WITH every passing day, the war in Ukraine is getting messier. As Russia advances towards Kyiv, NATO is pouring weapons into Ukraine to halt its advance. But Russia has so far made significant gains in South Ukraine and is in the process of encircling Kyiv. For the invasion to be successful, Russia's effort is to gain control of Kyiv in right earnest. This will allow Moscow to topple the west-backed government of Volodymyr Zelensky and install a Russia-friendly government in Ukraine. But it has so far faced stiff resistance from the Ukrainian forces armed with a bristling array of western weaponry. In another indication that there is no easy way out of the war, the talks between Ukraine and Russia have gotten nowhere. A second attempted truce in the besieged port city of Mariupol collapsed on Sunday, with pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine’s National Guard accusing each other of failing to establish a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to flee. The number of people fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has topped 1.5 million, making it Europe’s “fastest-growing refugee crisis” since World War-II, according to the United Nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it clear that the military operation in Ukraine will only be halted if Russia’s demands are met. Significantly, he has also likened the West’s sanctions on Russia to “declaring war”. Ukraine has said Russian forces are now preparing to bombard the Black Sea port city of Odessa. As things stand, it is difficult to predict where and when the war will end. Considering the west is arming Ukraine to the teeth, the strategy seems to bog down Russia in the country. Or to be more precise, make Ukraine another Afghanistan for Russia. But should that happen, it will eventually suck the US and Europe into the war and make it economically unsustainable for them to bankroll the resistance in Ukraine. The US has already spent 3 trillion dollars in Afghan war which it lost. It would become disproportionally more costly also for Russia too whose economy is much weaker. A slew of harsh sanctions is going to take a toll on Russia sooner than later. But considering Russia has thrown everything in the war, it seems in no mood to back down. The situation as it is shaping up now is taking on an existential dimension for both the west and Russia. One who blinks first will not only lose the war and global prestige but also its dominance. A loss will be more humiliating for the US-led NATO as it would effectively mean the end of the US as the world’s sole police man. In one fell swoop, the geopolitical will shift from the west to east. China in alliance with Russia could emerge new global power centre. However, it is still early days yet. Things will only clear once the war in Ukraine draws to an end. And it could be months or it could be even years.
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