The mainstream thinking in the West is that Ukraine and NATO are winning the war. So the main discussions is how a desperate, defeated Russia will act. You know, wounded animals are dangerous. But what if – hypothetically, of course, against all the clever military expert opinions – it is the other way around? How will NATO react to being defeated in Ukraine? Will it be total war?
The war in Ukraine is a Godsend for the US, and the best we can hope for is that it will continue for as long as possible, as it will ruin Russia. This is the opinion of an associate fellow from Chatham House, a think tank closely related to the UK Government, and frequent contributor to NATO related institutions as the Atlantic Council. Unfortunately, he probably reflects the thinking of influential circles in the US, UK and NATO. If that is the case, it may indeed end up being a very long war.
For sincere journalists in the West, Ukraine presents a dilemma. There is no doubt where the sympathy lies. The war in Ukraine is seen as the good guys against the bad guys and public opinion is strongly against Russia. What then to do with news putting the good guys in a bad light, for example Ukraine losing in the battlefield, their armed forces bombing a nuclear plant in Russian controlled territory, their use of residential areas for shelling the Russians and so on? Ignore them, deny them or tell the facts as they are?
Sometimes you wish you were wrong. In an article on this website around two months before Russia invaded Ukraine, I predicted that war was the most likely outcome, as US and NATO had clearly stated they didn’t accept Russia’s “red line”: the demand that NATO stop its eastward expansion. I asked whether NATO believed the Russians were bluffing, or whether they had decided to throw Ukraine under the bus. Unfortunately, it seems the decision was to sacrifice Ukraine.
To Russia’s demand for a stop for NATO’s eastward expansion, NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has answered that Russia has no say in which countries are becoming members of NATO, a viewpoint that has been repeated by the G7 countries, warning that there will be “massive consequences” for Russia if it intervenes in Ukraine. So Russia’s “red lines” have been rejected, well knowing that this may mean military conflict. What is contradictory is that by defending Ukraine’s right to NATO membership, NATO actually risks throwing Ukraine under the bus. So has NATO decided to sacrifice Ukraine? Or are the Russians bluffing and NATO calling the bluff?
The EU is obviously in trouble as confidence in the Union is dropping in many member countries. Of course there are many explanations, some of these related to the life of the politicians in Brussels, disconnected from the people of their home countries. But unfortunately, the problems go much deeper. EU has simply not been up to the job it was supposed to do and has concentrated on the wrong issues. The drive to enlarge the EU with Turkey and Ukraine may be the last straw to break the camel’s back.
Vladimir Putin has in the West become the symbol of all that we don't like. He is aggressive, authoritarian, brutal and untrustworthy, and he has ice-cold blue eyes, showing no feelings. The perfect villain for a James Bond movie. Unfortunately, he is also quite intelligent, competent and well formulated, and contrary to his ailing predecessors he has good health and is even sporty. Most Russians tend to think he is a better president than the ones they had before him. But how we are longing back to the days of our good old, corrupt, incompetent and drunk Boris Yeltsin.
Real revolutionaries do not just seize power. They also break down the existing power structure of the state and construct a new one from scratch, substituting the old administrators with people from the revolutionary movement, expecting in this way to get rid of not only all the people from the old system, but also all the old ideas. This was the recipe for the October revolution in Russia in 1917. And this is the recipe that NATO has been using today. In Iraq. In Libya. In Syria. This seems to have been be very good for NATO – it has never looked stronger. But is it good for us?
The short answer is yes, very much so. And much more than it will hurt the EU or the US. Post-Soviet Russia is mainly a producer and exporter of oil, gas and raw materials. Just as Canada, Australia, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela. It has gone through a de-industrialisation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and is now heavily dependent on imports of almost everything. It is the world sixth biggest economy, but it is too small to survive isolated. So sanctions will hurt a lot. But they may also have unintended consequences. Some of them could actually be quite interesting.
The story looks simple: The Ukrainian people, fed up with a corrupt and authoritarian government, revolts and chases the President out, reestablishing democracy. Unfortunately they have a big neighbour. Russia, governed by an authoritarian President, Vladimir Putin, who dreams of restoring the Tsarist-Soviet empire. So Ukraine is bullied, a Ukrainian Province (the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) is occupied by the Russians and now the Russians are starting to destabilize the country by all means, threatening to annex the South-Eastern part of the country. And isn't this exactly what Hitler did in 1938 when he annexed Sudetenland, part of Checoslovakia, and later on the rest of the country? As we all know, that led to the Second World War, because the rest of the World was not standing firm against Nazi-Germany at this crucial moment. The implications are straightforward.
The problem with this story telling is that it is too simplified, and the historic parallel is flawed.