Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine violates international law, has raised the specter of World War III, and is morally indefensible. This preventive war is also guaranteed to disrupt the global economy, affecting the prices of basic commodities and vital foods. Worse, all of the major powers involved in this conflict are playing chicken, pushing the world closer to nuclear war, though Western media and politicians are acting nonchalantly.
While Putin is at fault, those who have closely followed events in Ukraine over the past decade knew this war was inevitable. Let’s see what this war means, how we got here and what is the exit.
disaster for everyone
Innocent Ukrainian civilians who had no say in their country’s foreign policy face the brunt of this illegal war. More than 1.5 million people have been turned into refugees in recent days.
Russia is now subject to unprecedented sanctions and has become an economic and financial pariah. About $400 billion of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves have been seized by Western countries; many Russian banks have been cut off from SWIFT, the international banking system; and most major US companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Boeing, PayPal, etc. – discontinued their products and services in Russia. The ruble has lost a third of its value in one week. The Russian economy is expected to face devastating inflation and contraction this year. 140 million Russians will suffer greatly from this economic implosion. There are anti-war protests all over Russia, but they are being crushed by the police state.
However, Russia will not suffer alone
40% of the natural gas consumed in Europe comes from Russia. In addition, 25% of European oil imports and 50% of coal imports come from Russia. On Friday, Putin closed the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. If the situation continues to escalate, Putin will completely turn off the taps. There is no way for Europe to find alternative energy supplies in the short term. In this case, Europe will sink into a deep recession.
Russia is also the world’s leading exporter of wheat and fertilizer, the prices of which are already skyrocketing. The impacts will be felt around the world – for example, Brazil is very dependent on Russian fertilizers to grow soybeans and corn, which are essential for China and many other countries.
Russia is also the leading exporter of many crucial metals and minerals such as aluminum, palladium, titanium, platinum, gold, etc., which are vital for everything from cars and construction to airplanes and to semiconductor chips. Since commodity prices are fixed around the world, the US economy will also be badly affected by this war.
Geopolitics 101 – why Ukraine matters to Russia
Why is Putin doing this? While the mainstream media, as usual, reduces the complex issue to a simplistic Disney narrative that “Putin is evil,” there are three main reasons why Ukraine presents an existential crisis for Russia.
First: access to and control of the Black Sea, which allows Russia access to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, etc. Without this, Russia will have no future. This is why Brzezinski wrote in his 1990s book, The Grand Chessboard, that the United States must try to bring Ukraine into the fold and dominate the Black Sea.
Second: proximity and a long common border. The Russian-Ukrainian border is 1400 miles long. And Moscow is only 300 miles from the border. If Ukraine joins NATO, it will mean US missile defense systems and even nuclear weapons right on the Russian border. Again, an existential threat to Russia. (Ukraine is to Russia what Mexico is to the United States. Thanks to the Monroe Doctrine, we will never allow Chinese or Russian military bases in the Western Hemisphere, much less in Mexico).
Third: A long common history and cultural ties. The Russian Empire was founded in Kiev 1000 years ago. Thus, centuries of close relations. The USSR even had a Ukrainian leader (Khrushchev). Even today, 40% of Ukrainians are ethnic Russians.
Mistakes of Ukrainian leaders
Professor John Mearsheimer warned in 2015 that Ukraine’s leaders were being driven by the West down a path of destruction. However, rather than being neutral between Russia and the West, Ukraine’s new leaders kept talking about joining NATO or even acquiring nuclear weapons.
In 2017, the Ukrainian parliament passed a resolution on NATO membership plans and later incorporated it into the Constitution. Ukraine then became an “enhanced NATO partner of opportunity” in 2020. A few days before the invasion of Russia, Ukrainian President Zelensky gave a speech at the Munich Security Conference, where he reiterated all those controversial points.
The Washington elites are simply sacrificing Ukraine as a geopolitical pawn. Since 2014, the United States has provided a staggering $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine. Weapons such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles are aimed at brutal urban warfare, which will destroy Ukrainian cities – very similar to what happened in Syria.
