The war in Ukraine is in its half year and the endgame is still uncertain. Russia reiterates that it will not back down until it achieves its original objectives. Ukraine is seeking more heavy weapons from the West to push Russian forces back to their pre-war positions. NATO nations seek a “strategic defeat” for Russia and respond with deadly arms shipments.
After the deal between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul on March 29, no further discussion is done regarding the understanding. Russia said it envisaged a “neutral, non-aligned and non-nuclear” Ukraine, guaranteed by all parties involved essentially NATO and Russia. Ukraine was non-binding, but details emerged in Western media. The pact collapsed within days.
Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs recently told CNN that he convinced Ukraine that some Western countries could achieve better results militarily.
The war in Ukraine shows Europe’s failure to build a sustainable post-Cold War security architecture. The Chinese aggression following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is a reminder that there are similar imbalances in the Indo-Pacific.
In the fog of propaganda over the war in Ukraine, it’s easy to forget that just over a year ago, when U.S. President Biden met with Putin last June, China had its sights on. Biden sought a way of life with Russia over differences in Europe and Asia so that the United States could focus more energy on the strategic challenges posed by China. He found Putin relatable: it would be inconceivable today that he would describe Putin as a dispassionate conversationalist rationally pursuing Russia’s national interests. mobilized to support his initiative to engage with Russia and acknowledge China’s challenge. Dialogue between the United States and Russia continued over a number of mutual security concerns, including those involving Ukraine. Negotiations initially made reasonable progress. For reasons kept secret to this day, the negotiations failed and Russia went to war. The military situation appears to be headed for a stalemate. The rhetoric on all sides has been somewhat relaxed. There have been bizarre statements from US and British intelligence chiefs who downplay rumors of Putin’s illness.The recent agreement between Ukraine and Russia on grain and fertilizer exports is an encouraging development. But there are no signs of broader dialogue.
Russia and Ukraine (backed by NATO countries) face a war of attrition if they stick to their positions. The conflict has revealed some fundamental truths about the post-Cold War world. Democracy versus authoritarian narratives have not been effective in mobilizing support for Russia.Former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon said many democracies view war that way. For various geopolitical reasons, they did not accuse or impose sanctions on Russia. The economist, who admitted to having different views on the war after meeting with leaders, highlighted another fault line. Most wealthy countries in North America and Europe oppose Russia’s actions. They account for over 70% of the world’s GDP, but only 36% of the population. Therefore, about two-thirds of the world’s population lives in neutral or “Russian-friendly” countries. The truth is that the post-Cold War world is diverse and largely ideologically agnostic. Partnerships with countries are based on problems and interests, not on political systems. Severing energy ties between Russia and the West has proven difficult. Russia’s dominance in supplying the Western world with energy – oil, gas, coal, uranium – has made it nearly impossible to stop foreign currency flowing into Russia and Russian banks’ access to the world. The United States continues to import Russian uranium. Britain still buys oil. European Union countries are engaged in difficult internal negotiations to reduce pipeline oil and gas imports.
Meanwhile, the US Treasury Secretary warned in April that a sudden cut in oil purchases from Russia could push up gasoline prices for US consumers. Countries like India have nodded to siphoning Russia’s oil. As a result, Russia’s energy revenue surpassed $65 billion in the first quarter of 2022 (according to The Economist), an 80% year-on-year growth! It gave us a buffer that more than offset the loss. Energy dilemmas will continue to plague Europe after the war. We must accelerate our alternative energy programs, incur higher costs, and accept interim deficits. Renewable energy performance cannot be improved beyond a certain point. Part of the reason for the current crisis is that previous renewable energy production forecasts in Europe have proven to be inaccurate. There are also climatic effects. Countries are postponing the phase-out of coal-fired power plants and buying emissions-rich shale gas. India’s foreign policy has endured pressure to denounce Russia and join sanctions.
These interests are compatible with partnerships with the United States and its allies. That this message has been received by all sides is clear from the exchanges between Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers over the past few months in all regions. True strategic autonomy means maintaining multiple partnerships dictated by a nation’s strategic and security interests.
These countries have political, economic and strategic interests, which are not all the same. As the war drags on, it is inevitable that various stakeholders will strive to shape the outcome that best suits their interests. In the real world, profit ultimately trumps values.
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