Political Observation - Aims of the Russia-Ukraine Escalation

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation - Aims of the Russia-Ukraine Escalation

The Russo-Ukrainian crisis erupted yet again about a month ago after the two countries had traded accusations of violating the ceasefire agreement concluded between them, although violations by both sides have never stopped.

This latest escalation came after President Joe Biden took office at the White House and upped the ante in his dealings with Russia. It also came ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in the middle of this month, and in light of America’s endeavours to admit Ukraine into NATO, with the Ukrainian president persisting to join at the height of the crisis, due to Germany and France’s previous aversion to Ukraine’s membership.

It is in this context that the recent escalation between Russia and Ukraine is perceived, especially as America’s strategy to uproot Russia’s influence in Ukraine is not a spur-of-the-moment decision; it was rather expressed during President Jimmy Carter’s tenure by his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who wrote in his book titled “The Grand Chessboard” that “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state.” It was also expressed vehemently by Russian President Putin who said: “I gave an example of our most recognisable symbol. It is a bear protecting his taiga. You see, if we continue the analogy, sometimes I think that maybe it would be best if our bear just sat still. Maybe he should stop chasing pigs and boars around the taiga but start picking berries and eating honey. Maybe then he will be left alone. But no, he won’t be! Because someone will always try to chain him up. As soon as he’s chained, they will tear out his teeth and claws. In this analogy, I am referring to the power of nuclear deterrence. As soon as – God forbid – it happens and they no longer need the bear, the taiga will be taken over. And then, when all the teeth and claws are torn out, the bear will be of no use at all. Perhaps they’ll stuff it and that’s all. Therefore, Crimea is not the point at issue; we are defending our independence, sovereignty, and our right to exist. And this is what we all should realise.”

This is exactly what America did through the Ukrainian revolution that toppled Russian-affiliated president Yankovic and brought in US agent Viktor Yushchenko. This infuriated President Vladimir Putin who deemed America’s attempts to lure Ukraine as a threat to Russian influence and to him personally, and reacted by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and falling into the trap laid for him by America who had wanted to terrify Europe of the Russian military threat and to impose on Russia a catalogue of sanctions to keep her as an enemy of Europe and NATO and to justify the continuance of the latter. And this is why America’s position vis-à-vis the current crisis was escalatory and inflammatory in favour of Ukraine, unlike the European position which favoured containment of the crisis to avert any aggravation, despite Europe’s stance being in accord with the American position.

As for Russia, she wants to maintain the status quo and avert the eruption of a new war or a military conflict, especially as she is attempting to rebuild her relationship with the EU via direct contacts with Merkel and Macron. However, she is also attempting to strengthen her position on the ground in order to annex east Ukraine should Europe acquiesce to America’s volition and admit Ukraine into NATO. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Andrey Rudenko, said Russia had “no interest in any conflict with Ukraine”, adding that “the talk of a potential conflict between the two countries is sheer media deception propagated by the Kiev authorities.” He also stressed that his country’s efforts were aimed at implementing the Minsk Protocol under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

As for her long-term strategy, Russia is banking on fragmenting Ukraine and separating her east and southeast via a referendum, just like she did in Crimea, in order to maintain a strategic position in the Black Sea, while the European states, especially France and Germany who have previously opposed Ukraine’s NATO membership, are attempting to defuse the situation in the hope of nullifying the pretexts of America who has been blackmailing them to abort their joint vital projects such as Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, from which America has recently demanded Germany to withdraw; US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “the Russian Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal — for Germany, for Ukraine, and for our Central and Eastern European allies and partners,” adding that “the Department is tracking efforts to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and is evaluating information regarding entities that appear to be involved…. As multiple U.S. administrations have made clear, this pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project intended to divide Europe and weaken European energy security. The Biden Administration is committed to complying with that legislation. The Department reiterates its warning that any entity involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline risks U.S. sanctions and should immediately abandon work on the pipeline.”

On another level, America has been working on consolidating ties between Turkey and Ukraine and to throw Turkey into the morass of the Russo-Ukrainian struggle to sow seeds of tension and strife between Russia and Turkey, especially since Ukraine represents a significant strategic weight for Russia due to a host of ethnic, sectarian, geopolitical and strategic considerations. Orthodox Slavic Ukraine is the first line of defence for Russia. She separates her from the NATO member states. Therefore, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was very cautious when he commented on the need to solve the Russo-Ukrainian crisis through peaceful means, so as to please the US on the one hand, and not upset Russia on the other hand. Erdoğan stated that his role was “not directed towards any other country”, and he was hinting at Russia. He also expressed his willingness to mediate between Russia and Ukraine to gain some bargaining chips with Russia. He said his country hoped that “the escalation in east Ukraine will end as soon as possible and that the conflict will be settled through dialogue on the grounds of the Minsk Protocol.” He also stressed the need to allow the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) to pursue its work in order to achieve stability in the Donbas region, and expounded that Turkey’s main objective was to maintain the Black Sea as an oasis of peace, stability and cooperation, as he realised that an aggravation of the crisis would compel Turkey to fulfil her commitments towards NATO, and thus impinging it significantly on the confidence between him and Putin, and weakening their relationship and their understanding on the Syrian file and the Kurdish issue in particular; and this is exactly what America covets.

