by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 3, Ramadan, 1443)
As the war in Ukraine enters its third month, a clear pattern of the protagonists’ strategies has emerged. In what it calls “special military operations”, Russia shows no signs of releasing any pressure until it has achieved its objectives. These include the complete liberation of the Donbass region in the southeast as well as blocking Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea. Ukraine’s eastern regions bordering Russia are also likely to be taken over by pro-Russian forces.
On the other side is Ukraine, but only nominally. The real protagonist is the US that is forcing NATO countries into a war that most do not wish to be dragged into. They have good reasons to be wary of Washington’s agenda. The US wants to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian and make Europe pay for the costs. True, the US has provided Ukraine more than $3 billion in weapons, but these are unlikely to deter Russian military operations even if they are slowed down somewhat.
The Washington warlords have their own reasons for continuing the war. President Joe Biden has little to show for his time in office so far. He faces Congressional elections later this year and there are clear indications that the Democrats will lose control of the Senate thereby further weakening Biden’s capacity to rule. The war in Ukraine also keeps Europe tied to the US, which was gradually moving away from Uncle Sam’s dark, over-bearing shadow.
What is Washington’s plan? Apart from keeping Ukraine in a state of boil, the Biden regime has no stomach for sending combat troops into battle, notwithstanding special forces disguised as mercenaries from NATO countries involved in and around Mariupol where they are holed up in the sprawling steel plant.
In his remarks at the White House, Biden said he was “sending an unmistakable message to Putin: He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine. He will not — that will not happen”. It is interesting to note how Biden framed the issue: Russia “dominating and occupying all of Ukraine…” (emphasis added).
Russia has no plans to occupy the whole of Ukraine. Its military operations clearly indicate this. After surrounding Kiev, the Ukrainian capital from three sides for a month, Russian forces unilaterally withdrew from there. Once Russia succeeds in its objectives—and there is no reason why it won’t—there may be little left of Ukraine.
We need to keep in mind that Ukraine occupies territory that belongs to several countries including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. They all have territorial claims over parts of it. Once Russia has achieved its objectives in the east and the south—and there is little doubt it will—others will come to pick on Ukraine’s carcass.
As for Biden’s threat “to ratchet up the pressure on Putin and further isolate Russia on the world stage,” he seems to be living in fantasy land. Russia is not isolated. Most countries in the world have not joined the US-led campaign to boycott Russia. Even the Europeans are not going along with this ludicrous and ultimately futile plan.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is already feeling the pinch. It imports some 44% of its oil and gas from Russia. Disruption in supplies have already led to very high prices of essential items including gas at the pump and bread in grocery stores and delivered a blow to its GDP. The Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, warned on April 22 that a complete embargo on Russian energy imports would cost the country 180 billion euros, result in a decline of 5% in GDP and cause a recession.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Der Spiegel in an interview on April 22 that a gas embargo is ultimately about “avoiding a dramatic economic crisis, the loss of millions of jobs and of factories that would never open again.” He said that given such “huge consequences for our country, for the whole of Europe... it’s my responsibility to say: ‘We can’t allow that (embargo)’.” He also said that if “Putin were open to economic arguments, he would never have started this insane war.”
Moscow has demanded that European countries pay for Russian gas and oil in roubles. For refusing to abide by this demand, Russia stopped gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria. They import 53% and 90% of their gas respectively from Russia. The Europeans are getting the message that Putin is not only serious in his demands, he is willing to increase the stakes in order to achieve his objectives.
What is the American strategy? During his visit to Kiev on April 24 together with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, American Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington’s aim was to weaken the Russian military. He also alleged that Moscow had failed in its military mission. The ground realities paint a different picture. Even the American poodle, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a different take on what is underway in Ukraine. He has publicly disagreed with Biden’s assessment of the war in Ukraine and all but conceded Russian victory.
“I think the sad thing is that that [Russian victory] is a realistic possibility. Yeah, of course. Putin has a huge army, he has a very difficult political position … the only option he has now is to continue to try to use his appalling, grinding approach, driven, led by artillery, trying to grind the Ukrainians down. He’s very close to securing a land bridge in Mariupol now. The situation is, I’m afraid, unpredictable. We just have to be realistic about that.”
What has emerged after more than two months of fighting is that Russia is on course to achieving its strategic objectives in Ukraine. No amount of huffing and puffing by Biden can stop the Russian military machine from smashing whatever resistance Ukraine may be able to offer. Russian forces have trapped some 80,000 Ukrainian forces including the Nazis as well as their British and American special forces advisors in Mariupol. These forces can neither escape from the important port city nor fight the Russian army.
Western propaganda oscillates between the “brave” (but ultimately futile) resistance the Ukrainians are putting up and trying to arouse sympathy for the “plight” of the Ukrainian people. After Afghanistan, Ukraine will be another debacle for the has-been superpower. The world has become a multipolar world signalling the US’ permanent decline.