The rights group commissioned an independent review of its August accusation that Ukrainian forces illegally put civilians in harm’s way.
The rights group commissioned an independent review of its August accusation that Ukrainian forces illegally put civilians in harm’s way.
Some wars acquire names that stick. The Lancaster and York clans fought the War of the Roses from 1455-1485 to claim the British throne. The Hundred Years’ War pitted England against France from 1337-1453. In the Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648, many European countries clashed, while Britain and France waged the Seven Years’ War, 1756-63, across significant parts of the globe. World War I (1914-1918) gained the lofty moniker, “The Great War,” even though World II (1939-1945) would prove far greater in death, destruction, and its grim global reach.
Of the catchier conflict names, my own favorite — though the Pig War of 1859 between the U.S. and Great Britain in Canada runs a close second — is the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1748). It was named for Captain Robert Jenkins of the East India Company who, in 1738, told the British House of Commons that his ear, which he displayed for the onlooking parliamentarians, had been severed several years earlier by a Spanish coast guard sloop’s commander. He had boarded the ship off the Cuban coast and committed the outrage using Jenkins’s own cutlass. If ever there was cause for war, that was it! An ear for an ear, so to speak.
If I could give Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine a name for posterity, I think I’d call it the War of Surprises, because from the get-go it so thoroughly confounded the military mavens and experts on Russia and Ukraine. For now, though, let me confine myself to exploring just two surprising aspects of that ongoing conflict, both of which can be posed as questions: Why did it occur when it did? Why has it evolved in such unexpected ways?
It’s NATO’s Fault
Though a slim majority of experts opined that Putin might use force against Ukraine many months after his military buildup on Ukraine’s border began in early 2021, few foresaw an all-out invasion. When he started massing troops, the reigning assumption was that he was muscle-flexing, probably to extract a promise that NATO would cease expanding toward Russia.
Some context helps here. NATO had just 16 members at its Cold War peak. More than three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has 30 — 32 when Finland and Sweden, which sought membership after Putin’s invasion, are allowed to join. Long before Putin became president in 2000, Russian officials were already condemning the eastward march of the American-led former Cold War alliance. His predecessor Boris Yeltsin made his opposition clear to President Bill Clinton.
In October 1993, as Secretary of State Warren Christopher prepared to travel to Russia, James Collins, chargé d’affaires at the American embassy in Moscow, sent him a cable warning that “NATO expansion is neuralgic to Russians.” If continued “without holding the door open to Russia,” he added, it would be “universally interpreted in Moscow as directed against Russia and Russia alone — or ‘Neo-Containment,’ as Foreign Minister [Andrei] Kozyrev recently suggested.”
In February 2008, eight years into Putin’s presidency and about a month before a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, William Burns, then the American ambassador to Moscow and now the director of the CIA, sent a cable to Washington focusing on Ukraine. “NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine,” he warned, “remains an ‘emotional and neuralgic’ issue for Russia.” That same month, in a memo to President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Burns wrote that Ukraine’s entry into NATO would cross “the brightest of all red lines” for Russia’s leaders. “I have,” he continued, “yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”
Such diplomatic missives had little effect as NATO expansion became the centerpiece of Washington’s new security order in Europe. In April 2008, at Bush’s urging, NATO finally took a fateful step at that Bucharest summit, declaring that Ukraine and Georgia would, one day, join its ranks.
Now, it was one thing to include former Soviet allies from Central Europe in NATO, but Ukraine was another matter entirely. In the eyes of Russian nationalists, the two countries shared a centuries-long set of cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious ties with Ukrainians, not to mention a 1,426-mile-long border, a point Putin made in a 7,000-word essay he wrote in July 2021, tellingly titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”
Putin, who never regarded Ukraine as an authentic state, saw the Ukrainians’ overwhelming December 1991 vote in favor of independence as a deep injustice. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that he told George W. Bush at a NATO-Russia Council meeting held during that 2008 Bucharest summit, “Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? A part of its territory is Eastern Europe, another part [Ukraine east of the Dnipro River], and a significant one, is a donation from us.” He later added ominously that, if Ukraine entered NATO, it would lose Crimea, its sole Russian-majority province, and the Donbas, its Russophone east. In his 2016 book, All the Kremlin’s Men, Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar confirmed that Putin had indeed threatened to destroy Ukraine, were it to join NATO.
