Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on the morning of Thursday 24 February the launch of a military operation in the province of Donbas in east Ukraine. It transpired later that the operation was widened as it reached the seaport of Odesa, Kherson, the seaport of Mariupol and the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kiev that day.
Putin said in a televised statement “The West left us with zero option…. What is occurring now is necessary as we have been left no other option”. He stressed that “Now they also claim to possess nuclear weapons. We will not allow this to be done…. Russia does not plan to occupy Ukrainian lands. Russia deems it important that all Ukrainian people should enjoy the right to self-determination.” He emphasised that “Russia cannot feel safe and continue to exist and develop under the constant threat from Ukraine. Moscow’s attempts to agree on non-expansion of NATO were in vain; and the situation on a NATO expansion has become more dangerous and we can no longer keep silent.” He added “For the US and her allies, this is a policy of containing Russia but for us it is a real threat to the existence of the state.” Regarding the Ukrainian crisis, Putin warned the West by saying “Russia is being pushed against the wall.” This was reemphasised by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov who said “the US is using Ukraine to deter Russia. NATO has endeavoured to integrate Ukraine and Georgia and disregarded our security vision. We attempted to persuade Kiev and the West to implement the Minsk agreements, but our attempts were in vain. He added “the current regime in Kiev is subservient to the US, the West and the Neo-Nazis. The Ukrainian President has failed to adhere to the Minsk Protocol, concluded an alliance with NATO and sought to procure nuclear weapons.” For his part, Russian intelligence chief said, “Russia will not allow Ukraine to turn into a dagger in the hands of America.” All this reflects the real apprehensions and the fundamental causes of the Russian military operation in Ukraine.
Russia had provided the pretext for her military operation by officially recognising the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces from Ukraine, in addition to the Russian parliament’s ratification of the bill stipulating dispatching military forces abroad, and Putin issuing a decree ordering the dispatching of military forces to the two separatist regions, as per the request of their administrations, for support from President Putin to repel the aggression of the Ukrainian military forces.
This means the Russian preparations to invade Ukraine and thwarting her membership to NATO by force had been prearranged in anticipation of a failure to reach a political solution with America, and of his banking on the ability of France and Germany to resist the US pressures to preserve their interests with Russia being fruitless. It also means that America had known all along what Russia had been planning; therefore, she refused to provide any security guarantees as she wanted to lure Russia into a military action leading to her isolation and to destroying her relationship with Europe, especially France and Germany, the biggest losers from the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. This was explicitly expressed by the German government spokesperson who said that suspending Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system would be technically difficult to arrange and would have a massive impact on transactions for Germany and German businesses in Russia, adding that several states had been against putting any sanctions on Russia related to oil and gas delivery. Therefore, the German President appealed to Putin to stop “this crazy war.”
No sooner the military operation had begun than a Western political and media campaign condemning the Russian onslaught was launched. Russia was threatened with severe sanctions and European states and NATO called for urgent meetings to assess the Russian war in Ukraine and debate the sanctions to be imposed on Russia.
By reading the statements of Russian, Ukrainian and European officials, it transpires that what had been confirmed earlier, in respect of expanding NATO to include Ukraine with America’s incitement and a Franco-German apprehension, was designed to generate a hotbed of tension on the Russian borders and to besiege her in one of the most important areas of her vital and geostrategic sphere. Ukraine’s membership to NATO, or deploying NATO forces therein, would shackle Russia’s hands and prevent her from using force against Ukraine. Russia’s intelligence chief had warned of Ukraine becoming a dagger in the hands of America. America’s aim is to perpetuate the state of uncertainty and the inability to predict Putin’s behaviour as the regulator of the Russo-European relationship to justify the continuance of NATO and America’s manipulation of Europe’s security.
In this context, it would be safe to say that Biden has succeeded in luring Putin into a military action that has sent shivers down Europe’s spine after America had rejected the guarantees sought by Russia, the most important of which was expanding NATO towards Russia. Biden has also succeeded in portraying the Russian aggression against Ukraine as an aggression against Europe and the values of freedom and democracy. He hastened with Britain to strengthen NATO forces in the Baltic states and eastern Europe. He has also succeeded in mobilising the European states in imposing sanctions on Russia by exploiting France’s EU presidency and Germany’s G7 presidency, the two states that had attempted to settle the crisis politically to avert its impacts on them. It seems that America has excluded the energy sector and the SWIFT system from the sanctions due to their fallouts on Europe, and to encourage France and Germany to impose sanctions on Putin and the fiscal system between Europe and Russia. Hence, US President Joe Biden stressed in a joint statement with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on 28 January the presence of a common commitment to preserve energy security in Europe.
