Ananta Aspen Centre: the thirteenth #UkrainianDialogue about looking for peace in Ukraine

Ananta Aspen Centre: the thirteenth #UkrainianDialogue about looking for peace in Ukraine

Aspen Institute Kyiv held the thirteenth #UkrainianDialogue: international discussion with Ananta Aspen Centre. The main themes of the discussion were Ukraine’s desire for peace within its state borders and evolution of geopolitics caused by the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

In the opening remarks the Aspen Institute Kyiv Executive Director, Yuliya Tychkivska, mentioned that Ukrainians and the world still cannot fully grasp the reason for this war after more than 9 months since Russian troops invaded Ukraine and attacking Ukrainian cities with artillery, rockets, bombs and firearms: 

— Ukraine and Ukrainians always advocated for peace with its neighbors,  committed to international border treaties and respected international laws. Therefore, it looks like the Kremlin is aiming for a total extinction of Ukraine and everything that is Ukrainian. Imperialistic ambitions of Russia have consequences all over the world.

The entire global legal architecture is being violated by Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war and attempted genocide of the Ukrainian people

Natalie Jaresko, Chairperson of the Aspen Institute Kyiv Supervisory Board and Minister of Finance of Ukraine (2014 — 2016) stressed that the single outcome that Ukrainians seek was a durable peace. She added that the entire global legal architecture is being tested by Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war and attempted genocide of the Ukrainian people:

— Russia is violating the entire global legal architecture starting with the UN charter and the inviolability of borders and extending to the use of illegal cluster bombs and mines targeting civilians and civil infrastructure, to the Geneva convention and treatment of our prisoners of war, to the risk of all nonproliferation efforts, to the violation of the Budapest memorandum, to Russia’s documented illegal torture, rape, forced deportation of Ukrainians that clearly violates the Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide.

The real reason of the Russia-Ukraine war is that Russia regime does not see Ukrainians as a nation

Pavlo Klimkin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2014 — 2019), is sure that the pretext for this invasion including all speculations about NATO expansion and so-called threats for Russian security is all rubbish: 

— The real reason is that the Russian regime does not actually see us as a nation, a country and fundamentally rejects our statehood, history and  believes it is all artificial. It is a very dangerous precedent of not only creating an artificial historic reality but acting on it. Putin has opened a sort of Pandora’s box and it should be absolutely clear for everyone. Because of that we need to fundamentally rethink and reinvent all key security dimensions, including deterrence and containment as well as the mere sense of solidarity. We also need to join the efforts of Western and non-Western countries in countering security threats.

Consequences of the war in the heart of Europe have been felt across the world

According to Ashok Malik, Partner and Chair of the India Practice – Asia Group, the consequences of the war in the heart of Europe have been felt across the world: in Asia, Africa and South America:

— Ukraine was a big exporter of agricultural products and commodities from wheat to sunflower oil. For instance, India is a big importer of the latter. Consequences are also felt in the case of fertilizers and energy. These commodities have been in short supply all over the world as a consequence of this war, what Mr. Putin started on 24th February.

Ashok Malik also added that the 24th of February is the sort of date that European children and children all over the world will study in history books. It’s a day that has led to a process wherein Ukrainian identity and sovereignty have been much more strongly defined.

India may well find that as much as being polite to the multipolar world, the Russian power will be severely diminished

Kenneth I Juster, United States Ambassador to India (2017 — 2021), explained that India sees a multipolar world and Russia as an important part of this world. India would like to see it preserved to whatever degree it is possible. Moreover, the country doesn’t want to push Russia even closer to China because of its own concerns with the latter. In this case, India hastried to walk a tightrope on this issue by consistently abstaining on provisions and resolutions of the UN but at the same time coming out with strong statements about the importance of territorial integrity, sovereignty and a peaceful resolution. 

Mr. Juster added that the next several months will be very critical in terms of whether or not it will be easy for India and other countries to maintain this fragile balance. For him it seems clear that Russia is going to continue on a path that it has been for some time which includes committing atrocities, war crimes and continue their efforts in devastating the civilian population of Ukraine.  

— India may well find that as much as being polite to the multipolar world, the Russian power will be severely diminished. Moreover, Russia will be a pariah state for many years to come and may not even be able to provide India with further sophisticated weaponry, much less spare parts and auxiliary equipment. It will be interesting to see all of this unfolding, whether countries such as India will be able to maintain that tightrope. It will become increasingly tricky for India or will gradually force the country to decide on whether it is in their interest, even if they are apparently maintaining neutrality. They will have to separate themselves from Russia given ongoing events. 

A key question which India will keep an eye on is to see how dependent Russia will become on China. 

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, visiting fellow, Ananta Aspen Centre, spoke about the possible evolution of geopolitics after the war. He stressed that a key variable which India will watch is to see how dependent Russia now becomes on China.

— Until now Russia has been neutral when India and China go head to head. For us that’s the question: what do Russia and China do together and we will see how this plays out. If that does take place in some geopolitical way, that the dragon-bear combination comes together, then you will see a genuine geopolitical shift in India. In effect what what happen if that shift took place would be a global division in which the Quad members, Europe and America will be on one side and Russia and China with some other smaller allies like Pakistan and North Korea will be on the other. The question is when and how this happens, or if it happens at all, is going to be a fundamental question on global geopolitics.

Proliferation of nuclear weapons is not in anybody’s interest

Indrani Bagchi, Ananta Aspen Centre CEO, talked about the rise of nuclear threats in the Russia-Ukraine war — Russia’s nuclear threats against Ukraine, the attacks on power reactors — that raises many concerns which the world had believed was behind them. India’s response was sharply articulated in numerous multilateral platforms.

India, Ms Bagchi stressed, is no stranger to nuclear threats. Uniquely, India is situated among an arc of nuclear weapon states. India has faced open nuclear threats from Pakistan over decades, both from its strategic nuclear arsenal, and after 2010, from the tactical nuclear weapons that Pakistan had developed, which forced India to change its own nuclear posture.

The Russia-Ukraine war has resurrected the debate of both nuclear deterrence and nuclear non-proliferation. Those concerns are back and non nuclear states need to be careful about how they approach any nuclear future of their own, because proliferation of nuclear weapons is not in anybody’s interest.

The main objective of the #UkrainianDialogue project is to create a dialogue platform between Ukrainian leaders and international representatives for sharing truthful information about the Russian-Ukrainian war, and discussing how to support Ukraine for the victory.

Aspen Institute Kyiv is grateful to Ananta Aspen Centre for their support and the opportunity to have a dialogue with their Community.