Those who blame NATO for the present war point to just such evidence. And it can’t be denied that NATO expansion created tension between Russia and the West, as well as Russia and Ukraine. But the alliance’s Bucharest promise that Ukraine would become a member someday didn’t make Putin’s war any less surprising.
Here’s why: between then and the invasion moment, NATO never followed through on its pledge to take the next step and provide Kyiv with a “membership action plan.” By February 2022, it had, in fact, kept Ukraine waiting for 14 years without the slightest sign that its candidacy might be advancing (though Ukraine’s security ties and military training with some NATO states — the U.S., Britain, and Canada, in particular — had increased).
So, the NATO-was-responsible theory, suggesting that Putin invaded in 2022 in the face of an “existential threat,” isn’t convincing (even if one believes, as I do, that NATO’s enlargement was a bad idea and Russian apprehensions reasonable).
It’s Democracy, Stupid
A rival explanation for Putin’s war is that it stemmed from his fear of liberal democracy. Under his rule, Russia had become steadily more authoritarian until the state was embodied in a single person: him. Putin’s greatest fear, so this explanation goes, was the specter of Russians thronging the streets demanding more freedom — and so, his departure. For that reason, he curbed the media, exiled opposition figures, allegedly had others like Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov killed, and jailed Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent dissident and the person most likely to lead a grassroots rebellion against him.
According to this account, Putin can’t imagine Russians turning against him spontaneously, since he played such a crucial role in putting the 1990s — a decade of economic collapse, fire sales of state property to sleazy “oligarchs,” rising poverty, and potential civil war — behind them. Instead, he built a strong state, imposed order, crushed the Chechens’ attempted secession, paid off Russia’s massive debt early, rebuilt the army, revved up the economy, and left the country standing tall as a great power once again.
So, if Russians do protest en masse (as they did from 2011 to 2013 against rigged elections), it must be thanks to instigation from abroad, as was supposedly true in adjoining countries like Georgia during its 2003 Rose Revolution, Kyrgyzstan during its 2005 Tulip Revolution, and Ukraine during its Orange Revolution that same year. Putin, this narrative continues, hated the “color revolutions” because they created turmoil in regions he deemed Russia’s sphere of influence or in which, as former president Dmitry Medvedev put it, the country has “privileged interests.”
But his real beef against citizen rebellions in Russia’s neighborhood, according to this explanation of what sparked the invasion, is that they might inspire insurrection in Russia. And when it came to that, he especially feared such events in Ukraine. In 2014, after all, its “revolution of dignity” culminated in the ouster of a Russian-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych. For Putin, in other words, that revolt hit too close to home. He reacted by annexing Crimea (after a referendum that violated Ukraine’s constitution), while working to foster two separatist “republics” across the border in Ukraine’s Donbas region. A little more than a month before his invasion at a meeting of the Russia-led Collective Treaty Organization, he warned that “we will not allow the realization of so-called color-revolution scenarios” and promptly dispatched 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan following a revolt there.
As for Ukraine, while it may be an imperfect democracy, it was certainly making progress. Its elections were cleaner than Russia’s and its media far freer, as political parties competed, governments were voted in and out of power, and civic groups multiplied. All of this, so goes the argument, Putin found intolerable, fearing that such democratic ideas and aspirations would eventually make their way to Russia.
As it happens, though, none of this explains the timing of his invasion.
After all, Ukraine had been moving toward political plurality for years, however slowly and unevenly, and however far it still had to go. So, what was happening in 2021 that could have taken his fear to new heights? The answer: nothing, really. Those who claim that NATO was irrelevant to the invasion often insist that the deed sprang from Putin’s ingrained authoritarianism, dating back to his days in Russia’s secret police, the KGB, his love of unchecked power, and his dread of uppity citizens inclined to rebellion.
The problem: none of this explains why the war broke out when it did. Russia wasn’t then being roiled by protests; Putin’s position was rock-solid; and his party, United Russia, had no true rivals. Indeed, the only others with significant followings, relatively speaking, the Communist Party and the Liberal Democracy Party (neither liberal nor democratic), were aligned with the state.
