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There is an increased likelihood of a Russian invasion or incursion into Ukraine, at the moment, 100,000 Russian military is assembled on the Ukrainian border, and the world is on edge. A war in the Black Sea is not just limited to the countries that border it, this affects the rest of the world. All of us. Right now, we are at an impasse, everyone is digging their heels and waiting for Vlad’s next move.
But what is going on?
In 2008 when Georgia expressed its desire to join NATO, Russia invaded, and their membership was indefinitely put on hold. NATO will not extend membership to nations currently under occupation with Russia for the simple fact that, that would trigger clause 5 in its treaty; retaliation and protection of a member, so to speak, and NATO has no appetite for a full-scale war.
What does Russia want?
Guarantees that Ukraine would never be allowed to join NATO. Guarantees the organisation is not prepared to give. Putin believes NATO wants to expand but NATO has shown no appetite for expansion, especially for nations in the eastern bloc that would likely be in the crosshairs of Russia’s whims. With the dissolution of the old country, USSR, Kiev its former capital, it is widely assumed that old Vlad, the former KGB officer, wants to return to the cold days with Russia as a strong hold in the East, and the West on the other.
Whilst it may not feel like we are back in the days of Able Archer when the world seemed closer to a war than at any time since the Second World War, it feels pretty damn hairy right now, like we are on the precipice at the whim of men with fragile egos and the organisations meant to be taking a stand and protecting us look increasingly weak in the face of it.
Make no mistake, Ukraine will fight back and that in itself should be a scary concept because this is not the Ukraine that lost the Crimea to Russia. Even scarier is that Russia will not back down. NATO will be forced to react because the aggression is bound unsettle other countries in the region that are NATO members, countries that are already playing host to NATO armies. This will impede the security of the peace in place since the end of the Cold War; which is arguably what Russia wants. That and for it to be the centre of attention.
NATO cannot seem to align on what kind of response will be carried out should Russia go ahead with its threat of war or maybe dip its littlest toe in Ukraine to test the West’s resolved. A situation that was not helped by the gaff from the gaff prone President Biden in that marathon press conference where he seemed to allude that a minor invasion might just be accepted for NATO to look the other way. BUT what is a minor incursion? What is acceptable to Ukraine and manageable for the West?
France and Britain are still not talking to each other on a good day, Germany is not really making a stand rather remaining to be conciliatory somewhat. This to an extent is understandable simply because Germany relies heavily on Russia for gas imports and thus has expressly refused to agree to remove Russia from the Swift banking process; a move that would prove most volatile, not only for Russia but for the countries that trade with Russia that rely on Swift in its mode of transaction, even if the system is in dire need of a change.
Britain… well we are still trying to figure out who organised that piss up in the brewery and a few short hours away give or take a few time-zones, a fight is about to go down that will annihilate us all.
It must be said that despite rumours that Putin wants to return to the USSR of old, there are other players involved in the game who simply will not roll over and roll out the red carpet for Russia to come in on their gains. Whilst Putin would like for NATO not to allow Ukraine membership, NATO has shown no appetite for this in the first place but it also does not want Ukraine to grow militarily or be an outpost for the US and the West.
What we know for sure is that the West is fractured- between house parties and gaffes, that shambolic extraction from Afghanistan, rising cost of living and gas prices, not mention but also yes to mention, BREXIT… Russia like a shark that smells blood in the waters is ready to take advantage of that weakness. Sanctions might hurt but it won’t hurt that much, removing Russia from the Swift banking network might be too diabolical a move on the part of the West… add to that, everybody is talking about Ukraine but not really with Ukraine a country ready to defend its sovereignty without or without the adjacent assistance of NATO by having its presence in its nation state. In addition, Ukraine, is pleading with the West for calm and a change in its rhetoric.
Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and dieHerbert Hoover
What’s at play here? In the most simplistic terms, grown men with insecurities and a need to flex their muscles to remind the world that they are still there. It’s an entitlement. On another level it’s a shore up of a vanity project; nothing is more important to Putin than his legacy, a man who has been at loggerheads with the West if only to prove that democracy is not for everyone and the West would do so to learn from that.
The dangers of war exist, the grounds will harden and boots will land and stay on the ground, but we hope for diplomacy to win that day and stave off war for our children’s, children’s, children at the very least.
Russia has chosen its time cleverly and I’ll tell you why:
- Europe is weak and Vlad has a serious hard on for a fractured West add to that, the EU is not really a NATO power thus has very little significance when it comes to NATO’s action.
- Germany historically refuses to engage in arms conflict, so they send humanitarian aide; they have sent 5,000 helmets to Ukraine.
- France is the only one willing to talk hence the meeting of Putin and Macron.
- Britain is weakened by BREXIT, we may be playing a strong side but let’s face it, BREXIT fractured not just Britain but Europe and Russia is playing on that.
- In the US, that botched exit from Afghanistan has weakened the US on the world stage.
Either way, as a student of International Relations this remains, in my opinion, a bluff from Putin, but one we ought to take seriously; a play for attention and to draw even more attention to the fractured West.
Russia has about eleven time zones, more landmass than people, thus susceptible to more problems within. It is also vulnerable to the extent that its oligarchs, therefore Putin’s money, are an easy and likely target that would prove quite damaging. The dream of the old Soviet is not ideal, more talk than thought, but who knows what that talk would do to set an old man over the edge and take the world along with him? I sincerely hope I am right.