO forces near and on Russia’s borders than when the troop buildup started. TW
Umair Jalali teaches in Denning Law School and is an avid sports fan