According to yet another explanation, he attacked Ukraine simply because he’s an imperialist through and through, yearns to go down in history as Putin the Great (like Russian tzars Peter the Great and Catherine the Great), and has been transfixed by far-right thinkers, above all the exile Ivan Ilyin, whose remains he arranged to have returned to Russia for reburial.
But why then did a Russian ruler seized by imperial dreams and a neo-fascist ideology wait more than two decades to attack Ukraine? And remember, though now commonly portrayed as a wild-eyed expansionist, Putin, though hardly a peacemaker, had never previously committed Russian forces to anything like that invasion. His 1999-2009 war in Chechnya, though brutal, was waged within Russia and there was no prospect of outside intervention to help the Chechens. His brief military foray into Georgia in 2008, his landgrab in Ukraine in 2014, his intervention in Syria in 2015 — none were comparable in their size or audacity.
Do I have a better explanation? No, but that’s my point. To this day, perhaps the most important question of all about this war, the biggest surprise — why did it happen when it did? — remains deeply mysterious, as do Putin’s motives (or perhaps impulses).
God Doesn’t Favor the Bigger Battalions
Once Russian troops did cross Ukraine’s border, just about everyone expected Kyiv to fall within days. After that, it was assumed, Putin would appoint a quisling government and annex big chunks of the country. The CIA’s assessment was that Ukrainian forces would be trounced in no time at all, while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley reportedly told members of Congress that resistance would fizzle within a mere three days. Those predictions briefly seemed on the mark. After all, the Russian army made its way to the northern suburbs of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv — think of a military bent on capturing Washington, D.C., reaching Bethesda, Maryland — before being stopped in its tracks. Had it taken that city, we would be in a different world today.
But — perhaps the biggest surprise of all — the far weaker Ukrainian army not only prevented what was then considered the world’s second-greatest military superpower from taking Kyiv, but in September 2022 ejected Russian forces from the northeastern province of Kharkiv. That October, it also pushed them out of the portion of the southern province of Kherson they had captured on the right bank of the Dnipro River. In all, Ukrainian forces have now retaken about half the territory Russia occupied after the invasion.
As winter approached that year, the crescent-shaped frontlines extending from northern Luhansk Province (one of two that make up the Donbas region) all the way south became the scene of World War I-style trench warfare, with both sides throwing their troops into a virtual meat grinder. Still, since then, despite having overwhelming superiority in soldiers and firepower — the estimated artillery exchange ratio between the two forces has been put as high as 7:1 — Russia’s advance has been, at best, glacial, at worst, nonexistent.
The Russian army’s abysmal performance has perplexed experts. According to American, British, and Norwegian estimates, it has suffered something on the order of 180,000-200,00 casualties. Some observers do believe those numbers are significantly too high, but even if they were off by 50%, the Russian army’s casualties in one year of fighting would exceed by perhaps twofold the losses of the Soviet Union’s Red Army during its 10-year war in Afghanistan.
Russia has also lost thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters, while vast amounts of equipment, abandoned intact, have fallen into Ukrainian hands. All of this, mind you, after Putin initiated a mega-bucks military modernization drive in 2008, leading the Economist to declare in 2020 that “the Russian military dazzles after a decade of reform” and NATO had better watch out.
For the surprising evolution of the war, unlike so much else, I do have an explanation. Military experts typically dwell on what can be counted: the level of military spending, the number of soldiers, tanks, warplanes, and artillery pieces a military has, and so on. They assume, reasonably enough, that the side with more countable stuff is likely to be the winner — and quickly if it has a lot more as Russia indeed did.
There is, however, no way to assign numerical values to morale or leadership. As a result, they tend to be discounted, if not simply omitted from comparisons of military power. In Ukraine, however, as in the American wars in Vietnam in the last century and Afghanistan in this one, the squishy stuff has, at least so far, proven decisive. French emperor Napoleon’s dictum that, in war, “the moral is to the physical as three to one” may seem hyperbolic and he certainly ignored it when he led his Grande Armée disastrously into Russia and allowed the brutal Russian winter to shred its spirit, but in Ukraine — surprise of surprises — his maxim has held all too true, at least so far.
When it comes to surprises, count on one thing: the longer this war continues, the greater the likelihood of yet more of them. One in particular should worry us all: the possibility, if a Russian defeat looms, of a sudden escalation to nuclear war. There’s no way to judge or measure the probability of such a dreaded dénouement now. All we know is that the consequences could be horrific.
