No one came forward to protect Ukraine from the attack, but now the international community is imposing all sorts of economic and other sanctions on Russia. Did Russia conceive there would be such a strong international reaction?
Other countries may not have directly sent their armed forces to protect Ukraine, but they have taken up multidimensional ways of resistance. The European Union, the US and its allies, for example, have imposed sanctions and other stern measures against Russia. The US has banned Russian aircraft from its airspace, various international sports bodies have temporary expelled Russia. Investments of big western companies have been withdrawn from Russian oil companies and other institutions. Investment has been withdrawn from companies like Gazprom. As a result, the Russian ruble has plummeted in value. The exchange rate of the Russian ruble has fallen below one US cent.
The Russians probably hadn't foreseen such a strong reaction before they launched their attack and are now trying to take immediate action to respond this resistance. For example, Russia has declared no foreign company can withdraw their investments and from now on no one can take more than 10,000 dollars outside of Russia. It is clear that the outcome of this economic embargo will take on an even more drastic shape in the days to come.
Putin is using the issue of Russian security as an excuse for the attack. Russia has strong objections to neighbouring Ukraine's aspiration of becoming a NATO member. Russia implies that they had no alternative but to attack. What do you think of this claim?
From the very outset, Russia has been opposing the expansion of NATO's eastern borders. Russia has been alleging that the western forces have not kept their commitment in this regard. Latvia and Lithuania have been included in NATO and Russia apprehends that NATO will take in Ukraine as well. That will bring NATO to Russia's doorstep. However, the statement which President Putin made before the attack on Ukraine implies that this is not the only reason for the invasion. He thinks of Ukraine as historically a part of Russia and sees the emergence of Ukraine as an independent country as a mistake. So other than the issue of Russia's security, there is possibly the matter of setting things straight, of correcting what Putin sees as a mistake. This attack emerged from an extremely complex psychological stance.
Could NATO or the US take any initiative to prevent the Russian attack on Ukraine? Many accuse the West of placing Ukraine up there and then taking the ladder away. Is that how it is?
Before the attack, Europe and the US took up various diplomatic initiatives. Talks were held at the highest levels. The heads of state of NATO members France and Turkey even went to Moscow and held talks with Putin. But these diplomatic initiatives failed to resolve the problems. They did now feel it judicious to take any steps outside these diplomatic efforts and so did not proceed towards any military intervention. Also, if any third country intervened in this conflict, it could take on global proportions and this would be totally unwarranted.
The US and EU have taken up stern economic sanctions against Russia. The US president Joe Biden has said the alternative to economic sanctions would be to start a third world war. Do you think so too?
Various stern restrictions have been imposed by the US and EU already and there may be more to come. In today's world, if a country is isolated from the rest of the world economically and in other ways, that will create the most pressure on that country. Russia is already under immense pressure. If the US, NATO and other countries got directly involved in the war rather than imposing the sanctions, the conflict would have rapidly spread to Europe and the rest of the world. Perhaps it was to avoid such consequences that the other countries did not get directly involved in the war.
How far can the economic embargo weaken Russia?
Economic power is the main pillar of state power. Without this, no country in the present-day world can make any strong plans. Already adverse effects are visible on Russian economy and other sectors as a result of the economic and other sanctions. As I said, the rubel has fallen in value. The cost of food has shot up. Foreign travel has been restricted for Russian nationals. Various Russian banks are facing restrictions and many of its banks have been ejected from the SWIFT system, which will bring a halt to financial transactions with other countries. This is having an impact on Russian foreign exchange, with 650 billion dollars of its reserves being held up by the western world. Due to the sanctions in Russia's central bank, they have become isolated from the world economy.
Again, on a personal level, the foreign bank accounts of Russia's President Putin, foreign minister Lavrov and many of the country's billionaires, have been frozen. The reach of the sanctions may be extended further and perhaps Russia didn't realise how far this would go. But there is no doubt that the Russian economy and state system will be destroyed.
Ukraine is trying to fight against Russia's military offensive. The western countries have started providing Ukraine with weapons. Are there apprehensions of a prolonged war there?
