Tass: The operation to enforce peace in Ukraine has entered a military phase. All previous estimates were reset, the unfinished text the day before, which should have been called ironically – “What if we don’t attack?” – lost all meaning. Moscow time was divided into the pre-war and the present – although, as they rightly remind in the Donbass, the time has remained military there for the past eight years, and only with the recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics by Russia did hopes for a more peaceful future dawn.
Naturally, the main question that worries everyone is how long and wide in scope the “special military operation” announced early Thursday by Russian President Vladimir Putin will be. There are no answers yet; in any case, as presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters, he is “unknown” about the possibility of stopping the operation before achieving its goals.
The goals themselves, according to him, boil down to “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine, the word “occupation” in this context is “inapplicable.” Whether these goals involve the expansion of the operation to the entire territory of Ukraine, including its largest cities, Peskov did not specify. As for the terms, he said that they depended on “efficiency and expediency” and “will, of course, be determined by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief,” that is, the President.
Having decided to send Russian peacekeepers to the Donbass, Moscow has completely shuffled the geopolitical cards. Overseas, in the professional jargon of politicians and the military, such proactive actions are called changing the facts on the ground.
Facts really, willy-nilly, force us to reckon with them, and in the West they try to adapt to them. The task is not an easy one, since it is necessary, firstly, to hide one’s own impotence, and secondly, to make sure that the previously advertised “unprecedentedly tough” sanctions against Russia still do not harm the West itself too much and do not completely block the path to the so-called de-escalation, i.e. détente.
Hopes for it still flicker, although the previously announced meeting of the heads of the diplomatic departments of Russia and the United States, which was expected to prepare the next bilateral summit, has now been cancelled. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden told reporters that he “has no plans to speak with Putin,” does not rule out personal sanctions against the Russian leader, and sees “a complete break in US relations with Russia if they continue on their current path.”
When asked about the resumption of the Cold War, the American leader did not directly answer, saying only that “a cold day is coming” for Russia. But I saw the last decades of the Cold War and I don’t remember anything like the current situation in those years.
Judging by the commotion caused in the West by the recognition of the DPR and LPR, this Russian move took our opponents by surprise. This in itself is striking, since such a scenario was not only allowed, but directly predicted. In mid-February, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg even publicly warned against him.
And a little later, perhaps the most authoritative American foreign policy magazine, Foreign Affairs, published an article “What if Russia wins? A Kremlin-controlled Ukraine would transform Europe.” It stated that Russia had “many paths to victory” in Ukraine, including “bringing an obedient government to power in Kyiv or dividing the country.”
I suppose the most obvious manifestation of the confusion that reigned in the West may be the dispute over what counts as an “invasion”. Suffice it to recall that just the other day, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell claimed that “Russian troops are already in Ukraine”, but this “is not a full-scale invasion.”
Essentially, the uncertainty, of course, was due to the need to carefully calibrate the response to Russia’s actions. However, in form, it, unfortunately for the White House, went back to Biden’s January blunder, which was immediately perceived by his domestic critics as a gross political miscalculation.
The American leader then said that Russia “will have to answer” for its actions “if it invades” a neighboring country, but added that the specifics would depend “on what it does.” “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and then we have to fight over what to do, what not to do, etc.,” Biden explained.
He was taken at once at his word; Kyiv publicly declared that “there are no minor invasions.” True, some commentators even then pointed out that the words of the US President merely reflected political realities, including the lack of agreement between NATO partners. But in general, the White House had to hastily extinguish the scandal and assure that in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation, crossing the border by “at least one soldier” would already mean an invasion.
A good mine in a bad game
Later, this ostentatious intransigence backfired on him. The press demanded to explain how this position correlates with Russia’s decision to send its peacekeepers to the Donbass republics. The administration wavered.