Though neither Russia nor the United States seeks a nuclear war, it’s at least possible that they could slide into one. After all, never, not even in the Cold War era, has their relationship been quite so poisonous, only increasing the risk of both misperception and overreaction born of worst-case thinking. Let us hope, in this war of surprises, that it remains nothing more than another of the scenarios strategists like to imagine. Then again, if as 2021 began, I had suggested that Russia might soon invade Ukraine and begin a war in Europe, you would undoubtedly have thought me mad.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have declared a “new era” in Chinese-Russian relations after meeting in Moscow earlier this week. The two leaders reportedly discussed China’s 12-point proposal to end the war in Ukraine, with Putin stating that China’s plan could be the basis for a peace agreement. Though he has not yet met with Xi himself, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has recently also expressed a willingness to consider China’s peace plan. For more, we speak to Andrew Bacevich, co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, about the rise of China, as well as the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bacevich is professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University and the author of On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century.
On March 17, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for children’s rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. The warrant charges Putin and Lvova-Belova with war crimes as defined under international law for the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children from occupied areas to Russia. According to the Ukrainian government, over 16,000 children have been forcibly transferred to Russia since the war began in February 2022.
The ICC’s action comes on the heels of other steps taken by international bodies to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United Nations General Assembly has passed two resolutions, the first in October 2022 and the second last month, calling on Russia to end hostilities and withdraw its forces. In March 2022, The International Court of Justice (ICJ, also known as the “World Court”) issued a “provisional measure” (the equivalent of a preliminary injunction) ordering Russia to halt the invasion.
Seen in this context, the ICC’s action marks a historic milestone not only for the ICC as an institution, but for international law more generally.
The contemporary framework of international law took shape after the Second World War with the ratification of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the subsequent amendments, or “protocols,” to the conventions. The post-war period also saw the founding of the United Nations and the World Court as a forum for resolving disputes among nations. The ICC began operations in 2002 as a forum for trying individuals accused of committing war crimes, genocide and other “crimes against humanity.”
Unfortunately, international law is only effective if the great powers of the globe agree to abide by its strictures. Russia has rejected the ICC’s jurisdiction over its military operations in Ukraine, and will never surrender its president or any other officials to the court’s jurisdiction. In 2016, Russia withdrew from the international treaty that established the court.
The United States, while eagerly condemning Russian war crimes, is arguably even more hypocritical when it comes to the ICC. The U.S. initially signed the court’s treaty in 2000 but withdrew from it in 2002 over fears that the court would one day charge U.S. soldiers or other personnel with international crimes.
The ICC has been criticized in the past for targeting African human rights violators and overlooking European and U.S. malefactors. But in a historic turnabout, the court opened investigations in 2020 into alleged war crimes committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan and by Israel in Palestine.
The Biden administration lifted Trump-era sanctions against the ICC, but continues to oppose both of the probes into U.S. actions. The administration also has no intention of allowing the U.S. to join the court, as 123 other nations have.
The work of the ICC, the U.N. and the World Court deserve the support of the peace movement in this country and abroad. There is a simple rejoinder to both the leaders of Russia and the U.S. when it comes to facing accountability under international law: If you don’t want to be accused of war crimes, don’t commit them in the first place.
For nearly a decade in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the newly founded Islamic Republic of Iran waged a merciless war against each other. The fighting saw the return of World War I-style human-wave offensives, trench warfare, and chemical weapons attacks.
Though it dragged on for years, the Iran-Iraq war benefited neither side. In the end, the conflict claimed the lives of over a million people, since, despite the carnage and wishes of ordinary people on both sides to end it, no diplomatic solution proved possible over eight years of fighting.
There is good reason to worry that this ugly history is repeating itself today in Eastern Europe.
Like the Iran-Iraq war, the war in Ukraine was triggered by an expansionist dictator hoping to make quick work of a neighbor whom he had wrongly predicted would prove incapable of defending itself. Now, over a year into the fighting, the conflict, which has already claimed hundreds of thousands of casualties by some estimates, has ground to a bloody stalemate that has transformed once-anonymous Ukrainian towns like Bakhmut and Marinka into killing fields.
