Russian Aggression on Ukraine


    In News

    • Russia’s decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine caught much of the world by surprise.

    Background of the conflict 

    • The annexation of Crimea in 2014 by Russia, following the removal of the President, was the first major military flare-up in the Russo-Ukrainian relations.
      • The Crimean annexation by Russia was met with imposition of sanctions.
      • However, Russia is still in occupation of Crimea, and post 2014 its activities have centered on fomenting separatists in eastern Ukraine.
    • In 2021, the Ukrainian President appealed to the U.S. to let it join NATO, following which Russia started amassing troops near the borders of eastern Ukraine.
    • Russia demanded NATO to give up its military activities in Eastern Europe and Ukraine, followed by a Russian cyber attack on the Ukrainian government website.
    • Russia recognised the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk republics in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, and sent Russian troops to these territories.
    • Finally, Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine.


    Story so far

    Major issues surrounding the conflict

    • At the heart of the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine is NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) a group of 30 countries including the US, UK, France, and Germany.
    • Ukraine wants to join this group of which the United States, the arch-rival of Russia, is a part.
      • NATO, too, is open to making Ukraine its member, which has irked Russia.
    • Russia doesn’t want NATO to allow Ukraine to become its member as it will expand the grouping’s footprint to its border.
      • The other big reason is that a member country of NATO will be eligible for collective support by all members in case of any external attack.  
    • Ukraine fears attack by Russia as the latter has already annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
    • As per the principle of collective defence, NATO considers an attack against one or several of its members as an attack against all.
      • This is the principle of collective defence, which is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

    Violation of the UN Charter

    • The principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs is the foundational principle on which existing international order is based.
    • The principle is enshrined in article 2(4) of the UN Charter requiring states to refrain from using force or threat of using force against territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
      • It prohibits any kind of forcible trespassing in the territory of another state, even if it is for temporary or limited operations such as an ‘in and out’ operation.
    • The Russian attack on Ukraine is violative of the non-intervention principle, and amounts to aggression under international law.
    • The UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (1974) defines aggression as the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state.
      • Additionally, allowing one’s territory to be used by another state for aggression against a third state, also qualifies as an act of aggression.
    • Belarus can also be held responsible for aggression as it has allowed its territory to be used by Russia for attacking Ukraine.
    • Aggression is also considered an international crime under customary international law and the Rome statute establishing the International Criminal Court.
    • Russia’s desire to keep Ukraine out of NATO is a prime reason for its use of force against Ukraine.
      • This is violative of Ukraine’s political independence under article 2(4) as Ukraine being a sovereign state is free to decide which organizations it wants to join.
    • By resorting to use of force, Russia has violated article 2(3) which requires the states to settle their dispute by peaceful means in order to preserve international peace and security.

    Principle of self-defence

    • In face of the use of force by Russia, Ukraine has the right to self-defence under international law.
    • The UN Charter under article 51 authorizes a state to resort to individual or collective self-defence, until the Security Council takes steps to ensure international peace and security.
      • In this case, it seems implausible for the UNSC to arrive at a decision as Russia is a permanent member and has veto power.
    • Ukraine has a right under international law to request assistance from other states in the form of military assistance, supply of weapons etc.
    • Russia has also claimed that it is acting in self-defence.
      • This claim is questionable, as there has been no use of force, or such threats against Russia by Ukraine.
    • It has been claimed by Russia that Ukraine may acquire nuclear weapons with the help of western allies.
      • However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Legality of Threat of Nuclear Weapons case held that mere possession of nuclear weapons does not necessarily constitute a threat.
      • Even if Ukraine has, or was to acquire nuclear weapons in the future, it does not become a ground for invoking self defence by Russia.
    • Mere membership in a defence alliance such as NATO cannot necessarily be considered as a threat of aggression against Russia.
      • Thus, here too Russia cannot invoke self-defence.
    • Russia can also not invoke anticipatory self defence as such invocation according to the Caroline test would require that the necessity of self defence was instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.
      • However, this is not the case with Russia.

    Reaction of the west

    • The West is targeting Russia’s economy, industry and individuals.
    • The EU
      • It has restricted Russian access to capital markets and cut off its industry from the latest technology.
      • It has already imposed sanctions on 351 MPs who backed Russia’s recognition of the rebel-held regions.
    • Germany
      • It has halted approval on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a major investment by both Russia and European companies.
    • The US
      • It will cut off Russia’s government from Western financial institutions.
    • The UK
      • It says all major Russian banks would have their assets frozen.
      • Russia’s national airline Aeroflot will also be banned from landing in the UK.
    • The three Baltic states
      • Have called on the whole international community to disconnect Russia’s banking system from the international Swift payment system.

    Expansion of the NATO

    Impact on India

    • Inflation and crude prices
      • The Russia-Ukraine war could lead to rising oil prices, further posing risk to India’s rising inflation.
      • India imports more than 80 per cent of its oil requirement, but the share of oil imports in its total imports is around 25 per cent.
      • Rising oil prices will also impact the current account deficit (the difference between the values of goods and services imported and exported).
    • India’s diplomatic dilemma
      • Because of India’s strategic ties with Russia and its dependence on Russia for military supplies 60 to 70 per cent of India’s military hardware is of Russian-origin.
      • This is extremely crucial at a time when India has an ongoing border standoff with China.
    • Indian students and nationals
      • India’s worry remains its 20,000 Indian students and nationals, many of them who live close to the Ukraine-Russia border.
      • Many of these students are enrolled in the medical colleges of Ukraine.
      • India has also emphasized that it was concerned about the safety and security of civilians.
    • Impact on Indian exports
      • Russia is India’s 25th largest trading partner with exports of $2.5 billion and imports of $6.9 billion.
      • India’s key exports to Russia include mobile phones and pharmaceuticals while India’s key imports from Russia are crude oil, coal and diamonds. Tea is a major export item from India.
      • India’s exports to Ukraine were about $372 million.

    Way Ahead

    • International cooperation is needed to solve the ever-increasing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
    • Both the countries should restrain from any move leading to escalation of the tension.


    Minsk Agreements

    • MINSK I:
      • Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed on a 12-point ceasefire deal in the capital of Belarus in September 2014. 
      • Its provisions included: 
        • prisoner exchanges, 
        • deliveries of humanitarian aid and 
        • the withdrawal of heavy weapons
      • The agreement quickly broke down, with violations by both sides.
    • MINSK II:
      • Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the leaders of two pro-Russian separatist regions signed a 13-point agreement in February 2015 in Minsk. 
      • The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine gathered there at the same time and issued a declaration of support for the deal.
      • The 13 points were, in brief:
        • An immediate and comprehensive ceasefire
        • Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides
        • Monitoring and verification by the OSCE
        • To start a dialogue on interim self-government for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in accordance with Ukrainian law, and acknowledge their special status by a resolution of parliament.
        • A pardon and amnesty for people involved in the fighting
        • An exchange of hostages and prisoners.
        • Provision of humanitarian assistance.
        • Resumption of socio-economic ties, including pensions.
        • Restore full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine.
        • Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries.
        • Constitutional reform in Ukraine including decentralisation, with specific mention of Donetsk and Luhansk.
        • Elections in Donetsk and Luhansk on terms to be agreed with their representatives.
        • Intensify the work of a Trilateral Contact Group including representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE.

    North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

    • It is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 countries across the world.
    • Established in: 1949
    • Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium
    • India is not a member country of NATO.

    Source: TH