In what were clearly revenge strikes, Russian forces targeted multiple Ukrainian cities today with a barrage of cruise missiles during peak working hours. This comes after the destruction of a section of the Russia-made Crimea bridge over the weekend that Vladimir Putin described as an act of terrorism. Although Ukraine hasn’t officially claimed responsibility for the bombing of the bridge, Russia’s response marks a further escalation in the war. In fact, Russia-ally Belarus today ordered joint deployment of troops with Russian forces near Ukraine. If Belarus forces actively join the war against Ukraine, it will certainly take the conflict to a whole new level.
That in turn would mean more instability for the international community, particularly in relation to the three vital commodities of food, fuel and fertilisers. The world is already reeling from massive supply chain disruptions that are putting economies under much duress. Further pain would mean that some way has to be devised to restrain Moscow. But that cannot happen without the cooperation of China which is locked in its own strategic battle with the US and its allies.
True, one can’t blame the Ukrainians for carrying out attacks against Russian military installations and supply routes. After all, it is Russia that invaded sovereign Ukraine. Therefore, Ukrainians today are fighting for their own survival. But Kyiv should also know that pushing operations beyond a point will leave Putin with no choice but to retaliate with full force even at the cost of severe international condemnation and isolation. Maybe restricting Ukrainian military operations to the immediate frontline until Europe manages to free itself of Russian energy by next year is an option worth considering. Then perhaps Europe’s aid to Ukraine could be stronger.
That said, there should be no doubts that Russia is committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians inside Ukraine. Putin should heed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent advice to him – that this is not an era of war – and desist before Russia sinks while trying to achieve a Pyrrhic victory.