Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine violates international laws, has raised the specter of WW3, and is morally indefensible. This preemptive war is also guaranteed to disrupt the global economy, affecting the prices of vital commodities and food. Worse, all the major powers involved in this conflict are playing a game of chicken, pushing the world closer to a nuclear war, although Western media and politicians are acting nonchalant.
While Putin is at fault, those who have closely followed the events in Ukraine over the last decade knew that this war was inevitable. Let’s see what this war means, how we got here and what’s the way out.
Disaster for everyone
Innocent Ukrainian civilians who had no say in their country’s foreign policy are facing the brunt of this illegal war. More than 1.5 million people have been turned into refugees in the last few days.
Russia is now under unprecedented sanctions, and has been turned into an economic/financial pariah. About $400 billion of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves have been seized by Western countries; many Russian banks have been cut off from SWIFT, the international banking system; and most major American companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Boeing, PayPal etc. – have halted their products and services in Russia. Ruble has lost a third of its value in a week. The Russian economy is set to face devastating inflation and contraction this year. 140 million Russians will suffer greatly from this economic implosion. There are anti-war protests all over Russia, but they are being squashed by the police state.
However, Russia won’t suffer in isolation
40% of natural gas consumed in Europe comes from Russia. Plus, 25% of European oil imports and 50% of coal imports come from Russia. On Friday, Putin shut off the Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline. If the situation keeps escalating, Putin is going to fully turn off the taps. There is no way Europe can find alternative energy supplies in the near term. In this case, Europe will slip into a deep recession.
Russia is also the world’s largest exporter of wheat and fertilizer, whose prices are already going through the roof. The impacts will be felt worldwide – for example, Brazil is very dependent on Russian fertilizers to grow soy and corn, which are indispensable for China and many other countries.
Russia is also the leading exporter of many crucial metals and minerals such as aluminum, palladium, titanium, platinum, gold etc., which are vital for everything from cars and construction to planes and semiconductor chips. Since commodity prices are set worldwide, the U.S. economy will also be severely impacted by this war.
Geopolitics 101 – why Ukraine is important for Russia
Why is Putin doing this? While the mainstream media, as usual, reduces the complex issue into a simplistic Disney narrative of “Putin is evil,” there are three main reasons why Ukraine presents an existential crisis for Russia.
First: Access to and control of Black Sea, which provides Russia access to Europe, Africa, Middle East etc. Without this, Russia will have no future. This is why Brzezinski wrote in his 1990s book, The Grand Chessboard, that the U.S. must attempt to pull Ukraine into the fold and dominate the Black Sea.
Second: Proximity and a long, shared border. The Russia-Ukraine border is 1400 miles long. And Moscow is just 300 miles away from the border. If Ukraine joins NATO, it will mean US missile defense systems and even nukes right on Russia’s border. Again, an existential threat for Russia. (Ukraine is to Russia what Mexico is to the USA. Thanks to the Monroe Doctrine, we will never allow Chinese or Russian military bases in the Western Hemisphere, let alone in Mexico).
Third: Long, shared history and cultural ties. The Russian Empire was founded in Kiev 1000 years ago. Thus, centuries of tight relations. The USSR even had a Ukrainian leader (Khrushchev). Even now, 40% of the people in Ukraine are ethnic Russians.
Ukraine leaders’ mistakes
Professor John Mearsheimer warned back in 2015 that Ukraine’s leaders were being led by the West down the path of destruction. However, rather than being neutral between Russia and the West, Ukraine’s new leaders have been constantly talking about joining NATO or even acquiring nuclear weapons.
In 2017, Ukraine’s parliament passed a resolution about plans to join NATO and later incorporated that into the Constitution. Ukraine then became an “enhanced opportunity partner of NATO” in 2020. Few days before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s President Zelensky gave a speech at the Munich Security Conference, where he reiterated all those controversial points.
Washington elites are simply sacrificing Ukraine as a geopolitical pawn. Since 2014, the U.S. has given staggering $3 billion of military aid to Ukraine. Weapons such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles are aimed for a brutal urban war, which will destroy Ukrainian cities – very similar to what transpired in Syria.