A peace treaty that puts a stop to this chaos is attractive for many obvious reasons, and foreign powers like China and India have recently indicated that they would like to encourage one. Yet observers say that all signs point to the war dragging on for years to come, with both sides — like Iranians and Iraqis in the past — committed to the belief that victory is within their grasp and that pressing the war forward is worthwhile.
“I don’t see any prospect of diplomacy. What both sides would accept as an equitable settlement to the war is very far apart,” said Rajan Menon, the author of “Conflict in Ukraine: The Unwinding of the Post-Cold War Order” and a research fellow at Columbia University. Menon pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration that the four Russian-controlled Ukrainian provinces had already been annexed — a position he is extremely unlikely to back away from.
“I don’t see any prospect of diplomacy. What both sides would accept as an equitable settlement to the war is very far apart.”
“On the Ukrainian side,” Menon said, “because their country has been invaded and has witnessed immense destruction and atrocities, there is a coming together of Ukrainian sentiment to fight against Russia. They have no illusions about a quick victory and have already priced in that they will have to endure this for a long time.”
Menon argues that the war is thus likely to continue for many years to come, a prediction that is echoed by many other observers. Some have argued that the conflict will become a permanent part of the international system, only concluding if either Ukraine or Russia collapses, or both cease to exist as states. Even if a negotiated settlement emerges sometime in the future, the amount of destruction that will have likely taken place by that time will be staggering.
The war has already taken a devastating toll on the Ukrainian population, which has suffered civilian massacres and systematic destruction of infrastructure. Yet it has also proved damaging to Russia. In addition to suffering Western sanctions, which are likely to escalate in the years to come, huge numbers of young Russian men have been killed, wounded, or simply fled the country to escape military enlistment. According to The Economist, this exodus and killing off of young Russians means that there are now 10 million more Russian women than men in the country — a situation that portends a demographic nightmare for an already rapidly aging population.
In a sense, the U.S. has played a role in prolonging the conflict by heavily arming the Ukrainians to resist Russia’s aggression. The position has drawn scrutiny from some sectors of the U.S. political establishment. Noninterventionist foreign policy observers from the realist, right-wing, and left-wing camps have characterized the conflict as overly costly in financial terms, blamed the U.S. for provoking Russia with the prospect of NATO expansion, or suggested that it would be the lesser evil to cease arms shipments to the Ukrainians and let the conflict conclude swiftly, accepting a likely Russian victory.
What these positions fail to account for are the actions of Ukrainians, who, over a year of grueling fighting, have proven themselves very committed to preserving their own nationhood and territorial integrity.
“If you are calling to stop the war right now, and you’re a person on the left, you’re effectively telling Ukrainians to accept the partition of their country, which is the same position as the MAGA right,” Menon said. “Ukraine would have to cease existing as a coherent state and be truncated. But through his actions, Putin has kind of remade Ukrainian nationalism, and they have a commitment to win.”
Despite the unlikelihood of a negotiated outcome to the war coming any time soon, there are signs of longer-term planning for an endgame by the United States.
While U.S. leaders were glad to egg on the Iran-Iraq war for years — including arming both sides and helping facilitate chemical weapons attacks against Iran by Saddam — there seems to be less appetite for the risk of an indefinite conflict involving a nuclear power like Russia.
A recent report by the RAND Corporation laid out the consequences for the U.S. of a very long war in Ukraine, including the small but persistent possibility of nuclear escalation. The report acknowledged that Ukrainian and American interests may well diverge in the future, with Americans coming to prioritize ending the conflict over helping Ukraine regain full control of its occupied territory — a goal ultimately more important to Ukrainians than Americans.
“The U.S. is currently engaged in [a] protracted attempt to punish Russia because they have offended our moral sensibilities. I don’t think that is inherently wrong, but it’s different from saying that it’s a critical national security interest,” said Benjamin Friedman, policy director at the realist foreign policy think tank Defense Priorities and a lecturer at George Washington University. “We have already underlined that invading other countries in this day and age is very costly. Russia has been punished heavily for violating Ukrainian sovereignty, and I don’t think that anyone would look at them after today and say that they are an example to emulate.”
For now, the fighting will continue and may even increase. Ukraine is likely to pursue a counteroffensive against Russia this spring, even as soldiers on both sides continue to die in the grueling battle for the town of Bakhmut.
