Putin’s war | By Imtiaz Rafi Butt

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Putin’s war

VLADIMIR Putin is a name that is the focus of geo-political analysts, journalists, statesmen and politicians across the world.

He is a man that has changed the face of geo-politics with his hard decision-making. Many would call him an autocrat and an authoritarian but he has made a name for himself and has not allowed other nations especially Western countries to subvert his nation.

He is known as the Man of Iron and he is the one calling the shots in the present-day Ukraine conflict.

It is Putin who has made it clear that although the glory of the (former) Soviet Union is no more, Russia is still a power player in the region.

In November, 2022 Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif referred to Russia as a “superpower” and Putin as a “man of his word”.

Putin’s Ukraine war is having a profound impact on the world and could turn out to be the greatest conflict in human history.

The attack on Ukraine was launched under the leadership of Putin in February 2022. Up till now around 13,000 people have died in the conflict with around 5000 civilians.

A staggering 7.6m people have become refugees as a result of the crisis. Numbers are expected to rise in the coming months. Ukraine’s grain production feeds around 400m people across the globe.

As a result of this war, that grain supply is affected.The calculation of losses coming from this war are incalculable. With no end in sight, this war has the potential to plunge the whole world into a recession.

As a result of this war, Europe has repositioned itself. Poland is at high risk of an attack from Russia. Multiple missiles have already landed in Polish cities.

The Ukraine War has strengthened Europeans to look towards each other as allies.  Europeans have lived under the umbrella of American protection but the Ukraine crisis has exposed that claim.

The Americans are in no position to initiate a direct conflict with Russia with active threats of nuclear war from Putin.

Europeans are regrouping. Focus is back on fighting conventional warfare and supporting Ukraine as a red line and bastion against Russian attack.

NATO alliance is faltering. There is limited support on the ground. Ukrainian soldiers suffered heavy losses from the start.

It is only through their own sacrifices and strategic support from the Americans that they have managed to expel Russian forces from many areas.

Sanctions from all corners have been slammed on the Russian economy. International assets of Russian companies have been seized and Russian economy is spiraling down.

But there are a few tricks with Putin that can turn the tables. Putin knew from the start that Europe is highly reliant on gas and fuel supplies from Russia. He is now using it as a tool of war.

As winter approaches and the prices of fuel are not stabilizing, European countries will see their economies slowing down and even electricity shut downs in many European countries due to shortage of gas.

This is having a two-fold effect. One, Europeans are putting all their resources towards utilizing Green technologies and moving away from consumption of Russian gas.

In the long run, this will overturn the situation of gas and fuel prices around the world. On the other hand, Russia having excess gas supplies is moving towards finding new markets such as India, China and even Pakistan.

This shift and change in demand and supply is being termed by Russians as the economic war of “West versus the Rest”.

Already, many Central Asian States are expanding their Gas pipeline supplies to connecting countries.

Pakistan is also on the list of countries where bilateral ties are being enhanced.

India and China have openly opted to buy from Russia, which will keep Russian economy afloat.

It seems that countries are not relying on the US alone and keeping their options open in the face of conflict.

China is the true key player in the conflict. Beijing has carefully opted to stay neutral in the conflict but it is continuing with its policy of economic engagement, progress and connectivity.

In November, 2022, Putin is set to visit Xi Jinping where historic agreements will be signed between Russia and China.

Pakistan will also be a part of the event. Putin is now using his fuel exports as a weapon against the West and capitalizing on Asian markets including India, China, Central Asia, even Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Russia is still the largest country of the world in terms of area being part of Eastern Europe as well as Asia.

Diversification of its market will allow it to counter the impact of sanctions imposed by the collaboration of Western nations.

India is a global partner of the U.S, especially against China, but it did not deter Narendra Modi to purchase vital imports from Russia.

Putin’s War in Ukraine is a grave matter that concerns all humanity. As a result of war, many developing countries around the world are moving into deep recessions.

European budgets are being diverted to defence. The UN humanitarian efforts in Africa, Middle East, Yemen and Palestine are being diverted towards Ukraine and Europe.

Food prices are on a rise and fuel is making a multiplier input-push inflation. Putin’s war in Ukraine is not sustainable but it is a fact that Russia was pushed into this war by Western nations by the actions of NATO.

Putin means business and he will not allow his backyard nation to become a reservoir of Western forces and military bases.

Although, the humanitarian cost of this war is high and it is highly undesirable from all perspectives, but this is a war of nationalist interests among nations, and not an invasion as it is being portrayed in the international media and diplomatic forums.

Russian forces have suffered setbacks due to supply of Western arms to Ukrainian army. Russians have replied by bombarding Ukrainian power centers cutting off energy.

Further, Putin has warned that if any foreign forces intervene between Ukraine and Russia, it will be dealt with a nuclear response.

And this warning has not been taken lightly. Putin’s war has no end in sight and with new alliances being formed, it can easily spill into a nuclear war or a war of nations that forced to get involved.

It is no longer a world governed by the Western hegemonies and the US is not in a unipolar position.

The war in Syria proved that Russian involvement can turn the tides in any war. Chinese and Iranian ties with the Russians further complicate the matter.

It seems that Putin has started a chain reaction of events, and each development is more complicated than the previous one.

Putin has been in power in Russia since 1999 but this war might be his greatest mistake or his greatest achievement ever.

—The writer is Chairman, Jinnah Rafi Foundation, based in Lahore.