EAST vs WEST: Divergent Responses to the Russia-Ukraine War

The Russia Ukraine completes a year – much to the dismay and wonder of all, especially Russia which could not have expected this stiff resistance from a small neighbour. The world has responded with anger, anguish, dismay and much more, as the war has taken a toll on countries worldwide. There have been varied responses by countries across the world, and there are some questions and observations about the East vs West response.

The Asian response has been cautious and watchful and followed a nuanced path as the war has progressed. The current responsiveness of countries such as China and India is based on pragmatism to cope with the multiplier effect of the pandemic, compounded by the current conflict. As the post-pandemic global environment led to the worst-ever economic depression in decades, responses of countries have attempted to combine domestic issues of survival with social and ethical concerns. The current conflict has exacerbated the global crisis as prices of food, oil and fertilisers have skyrocketed across the world, complicating domestic issues for many Asian countries.

Asian countries like India and China have engaged in increased trade with Russia since items such as oil and fertilisers are their major imports and the health of the domestic economy hinges on the availability of these items. US and NATO sanctions against Russia, have had unexpected consequences, as the US-led effort to exclude Russia and others from the international payments systems has found countries making alternative arrangements. A major development in Indo – Russian trade has been the use of the Indian currency – the rupee as the means of settlement, instead of the US dollar.

The Indian response is a reflection of its national beliefs and values and reflects a national strategy aimed at protecting its national interest. It has been unequivocal in condemning the war but has made it clear that food for the masses takes precedence over many other issues.

As China exists as a common competitor in the backyard, the response of Asian firms from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam is driven by the unease arising out of this fact.

To conclude we highlight the ironic fact that the West may impose sanctions against Russia on the one hand, but engages in the re-purchase of Russian oil from China, without batting an eyelid!!

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