Peace or power? What are the real drivers of the Russo-Ukrainian War?

Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada

At the start of his 5th term, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to replace long-time defence minister Sergei Shoigu amid the ongoing war in Ukraine raises intriguing questions about Russian politics and the conflict’s trajectory. The appointment of trusted economic adviser Andrei Belousov to lead the defence ministry underscores how thoroughly the war effort has dominated Russia’s economy for two years.

Russia has recently regained battlefield momentum, seizing territory in eastern Ukraine at a faster pace than at virtually any point since the early days of the invasion. In less than three weeks, Russian troops surged across the border, capturing around 50 square miles near Kharkiv. Replacing the defence minister at a time of apparent success suggests Putin is confident this progress can be maintained under new leadership. (“A New Russian Offensive Stretches Ukrainian Forces. Possibly To The Breaking Point”,

Belousov’s appointment points to a need for an able administrator to manage the economic engine powering the military machine. Meanwhile, Shoigu’s move to head the security council, a position close to Putin but with limited authority, could signal a demotion. The fate of his predecessor, Nikolai Patrushev, one of Russia’s most powerful figures, will provide further clues about a potential deeper restructuring of the regime.

For Ukraine, the military picture looks bleak. Kyiv’s forces have made few breakthroughs since last year, and a much-anticipated counteroffensive fell short. Political gridlock held up $60.8 billion in desperately needed U.S. military aid for nearly six months, hampering Ukraine’s ability to mount offensives or even defend its current territory. This delay left Ukraine vulnerable as its dwindling supplies and troops struggled to defend against the Russian onslaught.

Yet Ukraine’s saving grace has been its political cohesion and societal resilience, which have held firm despite the immense physical and psychological toll of the war. As the conflict likely settles into a prolonged stalemate, barring a major new development, Ukraine’s capacity to maintain this unity will be decisive. (“Victory in Ukraine Starts with Addressing Five Strategic Problems”,

It is imperative to question the motives of the Western powers at this point. As the two major world conflicts rage on – Israel & Palestine, Russia & Ukraine – it is becoming increasingly clear that a genuine desire for a negotiated peace does not drive the Western powers.  Instead, their actions point towards a far more sinister agenda – the relentless mobilisation of their formidable military and industrial might.

From an Islamic perspective, the Holy Quran emphasises the importance of peace and the pursuit of justice, stating, And if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah. Surely, it is He Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Surah al-Anfal, Ch.8: V.62)

Many European leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have insisted that a Russian victory would represent an existential threat to Europe and must be prevented at all costs. Yet they have also imposed limits on the support they are willing to provide, with Scholz in particular resisting calls to send heavy weapons. Russia’s battlefield momentum now raises the stakes of this gap between rhetoric and policy. (“Macron calls Russia threat ‘existential’ ahead of meeting with Tusk, Scholz”,

In the face of this apparent reluctance, we are compelled to, once again, question the true intentions of Western powers. Can we, in good faith, believe that the ultimate objective is a genuine and lasting peace? Or are these acts merely a smokescreen concealing a darker agenda?

In times like these, it is worth looking to history for guidance on the path to peace. One such example is the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, who exemplified the principle of seeking peace through negotiated settlements, even in the face of adversity. In the famous Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, a testament to his wisdom and foresight, the Prophetsa agreed to terms that seemed unfavourable to the Muslims at the time, making a significant sacrifice to establish peace with the Meccans.

As the fighting continues with no end in sight, larger questions loom about what this disastrous war can really achieve for either side. Putin’s imperial ambitions to subjugate Ukraine have foundered against fierce resistance. Yet even if Russia’s recent gains prove lasting, it will have paid a staggering price in blood for meagre strips of territory.

For Ukraine, even successfully repelling the Russians would mean inheriting a country in ruins. The human cost of this war has been immense, with tens of thousands killed, millions displaced, and countless lives shattered. The economic toll is also staggering, In the first year of the war, Ukraine’s economy contracted by an astonishing 30-35%, marking the most severe recession in the nation’s history. (“Ukraine: what’s the global economic impact of Russia’s invasion?”, Despite this devastating setback, the country’s GDP is expected to eke out a modest 3% growth in 2024, offering a glimmer of hope for its beleaguered economy.

Regarding the specific situation in Ukraine, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa has urged world leaders to pursue diplomacy and negotiation to end the conflict, stating: 

“As they continue to support Ukraine as it defends itself, world powers should also be making every possible effort to end the war through peace talks and good-faith negotiations.” (“Global Muslim Leader Urges Good-Faith Negotiations In Peace Plan For Ukraine As He Inaugurates New Complex Of Britain’s Biggest Mosque Rebuilt After Fire In 2015”,

The only true path forward, without further loss of life and economy, is a negotiated settlement. But with both sides still believing they can win the war, the tragedy looks set to grow. As the war enters its third year, its futility has never been clearer. It is time for the international community to apply maximum pressure on both sides to end this senseless conflict, not fuel the flames of hatred by enabling easier access to weapons. Only then can the long and difficult process of rebuilding nations begin.

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