In Other News – Keeping Russia at Bay & More – 2/10/2023

February 10, 2023

Keeping Russia at bay one year into the war will require unrelenting political and physical will. This week, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy made a whirlwind tour of European capitals to express gratitude to his allies and secure more weapons for his troops. Zelenskyy also advocated for financial aid to run and reconstruct his nation, and to accelerate Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. It’s only the second time that Zelenskyy has traveled outside of Ukraine since the onset of the war, and it’s indicative of the pressure that the Ukrainian leader is facing. As the war enters its second year, sustaining financial, political, and technical support from allies will be essential to maintaining morale and keeping Ukrainian troops equipped to withstand the seemingly endless number of Russian soldiers flooding the East.

Russia is now upping its offensive and conducting missile strikes across multiple cities. Ukrainian analysts and officials report that the latest batch of Russian forces are better trained and equipped, and that fighting is expected to accelerate, particularly around the eastern city of Kreminna. The Russians hope to distract Ukrainian soldiers from Bakhmut, where the Ukrainians are actively fending off attack, and the Russians also want to use Kreminna as an access point to the larger strategic city of Lyman. Putin is reportedly planning to deliver his belated annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly around February 21, close to the war’s anniversary, and it’s likely that he wants to report some tangible gains.

Indeed, Russia is also assaulting civilian infrastructure in the Donetsk and Kherson regions, and the threat of missile attacks throughout Ukraine remains of grave concern. This week, the Institute for the Study of War noted that Moscow has regained the initiative for the first time since this summer but had yet to score a major strategic gain. While Russia is clearly escalating, the outcome of its efforts remains uncertain, and Ukraine remains firm in its resolve to defend its territory. In the coming weeks, it will be more essential than ever for allies to support Ukraine both through weapons and technical support, as well as through forward-looking efforts to promote EU membership and reconstruction.

India is a critical but complicated counter to China. In recent years, the United States has strengthened its geopolitical and economic ties with India, primarily to support India as an economic alternative to China, but also purportedly because of overlapping values and ambitions. This year, India is serving at the helm of the G-20 and the Shanghai Cooperation, demonstrating the reach and strength of its current political positioning. India is also expected to become the world’s most populous nation over the next 12 months, and its economic ambitions are likewise accelerating.

But India is taking advantage of its strategic global position to first and foremost to promote its own national interests. This week, Russian energy executives attended the India Energy summit to ensure that Russian oil continues to find a key buyer there. Russia currently supplies the most oil of any nation to India, and this mutually beneficial dynamic is only going to reinforce the two nations’ longstanding political ties. Indeed, over the past year, India has become a top customer of Russian crude oil and notably, it doesn’t look like Washington is going to hold it against them. Likewise, India hasn’t faced repercussions for purchasing Russian weapons systems that would normally be under sanction.

While India continues to buy the Russian products, Prime Minister Modi and the Biden Administration are simultaneously collaborating on defense industrial initiatives and critical and emerging technologies. This includes supporting India’s semiconductor sector and a range of initiatives from AI to space. India is wary of Chinese encroachment, both physically on its Himalayan border and on the intelligence and technology fronts, and Washington is a strong ally in this regard.

But although India and the United States are aligned on their goal to curb Chinese aggression, India’s friendship with Russia, who is also a Chinese ally, complicates matters. There’s the risk that any information India shares with Russia will be shared with China, which would ultimately serve against its own best interest, and ours. Further, India’s domestic situation has been marred by an uptick in religious conflict and repressive social policies by the leading party line that has weakened democratic values and human rights within Indian borders. If India hopes to be a real counterweight to China on the global stage, both its political alliances and domestic policies will be factors for potential partners to consider.