The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis has become one of the most critical events in international relations making it extremely important for UPSC civil services exam both from prelims and main perspectives. From the examination point of view, the key is to look at the ongoing events as well as interlink them with static subjects to be prepared in a holistic manner


  • Current Scenario of Russia Ukraine War
  • How & What to Study About Ongoing Russia - Ukraine Crisis for UPSC Civil Services Exam?


  • The Ukraine crisis has crossed a critical point, with Russia following up its recognition of rebel regions in eastern Ukraine (Donbas region)- Donetsk and Luhansk with a full-fledged invasion to “demilitarise” and “denazify” Ukraine.
  • This decision by Moscow is a rejection of the inviolability of national borders in Europe as agreed to in the Helsinki agreement of 1975 and a major challenge to the global order.
  • While on one hand Russia remains India’s biggest and time-tested supplier of military hardware, the US, the EU, and UK are all vital partners that India cannot afford to antagonise. Considering India’s strategic interests, a balanced approach that India has followed till now, is a pragmatic way forward.

What is the Conflict?

  • Contestation about post-Cold War central European territoriality and resurrecting a burnished Russian past is at the core of the Ukraine crisis.
  • Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links.
  • For many in Russia and in the ethnically Russian parts of Ukraine, the shared heritage of the countries is an emotional issue that has been exploited for electoral and military purposes.
  • As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia, and was crucial strategically, economically and culturally.
    • The balance of power in the region, Ukraine being a crucial buffer between Russia and the West, Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and Russian interests in the Black Sea accompanied by the protests in the Ukraine are the major causes of the ongoing conflict.

What is the Current Scenario?

  • The conflict is now the largest attack by one state on another in Europe since the Second World War, and the first since the Balkan conflict in the 1990s.
  • With the invasion of Ukraine, agreements like the Minsk Protocols of 2014, and the Russia-NATO Act of 1997 stand all but voided.
  • The G7 nations strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    • Sanctions have been imposed by the U.S., the European Union (EU), the UK, Australia, Canada and Japan.
  • China rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and urged all sides to exercise restraint.
  • India did not join the Western powers’ condemnation of Russia’s intervention in Crimea and kept a low profile on the issue.
    • More recently, India abstained on a US-sponsored UNSC resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, with New Delhi saying dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes and voicing “regret” that the path of diplomacy was given up.
    • China too abstained, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

What is Russia’s Stand?

  • NATO’s expansion violated promises made prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would cross Russia’s red lines, and that NATO’s strategic posture poses a continuing security threat to Russia.
  • NATO’s expansion as a politico-military alliance, even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, was a U.S.’s initiative intended to temper European ambitions for strategic autonomy and to counter Russia’s resurgence.
  • The Ukraine crisis was justified by the Russian President on the grounds of security interests and the rights of ethnic Russians in former Soviet Republics.
  • Russia wants an assurance from the West that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO. Kyiv is currently a “partner country”, which implies that it will be allowed to join the military alliance in the future.
    • The US and its western allies are refusing to bar Ukraine from NATO, claiming it as a sovereign country that is free to choose its own security alliances.

How will India be impacted by this Conflict?

  • The Russia-Ukraine crisis will send cooking gas, petrol and other fuel bills soaring for Indian households and businesses. Higher oil prices add to freight/transportation costs.
  • Depending on how long global oil prices remain elevated, the tensions could raise questions on the RBI's credibility in making inflation projections and upset the government’s budget calculations, particularly fiscal deficit.
  • The surge in crude oil prices will lead to an increase in India’s oil import bills, and gold imports could jump back up, keeping the rupee under pressure.
    • India’s imports of petroleum products from Russia are only a fraction of its total oil import bill and, thus, replaceable.
  • However, getting alternative sources for fertilisers and sunflower oil may not be as easy.
  • Exports to Russia account for less than 1% of India’s total exports, but exports of pharmaceuticals and tea could face some challenges, as will shipments to CIS countries. Freight rate hikes could make overall exports less competitive, too.

What Could Be The Way Forward?

  • Immediate Ceasefire: Unlike during the Cold War, though, the global economy is now deeply integrated. The costs of a prolonged conflict are too dire, foremost in terms of the loss of life and suffering that is already underway in Ukraine.
    • The world is still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, which hurt the poorest countries and people the most, it can ill-afford a conflict-induced slowdown.
    • It is incumbent on Russia to implement a ceasefire and, subsequently, for both sides to return to the negotiating table. Escalation is not an option.
  • New Security Order for Europe: Without justifying the manner in which Russia has chosen to “right” the perceived “wrongs”, the current crisis somehow results from a broken security architecture in Europe.
    • A sustainable security order has to reflect current realities: it cannot be simply an outgrowth of the Cold War order, and it has to be driven from within.
    • Also, a European order that does not accommodate Russia’s concerns through genuine negotiation cannot be stable in the long term.
  • Reviving Minsk Peace Process: A practical solution for the situation is to revive the Minsk peace process.
    • Therefore, the West (US and Other western Countries) should push both sides to resume talks and live up to their commitments as per the Minsk agreement to restore relative peace on the border.

What is an India-Specific Way Forward?

