Ukraine War: Is The West Finally Coming Around To Acknowledge Russia's Point?

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Dec 6, 2022 02:17 PM +05:30 IST
Ukraine War: Is The West Finally Coming Around To Acknowledge Russia's Point?President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden (right)
Snapshot
  • This proxy war against Russia has not only not worked, but instead, driven most of Europe into a vortex of inflation, recession and energy shortages.

    American President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have finally voiced their views on potential peace talks.

The war in Ukraine, and the geopolitics surrounding it, took a turn this week.

President Emmanuel Macron of France made a few important statements, while on a state visit to America. The Russians launched a major offensive in the Bakhmut sector which has led to significant Ukrainian losses there.

Sustained Russian missile strikes are close to completely disabling the Ukrainian electricity grid. A Western price cap on Russian oil ostensibly came into play. And, some early fencing commenced between America and Russia, over possible frames of reference for potential peace talks.

It began with an announcement by the French government that they would be halting supplies of artillery shells to Ukraine. This means that the dozen-odd Caesar Howitzers given to Ukraine by France, and renowned for their mobility and accuracy, will not be able to participate in combat operations — except as showpieces.

Macron followed this up with a long interview to a French news channel in America. In it, he made it clear that any new security architecture for Europe would need to include guarantees to Russia for its own security.

“We are specifically referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements that NATO is approaching Russia’s borders and deploying weapons capable of endangering it”, he stated.

Macron further added, “This issue will be part of peace discussions, and we need to prepare for what will happen after (the Ukrainian conflict), and think about how we can protect our allies while also giving Russia guarantees of its own security at the moment when the negotiating table is returned.”

Gallingly, this is exactly what Putin told Macron at the Kremlin in early February this year, before the conflict began. And, although this over-delayed echo comes only after many hundreds of thousands of casualties — both civilian and military, we must take heart in the fact that someone important in the Occidental fold is finally talking turkey to the Americans.

This proxy war against Russia has not only not worked, but instead, driven most of Europe into a vortex of inflation, recession and energy shortages.

Macron’s walk-back follows on the heels of a month-long deluge of Russian missile strikes, which wrecked the Ukrainian power grid and important transportation hubs, and a recent Russian offensive around the city of Bakhmut in the east.

Regional Map of areas under contention.
Regional Map of areas under contention.

To explain: The provinces outlined in red in the map above — from west to east — Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk — are the ones under contention. The rough, present frontline is marked by a green line.

The volcano icon at ‘Zapo’ marks very heavy shelling by the Russians around Zaporizhzhia, a strategically important town on the River Dnieper beside a large hydroelectric dam. The Russians need to take it before they can launch a fresh assault on Kherson, further downstream, to avoid a Ukrainian threat of tactical flooding by opening the dam shutters.

Apart from this, the Russians have increased artillery shelling on multiple points along the frontline, along with renewed attacks by field guns on other major points under Ukrainian control in the east, like Sumy and Kharkov. And all the while, Russian missile strikes on key Ukrainian energy infrastructure and transport nodes continue.

But the biggest land offensive has been around Bakhmut, where the Russian gloves are truly off for once. The assault has been brutal, and the impact on Ukrainian troops simply devastating.

Even the western press, many sections of which had been toeing the absurd ‘Moscow by Monday’ line, has been forced to concede that the Bakhmut offensive is hurting Kiev.

The Express of England reports that the Ukrainians have suffered ‘colossal losses’ at Bakhmut, and quotes a local Ukrainian commander who says that the area is ‘littered with corpses’.

Bakhmut region
Bakhmut region

While the strategic value of a Russian offensive at Bakhmut remains unclear, we may surmise this much: its ferocity and success will force the Ukrainian military command to reinforce their formations in this sector —along rickety supply lines increasingly vulnerable to air and missile strikes, and at the cost of reduced defensive capability in other sectors.

They simply can’t hold all of the line at the same time.

All of this comes at a time when Ukraine is suffering severe power shortages, winter is here, and fuel depots in north and south Ukraine have been destroyed by Russian missile strikes. That makes it even more difficult to store fuel oil to run generators or trains.

But the West is undeterred, and chose this week to ‘theoretically’ impose a price cap of $60 per barrel on imports of Russian crude oil.

How that cap will work no one knows, but the surrealistic nature of this unworkable, non-implementable, plan is shown up by the fact that Britain has increased imports of diesel from Russia in the past month! The French, too, will be forced to do the same because their refining capacity has been hit by strikes.

Perhaps that is why both American President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have finally voiced their views on potential peace talks.

That is also probably why President Macron bluntly told the press that no real peace was possible without factoring in Russia’s strategic concerns. So, readers needn’t be surprised if they hear that the representatives of the warring factions met secretly in New Delhi, for example, to discuss the boundary conditions of peace talks.

This is inevitable, since it was clear from the start of this senseless, needless proxy war, that there was no way the Russians would, or could, be prevented from achieving their clearly-stated political objectives: an end to an eastward expansion into Ukraine by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the de-Nazification of Ukraine.

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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