Sunday, October 2, 2022

Russian setbacks in Ukraine

After shaking off the pandemic, Bangladeshi exporters fear another setback  from Russia-Ukraine war
A Russian demonstrating her anger at Putin dispensation and his war against Ukraine

The Russia-Ukraine war has crossed 42 days. What was supposed to be a 2-Day engagement ending in Russian victory has now been increasingly looking like a serious defeat for Russia. Even if the Ukraine war ends in a peace which might appear as if Russia has won, the truth is that Russia has already lost the war, in terms of how Ukraine fought well and how badly Russia fought. Russia has been exposed as a country with a very poor military and with poor leadership, including Vladimir Putin.

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President Vladimir Putin has been ruling Russia for 30 years directly or indirectly. Putin had a set of goals and a gigantic ego. But the autocratic government that Putin heads and the immense wealth from oil and natural resources had made him powerful across the world. Russia has been declining economically and militarily over the last 40 years. The Ukraine war has confirmed to the world that Russia has declined on all fronts and only the hard rule of Putin and immense oil wealth is holding it up. 

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Since the fall of Communist Russia in 1991, Russia fought battles against former parts of the erstwhile Soviet Union, who left and formed their own countries. Russia defeated them as they were very small countries with no armies. However such victories gave Russia the image of a giant military power. Putin felt that Russia was once a great empire and these victories gave Putin confidence that he can forcefully bring some countries back under Russia. The Russian people also wanted such glory.  

The war in Ukraine was supposed to be one such small war which Russia had earlier fought against small countries such as Chechnya and Georgia. Russia won those wars and there was no interference from NATO or USA. In fact, in 2014, Russia even attacked Ukraine and took away Crimea region of Ukraine. Again, there was no interference from NATO or USA. .

Russia is 10 times the size of Ukraine’s population and 30 times the size of Ukraine’s area. In 1991, Russia took away all the nuclear weapons of Ukraine, before it allowed to form a separate country. Russia was supposed to have an  easy victory and glorious war against Ukraine . But wars always throw surprises. Putin should have remembered the 1905 Russia-Japan war, which mighty Russia lost to an unknown Japan. Or how the USA lost the Vietnam war .Or how China was thrashed by Vietnam in 1979 or how Russia lost the 10 year Afghanistan war or better still how Hitler lost to Russia in 1945.

Putin should have remembered how Napoleon lost the war to Russia in 1812. In that war, Russia refused to actually fight Napoleon and kept retreating, till the terrible Russian winter finished the 5 lakh Napoleon army.

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Everything went wrong for Russia in Ukraine

The Ministers and military officers around President Putin assured him a glorious quick victory to Russia and how Putin will then become a hero like the great Russian Emperors .The sycophancy is no different from the way Indian politicians  were flattered by their sycophants  and then led to horrible defeats. The Ukraine was to be a quick surgery. Instead, the Ukraine war became a Covid patient in ICU. No glory. Only terrible fear and anxiety on how the poor patient would recover!

Russia retreats after 40 days war

The world did not believe that Putin would actually start a war. The Ukraine war has now passed 41 days and Russia is withdrawing from certain areas, disguising it as if it is a planned retreat, when in reality Russia could not capture Ukraine Capital Kyiv. Thousands of Russian troops have been killed. Though Russia bombed 50% of Ukraine and killed thousands of Ukraine civilians and soldiers, Russia has not achieved its goals.   

Experts agree that over confidence and bad planning are the main causes of this defeat. Of course, Russia can use nuclear bombs and defeat Ukraine. But without use of nuclear bombs, Russia is fighting a losing war. There was great danger that at some time Ukraine might surround a large Russian force, which might be forced to surrender. To avoid such a disaster, Russia is now retreating.  

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Russian plan

China's Bet on Sending Its Exports Through Russia Hits Setback - WSJ
Friendship without limits between China and Russia has shown its limitations

Plan A of Russia was simple. Go into Ukraine and show force and attack and Ukraine will surrender their army, government and capital. The Plan A expected that a quick peace treaty would be signed in Russia’s favour.  Russia also expected that NATO and European countries would not interfere and USA would not go beyond words. But Plan A never happened. The unexpected happened against Russia and NATO and USA gave full support to Ukraine and the Ukraine army also fought bravely.

Plan B is finding an honorable exit. Russia wants an agreement that would like a victory and allow it to stay in eastern Ukraine and Crimea through an official agreement. Plan B also meant that Europe and USA would withdraw the severe economic restrictions imposed against Russia and everything would be back to normal. Whether Plan B would work does not depend on Russia, but on Ukraine, Europe and USA.

Winning armies get what they want. Retreating armies have to talk their way out of defeat and find honor.

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Why did Russia start losing?

