Author : Harsh V. Pant

Originally Published NDTV Published on Feb 23, 2024
Two Years Of Russia-Ukraine Crisis - This Is A War With No Winners

Source Image: Reuters

Alexei Navalny, one of Russia's most prominent opposition figures, has died, becoming another one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's critics who paid the ultimate price for their beliefs and conviction. Russian authorities are talking of a certain "sudden death syndrome" at a remote Arctic prison as the cause of Navalny's death, but his wife has accused Vladimir Putin directly, of killing him in prison and then hiding his body to cover their traces. It has now become standard for such voices to pay this high a price in Russia. One by one, all such figures have been silenced, and all that remains is the bravado of Putin, who looms large over the Russian political landscape, with his position strengthening by the day even as a large number of Russian lives are lost on the battlefields of Ukraine, for some illusory gains.

This Is Putin's Moment, Despite It All

Navalny's death is being condemned widely; most Western governments are calling it a 'murder'. Calling for an international investigation into the circumstances of Navalny's death, the European Union's (EU) foreign affairs chief has underlined that "Navalny was murdered in a Russian jail by Putin's regime". The EU has maintained that the "ultimate responsibility for the death of Navalny lies with President Putin and the Russian authorities". The statement has called for an independent and transparent international investigation into the circumstances. Holding Putin squarely responsible for the Russian opposition leader's death, US President Joe Biden is reportedly "considering additional sanctions" on Moscow. Even Donald Trump has been forced to break his silence on the tragedy, but in his unique Trumpian style, he managed to link Navalny's imprisonment to his own legal trials in the US.

The EU has maintained that the "ultimate responsibility for the death of Navalny lies with President Putin and the Russian authorities".

However, despite all the rhetoric coming out from Western capitals, this is Putin's moment as he enters the third year of this war against Ukraine. He has succeeded in crushing all dissent and opposition in Russia, and the tide seems to be turning in his favour in this war. The retreat of Ukrainian forces from Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region last week may not change anything in a wider strategic sense, but it certainly would come as a morale booster for the Russian forces, which are likely to use this to their advantage on the eastern front. The Ukrainian army would now be under pressure along the entire frontier in this sector.

An Economy Flourishing On War

The Russian military adventure is being sustained by an economy that continues to be robust despite all challenges. Putin's coffers are overflowing with cash as his country continues to sell record amounts of crude oil. War is fueling economic growth in Russia, with its economy growing faster than the whole G7 last year. It is likely to repeat this performance in 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund. This resilience has allowed Putin to keep the West on tenterhooks, patiently testing how far it would continue to support Ukraine despite the economic turmoil it faces. There are rumblings of discontent already apparent in the West, and the US political divide, in particular, is getting sharper by the day.

War is fueling economic growth in Russia, with its economy growing faster than the whole G7 last year.

For Ukraine, this is a delicate situation as it lacks manpower and ammunition. Western aid is drying up too. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been left appealing for more weapons, underscoring that an "artificial deficit of weapons" will only help Russia. US President Joe Biden agrees, and he has blamed Ukraine's withdrawal from the eastern front on the Congress's inability to approve further aid for Kyiv. But there is little he can do in the face of Republican opposition in the Congress. With Putin more convinced than ever that time is on his side and all he has to do is wait out the US - where Donald Trump is already suggesting he would "encourage" Russia to attack any NATO member that fails to pay its share of the organisation's budget - his suggestion that "sooner or later this [war] will end in agreement" should not be in the least bit surprising.

India Proved Right

In a world riddled with conflicts and wars, the crisis in Ukraine is a reminder that moral posturing is unlikely to resolve the problem at hand. This war has continued to pile immense pressure on the wider global economy and on the developing world in particular, which has been demanding that it should be resolved as soon as possible to alleviate further suffering. India has maintained from the very beginning that war is not a solution, and dialogue and diplomacy instead should forge a way ahead. This solution will have to entail addressing Ukrainian insecurities and Russian aspirations to forge a European security architecture that can respond to today's challenges. The meandering course of the war over the last two years has proved New Delhi right. It is now up to the main protagonists to acknowledge the costs of their actions and course-correct.

If there is one lesson from the last two years of war and mayhem, it is that Russian gains of today are as fleeting as the gains of Ukraine last year. It is a vortex where all sides are hurtling towards an abyss.

This commentary originally appeared in NDTV.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Harsh V. Pant

Harsh V. Pant

Professor Harsh V. Pant is Vice President – Studies and Foreign Policy at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. He is a Professor of International Relations ...

Read More +