The main question going through all our minds as we watch the unfolding geopolitical disaster in Ukraine is this: when and how will all this end, and what will be the outcome? There is no one in the world who can give an answer to that.
The world as we know it has changed. Exactly 100 years after the first World War began in 1914, the sparks for another were lit in 2014. It caught flame a little over two months ago. And it is presently at the stage where the flames are being fanned vigorously by a similar group of people to those who started things off in 1914.
Today, it is more a case of how this Russia-NATO confrontation, which is what it is, will end rather than when it will end. We can be sure that it will end only when all the parties involved – but especially the two key players, Russia and the United States – sit down and decide on the way forward.
That will not happen anytime soon.
What Russia calls a Special Military Operation (SMO) might end soon enough, though. Its declared objectives of “demilitarisation” and “denazification” have at least been partly achieved on the ground and, in another two months or thereabouts, may well be accomplished at least to the political satisfaction of the Kremlin.
Thousands of Russian soldiers have died already. Many more thousands of neo-Nazis of the Azov Battalions and Ukrainian soldiers (with one often indistinguishable from the other) have been killed in the last two months as well.
In any event, Russia will have brought considerable territories under its control – at a minimum, in the form of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. It will be enough, if Moscow so wishes, to declare victory and consolidate in the captured areas, perhaps by making these territories autonomous republics within the Russian Federation.
This avoids the complexity of getting them recognised as independent countries. That might end the SMO, but it will not end the proxy war between NATO and Russia that has been going on in the shadows since the US-orchestrated regime change in Kyiv in 2014. That regime-change operation set in motion the direct chain of events currently unfolding in Ukraine.
This telephone conversation caught on tape between the American Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and the then US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is crystal clear about Washington’s approach to Ukraine and to the United Nations – as well as to the European Union, which was dismissed with a four-letter word.
The tape’s contents have not been denied.
The war waged between 2015-and 2022 by the US-backed Kyiv government against its own citizens in the eastern part of the country was kept out of the wilfully blind Western mainstream media despite thousands killed. To get a sense of it, watch this outstanding documentary by Anne-Laure Bonnel, a French journalist, called “Donbass”.
That war simply came out of the shadows on 24 February 2022 when the Russians invaded Ukraine. But it is not a war between Ukraine and Russia.
Ukraine is merely the battleground. Its people have been and continue to be but props in an exercise of narrative definition, setting and control that has been underway since at least the turn of the century. We have all seen this movie before in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.
That is why the violence will not end when the SMO ends. This is a much more ambitious play than the ones we have seen in the countries mentioned above.
The US, as well as Britain, have made that very clear. Washington’s policy was made explicit by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley. The objective is to weaken Russia as a long-term strategy.
President Joe Biden has asked for $33 billion in war aid to Ukraine, in addition to what has already been provided covertly before 2014, overtly between 2014-2022, and stepped up after 24 February 2022. In comparison, the Russian defence budget is between $50-70 billion.
On the British side, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was even more expansive at a speech on 27 April, given at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet. “…we must be prepared for the long haul. We’ve got to double down on our support for Ukraine… (In Putin) We are dealing with a desperate rogue operator with no interest in international norms… The war in Ukraine is our war – it is everyone’s war…”
The Russians, on their part, are giving every indication that they are preparing for a long-term existential conflict. On 18 April, Vyacheslav Nikonov, deputy head of the State Duma, declared on Russian television that “this is a metaphysical clash between the forces of good and evil.… This is truly a holy war we’re waging and we must win.”
What does all this mean?
One thing is certain. Ukraine will no longer be the country that it was on 23 February 2022. Its geography has been changed for the foreseeable future.
It means the world will have, if the above scenario of continued proxy war materialises, an Afghanistan-type state in what is left of Ukraine after the Russians finish with their SMO.
As initially predicted here in 2015, it will be an Eurghanistan where all manner of rogue elements have been, are being and will continue to be bred. They will spill in and out of the broader European Union because many will have EU passports or easy access as refugees, etc.
Intelligence agencies across the region, and likely the world, will use them in an increasingly complex and confused mix of tactically beneficial alliances such that, eventually, everyone will lose track of what they are fighting for or against other than the tactical objective.
A quantity of the huge amount of armaments sent to Ukraine will find its way back into the EU or elsewhere. How these will be used and for what objective will depend on who has purchased them. And it can be literally anybody. There are indications that Ukrainian soldiers are selling them even to Russians. And the Russians have captured a large amount as well.
The degree of recklessness by the governments and associated state agencies involved will be directly proportional to the distance from the theatre of instability. To keener observers of Eurasian happenings, this should already have been obvious since at least the late 2000s.
In the meantime, expect the revival of territorial claims to what is left of Ukraine dating from the Hapsburg empire, if not earlier. From Poland, Romania, Hungary and maybe others.
Do not be surprised if the Ukrainian refugees are used as the launchpad for such claims. There are supposedly 1.7 million of them in Poland already.
Looking deeper into this abyss, what might this imply for the Western European powers, the US, Russia and for the multilateral structures such as the UN and the current world order?
That will be examined in Part 2, which should be out in the coming days.
An EU citizen of Indian origin, Jai is based in East Africa and is a keen observer of Eurasian and South Asian developments.
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