The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year was a turning point for the security of the European region. Some scholars call this invasion a strategic blunder by Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the fact of the matter is, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has enormously changed the scale and dynamics of global security.
The war has been continuing since February, and there are a few prospects for diplomatic solution. Russia is reportedly on retreat; it has withdrawn from the Kherson region. There is also a possibility that Russia may use its nuclear weaponry. This has alarmed the world community concerned. If Russia uses the nuclear weapons, it may trigger deadly world war for the third time.
One of the strategic impacts of Russia-Ukraine war is that it has challenged the nuclear taboo that has been persistent in the world politics since Cold War. It has challenged the discourse that nuclear weapons have become less useful. Official statements by Russian foreign ministry reaffirm the claim that Russia’s sovereignty is threatened and Moscow would not hesitate from using nuclear weapons if needed. If Russia is retreating in various regions, and if President Putin links it to sovereignty, as it has already incorporated three major Ukraine regions into Russia via referendum, it may possibly use nuclear weapons.
This war also gives impetus to the debate over the usefulness of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons make the leader think that it is insane to start a war because of the threat of mutual annihilation. Though the cases of Russia and Ukraine are different because Ukraine is not a nuclear power; this war has challenged the decisions of certain states to not go for nuclear weapons. Although, main powers in the South Asian region including Pakistan and India, have nuclear weapons, they will boost nuclear weapon programs. Other states in the region may link their security to the acquisition of nuclear weapons, which may contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the South Asian region.
This war has once again demonstrated the importance of stockpiling weapons in case of war. Pakistan and India, which are always at loggerheads over initiating a conflict, will increase their defence spending. Pakistan is already suffering from economic insecurity. If India increases its defence spending as it did in the previous budget, then it will be a strategic imperative for Pakistan as well. India can increase its defense spending because of its strong economy, but it seems not possible for Pakistan under current circumstances.
Another important factor in the Ukraine-Russia war is the destruction of tanks on a larger scale. Although some scholars argue that this war has rendered expensive military equipment like warships, fighter jets and tanks obsolete, there are other scholars who argue that the use of anti-tank weapons by Ukraine has given importance to such weapons. Many of the Indian tanks have Russian origins, like T72 and T-90. The poor performance of such military equipment in the Ukraine-Russia war might compel India to look for other alternatives, like western military equipment. This will start an arms race in the region as well.
The Ukraine-Russia War has also signified the importance of light tanks. Indian Army is planning to build future-ready combat vehicles (FRCV) by 2030. The use of light tanks in the Russia-Ukraine war can be another factor pushing India to accelerate this program. China has inducted light tanks, and India is also planning to induct such tanks. Pakistan, however, has not inducted light tanks. The use of light tanks in the Russia-Ukraine war was a turning point because heavy tanks used by Russia were destroyed. In future conventional wars, lighter tanks will be used. This factor will also give rise to an arms race between Pakistan and India.
Though the strategic stability of the South Asian region is not directly linked to what’s happening in Ukraine, the impacts of war on the global economy are affecting South Asian states like Pakistan and India. The Russo-Indian relations have also changed since the invasion. Similarly, Sino-Russia relations have further strengthened. Pakistan’s relations with Russia have reported a new beginning; with Islamabad’s willingness to purchase natural gas from Moscow. This will impact future political dynamics at the international level. India may not receive as much Russian support in international forums such as the UN SC as it had in the past. Similarly, New Delhi can no longer rely on Moscow for support against Beijing as both India and China have border disputes. Russia has become dependent on China for both its imports and exports due to western sanctions on Moscow. Russia will not be willing to displease China by siding with India in the event of a Sino-Indian conflict.
As a whole, the political dynamics of the South Asian region will change. India could learn from Russia’s incorporation of Ukrainian regions into Russian states by doing the same in Kashmir or Ladakh. This will lead to war between India and either Pakistan or China. The arms race will continue between Islamabad and New Delhi, especially a race to get more sophisticated weapons. Despite a race to boost the nuclear program, conventional weapons
The writer is a student of International Relations