NO “RESET” THIS TIME
By far the most important event in world affairs in 2014 was the crisis in Ukraine. It has created a new, inherently unstable geostrategic reality in Eastern Europe, which has the potential to generate fresh crises and trigger off new conflicts in the months and years to come. In the short-to-medium term, we can expect two key developments to make an impact on the relations between Moscow and the West in 2015: the prospect of renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine, and Russia’s increasingly decisive economic and political pivot to Asia as an alternative to the failed strategic partnership with the European Union.
After the Ukrainian army’s catastrophic defeat last summer, the government in Kiev and its handlers in Washington are preparing for Round Two of Poroshenko’s “anti-terrorist operation.” Ordinary Ukrainians – for the most part dirt-poor and apprehensive of the future – are sick and tired of the war unleashed by the coup in Kiev almost a year ago, but the regime and its foreign sponsors will not settle for a long-term frozen conflict in the east of the country. Armed, trained and equipped by NATO, Ukrainian forces are likely to launch a major military assault against Donetsk and Lugansk sometime in late spring. (I’d put the odds at 3:1.) The reasoning behind this decision is reasonably clear:
- If the attack is successful and Moscow stays on the sidelines, the Kiev regime would use its “liberation” of the eastern regions as a propaganda tool to legitimize itself and to compensate for the adverse effects at home of the ongoing economic and financial collapse, while the U.S. would show the world that Putin is not invincible. Russia would be seen as weak and wavering in an area of vital strategic concern.
- If Russia intervenes openly to prevent the two self-proclaimed republics’ collapse, Putin would finally enter the trap which he has been studiously avoiding ever since the massacre in Odessa eight months ago. There would be a new round of orchestrated Russophobia in the Western media machine, followed by a new round of sanctions and by fresh demands for NATO enlargement along the Black Sea.
- If the Novorossiyan forces defeat the attackers, thus repeating the feat of last August – obviously the least desirable scenario from Washington’s and Kiev’s point of view – there would still be the fallback option of yet another Minsk-like ceasefire agreement. That would leave the military option open for another try in 2016.
In a major geopolitical realignment, in 2015 Russia’s pivot to Asia will gather momentum. This will reflect Moscow’s strategic decision to abandon the elusive quest for a long-term partnership with the European Union. That decision was probably made some time early last fall. It came as a result of Germany’s, France’s and other key EU countries’ surprisingly meek acceptance of the political, economic and military dictates from Washington in 2014. Russia’s new strategy was made symbolically public in Ankara last November, when President Vladimir Putin announced the abandonment of the South Stream pipeline project and its replacement by a major Russian-Turkish energy initiative. More significantly, China and Russia are long-term economic, political and military partners now, and they are progressively abandoning the dollar in mutual transactions. Putin’s recent visits to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India and President Rejep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey indicate that his ongoing efforts to build a massive Eurasian bloc are paying dividends. The Russian president’s growing indifference to the Brussels connection now has a geopolitical rationale of the highest order.
We are witnessing the end of the notion of “Europe from the English Channel to Vladivostok.” The economic impact on Western Europe will be catastrophic in the long term. The implications are also serious for the Beltway global hegemonists, primarily because progressive de-dollarization of financial transactions among those countries has the potential to bring the Empire down without a shot being fired. A new Eurasian bloc of pan-continental dimensions, embracing half the humanity and two-thirds of the global economy, is in the making. Washington’s never-ending claims to exceptionality and indispensability, its pretensions to lead some imaginary “international community,” have always been ridiculous. As a result of Putin’s new alliances and partnership in Peking, Delhi, Ankara and Tehran, such claims are beginning to sound pathetic – like a faded celebrity demanding attention from a public which has moved on.