As I describe in my book, “The Cure for Russophobia,” the U.S. staged a coup in Ukraine in 2014 and overthrew a democratically elected leader. In 2016, Senators Graham and McCain went to Ukraine and said, “Your war is our war and we will help you win.” Why? Did we learn anything from the meaningless wars over the last 20 years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen etc.?
Meanwhile, the average person in Ukraine has seen no benefits from the freedom and democracy crusade. The Ukrainian government has been borrowing billions of dollars from the IMF and the World Bank, only to spend it on weapons and oligarchs. Ukraine’s GDP has been flat for the last eight years; and the average Ukrainian worker makes $10 a day. Corruption is still endemic, and the country ranks 122nd out of 180 countries. As the Pandora papers showed, even President Zelensky has secret offshore accounts and mansions around the world.
The main reason for this conflict is the relentless expansion of NATO. Declassified documents of the U.S. National Archives show that the U.S. and European leaders promised in 1990 that NATO would move “not one inch eastward” after the USSR was dismantled. So, what happened?
In 1999 — when Russia was totally pro-America — NATO added three new countries: Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic. In 2004, NATO added 9 more countries; then two more in 2020.
George Kennan, the architect of America’s containment policy toward the USSR warned in 1997 that the NATO expansion was a “fateful error” that would rekindle the Cold War. But warmongers and the military industrial complex hate peace. NATO can justify its existence and bloated budget only through “Russia threat.”
In 2008, NATO announced that Ukraine and Georgia will soon become members. Immediately, former CIA director and then US Ambassador to the U.S. warned in a classified document that Georgia and Ukraine are the red lines for Russia. People like Noam Chomsky have also repeatedly pointed out to the dangers of Ukraine being pulled into NATO. However, all logic were ignored.
In 2020, Russia’s annual military budget was $70 billion, compared to NATO countries’ whopping $1.2 trillion. Yet they keep talking about “Russian expansionism,” which is equivalent to Iraq’s WMD.
How can Russia be a threat to Europe? Only if we poke the bear long enough, hard enough, and point a gun at it. If cornered without any escape, Putin will use nuclear weapons. This is why NATO has not tried to impose no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Putin’s plan for Ukraine
Washington elites, who have no imagination, are hoping for a repeat of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Their fantasy is that Putin will get bogged down in Ukraine for years, while Western weapons manufacturers can send in armed jihadists and Nazis into Ukraine for a long insurgency. Mujahideen 2.0.
My prediction is that Putin is too smart for this playbook. He is going to capture Kiev within a couple of weeks, install a temporary puppet government, and then carve up Ukraine into two countries. If he does the split along the Dnieper River, Ukraine will no longer have a border with Russia. The Eastern part will be pro-Russia and full of ethnic Russians; the Western part will be pro-West and made up of ethnic Ukrainians. Just like how the U.S. broke up Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
According to Democracy Index, more than half the countries in the world are authoritarian. Of those, a vast majority are our allies. Of course, in reality, even the beacon of democracy, the USA, is an oligarchy. In Ukraine, Zelensky has shut down TV stations, banned independent media, and arrested opposition leaders. Thus, let’s not carried away by emotions into another war of insanity to spread fake democracy.
Wars can end with diplomacy and good faith. Rather than fueling the war in Ukraine, the West should strive for immediate ceasefire and a long-term solution. Putin’s war is wrong but we don’t need to pour fuel on the fire. Realpolitik dictates that the U.S. has no real interests in Ukraine, while Russia has undeniable security interests in Ukraine and Black Sea. A military buffer is good for both Russia and Europe.
Washington elites are still stuck in a Cold War mentality, although modern Russia presents no ideological challenge to the West. Peace and trade with Russia are good for Europe, and thus good for America. From a pragmatic point of view, the anti-Russia sanctions and hysteria are pushing Russia deeper into China’s orbit, and are also undermining the U.S. dollar and Western financial systems. America should be focused on domestic issues such as poverty, inequality, healthcare crisis, inflation etc., which have all gotten worse in the last two years. Let’s not get misled again by warmongers who profit from endless wars.