T K Arun
The developing world has a big stake in the early end to the war. Global uncertainty and higher prices weaken growth and export momentum. Sustained divisions risk sanctions that a country like India can trip over. The war increases the risk of climate change.
War, said Carl von Clausewitz, is continuation of politics by other means. That is pithy, but ignores the economics. War is immensely profitable for quite a few parties. Let us take a bird’s eye view of the Ukraine war – clear-eyed is all that counts, not if the bird in question is hawk, dove or raven.
The war has been immensely beneficial to the oil and gas, and the arms industries. It has also given a big boost to a new breed of IT companies that work to differentiate 21st-century armament from that of the 20th century: plugging them into intelligence/information networks and computerised control networks, deploying AI and robotics to produce autonomous drones that fly and swim underwater. SpaceX, Palantir and Anduril set a new paradigm for both defence technology and for hi-tech dumping of scruples for old-fashioned profit.
On all three fronts – energy, weapons manufacture and marrying hi-tech to military capability – the US leads the world. American firms have sold Europe the oil they stopped buying from Russia, lifting an old ban on the export of US crude, and as much LNG as the US could produce and ship. European nations had cosily ignored their commitment as members of Nato to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence. The war has made them discover the virtue of keeping their word, and they are splurging on arms, to ship to Ukraine, and then, to rebuild up their depleted stocks.
Role of other Nations
The Ukraine war has set the pulse racing among China-watchers, too. Will Beijing feel emboldened to make good on their territorial claims, not just on Taiwan but also on the nine-dash line that represents China’s claims on islands in the South China Sea? For China’s neighbours, it is virtuous to hope and pray for the best while talking nice to Beijing, but practical to enhance outlays on cutting-edge defence acquisitions.
Japan has every reason to abandon its pacifist constitution, imposed on it by the Americans who occupied the land, after bombing it into submission and surrender, carried out land reforms, made the right to collective bargaining part of Japan’s basic rights and fostered trade unions and every other possible bulwark against regression to Japan’s old militarist culture. If Japan drops the pretence that its armed forces are meant only for self-defence, and starts aggressive acquisitions, US defence firms would be the biggest gainers.
Which countries have a stake in an early end to the war? Russia is fighting to retain its status as a major global power. To let Nato station its troops and missiles in Ukraine is to put at risk its warm water navy and all-weather ports for commercial shipping based in Crimea. Russia will fight till it meets its goal. Ukraine is fighting back against Russia. It will keep fighting so long as Russia wages its campaign.
The US is the biggest gainer from the war. It has unified Nato and rallied it firmly under American leadership, and reinforced US technological and commercial, besides defence, leadership.
China, which has come out with a 12-point peace plan, watches the war with glee. The war drains Russia, makes it ever more dependent on China and gives Beijing ever more leverage. A large part of the developing world watches bemused, as the Americans try and bleed Russia to its knees at the expense of Ukrainian lives and are less than enthused about the West’s sanctions against Russia. This disenchantment with the US and the West suits China just fine, as it seeks to present itself as the developing world’s white knight bearing gifts, large import orders, belts and roads. At the same time, the war precludes the US showering the entirety of its tender loving attention on China.
Sure, the war weakens the global economy and reduces export growth. That is not such a big bother for China, whose leaders have been seeking to develop the internal circulation of goods and services, which had been suppressed by the stress, hitherto on external circulation.
The war suits China just fine. There is no reason for China to devoutly wish for its early end.
Europe’s support for the war is more puzzling. It has suffered an avoidable energy crunch, high inflation, higher levels of government indebtedness, rupture with a vital node of continental culture, seen its moral leadership on climate change go up in acrid smoke from the lignite it has been burning instead of Russian gas, taken in immigrants it has been seeking to shun and is under pressure to spend on guns rather than butter.
There is no rational explanation for Europe’s fervour to degrade Russia as a major power, especially as it rebuffs US pressure to abandon China as a trade and investment partner. If Germany can bury its Nazi past and come in from the cold, why shackle Russia to its communist history?
The developing world has a big stake in an early end to the war. Global uncertainty and higher prices weaken growth and export momentum. Sustained divisions risk sanctions that a country like India can trip over. The war increases the risk of climate change.
India must take the lead in seeking an early peace that leaves Crimea with Russia and Ukraine outside Nato but sovereign over all the people who want to belong to that country.
This article was first published in Economic Times as Why developing countries like India alone have a stake in ending Ukraine war swiftly
Read more by the author: The BBC Raid: An Act of Nation building?