US-NATO Proxy War in Ukraine Not Sustainable in Long Run, Observers Say
15:07 GMT 02.02.2023 (Updated: 17:06 GMT 20.04.2023)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to Sputnik on Thursday, outlining the major points of Moscow's Ukraine policy and the shifting global order. International observers discuss Russia's strategy and its prospects here.
Speaking to Sputnik on February 2, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov reiterated that Moscow wants the conflict with Ukraine to end, adding, however, that the time factor is not the main issue.
The Kremlin has repeatedly indicated its readiness for negotiations with Kiev, which were stalled in April 2022 following the preliminary agreements reached in late March 2022 in Istanbul. At that time, British, US and European top officials openly called for a war until Russia's defeat. Later, Kiev went even so far as to ban Russo-Ukrainian negotiations at the legislative level, apparently not without Washington's involvement.
The United States dropped the ball here. On February 23 , President Biden should have gotten on the phone to President Putin and said look, NATO is not going into Ukraine, there are going to be no advanced weapons systems on their borders and that's the end of the story. That's the kind of thing that John Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He made it very clear to (Soviet) General Secretary Khrushchev, that the United States would be satisfied with an agreement. If you can't force people to do what you want, you have to trade things.
Instead, Joe Biden made the conflict in Ukraine "his ticket for re-election in 2024," according to the professor. He argued that Washington's major cause for participation in the conflict is not military but political. However, the prolonging of the conflict for western and domestic political purposes comes at the expense of the Ukrainians, Siracusa warned.
"Arms supplies will continue against any national interest logic and against the warnings of military chiefs signaling that stocks are low, and production requires time," echoed Paolo Raffone, a strategic analyst and director of the CIPI Foundation in Brussels.
27 January 2023, 18:00 GMT
West & Ukraine Running Out of Time and Ammo
However, western countries cannot keep up their arms supplies to Ukraine at the current rate if the conflict drags on for years, according to the observers. Not only is the West still fighting against soaring inflation and the specter of imminent recession, but it cannot quickly replenish its military arsenals.
Last year, a number of US media and think tanks warned that while Washington was generously arming Ukraine, some US inventories have already reached the minimum levels needed for war plans and training. In addition, the "burn rate" of weapons in Ukraine exceeds replacement capacities.
On January 7, former top US officials Condoleezza Rice and Robert M. Gates highlighted in their op-ed that "time is not on Ukraine's side." The ex-officials acknowledged that "[Ukraine's] economy is in shambles" and that "Ukraine’s military capability and economy are now dependent almost entirely on lifelines from the West — primarily, the United States."
"[T]he western establishment is ready to sacrifice its population in a nonsense war against Russia justified by the misleading narrative to side with aggressed against the aggressor," remarked Raffone, in an apparent reference to adverse results of the West's anti-Russia sanctions which eventually backfired on ordinary Americans and Europeans.
However, the US cannot bear this burden alone, so it engaged its NATO allies despite the conflict on Europe's doorstep contradicting the Old Continent's best interests. Lavrov touched upon the issue of the relationship between the US and its allies, saying: "The United States deprives nations of the right to remember their own history; their task is to melt everyone into ‘Americans.’"
"The EU leaders have been totally captured by the destructive ideology of wokyism – any illiberal state must be annihilated - and the dystopian militaristic logic of NATO synthesized in the narrative 'Russia cannot win'," said Raffone. "EU governments are all under enormous blackmail by US and NATO, with the UK and Netherlands leading the hawk camp, Germany incapable to develop a strategy and to reactivate diplomacy, France losing ground and relevance everywhere under the nonsensical leadership of Macron, and Italy aligned to the most pro-American EU states such as Poland or too weak representations of sovereignty like Germany."
This neo-liberal ideology clearly manifested itself during the COVID pandemic, according to the academic. "This is the process that has incorporated the European into the Americans, melting the European humanism into the anti- and post-humanism driven by finance and military power," he noted.
Raffone insisted that the conduct of the European governments towards Russia and the Ukraine conflict "makes no sense in terms of realpolitik."
