Ukraine war made world more dangerous in 2022 – 12/23/2022 – World

When he was awakened by a call from his parents at 6:00 am on February 24, the Moscow journalist Vladimir expressed all the proverbial Russian fatalism. “At this time, it could only be a bad thing,” he says. And was.

Its namesake has held power in the Kremlin since August 9, 1999 had started a “special military operation” in Ukraine, whatever the term meant. “It was war, and our lives would never be the same,” says he, who works for a state agency and asked not to have his real name revealed.

Not that Vladimir doesn’t see virtues in Putin’s action, considering that the West forced the Russians to act in Ukraine by refusing to debate its neutrality. 36% of Russians think like him, according to research by the independent Levada Centerheld from the 24th to the 30th of November.

Vladimir, as well as more illustrious characters in the tragedy such as President Joe Biden, thought the war would be over in a few weeks —in favor of the Russians. In March, Levada found that 35% of Russians saw it extending for a maximum of six months. Today, after ten months of destruction and death, that index has dropped to 16%.

With the end of the year, some of the facets of the biggest conflict in Europe since the end of World War II (1939-45), which eclipsed the other 32 around the world counted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), are subject to scrutiny.

The Myth of Invincible Russia

Obviously, a country that has 1,600 nuclear warheads ready for use will always be a great military power. But the ostensible failure of a blitz war that would bring Ukrainians to their knees, due to lack of personnel, tactical inflexibility and gross logistical errorsshows that the feared bellicose power rebuilt in Putin’s two decades in power has clear limits.

Obviously, the Ukrainian resistance weighed decisively, as the previously ridiculed president’s refusal Volodymyr Zelensky in leaving the country scores. Today, Kiev has the initiative.

But more important were Moscow’s mistakes and the perception of a window of opportunity for the West, who proceeded to arm Kiev to the teeth —always keeping an eye on the red line established by Moscow so as not to be involved in the war itself, which explains the lack of supply of combat aviation so far.

The Myth of Defeated Russia

The problem with reading Russian mistakes is the idea that Putin has already lost the war. How it’s never clear about your goals, practically everything is intuited in the West about its intentions. The basics are clear: neutralize Ukraine, preventing its adherence to the framework of rival structures, such as NATO (military alliance) and the European Union (political club).

Coming up with something like that is another story. As occupying Ukraine is unfeasible, not least because the West has transformed its land forces into one of the most capable in all of Europe, Putin still has the means to amputate parts of his neighbor —or swallow the ones you already consider yours, attached in September.

It should not be with current air campaign against energy infrastructure to break the Ukrainian spirit. The result can be the opposite, as the British under the Nazi Blitz or the North Vietnamese under the rain of fire from B-52s demonstrated. But she can buy time for training and employment of 320,000 reservists called up in October, perhaps with some reinforcement from reluctant ally Belarus.

On the other hand, despite everything, Russians continue to support Putin (79% approval, says Levada) and the Armed Forces (74%). The elite, with elements at open war with each other and clearly dissatisfied with sanctions, it did not in the end produce a coup d’état as many western politicians dreamed.

In short, the game is still open and the victims from side to side are being counted. The US estimates 100,000 casualties (dead and wounded) for each belligerent, plus perhaps 40,000 civilians. Moscow and Kiev give low and unreliable numbers. That truth will only be known long after the last missile has landed.

peace talks

Neither Moscow nor Kiev are truly ready for peace because their terms are so irreconcilable. The US seems to have backed off a little bit of the offensive for Zelenski to open the possibility of negotiating with Putin, fearing they would be seen as bad allies — if you can say that after dumping more than $20 billion in weapons on the Ukrainians.

But there are possible bases for conversation. Heavily criticized for suggesting in May that peace should be built on pre-war borders, which would entail the definitive cession of Crimea annexed in 2014 and part of the Russian-speaking east to Moscow, the pope of American diplomacy Henry Kissinger advanced on the theme in a recent article for the British magazine The Spectator.

He suggests that Kiev’s integration into NATO is inevitable, even if it need not be formal. “The alternative of neutrality lost its meaning, especially after the Sweden and Finland joined NATO“, he wrote.

To this concession by Moscow, he resumes the themes of May, reinforcing that one should not “degrade the historical role of Russia”. “The quest for peace and order has two components that are sometimes treated as contradictory: the search for elements of security and the requirement for acts of reconciliation. If we don’t get both, we won’t get either,” he said.

New normal?

The prediction that Russia would bow to Western sanctions did not come true. The country is in difficulties and the long term is challenging, but its GDP will not fall into double digits and the energy industry with which it finances a large part of its budget has managed to survive.

Moscow has become a graveyard of western shop windowsit is a fact, but life goes on with relative normality, even among those who do not buy the sugarcoated version of state media reality🇧🇷 China and India have ensured the Kremlin’s economic survival by buying oceans of oil and gas at a discount, but replacing now-closed Europe is not a simple or quick process.

The big test will be this winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the ability of governments to subsidize industry and the population to tolerate rising energy prices. Unlike the Ukrainians, the British and French do not have their land invaded, and the continent has points of political fissure. In the US, the costs of a distant war are already the subject of discussion.

That said, so far it has shown unity and started to spend more: according to the Institute for World Economy in Kiel (Germany), in November for the first time the EU overtook the US in overall aid to Ukrainians (52% to 48%).

The China Factor

If Putin seeks to buy time and press Europe under the snow, a central factor for developments in the first half of 2023 is the position of his greatest ally, China. Xi Jinping plays a double game: deepens military cooperation with Moscow and pledges eternal friendship, but publicly expresses doubts about the course of the war and has sought to reconnect with Biden.

For the Chinese, no break with the US is desirable now, at a time when it is entering the limbo of abandoning its Covid-zero policy to face economic difficulties and prevent popular uprisings.

At the same time, he benefits from energy deals with Moscow. It is a complex chess game, which involves other regional actors such as India and even Braziland there are doubts whether the dynamics on the battlefield will not accelerate the policy.

The Third World War

One of the most terrifying aspects of seeing a nuclear power invade a conventionally armed country in the 21st century is the possibility of an atomic escalation. Putin’s frequent use of the nuclear letter throughout the crisis, even before sending his troops to the neighboring country, revived the ghost of World War III.

As the Russian himself has already said, it would be political and military stupidity to use an atomic bomb against Ukraine, not least because of the enormous risk that it would invite a NATO response and a catastrophic conflict. But the specter lingers in the air, as the UN warned e Putin loves to reminisce, and if there is one certainty after almost a year of war, it is that the world has become an even more dangerous place.

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