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India needs to pay attention to Russian military build-up in Ukraine

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January 21, 2022

What is the issue?

Russian military build up near Ukraine could affect India’s interest.

Why there is a Russian military build up near Ukraine?

  • Russia has accused the West of trying to make Ukraine anti-Russia by constantly providing modern weapons and brainwashing the population.
  • Russia’s demand from the West - Assurances that Ukraine will never be admitted as a member of NATO.
  • Deny NATO membership to other former Soviet republics.
  • No further eastward expansion of NATO
  • Response from US and EU - Some of these demands have been categorised by the US as “unacceptable”.
  • For the US and EU, Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West.
  • They are increasingly determined to keep Ukraine away from Russian control.
  • Efforts to induct Ukraine into NATO have been ongoing for many years and seem to have picked up pace recently.
  • So, Russia has amassed troops and military hardware at its border with Ukraine.
  • Russia could resort to such action if the demands are not met.
  • However Russia has reiterated that invasion is not their preferred choice.

What is Ukraine stance?

  • Ukraine has tilted toward the West, including the removal of a pro-Russia leader in 2014.
  • Russia massing of troops along Ukraine’s border is a signal that Putin will consider an invasion unless Ukraine backs away.
  • Russia has already annexed the Crimean Peninsula in a 2014 military operation.

What can India do?

  • Delhi could try its posture post the Russian annexation of Crimea.
  • India can neither openly criticise nor endorse Russian actions.
  • However, India’s silence will be seen as an endorsement.
  • Moscow might seek support from Delhi.
  • It will sell India’s silence as an endorsement, as it did in the case of Crimea.

How will it benefit China?

  • In case of invasion Moscow will need Beijing’s diplomatic support even more.
  • In dealing with India - China could ask Moscow to stall military supplies to India.
  • In 1962, when Moscow needed Beijing’s backing during the Cuban missile crisis
  • It resulted in Soviet support for ally China versus friend India at a crucial moment in the China-India war.
  • In dealing with EU - In order to focus on the Russia challenge, European capitals could seek to stabilise ties with China, rather than act against its assertive actions.
  • This could negatively affect the coordinated approach that Delhi seeks among like-minded partners to balance China.
  • China could potentially present itself as a useful interlocutor between the West and Moscow
  • China can try to deepen the cleavages between the US and Europe on itself.
  • China would benefit from American and European attention focused on Russia-Ukraine rather than on Asia.

How will it affect India’s interest?

  • In 2014, the Russian annexation of Crimea created problems for India.
  • If Moscow again takes military action against Ukraine, it will significantly complicate India’s objectives
  • In dealing with China - It would hinder Delhi’s interest from preventing a further deepening of Russia’s ties with China.
  • Moscow that is more beholden to Beijing would be problematic when India is dependent on Russian military supplies.
  • Sino-Indian border tensions could flare up again.
  • In dealing with Russia - Many in Delhi might argue that power often trumps.
  • Nonetheless, Moscow’s justifications for its actions against Ukraine are similar to those Beijing makes versus India: Historical claims, ethnic linkages, and Indian steps that it says threaten China.
  • Russian military action goes against respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty that Delhi frequently advocates.
  • The western response will involve even more sanctions on Russia.
  • This will hinder India’s ability to do business with Russia and diversify Russia-India ties.
  • All this come at a time when Washington is considering a waiver for India from CAATSA sanctions.
  • In dealing with Western countries - Invasion would end any near-term prospect of a rapprochement between the West and Russia.
  • It will complicate India’s efforts to maintain a delicate balance between its partnerships with the US, Europe, and Russia.
  • India-US and India-Europe contradictions on Russia will come to the fore.
  • India’s move to deepen security and economic ties with European partners will be affected.
  • A crisis nearer home could reduce the latter’s increased attention to Asia, especially India.
  • Indo Pacific theatre - A deteriorating situation in Europe could draw US attention away from the Indo-Pacific theatre, as Afghanistan and Middle East crises did in previous administrations.
  • Economic and defence trade ties with Ukraine - India has economic and defence trade ties with Ukraine
  • 7,500-odd citizens residing there.

What needs to be done?

  • India will hope for a diplomatic solution and that Russia does not take military action against Ukraine.
  • India can privately express its concerns to Moscow.
  • In case of invasion India have to prepare for potential fallout for India’s interests with Russia, the West and China.



  1. https://www.firstpost.com/india/how-india-can-tread-a-diplomatic-fine-line-on-the-ukraine-crisis-between-russia-and-the-west-1024329html
  2. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/russia-military-build-up-ukraine-india-7734303/
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