"While the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has increased Europe's security dependency on the United States and has further strengthened Washington's control over Europe, I don't think Europe has completely lost its space to speak up and advance its interests," Dean of the Faculty of International Relations of Nanjing University Zhu Feng told Sputnik.
30 January 2023, 18:57 GMT
Unintended Consequences: Russia & China's Further Rapprochement
One of the imperatives voiced by Washington and its allies was to make Russia's economy scream and crumble under the pressure of sanctions. However, nothing of that kind has happened so far.
"In the first few weeks of the campaign, US security chief [Lloyd] Austin remarked that the US should knock Russia out of the ranks of the great powers as the result of the conflict, which I assume, implies serious depletion of Russia’s military potential," Dr. Maxim A. Suchkov, director of the Institute for International Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told Sputnik. "The sanctions regime seeks to strangle the Russian economy and kill production. We also see signs of western attempts to foment domestic civil unrest which should ultimately result in a 'regime change'. Attempts to impose a sense of 'collective guilt' on Russian society seek to break the morale of the nation."
Quite to the contrary, Russia's economy is weathering the storm pretty well, according to international observers, at least partially due to its ability to diversify its economic, political and trade ties. China, India, Turkey and most of the developing world have not joined anti-Russia sanctions.
During his interview, Lavrov spoke very highly of Russian-Chinese cooperation, declaring that relations between the two countries are "superior in quality to a military alliance." He also stated that Russian-Chinese relations "have no restrictions, limits or taboo topics."
"What it means is that they're going to coordinate goals and objectives, maybe military activities; that is maneuvers and that kind of thing. It's sort of an aligning of interests," said Joe Siracusa. "What they have, of course, in common is an attempt to break the hegemony of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region (…) Mainly it's kind of a dialogue, saying that we're both on the same side here when it comes to these kinds of things. And what it says is 'we see the world the same way.' That's very important for Chinese and Russian leadership, particularly for the Russians."
According to Siracusa, China and Russia, as some of the most populous countries of the world and leading nuclear powers, play a prominent role in global affairs. He suggested that Moscow and Beijing can tilt the balance of power in the Asia Pacific and that triggers a great concern in the US and NATO, who want to maintain control over the region.
"I don't know if President Putin has any interest in sending the Deep Water Navy, the Blue Navy, to the Pacific Ocean aside from its own border line. I know that the Chinese Belt and Road is a very different story. They're trying to sell the message that they're sort of the heirs to globalization. But I think they could probably tip the balance," Siracusa said.
Russo-Chinese relations represent a new type of relationship between large countries based on the principles of non-confrontation and the non-aligned movement, according to Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University, China.
"Both China and Russia have a tradition of independent diplomacy, they do not have the goal of creating groups against someone or pushing others head-on," Wang Yiwei told Sputnik. "Moreover, China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council and uphold the basic norms of multilateral international law. I think this new type of relationship between major countries is open and inclusive, and goes beyond western thinking. For example, Russia has multilateral cooperation frameworks such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and China has the Belt and Road Initiative, which emphasizes inclusion rather than exclusion. China has always believed that harmony and coexistence, mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation are the main things in international relations."
However, the US is trying to demonize China and denigrate cooperation between China and Russia because Beijing and Moscow have challenged the old order of dependency and inequality under the unipolar hegemony of the United States, according to the Chinese scholar.
2 February 2023, 11:18 GMT
A Great Push to End Ukraine Conflict is Taking Shape
As geopolitical tension continues to grow both in Europe and Asia, a lot of back-channel diplomacy is apparently going on, according to Siracusa. Earlier, ex-National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger alleged that US-China talks and meeting at G20 in Bali may have averted a bitter conflict between Beijing and Washington. Something of that kind is probable for wrapping up the Russia-NATO standoff over Ukraine, the academic believes.
"I think global diplomacy is at work in the corridors of power," Siracusa said. "I think it worked in the back channels. I think a lot of people are looking for an honorable end to this, the way the Americans were trying to get out of Vietnam - an honorable conclusion, etc. I think there’s a little more diplomacy going on in the back room than we imagine. Publicly, it looks like not much is happening, but I think privately there are a lot of American generals and admirals who would like to see this [conflict] come to a close."
