Much to the disappointment of President Joe Biden and his team, Russia is unlikely to invade Ukraine. “The next several days”, which Biden said they would see a Russian attack, will pass, I strongly believe, and Kyiv will still be free from Russian tanks and boots.
The current standoff will most probably take more time to be resolved as Nato procrastinates in its response to the demands of Moscow for security guarantees including a written pledge that Ukraine will not be admitted to the alliance.
The United States seems to be itching for a Russian invasion. They probably believe that a new miscalculated Russian war, this time in Ukraine, will hand the West another free of charge victory over Russia, in the same way the Afghanistan quagmire eventually led to the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Vladimir Putin knows that.
Global agenda of US administration
The global agenda of this US administration has been clear from the outset. Its main foreign policy concerns revolve around the perceived threat from two rivals — China and Russia. The Chinese angle is mostly economic, with China steadily inching towards being the largest economy in the world.
Basically, this means that the US would lose its economic superiority and the dollar may no longer become the prime world currency. Ultimately, America would find it hard to sustain its global prestige and the American way of life will be significantly dented as more jobs will be lost when major international clients opt for Chinese contracts and goods.
In 2020, China edged past the US in overall gross domestic product. According to the World Bank, China’s GDP stood at $24.283 trillion compared to $20.612 trillion for the US, a massive gap of nearly $4 trillion. Therefore, President Biden continues, more aggressively in fact, the anti-China policies of his predecessor Donald Trump in an attempt to slow down China’s march.
Biden has more than once declared China as “America’s chief global adversary” and described “the 21st century as a battle between US-led democracies and autocratic government(s) led by China,” with a hint of Russia evidently.
Following the US 2020 election, China hoped that Biden would usher in warmer ties. But the new administration proved more aggressive in its China policy. One of the first decisions the new president took was expanding Trump’s ban on American investments in Chinese companies. Since then, the US government blacklisted hundreds of Chinese businesses, which prevents them from getting shipments from US exporters.
‘America Competes Act’
The US House of Representatives last year passed the ‘America Competes Act’, a major legislation that supposedly aims to “strengthen the US’s competitive edge over China”. The law calls for stronger relations with Taiwan, slaps more sanctions on Chinese officials and ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region.
And while the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) moved last year to delist dozens of Chinese companies from the stock market, which denies them an important source of funding, the US Senate, in June 2021, passed the massive $250 billion bill, originally aimed at supporting American high-tech investment but also includes more provisions on sanctions on Chinese officials and businesses. Beijing condemned the bill as “full of Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.
Nevertheless, the US eventually succeeded in getting its allies in the Nato alliance to issue a statement last year declaring that China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order”.
Russia represents the other ‘existential’ threat to the US, as per the Biden doctrine. Perhaps an immediate one. But it is not about the trade as in the case of China. The US is wary of Moscow’s growing military and political influence in Europe, Central Asia and more recently, the Middle East.
Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and one of the biggest armies. Taming resurgent Russia has been a Western priority for decades. Thus expanding the Nato sphere up to Russia’s borders seems to have become a key policy for the Western alliance despite Moscow’s objections. President Vladimir Putin needed to draw the line before his immediate neighbour, Ukraine, becomes a full-fledged Nato member. But does that mean he is going to invade Ukraine to stop that? Unlikely.
He has more aces up his sleeve to call Nato’s bluff while piling pressure on Europe, particularly, to stand down and pay Russia the respect it deserves and seeks.
For the past decade, Putin has got Europe, especially its largest economy Germany, hooked on Russian gas, literally. Up to 75 per cent of Germany’s energy comes from Russia, generating electricity, heating homes and running factories. More than a third of the natural gas in Europe comes from Russia.
Severe economic consequences
“The severe economic consequences” Biden threatened Russia with will actually freeze Europe in this awfully tough winter, besides of course a guaranteed economic meltdown. Europe is understandably hesitant to go along with the US sanctions, and that also explains the softer stances of Germany and France in the crisis. Putin knows that. So why would President Putin go into a war that will surely cost his country thousands of lives and billions of dollars if he can get what he wants by playing his winning cards?
Basically, Russia has been toying with the West. Its troops are on Russian soil. Therefore, Moscow has not broken any international law. From the start anyway, there hasn’t been even a hint from the Kremlin that Russia was going to cross the border. It is very likely though that clashes between the Ukrainian army and Russia’s allies in the east will intensify, putting pressure on the US and Nato to sit and talk to Putin about his security demands.
Moscow knows fully well the vulnerability of Europe in this crisis. Some European leaders have already said they object to admitting Ukraine to Nato. This is brinkmanship, a trademark of Vladimir Putin since he became president 22 years ago.
Officials in the Kremlin must have laughed their guts out as they watched US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken telling the United Nations Security Council ‘the ploys’ that Russia might use to justify an invasion of Ukraine. Déjà vu? Not long ago, another US official, Colin Powell, was in the same seat telling the council similar lies about Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to justify the 2003 invasion of the Arab country.
It is unlikely the world will be fooled again. And it is even more unlikely that the Kremlin would be naive to fall for the US plan to trap Russia in another quagmire — this time in Ukraine.