By P.K.Balachandran/South Asian Monitor
Colombo February 24: It is well-known that the on-going Russo-US conflict over Ukraine will have a world-wide economic impact. But there is an equally important politico-strategic dimension of the crisis that the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) has brought out.
In a short note on the crisis, the BIPSS points out how the Ukraine imbroglio could encourage hegemonic tendencies among global and regional powers, adversely affecting their smaller or weaker neighbors.
“Questions will arise on how security of small States can be maintained. Bangladesh will be one of the countries at the forefront to face such concerns,” the note points out.
The note does not mention any country which could threaten Bangladesh’s security and sovereignty in this way, but the allusion could be to India, the only power with which Bangladesh shares a border and that too a very long one.
Big powers or even regional powers could draw redlines around themselves and then declare them as marking “no-go zones” for non-regional powers, implying that that any intrusion by outside powers will be seen as a hostile act meriting a muscular response.
Russia had drawn a red line covering the former Soviet States on its Western borders and has seen any encroachment by the US or NATO as a threat to its security. Independent Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and the American camp was viewed by Russia as an alarming development. As Putin put it bluntly, America’s aim is to go beyond Ukraine and destroy Russia itself. Putin has now claimed the whole of Ukraine, thus effectively derecognizing its secession after the collapse of the USSR. Other powers feeling similarly threatened, could act likewise.
The BIPSS note highlights the fact that powers could instrumentalize or weaponize national minorities as the Russians have done in the case of the Ukrainian minorities in the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk territories. Russia has now recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states and has asked the UN to recognize their independence. This is a major blow to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Further, the Ukraine crisis shows the contours of “aggressive grey zone pre-invasion warfare”, the BIPSS note says. Aggressive posturing by both Russia and the US have already destabilized Ukraine. Ukrainian leaders are pleading for restraint and for a negotiated solution.
The other important dimension is the distinct possibility of nations being compelled to choose between the West and Russia. Bangladesh may be asked to choose between an India-US combine on the one hand, and the Russia-China alliance on the other. This could lead to much strain in Bangladesh’s relations with these countries specifically, and in its foreign policy in general.
The BIPSS note devotes considerable space to the economic impact of the Ukraine crisis on Bangladesh. It predicts a sharp rise in the crude oil price (it was US$ 100 a barrel on February 22) and says a price rise will gravely impact Bangladesh which imports all its crude and is an import dependent economy also. Bangladesh nuclear energy project at Roopoor will be in difficulty if US sanctions affect the Russian Rosatom State Energy Corporation. A complete disruption of the supply chain will severely affect the RMG sector, the backbone of Bangladeshi exports. The RNG sector has to face the challenge of keeping to time schedules.
Bangladesh is dependent on Russia for defense supplies as well as its energy needs. With sanctions against Russia, doing business with that country will be very difficult. Therefore, Bangladesh may be forced to look at alternatives. International currency fluctuations which follow such crises, will also affect Bangladesh, the BIPSS warns.