Fraught Situation

NEARLY a month after the Russian invasion, more than 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine, in an exodus that has led to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. Poland has taken in the lion’s share — more than 2.1 million — followed by Romania with more than 540,000 and Moldova with more than 367,000. If anything, this shows that the war is getting worse by the day. After the initial success, Russia, according to reports in the western media, is finding it difficult to make progress in the war. Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, is yet to fall and the government of Volodymyr Zelensky remains very much in command. This shows that the Ukrainian forces bolstered by the abundant western military aid have been able to stall the Russian war machinery.

But it is unlikely that Russia will back down, nor is likely that NATO will. That is, unless Russia is able to comprehensively defeat Ukraine. The war has become an existential crisis for both sides. One which blinks first will be the defeated party. This makes the situation scary and prone to develop into a world war if the parties on both sides don't see the reason and take steps to de-escalate the situation by addressing each other’s genuine concerns. But this seems unlikely to happen in the near future. There has been no talk of any dialogue between NATO and Russia so far.

Only Zelensky has called for a dialogue with Russia. In fact, Ukrainian president has been plumping for a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Zelensky on Monday said his country would be "destroyed" before it surrenders its cities to Russian forces, but said that the direct talks with Putin as the key to ending the war.

On the other hand, US president Joe Biden has warned that Putin was considering using chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine as he held talks with European leaders on what he called Moscow's increasingly "brutal tactics". On Monday, a Russian missile strike reduced a shopping mall in Kyiv to rubble, killing eight people.

So, the war seems set to go on for now. And this is happening at a time when the world economy was gradually recovering from the debilitating fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, a once-in-a-century event. The countries were slowly opening up and letting the economy function normally. International travel was also returning to pre-pandemic levels. The resumption of economic activity was important to restore the millions of jobs lost to pandemic. If the war drags on in Ukraine, the world economy is likely to come under severe stress again. Skyrocketing oil prices will also wreck the European economy. Therefore it is incumbent on the world to come together to resolve the crisis in Ukraine and find a solution that addresses the concerns of all the parties involved.

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