Nothing is Inevitable

11 January 2022

 

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

US, Russia Talks on Ukraine Yield Little

 

Diplomats from the US and Russia spent a very long day at the negotiating table in Geneva discussing the current Russian-manufactured crisis in Ukraine. There are 100,000 Russian troops sitting on the border of Ukraine poised to march in if given the order. The order has not yet come. Mr. Putin is demanding a dismantling of the current European security arrangements, and Mr. Biden has not intention of doing so. The negotiations are intended to prevent a war, but in truth, one does not know whether Mr. Putin is acting in good faith or merely putting up points on the domestic politics board. One expects no resolution to this situation for a few weeks yet.

"We had useful discussions and exchanges today that will help inform our way forward," Wendy Sherman, the deputy US secretary of state and leader of the delegation in Geneva, told reporters after the day of talks.

Her Russian counterpart, Sergei Ryabkov, said, "The conversation was difficult, long, very professional, deep, concrete, without attempts to embellish or smooth over sharp corners. We have been left with the impression that the American side approached the Russian proposals very seriously, studied them in depth."

That is a formula for continued talks that will delay any action for a while. One could also point out that the weather in the area is below freezing and will stay that way for weeks as well. Fighting in this part of the world in winter is a bad idea, e.g., Napoleon and Hitler. The butcher's bill would be needlessly high.

Moreover, if the Russians are going to use their full might, they will want to deploy the 45th Brigade, a special forces (Spetsnaz) unit that would chew up defenses as is their style. That brigade is currently engaged in putting down the protests in Kazakhstan. Keeping an eye on this units movements will be most informative in the next several days.

Russia's demand that NATO return to the pre-1997 status quo is a non-starter. Nations are free to join NATO if the existing members will have them. Russia, as a non-member, should have no say over who is in and who is out. Returning to the 1997 arrangements, of course, calls into question things on the other side of the NATO-Russia fault line like the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Indeed, one would be willing to offer a 1997 arrangement if Russia gave Crimea back to Ukraine. That, for the Russians, is a non-starter.

Tomorrow's NATO-Russia Council will be the first test of what the Russians truly intend, and there is a solid chance that they do not know what they want yet. The image of Russia as a nation led by grand strategists is a false one. The men who have led Russia since 1917 have largely been opportunists and adventurists rather than great planners. They try a great many things all at once and move forward where their efforts produce results.

In the end, this is all about Mr. Putin trying to re-establish the USSR or at least enhancing the Russian empire's reach to historically relevant areas. While he may be willing to see Poland independent and occasionally difficult, Ukraine holds a spot in Russian history that is unique; it is where Russia as a nation began. Mr. Putin will never give up on securing it for Moscow.

This journal remains of the opinion that the Russian army will not cross the border but will be used for leverage to get something from Kyiv, Brussels and Washington. As soon as Mr. Putin decides what that something is, a solution is possible. The price may be too high, but war does not have to happen yet.

© Copyright 2022 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.


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