By Hashim Abid
UKRAINE cannot seem to overcome the predicament that it finds itself in. Washington is unable to find a solution to the Russian threat towards Ukraine. And meanwhile, Russia continues to defy the West and is poised to intervene in Ukraine.
But Moscow’s actions are mere sabre rattling. Firstly, Russia does not possess the capability to sustain the successful occupation of Ukraine. Russia can attack Ukraine and win, but an occupation is a different discussion as strategic overstretch will undermine Russia.
Therefore, the Kremlin simply does not have the military means to achieve the former.
Second, no strategically sound nation continues to pile up its military forces for months for the whole world to witness since it removes the element of surprise from the equation. All of Russia’s past military maneuvers came by surprise and were swift.
Georgia and Crimea are prime examples. The real reason for such a military build-up is a political one, which is to divide the West. The Kremlin has been observing the discord between America and Europe for some time now thus, the Russians decided that it is in their best interest to further sow seeds of disunity between the two sides of the Atlantic by using the military card.
In recent years, America has illustrated a lack of commitment towards Europe, initiating trade wars, withdrawal from several agreements like the Paris Climate agreement and the JCPOA, which resulted in hurting its European allies.
The one thing the Trump era taught the Europeans was that America cannot be trusted as viable partner anymore. Because there is no guarantee that another figure like Trump would not reappear in the future. Trump was the second highest voted candidate ever in history after Biden in the recent elections, which demonstrates the type of sentiments that the American public possesses and consequently, strikes worry in the hearts and mind of America’s allies in Europe.
Macron was explicit about the issues last year, when he mentioned the idea of Europe pursuing strategic autonomy from the US. Even under President Biden, from a European perspective the decision to pursue a second pivot to Asia, once again illustrates the lack of seriousness that America possesses towards NATO and the overall wellbeing for continental Europe.
Russia is also aware that the US cannot apply heavy sanctions. It is true that since the 2014 Crimean annexation, the sanctions have slowly deteriorated Russia’s economic prospects. Nevertheless, Russia continues to pursue its objectives regardless of the sanctions. However, removing Russia from the SWIFT programme and enacting sanctions that Russia has never seen before as Biden states, is merely a bluff by the Americans.
Therefore, the Russians are not worried about the catastrophic sanctions that Biden continually boasts about. Because if heavy sanctions of such proportions are applied then this would spell a big disaster not just for Russia but for Europe as well, which means a disaster for America. The problem even goes one step further, which is China. China is the largest consumer of Russian commodities therefore, any sort of ‘devastating’ sanctions would simply push China and Russia even closer to search for an alternative payment method to the dollar.
The other issue is Germany, since it is key for both America and Russia in the current Ukrainian crisis. Though the Germans have provided a strong rhetoric towards Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine’s borders, Germany would still have to tacitly lean towards Russia.
The energy dependency for the Germans is a vital issue henceforth, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany would progress forward regardless of the current crisis. This is something that the Kremlin is confident about. Even after the 2014 Crimean annexation, Germany was much reserved concerning the economic sanctions towards Russia as it would affect not only German exports to Russia, but also its energy needs.
Furthermore, last year Germany’s federal president, Franz-Walter Steinmeier, defended the pipeline as not only a ‘bridge between Russia and Europe’, but also a form of compensation for the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, German officials continued to claim that the project is ‘purely commercial’ despite the fact that none of Germany’s closest allies – including the US – take this claim at face value.
Hence, if Germany does not completely side with America and the rest of European states in the current crisis by completely abandoning the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, it would create further complications within the Europe.
Poland and Ukraine would be the first countries to speak out against Germany, and it has already happened. Just last month, December, Ukraine attacked Germany for blocking NATO supplies to Kyiv, where the Ukrainian defence minister stated, “They are still building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and at the same time blocking our defensive weapons. It is very unfair”.
As for Poland, due to historical grievances and scepticism towards Germany and Russia, they would also heavily criticise German actions and furthermore, question the EU that how such an important member of the union was allowed to behave in such manner at such a time of crisis. Furthermore, Ukraine and Poland would also question America’s commitment that how America could fail to prevent such a thing from taking place.
How could America fail to maintain unity towards Russian aggression? The finger pointing would create a domino effect where other European members would happily bandwagon against Germany since, most have been a victim of Germany’s control of the Euro. Therefore, many would utilise the opportunity to pressure and account Germany for its stance in the Ukrainian crisis.
Consequently, the divisions and the complications between European nations would likewise would increase America’s unreliability towards European security, resulting in further decline of US influence within the continent. Similarly, as the divisions further precipitate between the Europeans, the French would utilise the disputes as an opportunity for their own agenda of reviving French historic grandeur within continental Europe and taking charge of leading Europe. The pattern has already started to emerge.
Only two days ago, Macron stated that the EU must open its own talks with Russia rather than rely on Washington. And this is what Russia desires from the current crisis, which is to create pressure, conflict and disunity amongst Europeans and Americans not to physically invade Ukraine. The former circumstances would also create a strong possibility for many nations to exit the EU, which would benefit Russia as it would be able to establish bilateral trade relations with ex-EU member states.
In conclusion, America does not have many cards that it can deploy at the moment. Sanctions would not work. Furthermore, sanctions post-Crimea demonstrated weakness in America’s response towards Russian hostility. Moreover, the US cannot strike a deal that would benefit the West since Russia is remaining staunch on its position concerning Ukraine’s future. The only card that the US can deploy is to provoke an invasion of Ukraine by Moscow. If Russia falls for such a trap, then it would be a repeat of the USSR invasion of Afghanistan, which was a disaster for Russia. In recent years, Syria is another example of Russia falling for a trap designed by the US to exploit Russia.
Biden recently stated that the West’s response could be more muted for a “minor” incursion in Ukraine, indicates that America is planning to get Russia to become embroiled in Ukraine, which will not only increase US importance towards Europe but also firmly unite European nations against Russia due to the significance that the war in Ukraine would possess.
Only time will tell on how the current trajectory will unfold in the foreseeable future – but as for now, Russia remains in a position of power.
Opinion articles featured on Redaction Report reflect the views of their author, not those of the publication as a whole. Only Editorials display the opinions of our management.