Ukraine has taken up a bold resistance against Russian attack. Many countries of the West have committed to providing Ukraine with military assistance, arms and ammunition and these have already begun to arrive. Russia may take control of Ukraine entirely, if not now, eventually. But from the way things seem, the Ukraine armed forces may merge with the common people and will build up mass resistance against Russia. If the conflict thus becomes a civil war, it will be prolonged and Russia in no way will be able to take full control over Ukraine. It is extremely difficult to maintain control over forcefully occupied land.
It would be natural for anti-West China to take sides with Russia, but at the UN Security Council, along with China, even India abstained from voting against Russia. Yet, India is the US' biggest strategic ally in the region, particularly from the stance of containing China.
Diplomatically, particularly from UN initiatives, it is clear that India is prominent among the countries that have been supporting Russia. India abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly too, as well as at the Security Council. It is clear that India cannot break away from the Russian sphere. Russia has long standing ties with India, Indian armed forces depend on Russian arms and ammunition and the two countries have extensive trade relations and so India maintains a dual stance in its relations with the US. Many analysts feel that even though India is seen as an ally of the US due to the US Indo-Pacific policy or QUAD, in actuality India is a 'reluctant ally' of the US.
Russia is India's main source of arms. Will Russian export of arms to India be obstructed by the economic sanctions?
Around 70 per cent of the arms and military equipment on India's armed forces list, is procured from Russia. That is why India is heavily dependent on Russia. However, India has already received approval from Russia to maintain these weapons and also manufacture small equipment within India as well and has been able to do so. Even if the procurement of new equipment is hampered, India seems quite capable of taking care of the Russian-made weaponry and equipment that they already have.
Do you think Bangladesh has reacted properly to the Russian attack on a weak neighbour? Why couldn't a small country like Bangladesh be clear in its condemnation of the attack?
Bangladesh is a small country. As a small country, it was hoped that it would take a clear and strong stance. However, the foreign minister's statement in this regard has been quite to the contrary as has been Bangladesh's abstention to vote against Russia in the UN General Assembly. We did not carry out the responsibility to extend our support to the security of another small country. We have had a very strong diplomatic stance for 50 years, but it is quite incomprehensible why we failed to take a clear and firm stance on such a vital international issue. Many are questioning whether we are being influenced by other spheres of influence. That must be examined, particularly whether we have been swayed by the stand of our neighbouring country.
Is the Russian aggression on Ukraine going to create any fresh polarisation in global politics? Many feel that at the end of the day, this attack will go in favour of China, and even in favour of the US to an extent.
The Ukraine aggression is bringing about a radical change in the existing global diplomatic and strategic order. This attack has consolidated NATO and the western world or Europe. It has dispelled any coolness that had emerged in inter-Atlantic relations and these relations are more likely to strengthen. The world is now divided into two major camps. The polarisation that was emerging in global politics has now been established more firmly. The two camps will be led by China and the US. If Russia is further weakened by this situation, they will become dependent on China which will accentuate the global divide further in the days ahead.
What impact will the Ukraine conflict have on Bangladesh?
Already several adverse effects are being felt in Bangladesh and this will increase. As a country dependent on imported fuel oil, there will be the pressure of increased fuel prices and this will be a threat to our energy security. The future of the Rooppur nuclear power plant being constructed with Russian assistance, is now uncertain. The various joint ventures in oil and gas exploration with Gazprom are now all uncertain and the future activities will come to a halt. Our armed forces, particularly our air force, has a lot of fighter jets, helicopters and other equipment procured from Russia and the repairs and maintenance of these will become difficult.
As it is, Covid has disrupted the global supply chain and this will be further disrupted by the Ukraine conflict. This may have an adverse effect in exports and imports. Ukraine and Belarus are the world's main wheat suppliers of the world. If this source of wheat is shut down, this will have an impact on food security and prices will spiral. The escalating costs of international travel and various communications will also impact the market. We need to study this situation closely.
Thank you too