Ukraine crisis is the mirror of the changing world | By Nazim Uddin

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Ukraine crisis is the mirror of the changing world

THOSE who have watched Money Heist—a famous season—can make sense of the prevailing crisis in Ukraine.

In Money Heist, the professor, the main character, with his calculated, cautious, sophisticated and surprising plan does unthinkable or rather unbelievable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have trodden the same path—not once or twice but thrice despite his weak state power.

At first, he attacked Georgia, then annexed Crimea and now declared the two breakaway states to be Russian; President Putin seems to have calculated all the rewards and risks and has gone with the plan in spite of the inherent risks.

Only time will tell whether his risks are worth the price he may have to pay.While Mr.Putin deserves the blame for inviting the inevitable war, the West equally shares the big pie of the blame because his unending concerns over Russian security went unanswered.

The National Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which evokes the Cold War memory never became irrelevant even after its purpose—to defeat the USSR—was no more extant.

Worse so, NATO expanded its membership from Poland to Lithuania and Latvia, which was, of course, against the unwritten agreement agreed between the EU and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Russia showed its discomfort to NATO expansion and its fear that one-day Ukraine will be part of the alliance.

This situation is much more similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis in which the Soviet Union wished to supply a nuclear arsenal to Cuba, but the US went bonkers.

For a sober intellectual, the past seems not only quite disturbing but embarrassing as well.

During the Cold War, regime change was a new normal.The US could crush the opposition and install a puppet leader anywhere in the world from Iran to Cuba to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Its war crimes in Latin America, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and other parts of the world speak volumes about the human rights and other hypocritical ideas the US media bandies about now.

One only has to read Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchen’s book on Henry Kissinger to understand how the US killed people like flies who came in its way.

Even Donald Trump in Bill O’Reilly’s show admitted that the US cannot be called innocent— “There are a lot of killers.

You think our country’s so innocent?”The fact is that it’s been almost four years since the US lost its unipolar moment altogether.

The prevailing pandemic further precipitated its declining power.Put to these the cultural wars wreaking havoc on the US and western societies.

Today, the US has two competitors—China, a peer competitor, and Russia, which is not that significant for obvious reasons.

Since 2014, the US has lost interest in Europe and focused on Asia, which is called the Asia Pivot.

As a result, NATO, the EU and to some extent, the whole of Europe seemed fragmented, divided and rudderless to Mr Putin because of their dependency syndrome on the US.

When the US included all east European countries in NATO, Russia was in a position to object to it and Europe always listened to the US’s dictates.

But as the Game Theory suggests, the game doesn’t end because today’s losers can be tomorrow’s winners, Kremlin has virtually shown this in Ukraine.

Mr Putin, apart from his legitimate concerns over Ukraine, had started a sphere of influence quite some time ago by his peacekeeping forces in Kazakhstan and moved to another region of South Caucasus and then manipulated elections in Belarus.

While his demand of not granting membership to Ukraine is indisputable, a promise not to deploy weapons in the east of Europe comes as a deal killer.

Worse so, his plan hasn’t gone as expected because not only the EU but also Germany which depends on Russia for energy needs has put sanctions on Russia and broken the taboo.

As a result, the ruble has plunged to a 30 percent low owing to higher sanctions.Although three state banks of Russia have been stripped of SWIFT, which is a world banking transaction system, if Russia invades Kyiv, there will be a risk of getting out of the world banking system that can collapse the whole state.

While the US is deeply concerned with the melting situation in Ukraine, the fact is that it cannot pick a shooting war with Moscow.

The reasons are varying from strategic and domestic to the changing global dynamics.

Much more like the Second World War in which the former had to choose between Fascism and Communism, today the US can either focus on Moscow or Beijing and it’s patently obvious that the US has already rendered its western-laden obsession obsolete.

But nevertheless, the cost of letting Putin augment his sphere of influence seems too heavy.

For a start, the Ukraine crisis can be a test for the receding relevance of US dominance.Beginning with the embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan to chaotic handling of the pandemic, the US has shown all signs of incompetence to be the global leader despite Mr.

Biden’s claims that “America is back.” While some analysts state that China has agreed to Russian aggression, if it were true, the former may want to see whether the US prefers principled stand or realist policy.

China finds it profoundly difficult to hedge its bets by siding Kremlin because it has a checkered history with the latter.

The Soviet Union did everything for Mongolian separation and supported separatist movements in western China in the past.

Additionally, Beijing has good relations with Ukraine.Russian President seems to have calculated all the odds and till now is playing with confidence.

What he hasn’t realized is that invasion doesn’t come with a heavy price as the aftereffects do.

Granted that Moscow can avert a total economic collapse, thanks to its almost 660 billion reserves, the issues are more complicated.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, the US faced failure after failure given that it had no real rivals.

Even a ragtag group like the Taliban brought the superpower to its knees.Ukraine is a dynamic country with its economy, history, nationalism and intellectual contribution.

For Russians coping with the domestic opposition will be a really trying time.The West can arm the local groups, which in effect can pose a potent threat for the Russians.

Although Russia is an autocratic country where Mr Putin gets 96 per cent votes, domestic opposition to the prevailing war cannot be ignored.

Already 1800 people have been arrested; the situation is increasingly going against the status quo in Russia.

After the rule of almost 25 years, Putin hasn’t lived up to his promises and the youth are feeling the heat of the deteriorating situation.

Indeed, Mr Putin doesn’t want a shooting war therefore he has agreed to talks with the Ukrainians, but now he has to show flexibility and leadership because neither Russia nor the world is ready for another conflict.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

 

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