It is common knowledge that the sanctions will weaken Russia and undermine the relations between the Russians and the Europeans and widen the wedge between them. Meanwhile, Europe’s united standpoint and her rallying behind the US will enable America in the future to lead Europe in accordance with the unified standpoints of NATO and the values of freedom and democracy. This was corroborated by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during a joint press briefing with the NATO Secretary General; she said “this crisis will bring us even closer together…. We are more united and more determined than ever. We are one union, one alliance, united in purpose.”
As for Russia’s military aims, they are indicated by the axes of the Russian onslaught that targeted the province of Donbas in order to regain the administrative areas that had been affiliated to the province before 2014 and which are beyond the control of the separatists, and targeted also the strategic coastal belt in the area of Kherson which links the province of Donbas to the Crimean Peninsula, to regain control of the water source which the Ukrainian government had cut off, in addition to the attack on the seaports of Odesa and Mariupol with the aim of paralysing the Ukrainian economy incite the masses against the government and exert pressure on Zelensky to resign. The Russian army wants to get close to the Moldovan republic, which is close to Odesa, and intimidate its government regarding the file of the breakaway Transnistria region which is loyal to Russia, and which hosts the Russian 14th army stationed on the borders with Romania. As for the attack from the Belarusian side, it aims at dominating the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and the strategic Gostomel airport, and subsequently, besieging the capital Kiev, a target that has now become evident. Russia’s aims are reflected conspicuously in the statement of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov who said “once we complete this military operation and liberate Ukraine from militarisation, we will allow its people to determine their future. We will only be ready to negotiate once the conditions of Putin are met, namely that Ukraine lay down its weapons and form a government representing everyone.”
This makes the option of entering Kiev or besieging it and toppling the government or forcing it to be neutral by force probable. However, Lavrov reassured Europe by saying: “Russia will regain peace in Ukraine quickly and will prevent a greater conflict in Europe.” As for the Ukrainian president’s request to meet President Putin, and his readiness to negotiate with Russia, even on the issue of neutrality, it is but an attempt to slow the move towards the capital and to dissuade Putin from entering Kiev and toppling the government. The statements of Lavrov and Putin allude to an intention to change the Ukrainian government, or force it to surrender by force, or even divide it and take it out of the sphere of US influence. This narrative was indicated by the Ukrainian President and its omens were reflected in the process of the military operations. As for the grievances of the Ukrainian President ahead of the NATO meeting suggesting that Ukraine was left alone, it is designed to embarrass Europe and exert pressure on her to take a strong stand in the face of the Russians. He said “the European response is insufficient, and the aid is also not enough while the Russian tanks are attacking our people. Russia is now attempting to divide Ukraine. We want from Europe to expel Russian ambassadors, isolate Russia, and strengthen the sanctions against her. I urge the European citizens to take to the streets to exert pressure on their governments to take decisive decisions.” For his part, President Putin called on “the Ukrainian army to seize the reins of power”, since he realises that the army understands best the Russian military threat and that it could be relied on regarding the possibility of being responsive to the Russian demands. Putin expressed this narrative by saying “agreement between us would be easier if you assumed power.”
America will probably approve negotiations between Ukraine and Russia to bide time and impinge on Russia’s plan to dominate Ukraine and topple her government, or divide Ukraine, and thus negotiate from a position of strength, especially as America has now achieved the aim of dragging Russia into a military action that has terrified Europe, corroborated its presence in eastern Europe and the Baltic states, and led Europe to impose sanctions on Russia. However, Putin is unlikely to engage in any negotiation before displaying his force and tightening his grip on Kiev, lay siege to it, and recover the areas of Donbas lost in 2014, to save his blushes before domestic public opinion and to preserve Russia’s grandeur before his allies in the region and before NATO and the entire world.
Nevertheless, the unfolding events do not affect the unipolar international situation, though it may enhance Russia’s international presence, especially now that Putin has succeeded in doing what he had wanted, even by resorting to military force. Hence, this war will lead to corroborating Russia’s security situation and weakening Western influence in Ukraine and its impact on Russia, while America will achieve her aims in respect of her influence in Europe and in entrenching the notion of the Russian threat which has always been resisted by France and Germany; and there will be no consolation either for Ukraine’s collaborating leaders who have sacrificed their country in service of US interests.
Copyright LCIR © 2022