Hence, Ukraine is one of the hotbeds of tension America has been banking on in her targeting of the Russo-Turkish relationship on the one hand, and Europe’s relationship with Russia on the other hand. Inasmuch as forestalling the solutions for the Ukrainian crisis being a Russian strategy on which she is banking to fragment Ukraine, it also serves America’s strategy in orchestrating the relationships between the stakeholders, namely Russia, Europe, and Turkey.

However, perpetuating the struggle could compel Europe to acquiesce to America’s hellbent desire to admit Ukraine into NATO; this is deduced from the statement of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who expressed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the “EU’s member states unwavering support for Ukraine,” adding that “the EU is united in its solidarity with Ukraine,” and that the Russian comportment on the Ukrainian borders was “tantamount to threatening activities that undermined stability.” He also confirmed that he would attend the Crimea Summit” to be held in Kiev on the eve of Ukraine’s celebrations of Independence Day on 23 August.

The European acquiescence was also reflected in the Baltic states’ support for Ukraine’s calls for “effective help”, and in the closing statement of the NATO’s foreign and defence ministers emergency meeting, which denounced Russian military mobilisation on Ukraine’s borders, and called for supporting US sanctions on Russia who was accused of “pursuing stereotypical behaviour that undermined stability.”

Irrespective of the traded accusations between the Russians and the Ukrainians in respect of the side that initiated the escalation, the provocations of the Ukrainian authorities against the opposition linked to Russia, shutting down pro-Russian satellite channels, and deploying US and NATO forces in Ukraine, was received by Russia with suspicion, especially as they came after the change of guard at the White House and as Biden began to raise the stakes within the framework of tightening the noose around Putin and his clique, mobilising Europe against Russia because of her annexation of Crimea, on which Ukraine, in collusion with America, is planning to hold a conference in August and use as a pretext to extend Western sanctions on Russia. This warranted an increase of Russian military presence on the Eastern Ukrainian borders in anticipation of any Ukrainian threats against the separatist regions. Trenching upon Russia would weaken her international standing and embolden the countries of the region against her that Russia could never stomach or tolerate; being lenient and lethargic towards the challenges and threats would eventually erode her influence further and invite the crises inside Russia, and this is what the Russians suffered during the tenure of Boris Yeltsin and the Chechen issue. The US strategy in dealing with Russia often results in negative impacts on the Russo-European relationship despite Russia’s repeated attempts to dispel the fears of the Europeans; this is what the US has been exploiting to widen the rift between Europe and Russia on the one hand, and between Russia and Turkey, who is allied with Ukraine, on the other hand. This perhaps explains the US sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry and the green light given to Ukraine to conclude a host of strategic partnerships in the defence industry with Turkey.

Therefore, the Ukrainian crisis is a continuance of the siege laid on Russia and a direct threat to her lebensraum. Escalation on the western front with Russia is designed to sidestep France and Germany’s attempt to ease tensions with Russia, especially as Germany is still involved with Russia on a host of energy projects designed to reinforce Europe’s dependence on Russia, strengthen their relationship and dispel their security fears, contrary to the wishes of the US who has been striving to generate intensive negative vibes between Europe and Russia instigated by Britain and her agents in eastern Europe, such as the recent expulsion of the Russian diplomats from the Czech republic to justify the continuance of NATO.

Hence, the focal issue revolves around European security and the role of the US pertinent to it via NATO. In the US Defence Planning Guidance of 1992, it was stipulated that America should endeavour to prevent the emergence of a European defence capability which would wipe out NATO, especially the integrated structure of the Alliance leadership. This is why on the eve of the NATO summit, Ukrainian defence minister alleged in his address before the European Defence Committee at the European Parliament that Russia was preparing to “stockpile nuclear weapons in Crimea” citing the preparatory works for the infrastructure in Crimea that Russia has initiated, which was deemed a direct threat to European security.

7 Ramadhan 1442h
19 April 2021