No Sign of Peace

For the Ukrainians 2023 is going to be a year of darkness and trauma. Over the past few days Russia has launched some of the most intense assaults of the on-going war that has crossed 10 months, firing from various directions, with air and sea-based cruise missiles on targets including Kyiv. Dozens of attacks have pounded Ukraine in recent weeks, ending the year with a very clear message: Russia wants peace on its own terms. Ukraine’s ‘unrealistic’ demands can lead to a bind with no prospects of early negotiations, though back-channel diplomacy is very much active. For one thing Russia didn’t programme this conflict to go on for so long. But much to the dismay of Western defence experts the recent attacks by Russian forces prove that Moscow still has a substantial store of missiles that it plans to use in the coming days. There is no evidence that Russia is on its knees, notwithstanding some set- backs on the front. American policy of defeating Russia through proxy-war is unlikely to succeed. If Assad cannot be ousted in Syria by a proxy war it is next to impossible to dethrone Putin without completely neutralising Russia’s formidable war machine. This war is actually between America and Russia and the Biden administration is against peace while Europe is divided. But American strategy of unifying its European partners through this war is creating its opposite—more disunity—and strengthening a political space for a new world order with Russia and China as the pivot. Whether the warlords in the White House like it or not Europeans too are talking about multi-polar world. American design to break Russia by utilising Ukraine may backfire because Europeans are no less worried about American domination. An endless war is going to be counter-productive for the grand alliance of Ukraine, Europe and America. No doubt they are dancing together at the moment but to different rhythms. All are singing their own, individual hymns of a post-Ukraine vision.

Having failed to defeat Putin quickly Washington is trying to outspend him, bleed him economically by way of imposing multiple sanctions but war of economic attrition has so far remained ineffective. Sanctions have just forced Russia to explore alternative trade routes to tide over the crisis. In truth the differences within the anti-Russia coalition began to surface at the very outset of the war. As early as September last year France’s President Emmanuel Macron told a conclave of French diplomats that “300-year-old Western hegemony was coming to an end”. If anything he could not help taking a jibe at the Uncle Sam. ‘For the past three centuries of western dominance’, he said, ‘France, England and the US contributed in the west-dominated world order’. Interestingly, Germany and Italy were absent in his swan song. He was candid enough to recognise the changed geo-political reality that within western hemisphere, “many wrong choices the United States has made in the face of crisis have deeply shaken our hegemony”. In a way he also criticised the White House for the current predicament they have been in since the beginning of the Ukraine war in February 2022. Unlike American leaders Macron had no problem in admitting the changing global contours: ‘China and Russia have achieved great success’, under ‘different leadership styles’. In Macron’s framework European security is unthinkable without Russia. In other words a war with Russia means third world war but Europeans are not going to oblige America by extending war beyond the borders of Ukraine and the third world war at this stage cannot be anything but nuclear.

To blame it solely on Putin for the massive destruction of Ukraine is just one side of the story. Zelensky, being the trusted stooge of America is equally responsible for the plight of Ukrainians who have lost their right to dissent under the emergency situation. Russian allegation that American and Western military officers in Ukrainian uniforms are fighting in the battlefield and a full-fledged CIA office operates in Kyiv to help Zelensky’s defence department is not baseless. Russian forces are being criticised for targeting civilian structures. There are grains of truth but Russian counter-allegation that they utilise non-military establishments for military purposes holds water. When it is war, it makes little sense to expect that the adversary will bomb selectively following rules. Americans never followed any rules in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan despite international outcry.

The world cannot remain the same in post-Ukraine polarisation and strategic re-alignment. Despite expansion of Euro Zone and NATO amidst Ukraine war fever the decline of American power seems irreversible.


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Vol 55, No. 29, Jan 15 - 21, 2023