Thinking of Ukraine & beyond | By S R H Hashmi


Thinking of Ukraine & beyond

I remember Joe Biden stating during his presidential campaign that he would not be seeking another term.

However, after assuming the powerful office, he changed his mind, and started hinting about a possible second term.

But lately, he seems to have reverted to his former position of not seeking another term which, I think, is the right decision.

Being 84 myself, I realize that beyond a certain age, despite the availability of the best healthcare facilities, continuing to remain in a stressful position is good neither for self nor for others around you.

And for President of a super power, people around means not just Americans but also those in other countries, in fact the whole world.

So, I feel Biden’s decision, at least in this respect, is spot on. And while thinking of leaving a legacy behind, what could be better, from the US angle, than squeezing, as much as possible, the scaled-down version of the Soviet Union, Russia, ruled by a strong leader Vladimir Putin.

Such an outcome could also adversely affect China which the United States and its Western allies regard as their real foe and competitor.

However, in the matter of Ukraine, both Vladimir Putin on one side and Joe Biden and his Western allies on the other, have made some errors of judgement.

Ukraine has definitely proved a tough nut to crack for Putin, while the combined force of the United States and its Western allies has been unable to sufficiently weaken Russia militarily, economically or politically.

And worse still, they seem incapable of doing so even in future, despite using all means at their disposal like supplying Ukraine advanced military hardware and real-time intelligence, or by imposing sanctions and placing other curbs on Russia.

As a rude shock to them, Russia’s revenues have risen substantially while America’s European allies are likely to prove sufferers because of cutting of Russian gas supplies to them.

This is bound to have a devastating effect on European economy in the circumstances where forty percent of the European gas supply comes from Russia.

This will set in recession in Europe which will be further aggravated by the OPEC Plus’s announcement of reducing oil production by two million barrels a day, which will further raise oil prices in the international market.

No wonder the earlier excitement and full commitment of the European allies to the United States on the Ukraine issue seems to be waning.

What is worse is not just the Europe but rather the whole world would be adversely affected by the rising oil prices.

Also, with Russia and Ukraine being the biggest grain suppliers to the world, the war in the region is also feared to result in reduced grain supply, raising prices to a level least affordable by the poor countries which could face famine.

The worst part of it all is that the Ukrainians, who the US and its European allies are supposed to be helping, have suffered the most.

Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed while millions of Ukrainian women and children have been forced to flee abroad, with their adult male relatives forcibly held back to fight the US and its allies’ war with Russia..

As for the Ukrainian refugees, because of being European, they were initially given a warm welcome.

However, their continuously rising numbers have created a sort of ‘refugee-fatigue’ with the result that the earlier warmth towards them has dwindled a lot, being replaced by treatment ranging from indifference to outright hostility at times.

Moreover, a considerable part of Ukraine has been captured and annexed by Russia. Moreover, a lage section of Ukrainian population has been forced to move elsewhere and forced to live in sub-human conditions due to destroyed infrastructure.

As for the European countries, after the initial euphoria, they now seem to be quite worried about facing the winter with shortage of energy and sky-rocketing prices of whatever energy sources were available.

Of course, the utter disregard of the OPEC plus countries towards Biden’s request to increase oil supplies, and instead, to cut it by two million barrels a day surely means injury to Europeans and insult to Biden, and of course, the rest of the world would suffer additionally due to shortage of grain and rising energy prices because of the Ukraine War.

And superpower America will suffer loss of face due to its inability to tame Russia, while also having to face alienation from the European countries which had previously followed the United States blindly.

And, of course, Russia also suffered substantial loss of military hardware as well as a large number of its soldiers killed.

However, Russia has gained some additional territory. NATO’s cold-shouldering of Zelensky’s desperate pleas for speeding up Ukraine’s entry into NATO proves it beyond doubt.

Perhaps the fear of a ‘cornered’ Russia using tactical nuclear weapons has restrained the US-led group from taking brinkmanship too far, causing a nuclear flare-up in which there will be no winners.

The real tragedy is that this disaster could have been easily averted had the US and its allies agreed to the very reasonable Russian request of not taking NATO to its doorstep.

To sum up, I would say that it is time the US-led Western group realized that the era of its world domination is over.

And in line with the proverb “if you can’t beat them, join them’, the US and its Western allies better join hands with Russia and China to make this world a better place for all of us.

We actually saw this happen during Covid-19 epidemic, when international cooperation worked wonders in controlling this menace.

And we will need more of such cooperation while tackling climate-change phenomenon. So with examples, dire need and clear benefits of mutually-beneficial international cooperation, why opt otherwise and mess things up for everyone?

— The writer is senior political analyst based in Karachi.


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