HomeOpinion & AnalysisAre there winners in the Russia-Ukraine war?

Are there winners in the Russia-Ukraine war?


By Tapiwa Gomo
When the Russia-Ukraine war started on February 24, followed by a raft of sanctions by Western countries including the United States of America, most people started counting down the downfall of Russia. Understandably so, sanctions have become a destructive weapon used to weaken and impose foreign ideas on other countries seen as unfriendly by the Western bloc.

In this case, sanctions imposed on Russia were just additional to those prior to the war. Their objectives were to weaken Russia as it invaded Ukraine, to isolate Russia from global trading and other external engagements, and to turn Russians against their leadership.

In some cases, sanctions were used to justify criminal activities by Westerners against Russians such as the takeover of Russian oligarchs’ properties. The war itself is a cash-cow to arms suppliers sponsored by Western countries. No one is clean in this world.

As noted in previous instalments, the impact of Western sanctions on Russia was felt by Russia, the West and the entire world, largely because of a huge careless policy miscalculation by the West. In a way, the sanctions were self-destructive for the West. The trigger-happy sanctions policy on Russia led to shortages and the soaring of global prices of fuel and other essential commodities, thus exacerbating poverty among the already struggling developing societies.

It is not just the miscalculated policy positions that have caused major headaches within the Western bloc today.

While the war is destructive for both Ukraine and Russia, the latter has not stopped trading. Russia turned to its friendly Asian countries such as China and India for oil exports and arm-twisted Western countries to trade in Russian currency. In doing so, Russia was aware that it could afford to do without the West but the West could not do without Russia.

And indeed, the West retracted on its policy to isolate Russia and worked on mechanisms to facilitate trade, mainly gas supplies. Europe cannot do without Russian gas and Russia is also aware of that.

After a brief plunge, the Russian ruble started gaining by end of April and by mid-May it had reached to a near seven-year high largely due to capital controls, strong oil prices and anticipated tax policy reforms. In addition, Russia has demanded that foreign buyers pay for export commodities, largely gas in rubles and this has contributed to the currency’s firming against the US dollar and the Euro, making the Russian rubble the best performing currency in the world so far this year. That is some kind of victory by Russia against the West.

That is not all. Russia’s export earnings from fossil fuels also reached new records in the first three months since the war broke out in Ukraine. Latest data shows that Russia grossed nearly €100 billion in those three months perhaps one of the reasons Russia has remained standing against the Western onslaught. Some analysts have noted that earnings from fuel exports are one of the major enabling factors of Russia’s military strength. The export earnings are estimated to be far outpacing their expenditure on the war in Ukraine.

Perhaps as these developments continue to unfold, some of them teachable, there are several questions to be the asked: Was this war really necessary? It is a tough one to answer given that Russia feared that Ukraine’s intention to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and the latter’s advancement eastwards posed an existential threat to them.

Russia attacked Ukraine to stop the two developments but certainly sober diplomatic engagement among the parties, including Europe could have stopped the war. The West chose to be biased and picked a side instead of pursuing peaceful ways of resolving the crisis. That was a big bunder.

Today, Russia has shown that Western sanctions can be thwarted but at the global cost of causing soaring prices of essential supplies. Russia has also shown that Western dominance can be challenged and weakened mainly if one has Asian friendly countries to count on for trading.

While the West continues to believe in the power of unity among its European Union members and the USA, it miscalculated the role of Russia in global fuel trade, thus plunging the world into an unnecessary near recession.

The damage of their sanctions on Russia on European economies coupled with that from the COVID-19 pandemic will take ages to repair.

On the other hand, Ukraine has shown that it is possible to withstand bullying but at the cost of human life. But there is no better lesson than understanding the importance of balancing between legalism and teleology.

As a sovereign State, Ukraine has a right to join EU or Nato but if that right escalates existential threat on its neighbour Russia, it could have saved lives and the infrastructure damage by standing down its pursuit for EU and Nato membership in the interest of peace. Finland and Sweden are not Nato members and they are enjoying peace.

Over and above, what some States are calling victories and gains are nothing but pyrrhic victories that came at great costs where everyone directly or indirectly involved in the war has witnessed the impact of the war in Ukraine inflicting such a devastating toll on them which is tantamount to defeat.

There is no true sense of achievement in the Ukraine war as the damage in Ukraine, Russia and the world is long term.

  • Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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