ER Editor: Alexander Mercouris discusses the current situation over Russia’s recognition of the Donbass republics and the West’s predictable response to it. Here are some notes:
- The Russian Parliament has recognized independence of the two Donbass Republics and has ratified friendship treaties with them. They’ve authorized Putin to send troops ‘abroad’ to these two territories. The troops have not yet been deployed but will be shortly.
- This news has provoked radically different reactions corresponding to two dramatically different information spaces. In the West, it’s being taken as a sign of invasion; the language used is totally overblown. It’s not the first time that borders have been redrawn. The West bombed Yugoslavia for 74 days in 1999 without permission from the UN Security Council. It put in a security force in the breakaway territory of Kosovo in contravention of a UN security resolution. Later on, Kosovo was recognized as an independent country. The West doesn’t seem to want to remember this. In 1974, following a coup in Cyprus which overthrew Makarios, Turkey sent in an occupying force in the north of the island. 40% was taken over with local Cypriots having to flee. This division on the island still exists. Claims that what is happening in Ukraine is new and unprecedented have no credibility. Western condemnation has naturally followed with talks of sanctions.
- Since October 2021, the strategy has been to get the Germans to cancel Nord Stream 2. (ER: A reminder that the whole project was physically completed in 2021.) Which has succeeded: its certification has been suspended, which means this process could be restarted again. But it will be hard for any German chancellor to restart this.
- A reminder that it was Germany that wanted Nord Stream 2; the Russians were sceptical about the whole idea. They built it but have likely regretted it. Their focus is on building pipelines to China. One has been completed; two more are under construction. Germany dropping Nord Stream 2 means higher prices in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Dropping it means relying on gas reserves in Europe that are at critically low levels. The capacity for importing gas is already at saturation. Gas via Ukraine is soon likely to stop.
- Britain is sanctioning certain Russian banks and some MPs. But so far, the sanctions have been relatively minor. This has been the Western reaction to events – that it’s a dark and terrible act, a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, etc.
- The Russian reaction is very different. This may take many in the West by surprise. The Russian explanation for recognizing the breakaway republics is to avoid war. Ukraine was on the verge of mounting a military campaign again the Donbass, which Russia has no choice but to oppose. Had Russia waited, it would have resulted in massive fighting with large numbers being killed. They’ve pre-empted the Ukrainian offensive by recognizing the republics and by forewarning the Ukrainians that they would be up against the Russian military if they continue. So the aim is to obtain a ceasefire. Russia is also recognizing the republics on the basis of their constitutions, which make it clear that their jurisdiction is over the entirety of the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk that had been drawn up by the Soviet Union historically. Around half of their combined territories, however, is under the control of Ukraine. So the West is fearful that these Ukrainian forces will be expelled, but this is unlikely: the Ukrainians aren’t likely to be wreckless enough to launch an offensive knowing that they face the Russian army, although there are some strange decision-makers in Ukraine. Ukraine will be meeting with Secretary Blinken and Sergei Lavrov tomorrow (Feb. 24).
- So the Russians have made a huge move by recognizing the republics and sending in their troops. They will parry a Ukrainian offensive, but it’s unlikely they’ll do more than that. So far the Western reaction has been more measured than one might think. But Western hysteria could still sweep it along, making it do some unwise things. If it went all the way and applied full sanctions, then Russia is free to make more forceful moves, such as restricting exports of their own to the West. Yet Russia already produces so much of what it needs, even in the way of advanced technology, and what it lacks, such as 5G microchips, can likely be produced given Russian capability in these areas. And China may help. By contrast, Russia has a lock-grip on metals needed for producing high-end technologies, including microchips, which could obviously affect export of these to the West and Asia, too. If radical sanctions are imposed, what we will see is energy and food prices explode. Russia may withhold its metals, etc. creating supply chain issues in chip production.
- This is a key moment in European and world affairs. It’s clear that we are in the advanced stage of an extremely chaotic process in Europe, which will eventually be navigated through, resulting in a more stable situation. This advance eastwards of the EU and NATO has run up against the Russian brick wall. Putin has made it perfectly clear that Ukraine joining NATO will be stopped, and would be an existential threat to Russia. So that move eastwards has stopped. Russia doesn’t have designs on Ukraine – its intention is to prevent war. It is, however, a further step in the integration of Ukraine.
- What Putin did in his speech was to point out what an artificial construct Ukraine is within its 2013 borders. There is a core region around Kiev, the former czarist region of Ukraine; then there is a bloc of eastern territory and along the Black Sea that are predominantly Russian-speaking; then there is the Hapsburg/Polish region that was added under Stalin. These are predominantly Catholic, not Orthodox. Putin’s point was that it is a cobbled-together territory which, because of decisions taken by Ukrainian leaders since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has failed to cohere into a united country. Policies have been followed which, instead of consolidating the nation, have set its factions against each other. Putin’s interpretation has truth behind it. Now that another Ukrainian region, after Crimea, has successfully broken away and is no longer part of Ukraine, there could be a chain reaction. This can’t be prevented except by the use of extraordinary force by the Ukrainian government. What we are likely to see are further moves toward the break down of Ukraine. This eventually seems more probable. Which will change Europe.
- Already, there have been 2 key events in the last 2 years which have affected Europe’s political geometry. The color revolution attempt to overthrow Lukashenko in Belarus failed, with the result that Belarus is becoming far more integrated into the Russian system, economically and militarily, etc. Now it seems that Khazakstan, the other core territory of the Soviet Union, rich in minerals and farming, is becoming tied to Russia as well. So with these 2 republics becoming integrated into the Russian system, as well as Donbass and Crimea (with the possibility of further unrest in Ukraine as a chain reaction,) we are going to see a gradual resurgence of Russian power in eastern Europe. In the short term, tensions will be increased with alarm being expressed in Europe, but over time, some sort of modus vivendi will be achieved, with the Western powers being ready to negotiate with Russia over the security architecture of Europe.
- The quality of leadership currently in the West, as compared with the past, leaves a great deal to be desired.
Russia Recognises Donbass Republics, Changing Forever the Geopolitical Balance in Europe
News Topic 424
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