Ukraine: Is it almost over?

Mar 1, 2023
Joint press conference President Biden and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy December 21, 2022

Despite celebrating 12 months of surviving the Russian onslaught, promises of more money and military equipment (including tanks) from the West, and a chorus of support for the courage and resilience of the people, the war appears almost over for Ukraine.

There are four reasons for thinking this.

First, as the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal explains,

public rhetoric [about Ukraine’s heroic resistance] masks deepening private doubts among politicians in the U.K., France and Germany that Ukraine will be able to expel the Russians from eastern Ukraine and Crimea, which Russia has controlled since 2014, and a belief that the West can only help sustain the war effort for so long, especially if the conflict settles into a stalemate … 

The New York Times has corroborated this judgement, noting that the US Chair of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley has argued that “Ukraine was unlikely to make substantially greater battlefield gains and should move to the bargaining table.”

The war is unlikely to end in a decisive victory for either side, however enthusiastic Russophobes in the West are about a total Russian defeat: a cause as cruel for Ukrainians as it is delusional about the respective military strengths of both sides. French President Emmanuel Macron has told President Volodymyr Zelensky to settle in exchange for some future, unspecified security arrangement with NATO.

This will annoy the Americans. One of the gifts from Putin’s criminal invasion was to reinforce Atlanticist solidarity, or to put it more accurately, it tightened Washington’s grip on unauthorised peace ventures coming out of continental Europe. NATO was always designed to prevent moves by France and Germany towards independent European defence and foreign policies, such as the West European Union (WEU): this has been a geo-political priority for Washington since the end of World War Two. According to investigative journalist Sy Hersh, the primary reason Washington blew up the Nordstream 2 pipeline was to prevent closer energy and political ties between Russia and Germany.

Renewed pressure for a ceasefire comes after it was revealed by former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he had made significant progress towards a negotiated settlement before his efforts were scuppered by Washington and London, both of whom had very different political objectives to Kiev’s. The West preferred war to a diplomatic settlement until it became clear that Ukraine was running out of soldiers and was unlikely to recover much, if any of its lost territory.

More recently the Chinese have proposed a peace plan which has piqued Zelensky’s interest and garnered Macron’s initial support, much to the concern of Washington which would be embarrassed and opposed to a significant diplomatic success for Beijing. Increasingly and correctly, President Joe Biden is being seen as the major obstacle to the resolution of this conflict.

Secondly, there is growing resistance to the ongoing funding of the war in Germany, France, the UK and even in the US Congress, especially amongst Republicans. After 12 months Wall Street is losing patience and cannot exploit investment opportunities in Ukraine until the fighting stops, and the Europeans have more important spending priorities. Inflation across the world keeps rising. Disruptions to grain exports and other global supply chains, such as fertilisers, are wreaking havoc everywhere.

With no end in sight, or significant Ukrainian victories on the horizon, public (as opposed to government) support in the West will continue to wane as war fatigue sets in. A stalemate on the battlefield now is effectively the same as a Russian victory. Hardheads in the Deep State do not expect Russia to concede any meaningful territorial gains it has made over the last year: for Moscow, a pro-NATO government on its western border is considered an existential threat. Ukraine and Russia share a 1,000km border, so a deal has to be struck. Moscow can also absorb much greater military casualties than Ukraine can, so a war of attrition works in its favour.

Thirdly, there is now a greater understanding in the West that this conflict has become a NATO proxy war with Russia, with Ukrainians bearing most of the human and material costs. Fighting “to the last Ukrainian” (Ambassador Chas Freeman) is seen in the West as a good way of bleeding the Russian military dry. Even Zelensky and the opaque political elite behind him, including corrupt bureaucrats, corporate swindlers and neo-Nazis, understand this is the real reason they have received so much support until now, though as they say, it won’t be sufficient to win the war.

Russia is not as isolated as those in the West like to say, especially in Africa, East Asia, South America and the sub-continent. Almost universally, the Western mainstream media has played cheerleader for Ukraine and declined to provide its audiences with dispassionate analysis, misleading them about public opinion outside leading Western sectors. Rhetoric about fighting for freedom should be dismissed with derision. The contortions that will be needed to explain Ukraine’s impending defeat will be something to behold.

The war has revived atavistic hatreds of Russia in the West and unleashed psychotic obsessions with President Vladimir Putin amongst political, intellectual and media elites. However, economic, diplomatic and sporting sanctions have had little influence over the course Putin has set his country on, and Moscow’s relationship with Beijing has grown closer.

Finally, cynical and confected outrage in the West about Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty conveniently ignores its own, more devastating crimes in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. There is no mention the West’s acceptance of Turkey’s annexation of northern Cyprus and support for Israel’s effective annexation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, as well as it’s brutal blockade of Gaza. The West is not defending any moral or legal principles in Ukraine. Rather, it is opportunistically exploiting a tragic situation which it helped to provoke for its own interests.

Events do not take place in a timeless vacuum. Historical context is always needed to make sense of them. Anyone who understands how the United States moved NATO relentlessly eastward towards the Russian border after the collapse of the USSR, despite assurances to the contrary, will not be surprised that Moscow responded.

Those who are also aware that Washington has manipulated Ukrainian domestic politics since it promoted regime change in 2014 to antagonise Moscow, will not be surprised that those who claim to defend freedom are being questioned by an increasingly cynical public suspicious of their own governments’ motives. Anti-war rallies have just begun around the world.

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