The first path of conflict resolution – diplomatic – will be continued in January. The first round of talks took place on January 9-10 in Geneva, in view of the NATO-Russia talks on January 12 and a day later as part of the OSCE. The United States emphasized that it would reserve NATO’s decision-making autonomy and that some of the Russian proposals would not be fulfilled. The second path will be based on deterring Russia should the first fail. It will include radical sanctions, military aid for Ukraine and strengthening NATO’s eastern flank.
Diplomacy instead of flexing muscles
Russians are afraid of sanctions. This was confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said that if they entered into force, they would be a “colossal mistake”. The Russians believe that Joe Biden is sympathetic to their position and hope that the differences can be cleared up.
President Biden called on Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine. He made it clear that the United States and its allies and partners would react decisively if Russia continued its invasion of Ukraine. President Biden also expressed his support for diplomacy, starting early next year, as part of the bilateral strategic dialogue on stability, in NATO through the NATO-Russia Council and in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. President Biden reiterated that significant progress in these dialogues can only take place under conditions of de-escalation, not escalation, “wrote Jen Psaki, spokesman for the White House in an official statement. The above entry suggests that the specter of a broad conflict in the East is receding, and the key to resolving the disputed issues will be diplomatic factors.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the strategy to intimidate Europe can turn out to be short-sighted. The Kremlin moves Russia away from the civilized world. The administration of Vladimir Putin cannot hide its true intentions. Russia is suspending gas supplies and is thus blackmailing the European Union, which is delaying the certification of Nord Stream 2. This was admitted both by Vladimir Putin and the head of Gazprom, Alexey Miller. The Russians ensure that as soon as the gas is pumped through the new gas pipeline, the situation on the market will calm down.
What is worrying are leaks reported by NBC News that the White House is considering reducing US troops in Eastern Europe and cutting back on military exercises. It would be a far-reaching concession to Putin.
Russia incapable of war
According to General Waldemar Skrzypczak, Russia does not have sufficient potential for military operations on the entire front, and it certainly has no chance of a confrontation with the countries of the European Union. Ukraine is able to put 200,000 under arms. soldiers and successfully repel the attack with the support of the West. According to the general, Russia is incapable of a long-term occupation of Ukraine for military, logistical and purely financial reasons. “At the moment, the Russians do not have the potential for an offensive operation, as they do not have an operational advantage,” Skrzypczak said in an interview for Dziennik Gazeta Prawna. “The Russians do not have the potential to wage a war from the Baltic to the Black Sea. They don’t have that much strength, and they won’t endure a long war, which would be a long one. They will not support the conflict for more than a week economically, and Putin’s empire will collapse, ”he adds. In the event of an attack on Ukraine, Russia would have to reckon with sanctions “which it has not yet seen” if American politicians are to be believed. An embargo on Russian goods or the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT interbank system would place Moscow on the global periphery and join countries on the index, such as North Korea and Iran.
Finally, internal risk should also be mentioned. The Kremlin could not cover the victims of a possible war with anything. He would then deserve the wrath of ordinary Russians. Most people in the country do not want to live in the ghetto, they do not want to have a closed road to the West. One would like to learn, travel and work without fear. Vladimir Putin could bear the enormous political costs of his steps.
Therefore, in the long run, the strategy of intimidating, blackmailing the European Union and recreating the Russian sphere of influence in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe may turn out to be a failure. Russia is losing out as a reliable economic partner, while in the international arena it turns out to be an unstable aggressor. In today’s geopolitical situation, this is more of a shameful exception than a reason to be proud.
Berlin wants rapprochement with Russia
On the other hand, cooperation with the Kremlin is one of the priorities of the new German government, and the Social Democrats continue the tradition of good relations with Moscow. The gas war and the conflict in Ukraine did not discourage Chancellor Olaf Scholz from changing his foreign policy. According to the Bild newspaper, the chancellor is hoping for a new opening in relations with Russia and is planning an imminent meeting with Vladimir Putin. It is a bone of contention in the ruling coalition. The Greens are calling for a much tougher foreign and economic policy towards Russia.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wanted to take a closer look at the Kremlin, especially in the context of human rights violations and aggression against Ukraine. Economy Minister Robert Habeck is not only critical of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, but also supports severe sanctions against Russia in the event that Russia attacks Ukraine. Here, Scholz is in stark opposition to the rest of the government. Vladimir Putin likes both the conflict in the European Union and the conflict in Germany itself. Germany is one of the main recipients of Russian gas in Europe. The road map of Russia − NATO and Russia − OSCE meetings is now ready. Another meeting with Scholz is an advantage for the Kremlin in the planned negotiations. Russia would like to split the community.
This is not Berlin’s only surprising move. In times of energy crisis, Germany is decommissioning three nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 4.5 GW. It has been planned for a long time, but in the present day, when energy prices in Europe are rising and Russia is blackmailing the EU on the gas market, such moves can also be considered beneficial for Russians. Germany wants the elimination of nuclear energy in the European Union in favor of natural gas imported from Russia. This would mean making the Old Continent more dependent on Russian politics. Hence the pressure to launch the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as soon as possible. Moscow has its ally in Berlin. Both countries care about the gas deal, because they play for the same team.
At least in the face of the current situation on the energy market and the threat of an invasion in Ukraine, Germany may have refrained from making a decision in order to calm the mood in Europe. Against this background, in a broader perspective, there is also a conflict of interest with France, which is based on nuclear energy. France will probably also be supported by other countries with nuclear energy and those that are just planning such investments, including Poland. Especially since nuclear energy will receive the status of green technology. The European Commission has approved nuclear and gas as a source of green energy, helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.
The author is the founder and director of the Institute of Globalization (www.globalizacja.org)