Ukrainian Drama – Realism entails the solution
I have studied this topic several times on my website here, here, here and here.
In the framework of the recent European Security Talks and Ukrainian crisis, two factors have played key roles in this context. US Secretary of State James Baker stated to Russian leadership a legendary promise “not one inch eastward”, in the early 1990s. The whole dispute and antagonism of today is stemming from those promises made by the US to Russia 30 years ago. On the other hand, the so-called “Thucydides trap” is the name given to a condition, when one power (Sparta then, the US now) fears the rising power of (Athens then, China and Russia today) and starts a war, because it fears its position can only weaken.
Based on today’s factual situation, I have formulated here shortly three possible outcomes with practical probability assessments, followed by two analyses regarding the US toolbox and Russia’s alternative ways and means of counter-measures.
OUTCOME 1: A deal being prepared behind the scenes, with minor probability
The US will give its written response to Russia’s security guarantee initiatives next week (week 4), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday (Jan 21) after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva. “I told him (Lavrov) that following the consultations that we’ll have in the coming days with allies and partners, we anticipate that we will be able to share with Russia our concerns and ideas in more detail and in writing next week and we agreed to further discussions after that,” he said. Purpose is “keeping the door open for further discussions.”
US officials have asked their Russian colleagues not to publish Washington’s written response to Moscow’s proposal on security guarantees. The written US response will include US proposals in the security domain and will demonstrate the country’s interest in maintaining the dialogue with Moscow. Obviously, the document will not contain any commitments regarding NATO’s open-door policy or accession of new members.
So, the US wants another week to prepare a written reply. That is some kind of result and considering what is at stake, waiting yet another week is okay, taking into account the toxic political atmosphere and “Ukrainian war hysteria” in the US Congress and Senate as well as Biden’s shaky position. So, Russia decided to give Biden another week.
Now, where is the beef?
It is important to remember those recent, weird words by Biden about a “minor incursion” and ex-ambassador McFaul’s recent statement “if the Russian soldiers go as far as Kiev this would trigger a full-scale response from the US and its allies”. What gave them these “odd” statements?
The Biden Administration may be inclined to accept some kind of division of Ukraine into more manageable parts and this arrangement as a part of greater European security framework solution. Now, even the West European “power states”, Germany and France, indicate some small, fragile signs of political awakening from “servant” position to some kind of “independent” position requiring the right to formulate and decide the destiny of Europe. Normandie Four format, OSCE, bilateral talks between Russia – Germany/France/UK and others have been initiated in the process, something may be achieved.
These activities may be a small sign of common sense returning on the European scene and a tiny chance of a deal being prepared behind the scenes. IF this wonder will materialize within next few months, some capability and know-how of traditional European diplomacy has been revived.
OUTCOME 2: no hot war – no peace, incremental escalation will continue, with major probability
This outcome “business as usual” may be one likely option at hand today.
This approach is based on American pushing attitude on Europe and also on the EU’s and separate European states’ non-ability to take responsibility of their own business and to get rid of servant position vs. the US.
Due to American domestic, toxic political atmosphere, the Biden administration will continue, supported by American (and European) main stream media, on the similar lines as so far to contain Russia and sending more military aid to Ukraine. Sooner or later, some local armed conflicts will emerge but those events will be dumped / turned down some way or other.
More sanctions will be put on Russia both by the US and the EU. Russia will reply those sanctions but the final break-down of relations will not take place, all parties try avoid this. Perhaps the suitable way of describing this situation is the whereabouts of vagueness, so typical to present EU philosophy and procedures.
OUTCOME 3: A pan-European/worldwide war is looming, with moderate probability
Western main stream media and so-called Western experts have, without break, continued their warmongering narrative “Russian invasion” day after day, weeks after weeks. This is going to resemble “war fantasy porn”, in which western analysts and media take pleasure day after day. Maybe it amuses their personal satisfaction but it cannot help resolve the European security problem.
With this war hysteria, the peace is at risk in Europe and the conditions for war between nuclear powers are created. Moscow has repeatedly and categorically rejected claims of an invasion plan and says it has no intention of attacking any nation. However, some extreme groups inside Ukraine may utilize the tense situation organizing various provocations in order to tempt Russia to invade.
Media told this week that the “specter of war” is growing and the talks on Friday between US Antony Blinken and Russian Sergei Lavrov in Geneva are supposedly “last-ditch efforts” for diplomacy to avert conflict. The US and the NATO are flooding Ukraine with weapons and Russia is organizing a massive military force in the vicinity of Ukraine border. All such measures are jeopardizing peace in Europe and the major war is looming.
