The sound of cannons in Ukraine is neither pleasing for the Europeans nor expedient for South Asians. Russia has invaded Ukraine using an excuse of ‘pre-emptive self-defense.’ At various forums, President Vladimir V. Putin reiterated that he would not warrant Ukraine’s joining of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The war in Ukraine would have profound political, economic, and strategic repercussions for Europe and the entire world in general. The 193-member United Nations General Assembly met on the crisis in Ukraine to isolate Russia by deploying its “aggression against Ukraine” and demanding Russian troops stop fighting and withdraw. Nevertheless, despite the diplomatic efforts, the United States, and European Union’s enormous sanctions, President Putin seems determined to subdue Ukraine.
Russian troops have gradually been capturing their targets in Ukraine
On March 2, Russia captured a strategic port city on the Black Sea and Dnieper River. The Russian column of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles reached the vicinity of Kyiv. The military defeat of Ukraine is evident; however, it is debatable whether Russia will keep hold of Ukraine or face devastating protracted asymmetrical warfare.
The unfolding of the internal and external events in the country alarms the protracted asymmetrical warfare in Ukraine. The NATO members’ supply of bristling array of Javelin antitank missiles, Stinger surface-to-air missiles, rocket launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles, small arms, and munitions bolster Ukrainian’s urban guerrilla-warfare strategy to bleeding the advancing Russian force.
NATO is not offering troops, but its members provide financial and military hardware assistance to Ukraine. For instance, the United States committed $950 million in military assistance, Germany announced to supply 1,000 antitank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, the Netherlands committed 50 Panzerfaust-3 antitank weapons, etc.
In addition, it was reported that the European Union would provide a €450 million lethal arms support package through its European Peace Facility (EPF) to Ukraine, the first time the bloc had approved the supply of lethal weapons in its history a third country.
The military hardware assistance failed to dissuade Russians and satisfy the Ukrainians. They were disappointed by NATO’s refusal to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes!” NATO refused to send its fighter jets to prevent Russian airstrikes because its members are shy of direct encounters with the Russian troops.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “We have a responsibility … to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and would cause even more human suffering.”
Since the rebooting of the Ukraine conflict, Putin has been stoking European countries’ deepest fear by highlighting the probability of the use of nuclear weapons in case the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalates due to the involvement of the NATO-led by the United States. On February 27, Russia announced the placing of nuclear forces on high combat alert.
Indeed, it was a calculated move to deter NATO’s perceived military response. Notably, across Western Europe, people are taking the Russian president’s threats very seriously. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while addressing the 11th emergency special session of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, termed the Kremlin nuclear move as a “chilling development,” and claimed that nuclear conflict is “inconceivable.”
What could happen next?
The analysts believe that desperation could lead Putin to cross the nuclear threshold if the conflict drags on. Admittedly, the likelihood of a nuclear war is still low; however, the threat is rising. Perhaps, the nuclear threat failed to stop the United States and its allies from providing equipment to Ukraine. Hence, the probability of quashing the nuclear taboo—a normative inhibition against the first use of nuclear weapons—is increasing. The unthinkable of nuclear strikes might start to become thinkable due to the escalation of the war.
The counterproductive development is that Europeans will invest immensely in their military buildup, and NATO will be more united and resolute than before. For example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz committed an extra 100 billion euros, around $112 billion, to his country’s defense budget. Hence, Putin’s Ukraine invasion and nuclear signaling alarmed the arms race in Europe, and the increased significance of the United States extended nuclear deterrence to the NATO and Treaty allies.
It may encourage a few European states to exit from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and develop nuclear weapons. Besides, Putin’s nuclear deterrent posture during the fog of war underscores the relevance of nuclear weapons in the 21st century. The small country with a powerful, ruthless neighbor would see Ukraine’s fate as a reason to secure nuclear weapons.
A testing time for India and Pakistan
On March 2, 2022, four South Asian nations—Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka—abstained from voting on the US-backed Resolution to censure Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and demanding Russians’ immediate withdrawal. This reveals that they are distancing from the crisis. Nevertheless, India is fixed.
The energy costs are going up and will hit countries, especially those importing ones like India and Pakistan. India desires to maintain its autonomy in its relations with Russia and American allies for strengthening its armed forces to check China’s rise and preserve economic opportunity. It has not condemned the Russian invasion despite America’s insistence and abstained on the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Due to its stated policy to improve ties with all the great powers and distance itself from ‘camp politics,’ Islamabad is neither against the Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity nor prepared to disrupt its maiden understanding with Moscow.
Pakistan is determined to improve its relations with Russian Federation without jeopardizing the relationship with the European Union and the United States. It enjoys good relations with Ukraine, and there was close cooperation between the two countries in defense, such as M-80 battle tanks, helicopters, electronics, night vision devices. Moreover, trade in agricultural products increased.
Pakistan has adopted a neutral policy on the Russia-Ukraine conflict
On March 2, in a carefully worded statement on the Ukrainian crisis, delivered in the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA), Pakistan emphasized the need to protect the territorial integrity without threatening the national interests of another. However, it abstained from voting on the Resolution.
Pakistan’s neutral stance may contribute positively to its relations with Russia. However, it could prove to be a showstopper for improving association with the West, which is keeping it on the FATF grey list and suspended operation of Pakistan International Airlines to E.U. member states from July 2020.
The escalation in a war between Russia and Ukraine devastates the latter complete with significant politico-economic repercussions for the former. It ruptured the security architecture that has prevailed in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Likewise, the entire world is exposed to the worst economic crisis if the bloodshed in Ukraine continues and sanctions ramp up against Russia.
Indeed, the situation is dreadful for Pakistan, struggling to streamline its geoeconomic objectives without compromising on the existential military threat to its National Security. The new sanctions against Russian companies could derail a $3 billion Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project (PSGP). The project intended to construct a 1,122-kilometer gas pipeline from Karachi to Kasur.
Finally, the increasing strategic tension between the Great Powers and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a problematic situation for Pakistan. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s abstention in the UNGA votes is consistent with the new Islamabad’s foreign policy politicking, which stems from being neutral in its decisions and approaches to geopolitics. Maybe Pakistan’s neutral stance does not resonate too well in Washington and Brussels, but that is the way Islamabad will be from now on.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Author of India’s Surgical Strike Stratagem: Brinksmanship and Response, (2019). He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.