By Cmde. Ranjit B Rai (Retd)
New Delhi. 16 May 2022. The Russo-Ukrainian war that commenced on 24th February, is in its third month and raging. It began as an onslaught by Russian missiles and tanks to tame Ukraine to succumb to Russia’s demands and not join NATO.
Russia called it a ‘Special Military Operation’, not war, and President Putin reiterated this on 9th May as he took the salute at the Red Square Victory parade, saying he ordered it for Russia’s existence like Russia sacrificed two million souls in the World War. This resonated in Russians’ hearts. Nations that go to war have to pay a price for gains and that is the message Putin conveyed to his people after reverses in Ukraine. Russia is a major supplier of energy that flows through Ukraine to Europe, especially Germany (42%) which closed its nuclear plants. Russia planned a pipeline which has been scrapped but always felt Russia was being boxed in by USA and NATO for it to grow.
Quite early, in 2014 Russia acted militarily to stop Western attempts to block its access to the Black Sea and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea unopposed. War was avoided by the Minsk agreements in 2015, and Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons on assurances by EU nations for its security, though no treaty was signed. Russia employed five axes of attack Ukraine, to the capital Kyiv from Belarus in the North with Chernobyl, Chernihiv and Sumy en route, and Kharkiv in the north-east where Indian medical students were studying. PM Modi spoke to President Putin to enable their rescue. Forces moved into Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Kherson in the south.
It has been a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ both for Ukrainians and Russian troops. Russia’s strategy to end the operation soon, has failed as Ukrainians have fought back with weapons supplies by USA and European nations. The priority for Russian forces was to encircle Kyiv but the closest that Russian troops got to Kyiv was to Bucha and Irpin 30 km away. Russia’s heliborne special operations forces’ topmost priority was to secure Chernobyl and nuclear waste recycling/fissile materials facilities in Ukraine, so that dirty IEDs could not be made. Russian tanks moved in at lightning speed, but were destroyed by anti-tanks weapons, and drones and Russian conscript soldiers, got bogged in fighting in built up areas (FIBUA).
Ukrainian Navy fired Soviet era R-360 shore to ship missiles based on the Uran/KH-35 from shore batteries and sank the Slava class 11000 ton cruiser in April, which was a big blow to Putin. Evidently Ukraine is receiving real time intelligence from USA, NATO and Five Eyes and planes flying over the Black Sea to pinpoint targets. Zelenskky has stated Ukraine will not join NATO, and evidently Putin appears to have shelved his plans to subjugate Ukraine.
To most analysts an end to the devastation of Ukraine and deaths on both sides may take place with the fall of Mariupol after the Avozstal steel plant is vacated and when Odessa falls. President Putin can claim victory having made Ukraine land locked and connected Crimea and Mariupol with Luhansk and Dontesk to Kharkiv (see map of Donbass region) into a region of Russia’s influence. Remnants of fighting will continue. All nations are studying the repercussions of this war as economies world over have suffered and oil price has risen to over $100 per barrel. Ukraine is the ‘Bread Basket of Europe’, and possesses former Soviet military technologies, that it sold to China for aircraft carriers and missiles and to Pakistan and others to bolster its economy.
India has been assured unhindered military supplies from Russia, but the dollar has strengthened against the Rupee and Russia is under sanctions, and SWIFT for payments is under threat. Supplies and trade with Russia will suffer as shipping via Black Sea is disrupted. Russian strikes have damaged Ukrainian military assets. The Nikolaev Shipyard Okean not far from Mariupol, built the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and China PLA(N)’s Liaoning(001).
India will have to deal with the break in supplies from Ukraine that includes gas turbines from Zorya-Mashproekt for the two Krivacks being built at Goa Shipyard Ltd(GSL). Both the Indian Navy, Army and Air Force as operators of Kamovs and 272 MI-17 helicopters may see a break in supplies from the Motor Sich Joint Stock Company as it supplies the TD3-117 engines for these helicopters. Indian Air Force and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd(HAL) have a contract with Anatonov serial production plant located at the Sviatoshyn Airfield in Kyiv for the up gradation programme of forty one Anatov AN-32 planes which is planned to be completed by 2024-25.
The upgrade in advanced avionics, navigation and communication equipment may see delays. HAL also buys resin for composites for the LCA from Ukraine and abroad. However the saying, when there is a crisis there is opportunity, and India has taken steps to buy cheaper oil and supplies from Russia and Indian firms can replace luxury goods firms that have left Russia. India can revert to Rupee Rouble trade as in Cold war days, and export grains and food to Russia to replace the void by Ukraine. On military supplies Russia holds all design patents of military products of Ukraine and with Atamnirbharta India can stitch up companies like the BrahMos Aerospace Ltd(BAL) that was formed up to Make in India, and the BrahMos missile is the first big defence export order to the Philippines.
Finally Putin’s War has stumbled, and he has ignored the UN Charter to invade others’ sovereign territory, with apparent little regard to the rules of armed conflict. India has abstained in voting against Russia in the UN and may have to re-think on that, if Putin is charged with war crimes. News is stickling in that Finland and Sweden will join NATO and Putin’s reactions will need to be watched.
Cmde Ranjit B Rai former DNO and DNI of Indian Navy & is Curator of New Delhi’s only Maritime Museum at C 443 Defence Colony allows free entry to bring about Sea Mindedness.