  • Geopolitical Aspect: India has to brace itself for some immediate challenges flowing from the Russian actions.
  • It will have to balance the pressure from one strategic partner to condemn the violation of international law, with that from another to understand its legitimate concerns. India managed these pressures during the 2014 crisis of Crimea annexation, it shall again manage it effectively.
  • Economic Aspect: On the fiscal side, the Government, which has been conservative in its revenue assumptions in the Budget, has the room to pre-emptively cut domestic fuel taxes to nip inflationary expectations, stoke faltering consumption levels and sustain India’s fragile post-Covid-19 recovery through this global churn.
  • A Balanced plan of Action: India-Russia ties have ensured that Delhi has not been entirely left out of the conversation on Afghanistan, and in Central Asia, while also providing some leverage with the US.
    • At the same time, the US, the EU, and UK are all vital partners, and India’s relations with each of them, and the Western world in general, go far beyond the sum of their parts.
    • Delhi must talk continually to all sides, and engage with all of its partners, keeping in mind that there is no justification for the violation of any country’s territorial sovereignty.
    • India must also make it clear to coercing countries that their “with us or against us” formulations are hardly constructive.
    • The best course is for all parties to step back and focus on preventing an all-out war, rather than divide the world and return it to the days of the Cold War.


  • From Prelims perspective, rather than looking at the dynamics of the crisis students need to remember the associated geopolitics and international organizations. One of the reasons for Russian aggression has been the expansion of the US-led cold war military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), into Easter Europe.
  • Since the breakup of the USSR and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, NATO has undergone rounds of expansion including several former states with the students should take note of them. Further students should also familiarize themselves with other important regional and international organizations associated with the countries involved in the crisis including European Union, Eurasian Economic Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), agreements Minsk I and II as well as the Normandy Format of dialogue (consisting of France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia) that have been attempting to resolve the conflict. Another important area to focus on prelims perspective is the geographical importance of the region.
  • UPSC tends to ask questions on the geographical features of places in the news in prelims. Students should focus on the region of the Caucasus lying between the Black Sea and Caspian sea, countries comprising the region which include the former Soviet states of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the importance of Crimea, the strategic significance of Sevastopol port and naval base, climatology and crucial maritime features.
  • The southern regions of Georgia- South Ossetia and Abkhazia which witnessed Russian intervention in 2008 and the eastern districts of Luhansk and Donetsk in Ukraine that were the flashpoints of the present crisis should also be remembered as direct questions regarding their location may be asked.
  • Given the West’s response which has been led by economic sanctions, students should be aware of the features and significance of the global financial network- Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) based in Belgium and overseen by the G-10 Central Banks that Russia has been cut off from as well as the alternative international financial messaging system developed by Russia- System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) to replace SWIFT.
  • Another notable topic for Prelims is the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, systems of offshore natural gas pipelines in Europe that run from Russia to Germany. Students also should remember certain important strategic points of the India-Russia relationship such as the S-400 deal and Operation Ganga to evacuate Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine for the Prelims exam


  • With respect to Mains, the topic is crucial for General Studies Paper 2 which consists of international relations. Candidates need to be aware of the timeline of the crisis and its impact on global politics particularly the human rights and security crisis as well as how it impacts India’s interests.
  • Here students should keep in mind the steps in the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly as well as India’s response to the same including the statements by India’s Permanent Representative to UN, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, focusing on the importance of international order and the importance of dialogue for dispute resolution.
  • Emphasizing on the co-existence of pragmatism and tradition of Gandhian peace and non-violence, India’s stand needs to be analyzed as also a measure to balance its Western and Russian allies while securing its national interests. Apart from a direct question in GS 2, indirect questions may also be asked with respect to the world’s physical geography pertaining to the region in GS1 and debates overvalues of democracy and perpetual peace, politics of nuclear weapons, refugee crisis, the failure of human rights norms and related ethical issues for GS 4.
  • The crisis can also be important for an Essay in which topics related to global governance, changing world order, and the need for new international regimes may become important themes. Another crucial aspect of Mains is the optional paper and students of Political Science and International Relations especially need to keep tabs on the developing issue along with interlinkage with static theories and concepts.
  • The ideas of “Russkiy Mir” or “Russian World” and the ‘limited sovereignty’ thesis by Russian leaders like Putin and Lavrov can be associated with the larger topic of sovereignty in Paper 1 and Paper 2. The Ukraine crisis can be effectively associated with the resurgence of realism, particularly offensive realism and the concept of the security dilemma and deterrence in section A of paper 2 of PSIR which deals with international relations.
  • It is also associated with changing polarity in global politics, the advent of revisionist powers like Russia and China, and how it impacts the existing world order. Students can also co-relate the inability of the United Nations Security Council to take concrete steps to dissuade Russia with the inherent structural flaws in the organization and the need to reform it.
  • For Section B, paper 2 of PSIR which deals with India’s foreign policy, students need to analyze how the ongoing crisis impacts India’s interests and the role India can play as a responsible power in the world order.
  • Importantly, the Indian response can be fit in the ongoing tilt in India’s foreign policy from idealism to realism along with a move to what MEA Jaishankar and former Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale term as “issue based alignment” instead of non-alignment. The crisis can also be analyzed using Kautilya Mandal theory where in transforming global politics, new ‘vijigishus’ are emerging to establish their power and counter US hegemony in international politics

This event is one of the turningpoints in the world history, UPSC aspirants should be aware of the major events on this issue. For more articles in International Relations Click here