Third year of Russia-Ukraine war: A lose-lose game - M5 Dergi
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Third year of Russia-Ukraine war: A lose-lose game

Abone Ol 

Time will tell whether the West will help end the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as civilians continue to suffer the most, adding to the world’s tragic history in this lose-lose situation

It has been over two years since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that a “special military operation” would be launched against Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its third year, it is crucial to assess its global ramifications and the ensuing chaos. In political realms, the ongoing war mirrors a revived Cold War between the East and the West, involving multiple conflicting parties, each driven by geopolitical, military, economic, political and religious motives. Despite the pope’s plea for peace, which was met with no response, it raises questions about the war’s outcome and its systemic impact.

Following the outbreak of the war, the West levied sanctions against Russia. These sanctions excluded Russia from the SWIFT system and hit numerous Russian officials and business leaders. Additionally, Russia’s energy sector, which had been its primary advantage on the global stage, was restricted in European Union markets. The United States and other Western countries supported Ukraine by providing ongoing military and financial aid.

The Joe Biden administration, in particular, has taken steps to address the Russian threat on the international level. At the same time, NATO sought to further go east and counter Russian influence through new expansion initiatives. Efforts to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine have been sporadic, resulting in lose-lose policies rather than a win-win outcome. Despite theories suggesting that Russia could achieve swift victory on both the battlefield and the negotiation table or that Ukraine may emerge victorious with Western support, the situation has remained unchanged for over two years. Both parties have suffered significant losses in this conflict; the West has been impacted anew.

On the other hand, during this period, Israel’s attacks on Gaza have created a divide in the West’s support for Ukraine. Several European countries, along with the U.S., have been involved in discussions about providing financial and military aid to Ukraine, which impacted the course of the war.

Terrorizing the system with energy

Since the onset of the war, concerns about food, energy and nuclear mechanisms have become prevalent. Russia’s actions across all three areas have heightened global apprehensions, especially regarding nuclear weapons, similar to the Cold War.

Addressing the food crisis should take precedence, with the grain shortage being one of the most pressing issues of the contemporary world. This shortage was an indirect aftermath of the war as it jeopardized food supplies worldwide. In this regard, Türkiye’s efforts proved crucial in averting the global food crisis and ensuring food security by signing the Black Sea grain corridor agreement and transporting grain from the region.

However, Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement in July 2023 caused a global grain crisis, raising concerns about widespread hunger. Russia is calling for the lifting of sanctions imposed upon it by the global community. Furthermore, Moscow is expressing dissatisfaction with the distribution of grains via the grain corridor, alleging that the grains are not being directed to the needy areas but rather to other nations, particularly those of affluent European origin. As part of the Black Sea Initiative, Putin has indicated that 70% of the food produced in the region is being diverted toward developed countries

The second concern pertains to energy terror and warrants careful consideration within its scope. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed Russia for the energy lines and infrastructure attacks. Moreover, he accused Russia of creating “energy terrorism.” While Western sanctions have steered Russia toward alternative energy markets, it remains crucial for Russia to focus on energy infrastructures, particularly in Ukraine, and limit energy supply. So, at this point, the association between energy terrorism and nuclear power is especially significant, as evidenced by Russia’s takeover of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in March 2022, prompting Rafael Grossi, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, to declare the situation “out of control.”

It is obvious that Russia has turned energy into a tool of fear by taking control of the Zaporizhzhia plant. This issue has made terrorizing the system a significant topic of discussion. The most pressing issue is the threat posed by Russia’s nuclear power, which is similar to the concerns during the Cold War. With the prediction that the war in Ukraine has damaged Russia’s confidence in its conventional forces, the possibility of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons to deter NATO has recently come to the fore. It appears that NATO and Western countries have established their zones of concern, fearing the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack similar to the Cold War era. YouGov has published an article discussing the potential threat posed by Russian nuclear capabilities, titled “How should the West respond to a nuclear attack?” along with related surveys and inquiries.

Uncertainties and realities

Before drawing any conclusions, examining the efficacy of the sanctions levied against Russia is essential. Despite the U.S. and EU’s decision to broaden sanctions on the war’s anniversary, Russia’s economy did not suffer the desired effects and even demonstrated signs of growth. Furthermore, Russia’s boldness in some regions of Asia, Africa and South America remains evident. In light of the current state of the war, it is still being determined whether the West can anticipate Russia’s defeat. Secondly, regarding territorial progress, Russia has tried to advance further. President Putin signed the decree annexing the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine to the Russian Southern Military District.

However, although international acceptability is questioned, the Gaza conflict leaves this news and steps in the background. Additionally, it is crucial to examine the number of people who lose their lives. Zelenskyy recently stated that the Russian invasion has resulted in the loss of 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers. In contrast, he claimed that 180,000 Russian soldiers have been killed and tens of thousands have been injured. Also, it is essential to note that while these numbers are primarily military losses, the true impact of this war is felt by the countless civilian casualties and displaced individuals.

The parties must reach a win-win agreement for the ongoing war to end. However, this compromise is rendered inconclusive by the freshness of the West’s New Cold War dream and the fact that it cannot unite the parties. This assumption is relevant as the agreement pillar of international law is already being challenged, manifesting itself by the Israel attack on Gaza.

Time will show us whether Western nations are intentionally creating conflict zones or if countries like Türkiye will emerge as mediators to achieve a reasonable consensus utilizing humanitarian diplomacy. Time works against civilians; unfortunately, civilians suffer the most during times of war, and this lose-lose situation adds to the tragic history of the world.

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