The U.S., for its part, is reportedly looking at upping its own support by providing F-16s to the Ukrainian military, with pilots now being brought stateside for training. Unlike in the Iran-Iraq war, where the U.S. armed both countries at various times in order to keep the conflict going and kill as many people on both sides as possible, in the Ukraine war, it has clearly picked one side to support to the hilt.
“The war has a low probability of a serious escalation, but the longer you continue to roll those dice, even if the odds are low, the more likely you are to hit on a future disaster.”
Faced with the Russian invasion, heavily arming Ukraine may indeed be the least bad option. Yet despite paying dividends in slain Russian troops, this policy, likely to keep the war going for a long time to come, will keep the risk of far more dangerous escalation alive down the road. Just as the horror of the Iran-Iraq war had unintended long-term consequences for U.S. politics in the Middle East, an endless conflict in Ukraine will likely give shape to an Eastern Europe that is more radicalized and dangerous for Americans in the future.
“A lot of people basically have the view that it’s great that we’re killing Russians and weakening Russia for the future. It will prevent them from invading other countries, and, so long as it’s Ukrainians who are signed up on the front lines, there’s no real issue for the United States,” said Friedman. “But the war going on and on is bad for the United States. The war has a low probability of a serious escalation, but the longer you continue to roll those dice, even if the odds are low, the more likely you are to hit on a future disaster.”
The post The War in Ukraine Is Just Getting Started appeared first on The Intercept.
China sees a partnership with Russia as a way to challenge, and potentially weaken, the United States, a new threat assessment said.
President Biden has not acted to resolve a dispute that pits the Defense Department against other agencies.
By Pepe Escobar – Feb 22, 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s much awaited address to the Russian Federal Assembly on Tuesday should be interpreted as a tour de force of sovereignty.
The address, significantly, marked the first anniversary of Russia’s official recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, only a few hours before 22 February, 2022. In myriad ways, what happened a year ago also marked the birth of the real, 21st century multipolar world.
Then two days later, Moscow launched the Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine to defend said republics.
Cool, calm, collected, without a hint of aggression, Putin’s speech painted Russia as an ancient, independent, and quite distinct civilization – sometimes following a path in concert with other civilizations, sometimes in divergence.
Ukraine, part of Russian civilization, now happens to be occupied by western civilization, which Putin said “became hostile to us,” like in a few instances in the past. So the acute phase of what is essentially a war by proxy of the west against Russia takes place over the body of Russian civilization.
That explains Putin’s clarification that “Russia is an open country, but an independent civilization – we do not consider ourselves superior but we inherited our civilization from our ancestors and we must pass it on.”
A war dilacerating the body of Russian civilization is a serious existential business. Putin also made clear that “Ukraine is being used as a tool and testing ground by the west against Russia.” Thus the inevitable follow-up: “The more long-range weapons are sent to Ukraine, the longer we have to push the threat away from our borders.”
Translation: this war will be long – and painful. There will be no swift victory with minimal loss of blood. The next moves around the Dnieper may take years to solidify. Depending on whether US policy continues to cleave to neo-con and neoliberal objectives, the frontline may be displaced to Lviv. Then German politics may change. Normal trade with France and Germany may be recovered only by the end of the next decade.
Highlights of President Putin’s Speech 1 Year Into Military Operation in Ukraine
Kremlin exasperation: START is finished
All that brings us to the games played by the Empire of Lies. Says Putin: “The promises…of western rulers turned into forgery and cruel lies. The west supplied weapons, trained nationalist battalions. Even before the start of the SMO, there were negotiations…on the supply of air defense systems… We remember Kyiv’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons.”
Putin made it clear, once again, that the element of trust between Russia and the west, especially the US, is gone. So it’s a natural decision for Russia to “withdraw from the treaty on strategic offensive weapons, but we don’t do it officially. For now we are only halting our participation to the START treaty. No US inspections in our nuclear sites can be allowed.”
As an aside, of the three main US-Russian weapons treaties, Washington abandoned two of these: The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was dumped by the administration of former president George W. Bush in 2002, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was nixed by former president Donald Trump in 2019.
This shows the Kremlin’s degree of exasperation. Putin is even prepared to order the Ministry of Defense and Rosatom to get ready to test Russian nuclear weapons if the US goes first along the same road.