As I describe in my book, “The Cure for Russophobia,” the United States staged a coup in Ukraine in 2014 and overthrew a democratically elected leader. In 2016, Senators Graham and McCain visited Ukraine and said, “Your war is our war and we will help you win. Why? Have we learned anything from the senseless wars of the last 20 years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, etc. ?
Meanwhile, the average person in Ukraine has seen no benefit from the crusade for freedom and democracy. The Ukrainian government has borrowed billions of dollars from the IMF and the World Bank, only to spend them on weapons and oligarchs. Ukraine’s GDP has remained stable for the past eight years; and the average Ukrainian worker earns $10 one day. Corruption is still endemic and the country ranks 122n/a out of 180 countries. As the Pandora logs showed, even President Zelensky has secret offshore accounts and mansions all over the world.
The main reason for this conflict is the relentless expansion of NATO. Declassified documents from the US National Archives show that US and European leaders promised in 1990 that NATO would not move “one inch east” after the breakup of the USSR. So what happened?
In 1999, when Russia was totally pro-American, NATO added three new countries: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. In 2004, NATO added 9 more countries; then two more in 2020.
George Kennan, the architect of America’s containment policy toward the USSR warned in 1997 that NATO expansion was a “fatal mistake” that would rekindle the Cold War. But warmongers and the military-industrial complex hate peace. NATO can only justify its existence and its inflated budget by the “Russian threat”.
In 2008, NATO announced that Ukraine and Georgia would soon become members. Immediately, the former CIA director and then US ambassador to the United States warned in a classified document that Georgia and Ukraine were red lines for Russia. People like Noam Chomsky have also repeatedly pointed out the dangers of Ukraine joining NATO. However, all logic was ignored.
In 2020, Russia’s annual military budget was $70 billion, compared to $1.2 trillion for NATO countries. Yet they keep talking about “Russian expansionism”, which is tantamount to Iraqi WMD.
How can Russia be a threat to Europe? Only if we push the bear long enough, hard enough, and point a gun at it. If cornered with no escape, Putin will use nuclear weapons. That is why NATO did not try to impose a no-fly zone on Ukraine.
Putin’s plan for Ukraine
Washington’s elites, who have no imagination, are hoping for a repeat of 1980s Afghanistan. armed Nazis in Ukraine for a long insurrection. Mujahideen 2.0.
My prediction is that Putin is too smart for this playbook. He’s going to take Kiev in a few weeks, install a temporary puppet government, then split Ukraine into two countries. If he splits along the Dnieper, Ukraine will no longer have a border with Russia. The eastern part will be pro-Russian and full of ethnic Russians; the western part will be pro-Western and made up of ethnic Ukrainians. Just like how the United States dismantled Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
According to Democracy Index, more than half of the countries in the world are authoritarian. Of these, a large majority are our allies. Of course, in reality, even the beacon of democracy, the United States, is an oligarchy. In Ukraine, Zelensky shut down television stations, banned independent media and arrested opposition leaders. So, let’s not get carried away by emotions in another mad war to spread fake democracy.
Wars can be ended with diplomacy and good faith. Rather than stoking the war in Ukraine, the West should strive for an immediate ceasefire and a long-term solution. Putin’s war is bad, but we don’t need to add fuel to the fire. Realpolitik dictates that the United States has no real interests in Ukraine, while Russia has undeniable security interests in Ukraine and the Black Sea. A military stamp is good for Russia and Europe.
Washington’s elites are still stuck in a Cold War mentality, although modern Russia presents no ideological challenge to the West. Peace and trade with Russia is good for Europe, and therefore good for America. From a pragmatic point of view, anti-Russian sanctions and hysteria are pushing Russia deeper into China’s orbit, and also undermining the US dollar and Western financial systems. America should focus on national issues such as poverty, inequality, the health care crisis, inflation, etc., all of which have worsened over the past two years. Let us no longer be deceived by warmongers who profit from endless wars.