This is how the Washington Post described the first introductory briefing for journalists hosted by the White House via teleconference on February 21, hours after Moscow announced recognition of the DPR and LPR: into two Russian-backed separatist regions by breaking the “red line” in the eyes of the Biden administration. Rather, the official was trying to portray the developments as something very far from a dramatic change in the status quo. As he repeatedly stressed, “Russia has already been occupying these regions since 2014.” .
The last thesis is one of the pillars for the Washington and Kiev agitprop, although Moscow has always refuted it, including with reference to the OSCE observers. Shortly after the conclusion of the same briefing, the paper said, “another administration official defined a Russian invasion that would entail a clear US response.” According to him, this is “a transition to Ukrainian territory, which Russia has not” occupied since 2014.
It looked as if the Americans were trying to persuade themselves to admit the new facts on the ground created by Moscow on the grounds that the US had previously considered the Russian presence in the Donbass to be a fact. Well, as they say, put the Stars and Stripes flag in their hands and let them run with this flag from Kyiv even to Lviv, even to Poland (by the way, I came across an interesting question in social networks: why is everyone calling on their people to leave Ukraine, but no one, including Ukraine, does not encourage his people to leave Russia?). In my opinion, in fact, all this corresponds to the Russian proverb – to put a good face on a bad game.
Winners are not judged?
I wanted to write that in relation to Russia, the same approach is described by our other proverb: the winners are not judged. Moreover, the well-known American political “hawk” John Bolton, who during the previous Republican administration of Donald Trump in Washington was the assistant to the president for national security, just told MSNBC that what is happening will end with “Russia’s victory”, since the current American leader Joe Biden failed to properly rally NATO.
Trump himself, by the way, also very complimentary assessed Putin’s actions, boastfully emphasizing that “he knows him well.” Speaking on the air of the popular conservative radio program Clay and Buck Show about hearing about the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine on TV, the ex-president described his reaction as follows: “It’s genius. Putin declares most of Ukraine … independent. It’s wonderful!”
By the way, in the same interview, Trump predicted that China would “take over” Taiwan. And I remembered that 50 years ago, on February 21, the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon, arrived on a visit to China. That 1972 trip has gone down in history as one of the key turning points of the entire classic Cold War period between East and West.
And now, as the New York Times admitted in a commentary on this anniversary, the world is seeing “the very Russian-Chinese friendship that Nixon feared.” By the way, many observers point out that the Ukrainian crisis is beneficial for Beijing, as it diverts the attention of the West from confrontation with it and shifts the focus to Russia for a long time.
As for Trump, in fact, bribes are smooth from him. For him, it is important, first of all, to emphasize that “nothing like this would have happened under him” – in US relations, even with Russia, even with China. And literally the next day, in another interview, he called the Russian military operation in Ukraine “a very sad event for the whole world.” Yes, and many of his fellow party members, stigmatizing Biden for softness, demand the most severe punishment for Moscow.
Oil at $120 a barrel?
So it’s better not to rush to wishful thinking for the time being, since Washington (and not only) is trying very hard to judge and punish our country. Announcing his response to Moscow’s decisions to recognize the DPR and LPR, Biden described them as “the start of a Russian invasion of Ukraine” and an occasion for “imposing retaliatory sanctions that go far beyond the steps that [the US] with allies and partners took in 2014 year”.
He immediately announced the “first tranche” of these restrictions. According to him, that included a “complete blocking” of VEB and Promsvyazbank (the latter was simply called a “military bank”), as well as “comprehensive sanctions against Russian sovereign debt”, “sanctions against Russian elites and members of their families”, finally, an agreement with Germany that the Nord Stream 2 project “will not move forward.” Later, another package of restrictions against the financial and other sectors was added to this set, not only in Russia, but also in Belarus.
In fact, the sanctions require a separate discussion, and specialists are already conducting it, including in Moscow. But even for non-specialists in this area like me, it is obvious that Biden did not offer anything really capable of “crippling” the Russian economy on the move. But he had to warn his own voters again that the measures he was taking and planned could hit “American business and consumers,” in particular in the form of “growth in prices at gas stations.”
