• 25 September, 2023
Geopolitics & National Security

The Unfolding Tragedy in Europe

K P Fabian Thu, 03 Mar 2022   |  Reading Time: 5 minutes

The ‘special military operation’ announced by President Vladimir Putin, 69, on 24th February 2022 continues with no end in sight. Let us examine the genesis of the crisis in and over Ukraine, its track so far, not only militarily, but in a manner as holistic as possible.  Apart from the military aspect, we need to look at the economic measures taken against Russia by the U.S.-led West and its allies; the impact thereof on the economy of Russia and on the global economy; the increasing isolation of Russia as reflected in the wide spread protests in the West and elsewhere, including within Russia, and the political and diplomatic fallout in the U.N. and elsewhere. The tragedy is being enacted on many a stage. Concentration on a single stage is not advisable.

The genesis is clear. In the 2007 Munich Security Conference, President Putin expressed his strong opposition to the eastward expansion of the NATO following the collapse of the Soviet Union, preceded by that of the Cold War even earlier. Washington ignored the opposition and went on giving defence aid to Ukraine.

In mid-December 2021, Moscow demanded security guarantees from Washington and Brussels where the NATO is headquartered.  He had two demands. One, the NATO should not admit Ukraine and two, the West should reduce its military presence in the neighborhood of Russia.

Obviously, the first demand was the more important one. Russia does not want NATO missiles too close to its borders. Putin was as much right as Kennedy was in 1962 when he demanded that Khrushchev remove the missiles from Cuba.  There are two important points of difference between 1962 and 2022. First, in 2022, Putin was taking preventive action before the missiles are deployed. Second, Putin and Biden lack the wisdom, maturity, and diplomatic skills to negotiate their way out of this crisis of their own making unlike Kennedy and Khrushchev.

Essentially, Putin is right in objecting to Ukraine’s joining the NATO and having NATO missiles on its soil. However, the way he has gone about to resolve the issue is deplorable, irresponsible, and might harm Russia in the long run.

President Biden refused to enter into serious negotiations. He publicly took the position that Ukraine had every right to ask for membership and the NATO was right in keeping its door open.  In short, Biden has contributed in good measure to the mess we are in.

Coming to the military dimension of the crisis, the advance of the Russian military slowed down by the 27th of February, mainly because of the resistance put up by the Ukrainian military and the civilians who were armed by President Volodymyr Zelensky who has galvanized his compatriots. Ukraine resorted to a ‘scorched earth policy’ by destroying bridges and roads.  However, it will be difficult for Ukraine to resist the advance of the mighty Russian military for too long.  We are seeing the irresistible march of the Russian military.

The West has responded by imposing crippling economic sanctions on Russia, by isolating Russia politically and diplomatically, and by announcing the intention to dispatch weapons to Ukraine, mainly anti-tank and anti-aircraft.

We do not know whether the arms the West wants to send to Ukraine have reached the intended destination. Obviously, the arms cannot be sent by sea as Russia practically controls Ukraine’s Black Sea access. Air borne delivery is also vulnerable. Reportedly, plans are afoot to make Poland and one or two other countries the conduit for delivery by land. However, no NATO soldier will be driving the trucks. Obviously, there can be enough Ukrainian drivers. The Russian military might come in the way once the trucks cross into Ukraine. Russia might take care to avoid any incursion into Polish territory as that might invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty under which attack on a member-state is an attack on all member-states.

The U.N. Security Council has met more than once and Russia has been subjected to much verbal violence. However, the Council can be paralyzed by any of the five veto-wielding permanent members. The U.N. General Assembly has passed a resolution against Russia with 141 votes for, 5 against, and 35 abstentions including India, China, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran. 16 African countries abstained. Obviously, the non-binding resolution will only draw attention to Russia’s isolation without necessarily impacting on its behavior.

Coming to the economic measures, the   Russian ruble was 70 to the U.S.$ before the crisis erupted. By 28th February, the ruble had lost 20% of its exchange value. Currently (3rd March) it has fallen to 106 to U.S.$, after going down to 110 for a while. The stock market in Moscow is closed.  The rating agency S&P has declared that Russia’s economy has fallen to ‘junk’ status, scaring away investors.

The assets of the Russian Central Bank held in the West have been frozen. Reportedly a good deal of the reserves at about $630 billion stands frozen. If this report is true, it is difficult to figure out why the bank did not move the funds before the war started.  The West has set up an international task force to identify Russian ‘oligarchs’ and to freeze their businesses and assets.

It should be noted that sanctions do not apply to Gazprom and other energy exporting companies. Despite Biden’s move to release 60 million barrels of crude from the reserves of U.S. and its partners, the oil price has shot up to $ 118 bbl.  The economic sanctions are a two-way street.

It is evident that Putin had the option to declare victory after a day or two, withdraw forces, and indicate willingness to enter into talks. He could have retained the recognition of the two ‘republics’ (Donetsk and Luhansk) as trump cards. Obviously, he had other plans.

I will be surprised if Putin planned to occupy Ukraine as the former Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan. He is too shrewd a man to have failed to learn from the disaster in Afghanistan.  His threat of nuclear war has diminished him in the eyes of the world.

The three principal actors in this unfolding tragedy are Putin, Biden, and Zelensky. None of them seems to be keen on reaching an agreement on a conditional crease-fire to be followed by negotiations, the only way to resolve the crisis. Biden displayed a degree of malicious pleasure over the damage already inflicted, with more to come, on Russia’s economy and reputation.  Zelensky showed his lack of interest in an early cease-fire by refusing to talks at first, and then announcing that he would take Russia to the International Court of Justice as the talks were about to start. Putin put up a demand for Zelensky’s acceptance of the 2014 annexation of the Crimea. Putin would have known that Zelensky would never agree to it.

India has displayed navigating skills of a high order. India abstained twice at Security Council and once at UNGA.  Those who criticize India for voting against America and for Russia miss the point. India voted for India. The evacuation of Indian students numbering about 20,000 is proceeding notwithstanding the difficulties inevitable in a war zone.

The Greeks who wrote the first tragedies had a saying: Character is destiny.  The three presidents (Putin, Biden, and Zelensky) should find a way out of the crisis before it gets aggravated further.

It is difficult not to quote Count Carl von Clausewitz:

War is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means… For political aims are the end and war is the means, and the means can never be conceived without the end.’


Ambassador K P Fabian served in Indian Foreign Service from 1964 to 2000 when he retired from Rome as Ambassador to Italy and Permanent Representative to UN in Rome. Currently, Ambassador Fabian is Professor at Symbiosis and at Indian Society of International Law. He has published 'Common Sense on War on Iraq' and 'Diplomacy: Indian Style'. His book 'The Arab Spring That Was and Wasn't' has been published by MacMillan.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.

Chanakya Forum is now on . Click here to join our channel (@ChanakyaForum) and stay updated with the latest headlines and articles.


We work round the clock to bring you the finest articles and updates from around the world. There is a team that works tirelessly to ensure that you have a seamless reading experience. But all this costs money. Please support us so that we keep doing what we do best. Happy Reading

Support Us



Mar 03, 2022
Sir, Great article to understand the current situation in Ukraine and Thanks Ceratinly challenges are their for India but India should continue to give its prime importance to its own National Security Interest and work out accordingly and we can sail through the current turbulence. "India voted for India" really true and well said.


Mar 03, 2022
well narrated article India voted for India superb line sir

Leave a Comment