The story of how the West won the Cold War, 30 years ago, may be replaced by the story of how the West was won.
«China joins Russia in opposing Nato expansion» said the heading of a Feb 4 BBC article under this picture. I added Trump’s cartoon, since he may have played a scripted but crucial role in this geopolitical development.
Some analysts have been saying a full-scale invasion of Ukraine makes no sense for Putin. The threat of force does, but an actual war would be a sign of a deteriorating mental health in him, they say.
In an analysis by Anton Trolanovsky, published by the New York Times on Saturday, he says such action would confirm Putin has fundamentally changed amid the isolation he imposed on himself during the pandemic, a shift that may have left him more paranoid, more aggrieved, and more reckless. Trolanovsky quotes several sources in his analysis:
“The plan was to create a threat, to create the sense that a war could happen,” said Dmitri Trenin, the head of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, describing Mr. Putin as capitalizing on fears that he was prepared to unleash a horrific war.
“A bluff has to be very convincing,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, a prominent Moscow foreign policy analyst who advises the Kremlin, said Mr. Putin’s goal now was “to force the outcome of the Cold War to be partially revised.” But he still believes Mr. Putin will stop short of full-scale invasion.
“Starting a full-scale war is completely not in Putin’s interest,” said Anastasia Likhacheva, the dean of world economy and international affairs at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It is very difficult for me to find any rational explanation for a desire to carry out such a campaign.”
Even if Mr. Putin were able to take control of Ukraine, she noted, such a war would accomplish the opposite of what the president says he wants: rolling back the NATO presence in Eastern Europe.
What I find missing in this analysis, is the careful, and to large extent successful, effort of Russia, for years now, to destabilize the USA.
Remember Robert Mueller’s report that there had been a massive interference from Moscow in social media, in order to get Trump elected and sow doubt in the American public as to the reliability of the electoral process in the USA? That seems to have paid off handsomely. Remember the former US President granting Putin his every wish and claiming that he won the next election?
Remember one Paul Mananfort, who was once paid by a pro Russian President in Kiev, to promote the Kremlin’s angle about Ukraine in a public relations campaign in the US? Mananfort became Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, before going to jail for failing to disclose that he was a foreign agent (and was later pardoned by Trump).
During the Republican convention that nominated Trump as their candidate, with Manafort as manager, the Republican platform was swiftly changed. Until then, it condemned the invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014. In that respect, Democrats and Republicans had been unified.
As President, Trump immediately lifted crippling sanctions on Russia, imposed by Obama for that invasion–and he actively undermined NATO.
Remember what party is likely to regain control of the US congress this year? Some Republicans have, for the first time in 75 years, been saying these days, like Fox News, that Russia has a legitimate claim against NATO.
Biden has said he will not send troops to fight Putin’s army, even if he now goes ahead and invades all of Ukraine, but will impose economic sanctions instead, like Obama did.
Then, it may not be all that irrational for Putin to invade. He knows he has good allies not only in China, but in Washington as well. Sanctions, if imposed, may be lifted in a few months–or a few years, if Trumpist efforts to steal a presidential election succeed.
Today we don’t know the history that might be made, one way or another, within days, in Ukraine. But in any case, it is clear the West will avoid a World War Three (thankfully so).
Regardless of how this unfolds exactly, with much bloodshed or without, we may now be looking at the final battle (or surrender) in the previous war, one that might be easily remembered in the history books, better than the fall of the Berlin Wall. That may look, after all, like a battle won and forgotten, not like the actual end of that war.
An invasion of Ukraine, full or partial, opposed or unopposed, relinquishing its possibility of ever joining NATO, or its outright surrender to Russia, might be what punctuates the end of 75 years of the so called American Century. Not even a century after all. Like the USSR or the PRI in Mexico.
The developments in Ukraine may not be an indication of Putin’s mental soundness, as much as of America’s, where one third of the country is convinced Trump won the last election and 10% believe in something called Q.
Did it only take a few people, manipulating Facebook from St. Petersburg, to irretrievably infect America´s mind? Regardless of who wins this war, let’s hope there is enough coherence there for the US to recover its sanity. That may be more crucial, when it comes to regaining a semblance of world order, than what kind of war is being fought (be it hot or cold, or of disinformation) and who is winning.