New Delhi: It all started on February 24, 2022, and the war is on.
Estimates say more than 7,000 civilians have died, hundreds of them were children, and perhaps over 1,00,000 Ukrainian militaries also died in the war. One year on, several experts say there is a fear that a negotiated settlement at this stage would simply provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with an opportunity to “restock and prepare for a renewed assault”.
“Russia failed in its lightning strike and then lost land it had grabbed to Ukrainian counter-offensives. Vladimir Putin has united Ukrainians, brought the US back to Europe, strengthened European unity, revivified and expanded Nato,” says ‘The Guardian’ editorial.
The Russian leadership under Vladimir Putin had presumed that Ukrainians and their non-textbook variety president would crumble under intense pressure. But Volodymyr Zelensky, on February 26, 2022 morning posted a video of himself on Twitter.
Russians had even claimed initially that he had fled the war-ravaged country. But Ukraine’s President emerged from his office unshaven, looked red-eyed and declared: “Good morning to all Ukrainians! There are a lot of fakes out there…[but] I am here.”
Truly, his people have backed him. It goes without stating that the Ukranians have shown astonishing courage and resolve in the face of brutal Russian actions. But the costs mount by the day Global finance leaders will tally the economic damage from Russia’s war in Ukraine as they meet in Bengaluru on February 24 on the conflict’s first anniversary.
There have been some economic recoveries in recent months. The International Monetary Fund has forecast global GDP growth for 2023 at 2.9 per cent, up from a 2.7 per cent forecast in October 2022. However, this is also well below the 3.4 per cent achieved in 2022. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen highlighted the improvement, saying the global economy “is in a better place today than many predicted just a few months ago”.
Experts say the pain has been more intense in emerging economies. In Egypt, where nearly a third of the population lives in poverty, people suffered for months. It is also said that it could be prudent to draw some consolation; perhaps it could have been worse.
In the developed world, however, companies and countries have been resilient and have so far avoided the worst-case scenario of a painful recession. There have been issues such as a shortfall in grain supplies, fertiliser and energy. There is inflation and, of course, the much-talked-about economic uncertainty.
Notably, Russia also was the top supplier of fertiliser. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has disrupted wheat, barley and cooking oil from Ukraine and Russia, major global suppliers for Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
Reports also suggested that in Nigeria, a top importer of Russian wheat, average food prices skyrocketed 37 per cent last year. Bread prices have doubled in some places amid wheat shortages.Reports also claimed that at least 40 per cent of bakeries in the Nigerian capital of Abuja shut down after the price of flour jumped about 200 per cent.
The world felt some vital strategic impacts after the conflict.
Needless to add that Ukraine has survived, “unconquered”, is possibly the most remarkable outcome. While in Ukraine’s case, it is stated that the significant losses of territory have been matched by psychological
triumph, in Asia, India tried to draw an independent foreign policy.
When questioned by members of western media, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar exposed Europe. He said the continent should come out of the mindset that “Europe’s problems are world problems; but world problems are not Europe’s problems”.
He also took exception being called ‘fence sitter’ as the External Affairs Minister said, “Just because I do not agree to you does not mean I am a fence sitter. I am actually sitting on my ground”.
India is the only country among the Quad which has not condemned Russia. But the geo-political standing is such that none can easily condemn India in the media or public.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “All countries have different levels of engagement with Russia, other countries in our region, and so I am respectful of that”. The US has described India as an ‘essential partner’.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price has said, “….we have invested in that relationship (with India) in terms of our defence and security. So historical relationships notwithstanding, we are a partner of choice for India now, as are many of our partners and allies around the world”.
This perhaps, is New India.
On the other front, Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘weaponised’ energy prices, attempted nuclear blackmail and sought a closer alliance with China, much to the unhappiness of the western powers. Moreover, Europe’s over-dependence on Russian gas and oil was also exposed.
There is no end in sight to the conflict.
On February 24, 2023, Ukraine President Zeleskiy showed his determination on the anniversary day of the conflict.
“We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals, and we will prevail. We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land,” Zelenskiy said on social media.
Meanwhile, Russia launched attacks near Kupiansk, in the eastern Kharkiv region, and Luhansk and Donetsk oblast, all places where Russian forces have been concentrating their offensive, the reports added.