Invasion unjustified as Ukraine isn’t a direct threat to Russia: says Professor Rajesh Rajagopalan
On February 24, 2022, Russia launched full-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea. It is the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II. Eight days after the war began, several buildings have fallen and civilians killed. The horrors of the war are still unfolding as you read this. The West has imposed new sanctions on Russia to end what could mean a crisis situation for the entire world. The first round of Ukraine-Russia talks, held at the Belarus border, has resulted in no immediate agreements.
In an interview with The Observer, Rajesh Rajagopalan, professor of International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that security concerns do not give one country the right to invade another. Excerpts from the interview:
What do you think of the current Ukraine-Russia situation? Do you think it was right for Russia to invade Ukraine over security concerns?
Russia has obviously no right to invade Ukraine. But it’s not a question of right or wrong. We have to basically look at it in terms of why it happened. I mean nothing justifies one country invading or conquering another country, so in that sense by legal norms and all other norms, Russia is in the wrong. Russia is wrong to invade Ukraine. But we also have to look at the larger reasons for why Russia did what it did and what the consequences are. You can have security concerns, but they do not give you the right to invade another country. I do not believe that Ukraine is a threat to Russia.
Russia’s president recently decided to place Russian nuclear weapons on a more elevated alert? What’s your stance on this?
I think he is simply warning western countries against intervening in Ukraine. Even though I don’t think anybody had any plans to intervene in Ukraine, but Putin is also a slightly paranoid person, so he may have thought that this is something that is likely to happen. I think it is more his paranoia than anything else.
Where does Belarus stand in all this considering president Lukashenko’s decision to reverse his country’s non-nuclear status.
Belarus is clearly under Russian control, and there are a lot of Russian forces now in Belarus. The government has declared that it’ll also join the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So it’s basically now a party to the conflict.
Can the UN do more on this? What do you think of the UN’s stance on Ukraine’s invasion by Russia?
The UN is very limited in what it can do. Unless everybody agrees, it’s very difficult for the UN to actually do anything. Since Russia is a member of the UN Security Council, no action can be taken against it. Security Council rules require a consensus; if there is no consensus between the five powers, then it’s not possible for the UN Security Council to act. But the fact that nobody else is supporting Russia in the Security Council, and it has very little support even in the General Assembly, should be signal to Russia that it’s wrong.
Will imposing sanctions be enough to stop the war?
Hopefully, they will lead Putin to re-examine his options and, maybe, prevent him from going too far. They can stop the war early, hopefully. That remains to be seen, though.
Do you think things will change now that Ukraine’s President has signed the EU membership application?
I don’t know whether they’ll admit Ukraine into the EU under the current conditions. Added to that are the legal complications. At this stage I don’t think that it’ll immediately happen. I cannot say for sure, but I don’t think the EU will take that action right away. We have to wait and see.
India abstained from voting at the UNSC, and is also expected to abstain at the UNGA? Your view on India’s neutral stand?
India is in a tough position because it’s very dependent on Russia. India is right not to vote or to abstain from the vote condemning Russia. I can understand India’s original stand against condemning Russia, but in the subsequent votes, India shouldn’t abstain.
What will it mean for the Quad membership of India?
I don’t think it means very much because Quad is not a military alliance. It’s a very limited sort of coordinating mechanism between four countries on some actions. So I think India’s partners in the Quad are going to be disappointed but it’s in any case a very limited sort of partnership so I don’t think it’ll affect it too much.
Do you think India should worry about the growing closeness between China and Russia?
Of course. The biggest consequence of this is that Russia has a junior partner beside it. That is potentially quite a dangerous development for India.