Cost of War

What is the cause of political unrest in Pakistan? Why are the events around happening, and how are they affecting us? In order to find the answers, we need to examine developments in the international arena. Russia has attacked Ukraine 32 years after the demise of the USSR. The decline journey continued as the after-effects of the defeat in Afghanistan haunted the Russian Federation. The vision to reach the warm waters of the Indian Ocean through Afghanistan and then Pakistan met with defeat to the Soviet forces and the reversal of its army out of Afghanistan. The journey was further augmented with NATO advances in the neighbouring countries of eastern Europe, the central Asian republics and above all, Ukraine.

The Russian Federation continued to absorb all these advances with patience until 2014 when it realized that US-NATO allies were knocking at their doorsteps from the Ukrainian borders. Initially, the eastern half of Ukraine was part of Russia, with Kyiv as the capital. The population of orthodox Christians and ethnic Russians made it an integral part of Russia, but Leonid Brezhnev had gifted this part to Ukraine about 65 years ago. The western part of Ukraine comprised Czech and Polish ethnic groups and was previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It would be interesting to trace back the history of the Russian Empire to understand the greater picture. It was under the rule of Chengiz Khan (1162-1227 AD) and then later Barqi Khan (1209-1266 AD) who nominated representatives in Moscow to collect kharaj from that region. Moscow remained under Mongol rule until the Czar’s kingdom emerged while transcending imperial Russia (1480 AD). The Czarist kingdom rose in 1721, which continued till the dawn of the 20th century. The evolution of history had made tax collectors emperors.

The present Russian communist arrangement eyed Crimea as a critical seaport that provided access to the Black Sea. When the US-NATO forces started the excercises at the Ukrainian Russian border, the Putin administration decided to take back Crimea, where the strategic Sevastopol naval base provided seaward defences. Ukraine, which had broken away from ex-USSR, had no navy, barring a few small boats which were neither sufficient nor were designed to provide seaward protection to Ukraine’s mainland. The failure of the Ukrainian government to develop a navy in the last 32 years is costing the state heavily now. Russia attacked Ukraine to overcome its challenges in securing access to the Black Sea.

The objective of USA-NATO was to deprive Russia of access to the Black Sea and thereby use Ukraine to take over control of the Black Sea. The reversal in Afghanistan was likely to be completed with the closure of the Black Sea to Russia. Therefore, Russia opted to go to war to gain land access for mainland Russia Crimea. It is like opening breathing space for oneself when faced with asphyxia.

The war in Ukraine is a war for survival for Russia. For USA-NATO, it is required to dominate Russia to continue enjoying economic supremacy and access to Russian natural resources such as natural gas and petroleum. All sea trade for Ukraine stands blocked and the Russian fleet continues to patrol the southern coast of Ukraine. The economic strangulation of Ukraine could occur in a short frame of time, but the involvement of military supplies from Europe has prolonged this war.

Besides, warfighting expertise is also being exported to Ukraine. The cruiser Moskva, which played a dominant role in the sea blockade, was targeted using land-based Neptune missiles, providing targeting data through drones and commercial satellites. Despite air defence, weapons, and sensors against aircraft and missiles, the ship sank. It is evident that Ukraine, without a navy, could never successfully attack this ship without the support of US-NATO forces that provided operational information and intelligence, along with naval warfighting expertise.

Saturating missile defence comprising short and medium-range anti-missile missiles and a close-in weapons system is highly complex and challenging to neutralise a cruiser. Providing commercial data at sea to achieve war objectives is another violation of international law. Russian authorities threatened nuclear war or a third world war in response to this aggression. Both these scenarios are hazardous.

Ukraine has become the Afghanistan of Europe, where both the losers of the Afghan wars are fighting. All this started with a great power struggle between two major powers of the world and is threatening world peace today. The Russian Navy plans to control the Black Sea and both the powers are likely to remain engaged in the war till one of them achieves its war objectives. If USA-NATO loses the conflict, the destabilization process in Pakistan would also end, providing Pakistan with the opportunity to emerge as a significant power in the new world order.

Muhammad Sohail Ahmad
Muhammad Sohail Ahmad
The author retired as a Commodore from the Pakistan Navy. He can be reached at [email protected]

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