US Toolbox is empty
US Antony Blinken met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a snapshot, 90-minute summit on Friday in Geneva, after which both sides touted the meeting as worthwhile because it kept the door open for a diplomatic resolution to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Blinken said that the US narrative about Russia and Ukraine was unchanged, Russia is going to invade Ukraine and there will be massive consequences, if Russia acts out on its intent. The US toolbox includes both military and economic options and they have the undivided support of US and European allies and partners.
Based on professional military analyses, there seems to be no viably military option available for the US/NATO, in case of Russia’s invasion and the Biden administration knows it.
Biden’s recent “gaffe of minor incursion by Russia”, evidently was no gaffe at all but seems to be in fact the US real position, which is known by Russia and other parties too. The outcry among Europe and Ukraine was merely for public consumption, a smokescreen to hide the reality.
The lack of a joint strategy on how to deal with a possible Russian incursion/invasion of Ukraine has been an open secret for others except the US and European publics, who have been bluffed by media narrative of “sanctions from hell” to appease domestic political concerns over being seen as surrendering to Russian demands.
The US has no sanctions plan that can survive in the context of the collective weakness of the post-pandemic economies of both Europe and the US. Russia can survive the impact of any sanctions regime the US is able to scrape together, even those targeting the Russian banking system, far longer than Europe can survive without access to Russian energy. Russia has record-high forex reserves and gold assets, the country’s debt-to-GDP relation is one of the lowest in the world and the whole Russian economy has been “teflonized” against Western sanctions.
The pain, caused by backfire effects, would not just be limited to Europe only but the US economy would suffer as well with sky-high fuel prices and a stock market collapse that would put the US into an economic recession, if not outright depression. Possible massive cyber operations may cause wide range harm both in the EU and in the US. The political cost that would be incurred by Biden and the Democrats, would be fatal to any hope that might remain for holding onto either house of Congress in 2022, or the White House in 2024.
Russia’s alternatives regarding counter-measures vs. US/NATO
Obviously, Russia has military capability but no intention to go in “Russian invasion”, which would mean a massive ground force offensive in Ukraine. It seems to be absolutely the last option in Russian strategic assessments. Ukraine is a such hopeless mess that Moscow does not want to take responsibility for that package. Yet, this simple narrative of “Russian invasion” has been maintained in the western media weeks after weeks.
Furthermore, in that highly unlikely case that military force will be used by Russia in Ukraine, that is certainly not such a way Western “experts” and media are describing: massive convoys of ground troops and tanks rolling in and Ukrainian army using Javelin ATM’s destroying them one by one. Russian playbook will be quite unlike. Both Putin and Russia’s other leadership has talked about and underlined swift, effective, pinpoint accuracy strikes and mainly asymmetric counter-measures against both Ukrainian possible provocations in Donbass and NATO’s operations in general.
My apprehension is, whatever Russia may do in the near future, will surprise US/NATO. No doubt, Russia will do something and it will be very effective having serious consequences for the whole world.
Trying to sketch and figure out possible counter-measures Russia may have available, there seems to be following three basic alternative blocs (diplomacy & cooperation, military measures, economic measures):
- diplomacy, cooperation and other joint measures with other partners including a formal military alliance with China
- heavy demonstration of force / deterrence in the vicinity of US coastal zones and/or in Ukraine without incursion / invasion by Russian ground troops
- “military-technical” measures like deployment of medium range nuclear capable missiles in Kaliningrad and Belarus or to place all of Europe under threat of attack with ultra-short warning times (hypersonic weapons)
- fatal measures against the US dollar status and US sanctions regime like an alternative to SWIFT and numerous de-dollarization and other currency/finance operations
- counter-measures in the energy sector and/or in the foreign trade vs. sanctioning countries like closing certain gas pipelines, refusing oil export or closing airspace to civil airlines of the countries that sanction Russia as well as wide range of cyber operations
TURNING POINT: the meeting of Xi – Putin in Beijing, February 4, 2022
Obviously, all important measures and operations have been suspended during the time of Beijing Olympic Games, February 4-20, 2022. President Putin is the guest of honor there and will meet President Xi on Friday 4, February. According to media sources, presidents have a work meeting and will undersign several deals. What will happen after the Games, remains to be seen.
It is worth to notice and remember three key words in this context:
SWIFT, de-dollarization, alliance
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