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Exactly a year ago, Russia invaded mainland Ukraine, plunging global diplomacy, big-power equilibrium and energy markets into chaos. A year later today, after a historic fight back by both the people and the leaders of Ukraine against a much bigger foe, the Russian aggression has been pushed back towards Ukrainian borderlands to the south and the east. Global markets have stabilized a year later and Western diplomacy has managed to enforce some red lines for third countries. But the ‘war’ continues to destroy.

Looking at the apprehensions and motivations of both the direct and indirect parties to this localized war at the edge of Europe, it appears that the pre-February 24, 2022 situation of relative peace may not obtain for some time to come. Both sides are digging in – Ukraine has to restore its sovereignty without any territorial compromise, whereas Russia cannot afford to lose more face after disastrous spring and fall campaigns that have seen its losses mount in terms of men, machines and morale on the ground.

Meanwhile, the outside forces are finding it difficult to force a compromise. Partly this is due to the lack of common ground that can be found for both Ukraine and Russia to end this war. And partly this failure of international diplomacy is down to: a) China’s reluctance to force its ally Russia for a compromise, and b) Western strategy (based on resigned assumptions that Putin isn’t interested in having a meaningful dialogue) to tire Russia down in this war so it doesn’t have the capacity to invade NATO countries.

Those factors are unlikely to change in the war’s second year. President Biden’s secret, very-significant trip to the Ukrainian capital a few days ago substantiated the Western resolve to continue to help Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Zelensky, a former comedian who has grown into a global leader thanks to his defiance and strategy, has proven to be a master fundraiser in this war for survival. He has turned up the pressure on Western capitals for more military assistance while thanking them for their support.

This war’s anniversary is also an unpleasant reminder of how Pakistan’s government at the time got itself unnecessarily entangled (albeit briefly) into the messy events, and that, too, while seemingly leaning on aggressor’s side. Landing in Moscow at a time of heightened global tensions, then PM Khan was heard saying, “What a time I have come, so much excitement!” Later that day, after Khan’s arrival, Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine. The sequence of events cast a negative global spotlight on Pakistan.

Going forward, it remains to be seen if this conflict will escalate into a wider continental war or if it will maintain the recent, brutal status-quo that is manifest in Russian missiles raining down on Ukrainian cities while the Ukrainian forces make small but hard-fought gains from their cold trenches in the east and the south. The fears of a ‘Ukraine fatigue’ among donors have died down, as the US leadership remains steadfast. Supporting Ukraine is still broadly popular in America, the UK and major European countries. Be that as it may, there is a need to find a diplomatic solution to this destructive conflict, which can spread beyond Ukraine if postures continued to harden on both sides and led to more miscalculations.


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umair Feb 24, 2023 09:44am
"one year after russia responded to being provoked by america...."
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