Ukraine Crisis and Implication on US Involvement in Indo-Pacific

Shivam Tiwary is a graduate of Journalism from Panjab University, Chandigarh. He has worked as Photography head in student-run E-newspaper PU-Mirror. His area of interest lies in India’s domestic politics, geopolitical risk analysis, internal security threats, and international events impacting India’s policies. He is pursuing his Masters in International Studies from Christ (Deemed to be) University, Bangalore. Currently, he is working as a Management Trainee at MitKat Advisory Services.

On 24 February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military to launch a ‘special military operation’ to demilitarise and de-Nazify the Ukrainian region. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is more strategic, as Ukraine serves as a buffer zone between Russia and NATO militaries, and is crucial for Russia’s national interest. President Putin has repeatedly warned the Western powers and NATO not to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs and leave Ukraine out of Western influence. In this context, the West has united to support the Ukrainian forces in their defence from the Russian attacks. In a show of unity for Ukraine, the West gave the Ukrainian military humanitarian aid, weapons, and training. The biggest weapon that Western countries have used is the sanctions as the US, European Union, the UK, Canada, and Japan joined hands and imposed sanctions against Russia to cripple its economy. 

US INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY

According to American official documents, the Indo-Pacific is a region that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Western Indian Ocean. US’s Indo-Pacific strategy highlights that it is necessary to have a free and open Indo-Pacific, without the dominance of any particular country in the economic and strategic realm. Therefore, the Indo-Pacific region has emerged as a significant point of contestation between the US and China. In the next two decades, the region will be a flashpoint of geopolitical confrontations for great power status. The US has formulated an Indo-Pacific strategy that fosters economic and strategic relations with the region’s developing economies.

The US engagement with the region is both geostrategic and geoeconomic, as it is a part of the QUAD initiative and a founding member of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The US has rallied like-minded countries’ support to counter China’s dominance and aggressive regional policies. Through its IPEF initiative, the US aims to establish and set the standards for promoting a rules-based order. The initiative is of particular interest to economies in the region because of its clause of diversifying and making resilient supply chain mechanisms independent of China. 

IMPLICATION OF US INVOLVEMENT IN UKRAINIAN CRISIS

Many have labelled the involvement of the US in the Ukrainian crisis as a distraction from its Indo-Pacific strategy. As a major country of the NATO alliance, the US is heavily involved in the recent Russia-Ukraine war as the US must safeguard the democratic values and sovereignty of the countries from aggressors. However, Asian leaders have had their dilemmas over the US shift towards European affairs, leaving the Indo-Pacific region behind. The US has long been embroiled in European affairs since World War II, and has only recently focused on the Indo-Pacific region because of the rise of the Chinese threat. 

The Southeast Asian nations have voiced their dilemma by questioning the extensive involvement of the US in European affairs, since a similar threat is looming over the Asian nations because of China’s ambitious territorial expansionism. In this context, the US should enhance its cooperation with friendly countries and design strategies to diversify the supply chain mechanism in order to make the global cycle independent from China. The US’s focus on establishing and promoting digital infrastructure, clean energy, and resilient supply chains emanates from the idea of making the regional economies less reliant on China. 

The newly formulated Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity has been termed an ‘economic NATO’ tactic to decouple the Chinese economy from that of Asia. The US involvement in the Ukraine crisis and its response by imposing sanctions on Russia has brought China and Russia into a closer partnership. Both see the US as a hegemonic power trying to influence countries in their region of influence. The US involvement has severe ramifications for the Indo-Pacific as it heightens the possibility of Russia and China joining hands to prevent the development of the Indo-Pacific region in collaboration with the US. 

Moreover, the US involvement has sparked the debate of taking sides in the conflict, which the Indo-Pacific countries cannot do because of their historical and strategic relationship with Russia, such as India

Therefore, the Russia-Ukraine war is a precursor to a more geopolitically driven competition in the Indo-Pacific, as many countries are involved in attaining a position of influence. The current situation demands an informed US policy for the Indo-Pacific region and attention towards daily developments as countries put their economic interests at a higher place. The biggest lesson for the US from the Ukraine crisis that can be applied in the Indo-Pacific, is that it should focus on fostering partnerships across Asian countries, as China requires a unified response for its aggressive policies. In addition, the US needs to pace the geopolitical competition and offer incentives to its regional allies for a better partnership. 

The implications of the Ukraine crisis are loud and clear in the Indo-Pacific region, as the US has bolstered its alliance partnership with Asian countries and has started regularly meeting the leaders to stay in sync with policy developments. 

CONCLUSION

The Ukraine crisis corresponded with the US’s shifting focus toward the Indo-Pacific region as it is a potential flashpoint for future geopolitical confrontation. Ukraine has severe implications for the US Indo-Pacific strategy as it poses a reminder for the US to enhance its cooperation with regional economies in Asia. The US’s strategy to engage with these countries strategically and economically is particularly significant as it impels the regional development of infrastructure and domestic production. 

The Ukraine crisis is termed as a distraction for the US from its Indo-pacific commitments; however, this is not the case, as President Biden has convened meetings with the regional leaders on many occasions and discussed the issues related to economic and defence engagement. The recently held QUAD summit and the inauguration ceremony of the IPEF signify that the US is committed to safeguarding the interests of the Indo-Pacific region as it is determined to safeguard the territorial integrity of Ukraine from the Russian invasion. The Ukraine crisis and the subsequent involvement of the US in its initiative to secure the country and its citizens point to the fact that the Indo-Pacific countries are indeed right in engaging with the US as the Chinese threat over them looms more significantly every day. The US’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region is driven by China’s aggressive policies and the need to balance excessive Chinese investments. The Ukraine crisis mirrors the US’s Indo-pacific strategy as it readies itself to face an even more aggressive and strategically stable China. The US must strengthen its alliances in the Indo-Pacific region as the countries are sceptical of engaging in a geopolitical conflict. For them, China presents economic initiatives, whereas the US has a position of providing security to the Indo-Pacific region. 

Image credits: https://news.virginia.edu/content/professors-conflict-ukraine-could-escalate-many-ways

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