If that’s the case, Russia will be forced to completely break parity in the nuclear sphere, and abandon the moratorium on nuclear testing and cooperation with other nations when it comes to the production of nuclear weapons. So far, the US and NATO game consisted in opening a little window allowing them to inspect Russian nuclear sites.
With his judo move, Putin returns the pressure onto the White House.
The US and NATO will not be exactly thrilled when Russia starts testing its new strategic weapons, especially the post-doomsday Poseidon – the largest nuclear-powered torpedo ever deployed, capable of triggering terrifying radioactive ocean swells.
On the economic front: Bypassing the US dollar is the essential play towards multipolarity. During his speech, Putin made a point to extol the resilience of the Russian economy: “Russian GDP in 2022 decreased only by 2.1 percent, estimates of the opposing side did not become reality, they said 15, 20 percent.” That resilience gives Russia enough room to “work with partners to make the system of international settlements independent of the US dollar and other western currencies. The dollar will lose its universal role.”
On geoeconomics: Putin went all out in praise of economic corridors, from West Asia to South Asia: “New corridors, transport routes will be built towards the East, this is the region where we will focus our development, new highways to Kazakhstan and China, new North-South corridor to Pakistan, Iran.”
And those will connect to Russia developing “the ports of the Black and Azov Seas, it’s necessary to build logistics corridors within the country.” The result will be a progressive interconnection with the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) whose principals include Iran and India, and eventually China’s mega-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
China’s plan for global security
It’s inevitable that apart from sketching several state policies geared towards Russia’s internal development – one might even compare them to socialist policies – a great deal of Putin’s address had to focus on the NATO vs. Russia war till-the-last-Ukrainian.
Putin remarked on how “our relations with the west have degraded, and this is entirely the fault of the United States;” how NATO’s goal is to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia; and how the warmongering frenzy had forced him, a week ago, to sign a decree “putting new ground-based strategic complexes on combat duty.”
So it’s no accident that the US ambassador was immediately summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs right after Putin’s address.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Ambassador Lynne Tracey in no uncertain terms that Washington must take concrete measures: among them, to remove all US and NATO military forces and equipment away from Ukraine. In a stunning move, he demanded a detailed explanation of the destruction of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, as well as a halt to US interference in an independent inquiry to identify the responsible parties.
Keeping the momentum in Moscow, top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi met with secretary of Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, before talking to Lavrov and Putin. Patrushev remarked, “the course towards developing a strategic partnership with China is an absolute priority for Russia’s foreign policy.” Wang Yi, not so cryptically, added, “Moscow and Beijing need to synchronize their watches.”
The Americans are doing everything to try and pre-empt the Chinese proposal for a de-escalation in Ukraine. China’s plan should be presented this Friday, and there’s a serious risk Beijing may fall into a trap set by the western plutocracy.
Too many Chinese “concessions” to Russia, and not as many to Ukraine, may be spun to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing (Divide and Rule, which is always the US Plan A. There’s no Plan B).
Sensing the waters, the Chinese themselves decided to take the offensive, presenting a Global Security Initiative Concept Paper.
The problem is Beijing still attributes too much clout to a toothless UN, when they refer to“formulating a New Agenda for Peace and other proposals put forth in Our Common Agenda by the UN Secretary-General.”
Same when Beijing upholds the consensus that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Try to explain that to the Straussian neo-con psychos in the Beltway, who know nothing about war, much less nuclear ones.
The Chinese affirm the necessity to “comply with the joint statement on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races issued by leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states in January 2022.” And to “strengthen dialogue and cooperation among nuclear-weapon states to reduce the risk of nuclear war.”
Bets can be made that Patrushev explained in detail to Wang Yi how that is just wishful thinking. The “logic “of the current collective western “leadership” has been expressed, among others, by irredeemable mediocrity Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general: even nuclear war is preferable to a Russian victory in Ukraine.
Putin’s measured but firm address has made it clear that the stakes keep getting higher. And it all revolves on how deep Russia’s – and China’s – “strategic ambiguity” are able to petrify a paranoid west flirting with mushroom clouds.
Campism generally splits the world into two antagonistic orders, or great ‘camps’ – in simplistic terms, it is the split between the camp of capitalism and the camp of socialism; the great Cold War rivalry between the United States, its NATO allies and (neo)colonies, versus the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics and its Iron Curtain More
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