A year after the Ukrainian crisis: what’s for the Philippines?

More than a year has passed since hostilities began when Moscow executed its special military operations on Ukrainian territory. Initially, numerous military analysts predicted a swift victory for Russia in a similar way when the port city of Sevastopol and the Crimean peninsula changed hands through false flag operations. However, the Ukrainians strongly defied these aggressions as they slowly pushed back the Russian military behemoth. Damage to properties and loss of lives are mounting on both sides while international media agencies have continuously featured human suffering in Eastern Europe. Despite tenacious fighting in Eastern Ukraine, there are no conclusive victories so far as a military stalemate is being reported from the battlefield.

Even though aggressions in Ukraine are currently confined in the annexed portions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson, its economic shockwaves can be felt outside the Eurasian continent. Prices of basic food commodities like wheat and edible oil skyrocketed as both Ukraine and Russia are renowned exporters of these goods. Prices of hydrocarbons also soared in the global market as European countries started stockpiling energy reserves in the forms of oil and gas. In addition, as stockpiles of military hardware are being used daily in the launching of missiles and rockets in the frontlines, the demand to replenish them increased too. This leads to more procurements that favor arms-producing companies. These companies that form the military-industrial complex seem to be the only winners in this Ukrainian crisis.

Political consequences also shook the whole planet. The United States is supplying the Ukrainians with highly advanced weaponry systems that include javelins, stingers, multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), and the Abrams tank. Other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member-countries like Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom have also contributed European-designed military hardware like the Leopard and Challenger tanks. Russia’s neighbors in Finland and Sweden, which have adopted a more neutral stance in its history vis-à-vis Moscow’s security concerns, eventually applied for NATO membership. To make matters worse for Moscow, G7 countries are both denouncing and constraining Russia, where Russian institutions are isolated in the sectors of trade, technology, and finance. With a quick military victory out of its equation, the Kremlin was compelled to aggressively employ mercenaries in the form of the Wagner Group, while mobilizing and conscripting portions of the Russian population. It is safe to say that both Moscow and Kiev are locked in a battle of attrition.

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Before contextualizing these developments, there is a need to understand the reasons that led Russia to occupy Ukrainian territories, which is an interplay of various factors. Prior to its dissolution, Ukraine was an integral part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as it was considered the Soviet breadbasket and a key host of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. With its relatively flat terrain, Ukrainians had witnessed the armies of Nazi Germany pushing their way into major Russian cities like Stalingrad and Leningrad in the Second World War. This has generated a historical paranoia in the Kremlin, where buffer states would serve as security guarantees for Moscow. With NATO member-states in this military alliance multiplying in number after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian insecurities intensified and eventually led Russian President Vladimir Putin to modernize and invest in its military capabilities. With the Kremlin relatively confident in its initial actions towards Ukraine, it annexed some of these territories from Kiev, albeit at a high cost.

Institutions created through multilateral agreements in the forms of NATO and the European Union (EU), backed by the United States and its allies, confronted Moscow by imposing sanctions, freezing financial assets, and limiting trade with Russia. This is a bitter pill to swallow, most specially in Germany — a country known for its energy dependence — which continually purchased Russian oil and gas under competitive prices. With Moscow being isolated from the global market, it can no longer easily obtain imported commodities from other countries unless they utilize a third-party player to facilitate these transactions. Russian banking institutions were also not spared, as they were severed from the SWIFT system, which integrates and simplifies international money transfers.

These economic sanctions slapped against Russia initially decreased the value of its currency, the Russian ruble. With such devaluation, Russia experienced inflation rates that seemed unmanageable at first as global companies withdrew from the Russian market. This drop in confidence was exacerbated by the looming possibility of higher unemployment rates as job opportunities evaporated. In addition, Russia’s economy isn’t as complex as other more sophisticated economies such as those of Japan, Switzerland, or South Korea, which didn’t bode well for Russian economic outlook. However, massive interventions instigated to address capital flight and timely adjustments in its monetary policy have cushioned its adverse effects. By pegging the ruble to gold and by propping up demand for the Russian currency through hydrocarbon trade, the local market gradually stabilized. Both New Delhi and Beijing became stopgaps for the bleeding Russian economy as India and China stepped up the volume of hydrocarbon purchases from Moscow in pursuance of their own economic realpolitik.

