Does it make sense for NATO members to believe that they can make “Russia lose the war” in Ukraine by providing enough “lethal” aid, as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has argued?
Snap out of it, Prime Minister Rutte! Statements like that – however commonplace – are naive, ill-informed, and downright dangerous. And your outspoken intent “to maximize pain inflicted on Moscow” appears equally quixotic – and provocative. If you are trying to prove you are no less a loyal lemming than your Nordic neighbors lusting to join NATO, you super-achieved with your remarks Wednesday next to Lemming-in-Chief-NATO-Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Be not deceived. For good or ill, Russia is slowly achieving the objectives of its “special military operation” in Ukraine. Despite what Western Establishment media have been saying, Ukraine has zero chance of winning on the ground – no matter how much lethality NATO pours in.
Arms or Alms?
So the question remains: does the continued provision of arms to Ukraine make sense. The answer: No, unless you are among those who profiteer from war – those whom Pope Francis labeled, in a speech to Congress seven years ago, “the blood-drenched arms traders.”
Next question: Are they the ones prompting the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and Romania to visit Zelensky today in Kyiv? Or is there a chance that, taking into account Russia’s recent advances on the ground, their visit on Wednesday was seen as an appropriate time for Zelensky’s visitors to take a different tack. Is there a chance they counseled him to end the quixotic campaign to make Russia lose. Did they, instead, counsel an early ceasefire, resumption of negotiations, and getting rid of lingering Nazis by giving them severance pay and flowers at a departure ceremony for them?
What about the Russians? President Vladimir Putin has said more than once that he is aware that Washington’s foreign policy is “hostage” to U.S. domestic political vicissitudes. A year ago he pointed out:
“I am sure that it [US policy towards Russia] is primarily impacted by the domestic political processes. Russia-US relations have to a certain extent become hostage to the internal political processes that are taking place in the United States.”
Putin no doubt expects President Joe Biden’s policy on Ukraine over the next several months to be influenced by the enduring political imperative to be seen as boldly facing down the Russians. With the US mid-term elections coming in November, Putin’s prudence (and his past experience with US presidents) will prompt him to expect the worst (beyond name-calling) from Biden – at least until November, and then probably worse-than-the-worst, so to speak, in the months thereafter. (True, there are growing signs of Biden-Zelensky friction but, for the nonce, they seem to realize they are stuck with each other.)
A key question is whether Russian troops will continue their advance farther west to Odessa, and perhaps beyond, in the next couple of months. My guess is that Putin is more likely to do that, if the US and NATO continue to send in more and more lethal weaponry in their illusory pursuit of the stated goal of “making Russia lose the war”.
The (Often) Forgotten China Factor
Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva. A striking feature of that summit was Biden showing Putin that he (Biden) was woefully misinformed about the Russia-China relationship, which has now played a major role in Putin’s confidence and assertiveness. (Chinese President Xi Jin-Ping surprised most experts on China by giving Putin a waiver on Beijing’s bedrock posture on the principles of Westphalia.) The June 16, 2021 face-to-face summit gave Putin confirmation that Biden and his advisers are decades behind the times in assessing the current relationship between Russia and China. We know this from Biden’s own words.
After the summit, President Biden’s co-travelers were having trouble dragging him away from the press and onto his departing plane. Biden’s post-summit remarks apparently reflect what he had just told Putin, commiserating with him about the “squeeze” China was putting on Russia. Pasted in below (in bold italics) is a short excerpt from “Biden-Putin Talk Tuesday With XI in the Wings.”
Here’s President Biden:
“Without quoting him [Putin] – which I don’t think is appropriate – let me ask a rhetorical question: You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China. China is seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world.”
“Let me choose my words. Russia is in a very, very difficult spot right now. They are being squeezed by China.”
One can only hope that President Biden, a year later, is better informed; that he is now aware that Russia and China have never been closer; that, indeed, they have a virtual military alliance. This is a tectonic shift in what the Soviets used to call “the world correlation of forces.” The war in Ukraine has provided the orchestration for a Requiem for the dearly departed unipolar world of recent memory.
This originally appeared at RayMcGovern.com.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).