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Sunday, 14 April 2024

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Ukraine Endgame And Beyond

The US has made a hash of the situation and lost the respect of friend and foe alike, as the Russia-Ukraine conflict proceeds to the outcome all can foresee

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In Week 4 of Russia’s military action, it is dawning on the pro-western forces in Ukraine, the broad Western Alliance, the US and Nato that, despite providing it with arms for a robust resistance, the whole of the country is about to fall to Russia. Dreams of long-term organised resistance or even engendering a long-lasting guerrilla war against Russian occupation are fading fast. This before 30 days are up and despite all those Stinger and Javelin anti-tank missiles that worked so well in Afghanistan. Here, there is different topography. Ukraine is a flat-wheat and edible oil growing country. There are no caves and crevasses with tons of protective bunker-busting bomb-proof hidey holes. Loitering killer drones too, which might be sent, if they can get into the country and survive Russian missiles out to destroy them before they can be used, are unlikely to turn the tide.

Russia is knocking on the doors of Kyiv, pounding its outer suburbs with missiles, and has already taken most of the port and regional cities. A fifth of Ukraine’s population, some four million people, have streamed into neighbouring countries as refugees. Armed individuals are not being engaged in street fighting by the Russian military. Instead, Russia is pumping in more troops relocated from Armenia for the big push to come.

President Zelensky’s bluff that generations of Russians will regret it if Russia does not ceasefire and hold one-on-one talks between President Vladimir Putin and President Zelensky, is being called. Zelensky might be implying that his forces have a nuclear weapon, but President Putin and the Russian forces are undeterred. After all, nobody is in doubt about the number of nuclear weapons Russia has, and that Putin has already put them on second-stage alert.

If there is a nuclear exchange or even a single warhead used, all of Europe will be subjected to radiation and nuclear fallout. Russia is the world’s biggest country and has 11% of its landmass. It has a much better chance of weathering a nuclear attack.

A former US general, now retired in Little Rock, Arkansas, once Bill Clinton’s stamping ground as Governor, said on CNN that with the impending fall of Ukraine, there will be nothing but the ‘thin red line’ of the Nato country borders to separate them from Russian menace.

Even totally one-sided reportage from CNN and the BBC cannot hide the fact that the situation is now grim for Zelensky’s forces.

Brutal and wide-ranging sanctions are not working to restrain Russia. Particularly, since Russia continues to sell $ 1 billion of oil and gas to Western Europe a day, and is still paid for it via the Swift banking mechanism. This fact alone has cracked Nato wide open.

Calling Putin a war criminal is laughable, after American and Western Alliance atrocities in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, in recent times. To speak of the right to sovereignty and rule of law for Ukraine, while using the country to offshore over 30 US biowarfare laboratories is more hypocrisy if not diabolical. It echoes Chinese charges that the Wuhan bat virus bio lab was/is also an American-funded entity. It is no wonder that the US has been careful not to directly accuse China of the Covid Pandemic that has killed over 10 million people worldwide.

Besides, where was this talk of sovereignty when America attacked Iraq on trumped-up charges of weapons of mass destruction, (WMD), destroyed a well-ordered Iraq under President Saddam Hussein, and created chaos that persists to this day? Ditto in Libya. These are oil-rich countries, and America has benefited from deposing their stable strong-man governments such as Muammar Gaddafi’s. Its European allies like France have also taken the opportunity to test their military equipment such as the Rafale fighter against the Libyans.

Attempts at mediation by France, Germany, and Israel, in this Ukraine conflict, are veiled pressure tactics because they do not acknowledge Russia’s long-standing concerns about the conduct of Ukraine.

Instead, we are treated to the relentless human interest and suffering stories in the Western media. This is in stark contrast to near blackouts of the savage attacks in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan and indeed in Serbia in the eighties. All these wars were perpetrated by America and its allies and were not condemned by the media. But Russian attacks in Syria and Iraqi attacks on the Kurds are well known.

This time, however, the US, Nato and the Western Alliance are hoisted on their own petard, after leading Ukraine up the garden path with implied promises of EU and Nato membership. It was never a serious idea because the West does not dare execute it in the face of long-standing Russian warnings. Instead, since this battle-gone-wrong for the West, Russia will stand eyeball to eyeball with Nato after the fall of Ukraine.

In addition, and possibly desperation, America is pressurising India and China directly and via its allies to move away from their neutrality. In the law of unintended consequences, this is now provoking signs of a possible rapprochement between India and China. One that could break the deadlock along the LaC and restore normal relations.

China has been highly critical of the sanctions imposed on Russia. It is likely to use the Yuan to bail Russia out of the financial sanctions and support it with the Chinese banking system.  It will certainly buy oil from Russia. Saudi Arabia too has expressed its willingness to sell its crude to China against the Yuan.

American foreign policy is indulging in panicked knee-jerk action. Overnight it has withdrawn sanctions against Iran and Venezuela so that it can freely sell its petroleum.

Self-same Iran under US sanctions was being used as a pressure point against India buying its oil. Today, Russia is selling its crude at a discount to India, inclusive of paid-for shipping. There will be a Rupee-Ruble transaction mechanism for trade between the countries, outside of the US dollar domination.

Likewise, Iran is offering its petroleum to India, which imports 80% of its requirements, on a Rupee-Rial basis for trade with it. This would get both countries away from various financial restrictions imposed on all who deal with Russia.

Britain has been foolish enough to suggest that sanctions against Russia should be maintained even after the end of the Ukraine conflict to deter it from menacing the European Nato countries.

Being next to Russia across the Black Sea hasn’t worried Turkey any. It requires no visas for Russians, despite being a Nato ally. It bought the S400 missile system from Russia and was duly sanctioned by the US. India has done likewise, but America is hesitating to impose sanctions as yet.

The sanctions regime may be suffering from over-use, and this is resulting in nobody taking them very seriously.

But what price then, for Nato protection going forward for all the former Soviet protectorates? With a resurgent Russia on its borders, has it not traded one set of vassalage for another, with no democratic rights to protest against  American/Nato dictation if the de facto situation is taken into account?

What about the costs and indebtedness for massive arms purchases that small Nato countries will have to bear for choosing to be members? And what about the US and Western Europe that will have to maintain massive troops and equipment on the ground? Who will pay the bill?

Was it worth it to try and finish off an assertive, militarily powerful Russia, albeit with a smallish economy, and try and topple Vladimir Putin? Instead, Russia has neatly turned the tables. The future may well have to result in the rollback of Nato from all the former Soviet protectorates in order to satisfy the Bear.

America has made a hash of it and lost the respect of friend and foe alike. Countries under threat have realised they are on their own.  India will no doubt be recalibrating its strategies to suit its priorities. In the short to medium term trade relations and military cooperation with Russia will boom. But can India rely on America and the Western Alliance, bilaterally or even in the QUAD, with its tendency to blackmail its supposed friends?


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