Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the country’s first mobilisation since World War II and vowed to use all means at his disposal to respond to what he described as the West’s “nuclear blackmail”, putting paid to any hope that a resolution in the Ukraine conflict was within sight. Mr Putin’s remarks during a televised address came days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the world’s concerns to the Russian leader and told him this is not an era of war. Wednesday’s warning from Mr Putin is being seen in some quarters as the greatest escalation so far in Ukraine, and comes weeks after Russia suffered shock reverses on the battlefield, some of its worst since it launched the invasion in February.
Mr Putin, who has given little indication of heeding calls from world leaders such as Mr Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron to return to the negotiating table, has further pledged to “liberate” the Donbas region, and there are plans for referendums to allow Russia to formally annex parts of Ukraine (these referendums, scheduled for later this week, are expected to rubber stamp Russian control over these regions). All of this sets the stage for the prolongation of a conflict that has left tens of thousands dead and sent shockwaves through the global economy due to rising inflation and spiralling food and energy prices. A punishing regime of west-ern sanctions has not helped in altering the Russian leadership’s course, and there are now serious concerns about the Ukraine crisis overshadowing the outcomes of the G20 Summit in November and causing a serious rift within the grouping.
Mr Putin’s latest decisions are unlikely to be popular within Russia, which has reportedly lost thousands of soldiers without achieving any of its key strategic objectives in Ukraine. More importa-ntly, the war is extremely unpopular in developing and vulnerable countries, which have been most impacted by the turmoil in the global economy. It is in this context that Mr Modi’s call for an end to war and a resumption of negotiations, made especially on behalf of the developing world, has found resonance at the United Nations General Assembly, with Mr Macron endorsing it. For India, the challenge remains convincing the Russian side to end the Ukraine conflict without, in any way, pushing it closer to China, which remains the greater strategic concern in the immediate region. The geopolitical waters just got choppier.
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