The World Today for February 11, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

A Revanchist Reset

UKRAINE

Despite the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, Russian President Vladimir Putin probably doesn’t really want to launch a full-scale war that might drag in the United States and European powers, argued Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev recently in the New York Times.

On the contrary, rather than starting a hot war, Putin wants to precipitate a crisis that drives a wedge between Europe, which needs Russian oil and gas, and the US, where domestic concerns today are paramount. In the ensuing chaos, says Just Security, both sides will be under pressure to help Putin achieve his real goal of redividing Europe and ending the Western-dominated regime that has dominated the continent’s politics since the end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

That could be one reason why Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has downplayed the possibility of a Russo-Euro-American war while still exhorting the West to stand united against Putin’s aggression.

First, Ukrainians have been fighting against Russia since the latter country occupied the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. They’ve grown accustomed to Russian “bombast,” claimed the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Second, as Politico explained, rather than fearing a Russian invasion that has already happened, Zelenskyy is concerned that the West will believe Putin’s threats of escalation and sell out the Ukrainians, forcing them to give in to Russian demands to cede sovereignty of Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine to officials in Moscow.

Nonetheless, Zelenskyy recently ordered 100,000 more Ukrainians to enlist in the army, added the Hill, even as Russia began military drills on Thursday with Belarus. In the unfortunate event of an invasion, he said, a Russian-Ukrainian war would inevitably become a full-scale European war, reported CNBC.

At that stage, after all, Putin, in theory, would have had no recourse in his view but to use bullets and bombs to rearrange Europe’s strategic balance – the nightmare scenario.

Could that happen? The Russian president feels as if the US and NATO are encircling his country, the Washington Post wrote. He wants a guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO. American and European leaders have rejected that proposal, saying it would compromise Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“Ignoring our concerns, the US and NATO generally refer to the right of the states to freely choose ways to ensure their security,” Putin said recently, according to Newsweek. “But this is not just about giving somebody the right to freely choose how to ensure their security. No one should be allowed to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of the other states.”

Anything could happen. But in matters of war and peace, how leaders calculate the odds is what matters.

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