Even though the unfolding situation in Ukraine may look hopeless to some people, when the West decides for Zelensky to come to a deal, he will come to a deal, argued Siracusa.
"I heard former President Trump saying in one of his conferences a couple of days ago, that 'If I were president of the United States, the war in Ukraine would end in 24 hours'," the academic continued. "And what he meant by that was he would tell Zelensky, there's no more aid coming, it's not going to happen. He's shut off. He's got to cut the deal. And he's right. If the Republicans get in there, or anybody who even looks like Trump gets in, the war is over. I saw one poll: 48% of Republicans believe that the war in Ukraine should come to an end as soon as possible. Americans don't want to see people dying on the evening news every night, whether they're Russian, Ukrainian or anybody else."
Siracusa underscored that the Ukraine conflict "is not sustainable in the long haul." He believes that there will be a great push to wrap it up.
2 February 2023, 15:10 GMT
Global Effect of US Proxy War
The Ukraine conflict exposed the unfolding crisis of the western-centric world order, according to Sputnik interlocutors.
"After the end of the Second World War, the world was divided into two blocs: the West, led by the United States, and the East, which acted under the auspices of the USSR," Mojtaba Jalalzadeh, Iranian expert on international affairs, US politics, and researcher at the Institute of Humanities of the Islamic Azad University in Tehran, told Sputnik. "The United States has since defined itself as the most important power in the international world order, proclaiming itself the 'savior of the oppressed' and the only superpower with a correct political system in the world. However, the US strategy in practice is built on the basis of principles completely different from the initially proclaimed slogans."
In reality, the US has expanded its military presence across the world and fanned regional conflicts along political, ethnical and sectarian lines, according to Jalalzadeh. These simmering conflicts are aimed at preventing Washington's rivals and their allies from developing and prospering in accordance with the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine of 1992. This doctrine deemed the US as the world's only superpower and proclaimed retaining that status as the nation's objective. The doctrine sought to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere.
The Iranian expert blamed the emergence of Daesh (ISIS)* on the US, stressing that the terrorist organization undermined Syria and Iraq and threatened to overhaul the Middle East. According to the researcher, Washington has adopted the same modus operandi against China and Russia in the Asia Pacific and Ukraine, respectively. Still, he doubts that this strategy will bear fruit given Russia and China's resilience and military might.
19 January 2023, 16:25 GMT
"The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is a war between Russia and the West," political expert Nasser Ma'amoun told Sputnik. "Ukraine plays the role of a pawn in the hands of the West. The goal is the depletion of Russia. However, Lavrov sent an important message in his statement: Moscow has now liberated 27% of the territory, despite the growing influx of western weapons. Western sanctions neither inflicted damage not on the Russian economy, nor on the [Russian] population as a whole – they only united Russians."
Moreover, Arabic countries of the Middle East and Africa have not succumbed to Washington's pressure
and refused to join sanctions, according to Ma'amoun. He drew attention to the fact that Egypt rejected US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's request to provide weapons to Kiev.
"We have always striven to the East and fully support Russia," said the Arabian expert. "The West has never taken us into account, hoping only to enrich itself at the expense of our countries. Any pressure from the West becomes useless. Our way is to the East! Our path is together with Russia and China!"
Meanwhile, China is closely watching Washington's growing military collaboration with Japan that is seeking to modernize armed forces in an apparent bid to refute its decades-long pacifist policy. Likewise, the new South Korean government has adopted a hardball stance towards its northern neighbor and intensified joint military drills with the US military. In the face of a common danger and in the context of the militarization of Japan and South Korea, Eurasia is uniting, according to Aleksandar Gajic, Serbian political observer and expert at the Institute of European Studies (IES).
"Eurasia is threatened from all sides," Gajic told Sputnik. "There is already a war going on in Europe. And in Asia, the Americans are trying to form a coalition to encircle China, Russia, and North Korea. An interesting place here is occupied by India, which has many open issues with China, but has not taken the side of the United States in this conflict. Iran is also under attack, protests have been provoked there."
Time will tell whether the escalation of tension will spread further across the continent or whether sanity and realpolitik will prevail.
*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) is a terrorist organization banned in Russia and many other countries.