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War in Ukraine: The World Adapts to New Realities

War in Ukraine: The World Adapts to New Realities

Monday, 23 May, 2022 - 11:00

Russia could not have foreseen such strong military resistance on the ground. The resolve and solidarity in the West and sanctions have also been well beyond Russia’s expectations.

Russia has finally broken the defenses in Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks. Ukrainian soldiers have left the grounds. But the war is not at an end. Far from it.

Putin is the global culprit. As the leader who ordered the invasion of Ukraine, he bears full responsibility for the sufferings and destruction. Visuals which keep coming out indicate that Russia has committed war crimes.

Russian aggression against Ukraine is having implications well beyond Ukraine’s borders and life has been affected in many ways. Global food and energy security are at risk. Prices everywhere are rising and many governments are concerned with possible social impact.

The war has disrupted agricultural exports from Russia and Ukraine. More vulnerable geographies such as the Middle East and Africa have been more affected. Egypt and Lebanon for example, are among those countries who already have problems and have been hit extra by increasing wheat prices. As if war alone was not enough, negative weather conditions and poor harvests have brought about extra difficulties. India’s stopping of wheat exports due to these reasons has been another blow.

Russia has world’s largest natural gas reserves and it produces around 17 percent of global natural gas. Russia provides to the EU 40% of its natural gas and 27% of its oil. Russia has recently weaponized its gas exports. The last country which Russia is going to stop sending gas is Finland, as announced by Finnish state owned energy company.

Not long ago, there was a rush to sign on to Russian gas, now there is a rush to minimize dependency on it.

This is not mission impossible. There are alternatives, but time is needed and there will be a cost. Most existing pipelines to Europe originate from Russia. Non-Russian pipelines are needed. This is either by building new lines or connecting to non Russia pipelines. Shifting to LNG is another option. But it is more expensive. Also, shipping LNG in sufficient amounts requires enough number of ships and relevant infrastructure such as LNG terminals are needed to turn LNG into usable form.

On the security side, cooperative security of 1990s has turned into confrontational security. NATO’s definition of what Russia represents is that “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.” NATO has pointed out that for more than twenty-five years, it has worked to build a partnership with Russia but has failed “because Russia has breached the values, principles, trust, and commitments outlined in agreed documents that underpin the NATO-Russia relationship.”

The tone and reference regarding Russia in the upcoming NATO Summit in Madrid in June and in the new strategic concept is expected to be more direct.

As a result of Russia’s actions, many countries in Europe have changed their military postures and security concepts. For example, Germany has increased its military budget and defense spending to unprecedented levels. It is also sending weapons to Ukraine to fight against Russians. Finland and Sweden have decided to leave behind their decades old non-aligned status and join NATO.

During the cold war, Turkey and Norway were at the flanks sharing land borders with the USSR. After the demise of the USSR, NATO’s new members Estonia and Latvia are sharing land borders with Russia (and Lithuania and Poland with Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast). Now, Finland comes in with 1,340 kilometers of common borders with Russia.

President Putin has said that Moscow would respond if NATO would deploy military infrastructure on the territories of Finland or Sweden. So Russia has voiced its warning against NATO deployment but not against their membership. Under the pretext of threat to its security, Russia is of the opinion that it has the right to approve or reject a sovereign nation’s decision. However, when it comes to deploying and building bases of its own on foreign territory, in Syria for example, or when it invades another country with no apparent provocation, Russia seems to adopt the opposite standard.

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg reminded in Berlin last week, once again, that all sovereign nations have the right to choose their own path.

Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, the founding agreement of NATO, allows for enlargement for any European State which is in a position to further the principles of the Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area. NATO started with 12 countries in 1949. After eight consecutive rounds of expansion, the last one being North Macedonia in 2020, the number of members is 30.

The most important aspect of the accession process is that all member states have to approve. But there has been occasional problems. For example, Greece blocked Macedonia’s accession because of the name problem. It took Greece to 10 years to drop its objection when Macedonia took the name, North Macedonia.

This time, President Erdogan of Turkey stated his country’s misgivings. His reason was Sweden’s and also Finland’s support to terrorist organizations. Turkey says that YPG is the Syrian extension of PKK, which is on the list of terror organizations of all EU countries. Swedish Ministers have received YPG representatives. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde has announced recently that Sweden’s assistance to YPG up to date has amounted to 210 million dollars and by 2023, this amount is planned to reach 376 million.

Sweden and Finland forwarded to NATO their applications for membership and as part of the standard procedure, the issue was first brought to NATO Council at the level of Ambassadors. At that meeting, the Turkish representative said he did not have instructions to give the green light to start accession negotiations.

The situation may seem as a new friction among the ranks of the “western world” but it should be noted that there are no inflammatory statements and relevant countries and officials are talking to each other.

In conclusion;

-Ukrainians are determined to fight on and the west is determined to provide them with the means to do that.

- The war in Ukraine is bringing about many changes on a global scale and a new security architecture in Europe is in the making.

-The most likely outcome, at least in the medium run, looks like a frozen conflict with continued global implications.

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