Marcus Stanley, a financier at the Quincy Institute for Good Governance, recently pointed out that “according to analysts at [banking] JP Morgan, a full-scale economic attack on Russia could ‘simply’ lead to a third increase in world oil prices from $90 to $120 per barrel or more.” The publication was titled “The Real Consequences of the Economic War with Russia: Make no mistake, sanctions could seriously hit global markets and drive inflation to new heights.”
Just today, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that at the insistence of US allies and partners, “the energy sector [was] excluded from the range of sanctions.” And the White House also confirmed that the measures being taken “are not aimed at in any way disrupting the current energy supplies from Russia to other countries.”
I will add that the West is threatened by a direct response from Moscow to attempts at sanctions pressure. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that this response would be “strong, not necessarily symmetrical, but measured and sensitive for the American side.”
As for Biden’s original speech, I can’t help but note that, according to the White House transcript, it began at 2:22 p.m. last Tuesday – 02/22/2022. So to speak, according to the sanctions – solid deuces.
” Putin Endgame “
How events will develop, while one can only guess. Although, for example, a Canadian veteran of the foreign press corps in Moscow, Fred Ware of the Christian Science Monitor, believes that “Putin’s endgame is clear enough.” In his opinion, Donetsk and Lugansk are destined for the same “permanent Russian protectorates” as Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “Moscow could invest heavily in rebuilding them — as it is already doing in Crimea — to create a contrast with those areas of Donbas that are under Ukrainian rule,” writes the seasoned journalist. I wonder, by the way, whether all Russians will welcome this?
Prominent Indian political scientist, retired Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar proceeds from the fact that “Moscow’s coercive diplomacy is working.” In his opinion, time in this case is on the side of Russia, since by definition it gives the highest priority to issues of its national security and defense, the country’s leadership enjoys the full support of the population in this regard, and besides, China also shows itself to be a fairly reliable partner.
On the other side of the Atlantic, despite the usual bluster of American propaganda, the political reality is that, according to a recent CBS poll, 53% of Americans believe that the US should not take sides in the conflict, and 33% believe that America should not care about Ukraine at all,” Bhadrakumar points out, “and even American analysts admit that the Russian economy has enough strength and resilience to withstand US sanctions.”
At the same time, Paris and Berlin are acting quite arbitrary, and, for example, French President Emmanuel Macron recently had a very friendly conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Indian expert reminds.
Among the assessments favorable for Moscow is the opinion of retired US military intelligence officer Scott Ritter that “Russia is in full control of the current crisis in terms of storyline (narrative) and timing.” But here is another authoritative expert – the former chief analyst of the US CIA on Russia, and now vice president of the Washington Center for the National Interest George Beebe – believes that in the current confrontation around Ukraine there are simply no favorites who can count on a net gain.
“Neither Russia nor the West can pull Ukraine into their sphere of influence without tearing the country apart from within,” he writes in The National Interest magazine. excluded from the most influential security organizations in the region. Under such conditions, any attempts to play a win-lose scenario between the West and Russia will inevitably turn into a mutual loss (lose-lose).”
“According to John Kennedy, the main lesson of the Cuban missile crisis was that the leaders of the nuclear superpowers, in order to defuse crises, need to help each other find compromises that would mutually allow them to “save face,” recalls Bibi. “Today this is no less true than in 1962 The “window of opportunity” for averting catastrophe is rapidly closing.”
What is the strength?
To be honest, I fully agree that it is better not to put the opponent in a stalemate. I think Putin also agrees with this: he has repeatedly told the story of how he cornered a rat as a child.
He also repeated more than once that a bad peace is better than a good quarrel. This is also undeniable. But with the idea carried out by him in his new address that if “the power is in justice and truth,” then the opposite is also true, I would, frankly, allow myself to disagree.
I can repeat after Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “I hate war.” I am for peace, especially with the Ukrainian and other peoples of our former common homeland, who, by the way, are also closely following what is happening.