Russian forces regroup near Kyiv after setbacks | Reuters
America and NATO stood by Ukraine solidly and the US and Europe became closer thanks to the war

1. Ukraine put up an unexpected fight. Ukraine armed forces were better trained and motivated than the Russian army. Ukraine also received sophisticated Javelin  and Stinger missiles and ammunition in great measure. Ukraine  used  them to destroy the Russian tanks, helicopters and low-flying planes .

2.  America and Europe never sent their soldiers to Ukraine as Russia had warned that this would risk a nuclear war. But they supplied the highly valued latest missiles and funds.  America had 10,000 javelin missiles in stock and it already gave away over 6000 to Ukraine. Other European countries also sent weapons. Russia never expected this support for Ukraine.

3. European countries happily accepted millions of Ukraine refugees. This meant that Ukraine had no problem, since its population was safe in other countries. If other countries refused to accept millions of Ukraine refugees, then it would have been a big problem. In the case of other countries which Russia invade earlier, the population had nowhere to run.

4. The Russian army exposed itself as a badly trained force with arrogant generals. Russia had boasted of its weapons. But its tanks and helicopters were neutralized by  Javelin and Stinger missiles. Russia also could not supply its army. Russia planned a 2-day war, which had become an endless war. The Russian army had shortages of food, weapons and everything.   

5. Russia is an autocratic state. This means that one person takes all the decisions like our political parties in India. Therefore, Putin was getting advice which he liked and not the truth. There were reports that the Russians generals were not telling the truth to Putin out of fear.

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Impact of stalemated war on Russia

  1. Europe and USA have united strongly, which was never expected. In the last 15 years, Europe and USA have drifted apart. The Ukraine war has brought them together and both China and Russia are shocked at the strong bond. NATO has become a very strong union.
  2.  Whatever be the fate of the war, Russia will face economic problems and  problem for its gas, oil and mineral exports. Russia earns Rs.7000 crores a day from such exports.  Europe and USA have openly said that even if it is costlier, they will stop their imports of Russian resources.
  3. Europe and America have immense “soft power.“ Soft power is power without armies and means cultural and foreign policy.  Russia has no soft power.  The “Soft power“of Europe and America includes their social prestige. Russia is no match for the Soft Power of Europe and USA.
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Ukraine president Zelenskyy proved to be a tough guy
  1. China was supposed to come out openly for Russia and supply arms and funds. In February, 2022, China and Russia signed an agreement of “friendships with NO Limits “. But China has slowly distanced itself from Russia as it found that Russia has messed up its economy and prestige. China was also warned strongly by USA and Europe not to assist Russia. China is giving plenty of words and nothing else.
  2. The horrors and cruelty committed by Russia in Ukraine are now being exposed.  Ukraine is not in Africa which Europe and America forget. Ukraine is a white European country and Russian horrors will live for a long time. Looting, rapes, mass killings and cruelties are being exposed. Russian soldiers are loading their tanks with looted TVs and computers.
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Impact of Ukraine war on India

Russian spy chiefs 'under house arrest' as Putin blames them for Ukraine  setbacks | The Independent
Putin, buckling under pressure

The fortunes of war change daily. Though Ukraine is far from India, the war has impacted India greatly.

  1. Before the war, Russia and china had got very close. Similarly, due to Chinese influence, Russia was also opening up towards Pakistan. But the war made China move away and Russia is aware that neither China nor Pakistan is useful allies. In fact, Imran Khan of Pakistan is in trouble due to his support for Russia. India gains due to this position.
  2. Russia is grateful to India for standing by it. The Russian foreign minister Lavrov was in India recently to thank India.  Russian friendship is needed by India, whether it wins or loses Ukraine.
  3. China has lost immensely. China encouraged Russia to fight in Ukraine, thinking that later it can attack India and Taiwan. But the setbacks for Russia teache China a lesson that wars are unpredictable. The Chinese foreign Minister came to India on 26 March 2022 to talk peace. The Ukraine war has made China remember how it was thrashed by Vietnam in 1979 and China may learn that India will put up a great fight if China attacks India again.

For India, the lesson is that we have two terrible enemies China and Pakistan on our borders and we can never rest.  None can predict how Ukraine war will end. But so far, the Ukraine war has given bad surprises to Russia. The lessons are that wars never end the way you planned. But leaders forget history and hence they end up like Russia in Ukraine. If the Russian people think Putin lost the war, then Putin will pay a price. But the war is stilling going on. Let us wait.

Also read: Ukraine still fighting?

Dr. P. Pullarao
Dr. P. Pullarao
Dr. P. Pullarao, born in West Godavari, studied at Loyola College, Madras, PhD from JNU, Economic research at University of Chicago under Prof. Buckminster Fuller, famed futurologist, and Dr. Milton Friedman. Public Advocate, writer, TV Commentator and newspaper columnist based in New Delhi.

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