Brussels, Frankfurt (28/9 – 28)
The conflict in Ukraine has held the world’s attention for a year and a half; now that it has apparently settled into an extended slugfest between the Number 3 Superpower and an agricultural Eastern European nation being fed the finest in NATO armaments, the world is tiring.
So are the soldiers. General military appraisal by experts on both sides see this conflict extending at least a couple of years longer. The Russian Federation has stated as far back as 2008 that keeping Ukraine as a neutral “buffer state”, which means “No to NATO” is an existential matter. Nuclear-capable missiles parked three minutes from the Kremlin is unacceptable.
For Ukraine the conflict – all right, let’s call it a “WAR”, is existential, if it wants to retain the huge Russian-speaking provinces to the East: national borders are considered sacrosanct, particularly since Poland and several other neighbors harbor their own grievances against Ukrainian nibbling of what is historically their territory.
Many have commented on how cruel NATO, and more specifically the United States of America, is acting in this affair, since not one American pair of boots is on the ground, and the arms manufacturers are making huge profits from all the weaponry supplied free of charge to the Ukrainian army (“free of charge” = paid for by the American taxpayer). Having most likely blown up the Nordstream 3 gas pipeline supplying vital energy to Germany and its neighbors, its firms are also making immense profits from the 35%-more-expensive LNG it ships to Europe.
One conjecture is that the USA is destroying European industrial competitiveness, as a corollary benefit to the purported weakening of Russia through extended war in Ukraine; whether Russia is actually becoming weaker is an open question, as it is forced to become much more self-reliant, not to mention dependent on its huge neighbor to the East.
Just as the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe were able to develop their armaments and refine combat tactics by supporting General Franco in the Spanish Civil War, both sides in Ukraine are carefully studying the effectiveness of missiles & anti-missile missiles, drones, air defenses and battleground strategy. Unfortunately for the Ukrainians their human resources are scraping the bottom of the barrel. They are reportedly “drafting” (read = kidnapping) 16-year-olds off the street and sending them into battle. Nearly half the population has fled, either to escape the Russian bombardment or military service. Now women are nervously contemplating flight as they are about to be drafted; nurses, pharmacists and other medical personnel in particular are spreading their savings to slip out of the country as it becomes clear they’ll be sent to the front.
The Russians claim over 3000 soldiers have surrendered and crossed over into Russian lines; that’s the only way they’ll escape the battle, as the Azovs are behind the Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines, ready to shoot any who attempt to desert or head back home. It’s a nasty business. But war always is.
Much action in recent weeks has centered on exchanges of bombardment in Crimea and Odessa, as well as attacks on the Russian Black Sea fleet. This is interpreted as the desperate tactic of Kiev to keep the grain export shipments open, without which their only source of foreign exchange will dry up (excepting the billions showered from Washington, much of which does not end up in Ukraine but rather finds its way home into sleek pockets).
Poland is not buying grain any longer from Ukraine, as it claims Polish farmers will face ruin from the competition. Europe is clearly getting fed up with Ukrainian demands, threats, posturing.
A US$ 500 million marine insurance fund has been set up to assure skittish shippers that their freighters moving into Ukrainian ports and, loaded up, out again, will have combat coverage; quite recently Odessa was blasted by Russian missiles, with port loading facilities taking some of the punishment. A hotel ostensibly used as a HQ by mercenaries and NATO advisors was subject to serious aerial firepower and wrecked; no one is admitting how many foreign fighters and NATO / Ukrainian officers were killed in the blast.
The agitprop creeping gradually from “Russia must retreat to its 2014 borders! Putin must surrender to the War Crimes Tribunal!” to a more realistic “West Urging Zelensky to Consider Negotiations” is a signal that the desired military solution resulting from the “counter-offensive” was never more than a fantasy. Of course Russia is sick and tired of the war; that’s what war does to you. But there is no indication that a desperate Putin will nuke Kiev (although he has promised to hit London if they keep it up); time is on the side of the Russian Federation, even though it is losing the support of its former satellites and even neutral countries.
Speaking of support, much of the positive Brics+ momentum on the part of a hundred plus third-world countries of Asia, Africa and Latinoamerica, coupled with a determined disinterest in being dragged into NATO’s proxy-war in Ukraine, may be traced directly to their disillusionment engendered by the nation-smashing wars in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria in recent years. Guess which country beginning with “I” was behind those bloody campaigns, resulting in the waves of migrants heading for Europa. Iceland? Indonesia? Ireland?
This wariness and mistrust on the part of many formerly obedient states to the sugary ploys of the USA / EU plays into the hands of the Chinese, who represent a peaceful, prosperous and arguably non-imperialistic alternative to the “forever wars” stance of American-led NATO.
They are the ones profiting from the swift shift of opinion and commitment, even in a “Yankee pond” like South America – as even, taking the long view, immensely patient. Stay tuned, and listen to those Renminbi talking.