In an attempt to further isolate Russia, the International Criminal Court (ICC) had recently formally issued arrest warrants for the Russian President on account of alleged war crimes similar to the late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. However, the chances of Vladimir Putin being arrested is effectively close to zero as the ICC has no jurisdiction over Russian territory. In addition, the current world order that is anarchic in nature dictates that international law is not as strong as what is purported on paper. Russia’s current standing as a great power among nations makes these arrest warrants no more than pipedreams — mere PR devices to make President Vladimir Putin accountable.

The Ukrainian crisis leaves the Asian peoples to address the biggest elephant in their room — the conflict between Beijing and Taipei. This geopolitical issue has never been resolved since Imperial Japan left Taiwan in 1945. With Chinese and Taiwanese territorial waters lying geographically close to the Philippines, such escalations erupting in the Taiwan strait can be considered as a possible national security threat for Manila. Various possibilities are being entertained by Japan as their southernmost prefecture in Okinawa is host to American military bases. Does the Philippines even have feasible contingency plans when push comes to shove between Beijing and Taipei? In the event of military action from China, local government units in Okinawa display no confidence in housing thousands of refugees fleeing Taiwan. How much more about the capabilities of Batanes islands?

Unfortunately, many Filipinos still think that the United States will unilaterally resolve these geopolitical issues. Despite being deliberately written in the constitution that the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy, mendicant diplomacy still seems to be pervasive in the Filipino mindset. The dilapidated World War II era BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal is testament to continued Filipino dependence on their forrmer colonial master’s security umbrella. Just looking at how the administration of former President Noynoy Aquino clumsily fumbled in its management of the Scarborough Shoal issue by portraying American assurances in a high pedestal while blaming Chinese actions instead of adopting de-escalation tactics summarizes how disassociated from reality many Filipinos are when it comes to geopolitics. Indeed, ignorance is bliss.

4 Replies to “A year after the Ukrainian crisis: what’s for the Philippines?”

  1. It is high time that we rather not ally ourselves with the West, especially with the US where its meddling caused trouble in places like Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and now the Ukraine. Instead of being pro-US/pro-Western, let the Philippines adopt a non-aligned or perhaps neutral stance like our counterparts in ASEAN, of which we are a member. I vividly remembered reading an anecdote on what the late great Foreign Minister (and Consummate Diplomat) Carlos P. Romulo, who neutralized the Philippines in its foreign relations, firmly admonished in the early ’70s: ‘The Philippines must get along well will all nations and survive through its own diplomatic skills. Only through diplomatic efforts can countries achieve peace. There is no winnable war anymore.’ Prophetic words that still hold true up to today–and there is no harm in learning from our past leaders

    1. Why do people blame the US for the Russian invasion of Ukraine? How did the US cause Russia to invade Ukraine? Russia is at fault here. Russia attacked Georgia once despite that country not being a NATO member and having no intention to join NATO.

      1. You should have known the answer to that if only you have taken to heart and apply what you have read in one of benign0’s recent blog. To summarize:

        “A clue to this ignorance lies in one’s state of education… a lack of a healthy regard for habitual systematic testing of one’s ideas against reality… and in one’s inability to distinguish between (1) actually knowing so and (2) merely being told so.”

        1. The problem is some people blame the US even for the Russian invasion of Ukraine even though Russia is 100% at fault for this, the West has no fault for this war, the NATO membership attempt excuse to and their national security concerns are obviously lies to justify their invasion of Ukraine. No matter what the US does, people will hate them.

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