Ukraine war: twists and turns

How will NATO countries address growing imbalance in Ukrainian war in which Ukraine seems to be losing the war?

Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan June 02, 2024
The author is postdoctoral scholar at the International Affairs Department of Kazan Federal University (KFU) Russia


Back in year 2022, the Washington-led NATO countries were very confident that Russia had made a mistake and would be soon defeated in the war in Ukraine. With corresponding economic sanctions that would damage Russian economy, the US was confident that it has the right winning formula in place. However, with national resolve and mobilisation in year 2023 and 2024, Russia was able to shift the balance of power. After more than two years of this ongoing conflict, the question that the world asks now is: how is this conflict going to get over? How will the Washington-led NATO countries address this growing imbalance in the Ukrainian war in which Ukraine clearly seems to be losing the war? President Emmanuel Macron of France has spoken about a policy shift and come up with the novel idea of hitting back deep into the Russian homeland. Has the French President thought about the Russian response in case Ukraine hits targets deep into the Russian soil with the West-provided weaponry? NATO provoked Russia to undertake special operations in Ukraine when it crossed a redline and invited Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. Why would NATO like to provoke Russia again by crossing another redline and hitting targets deep in the Russian soil? President Vladimir Putin has already warned that NATO’s direct involvement in the war could put the world on a path to a nuclear conflict.

Because NATO countries and Russia both have thousands of nuclear warheads, the balance of power logic and the nuclear doctrine of mutually assured destruction suggest that these great powers will not get involved in a direct conflict. It is for this reason that I consider the French President’s option of escalating the war as a big farce. The undermining reality of this war for Ukraine is that without the Western ground forces Ukraine cannot win this war. It is badly outnumbered in soldiers, weapons and ammunition and it doesn’t have the ability to fix this problem.

If the Washington-led NATO countries are unable to participate in this war with ground troops and also lack the capacity to arm and weaponise Ukraine to escalate the war then what options does the American-led western world has? West considers that Russia is vulnerable and its vulnerability comes from the regime’s concentration of power in one man’s hands. That his eventual death or incapacity may throw the regime into disarray. The West also believes that the war in Ukraine and the accompanying sanctions have resulted in many Russian causalities and caused a number of Russians to flee the country and therefore President Putin’s regime is unpopular and the geopolitical influence of Russia is in a state of decline. As far as the vulnerability of President Putin’s regime is concerned, today all but a few European countries recognise the need to challenge Russia head-on. The sanctions effect is also being mitigated due to the new-found trade and commerce agreements with China and India and many East Asian and Middle East and African countries. The response to what happens to Russia if something happens to President Putin is best expressed by Prof John J Mearsheimer when he suggests that there are worse hardliners in the Israeli cabinet than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who could take over and do worse than what Israel has done to Palestine under Netanyahu. Mearsheimer also says that the world cannot be sure about who takes over from President Putin who, according to him, has so far demonstrated remarkable restraint in the war in Ukraine, and anyone taking over from him might not do the same.

Washington is creating a new Monroe doctrine with global dimension by creating mini alliances such as AUKUS, the US-Japan-Korea trilateral summit and the Tokyo-Seoul-Canberra-Wellington Quartet, asking the members of these alliances to assist NATO, which is pivoting East to target Russia and China and dominate the Pacific theatre. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called out West on spawning conflicts that artificially partition humanity into hostile blocs and hamper the achievement of its common goals. He considers that West is doing everything that it can to prevent the formation of a truly multipolar and fairer world order. He compares the unkept promises that the West made in 2009 to provide developing countries with $100 billion annually to finance climate change mitigation programmes with the amounts that the US, NATO and EU have spent on supporting Kiev — an estimated $170 billion over the past year and a half to create a very dangerous and divided world.

Ukraine has already used long-range weapons to target deep Russian strategic sites and Russia knows that no way these strikes could have targeted these strategic facilities without the West helping Ukraine to upgrade its weapons. So far, the restraint that Russia shows is because of the undeclared and covert and stealth means of Western support. Similarly, Russia is already aware that there is a presence of Western force in the form of trainers and instructors and technical operators in Ukraine all undeclared and disguised, yet this should not encourage Western leaders like President Macron to talk about sending French soldiers to fight in the war in Ukraine — that would be unacceptable to Russia. Even Russia’s neighbouring Baltic states, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia which are members of NATO are being encouraged to point fingers at Russia and showing their willingness to contribute ground troops to engage in the war. The US is also encouraging Poland, Czech Republic and Bulgaria to take up France-like bold stand in the war. The US does not care about the consequences of escalation of this war.

What the US is trying to do today — gather all Europe against Russia — is something that has been tried earlier. Napoleon gathered all Europe under his banner against Russia yet he was humiliated and had to return to France defeated. Hitler also sent some European countries to fight the Soviet Union as part of the Wehrmacht but met the same fate. Russia considers the US attempt to gather the current European countries under Vladimir Zelensky’s Nazi banner as another attempt that follows the same path and that will most likely meet the same fate. The US attempts to convince neutral countries like Switzerland, Finland and Sweden to adopt an anti-Russian stance is a dangerous trend that continues to divide the world and quite frankly is a regrettable US geopolitical strategy.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2024.

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