May 27, 2022
A military instructor teaches a schoolboy how to fire a Kalashnikov rifle during a National Guard training session in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Tuesday (Photo: Yuri Diachen / AFP via Getty Images)

So what are the chances of a better outcome than a deadly alternative to invasion or relief?

The only difference is that we are now reaching the final game. If Vladimir Putin is going to invade Ukraine, it will have to happen soon. He cannot keep 130,000 troops under canvas indefinitely on Ukraine’s frozen borders.

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The United States and Britain have been warning of an impending attack, either with good intelligence or as a way to deter Russia (or both).

All NATO nations agree that a full-scale attack on Ukraine would be disastrous for Europe. That would be a serious mistake for Putin as well. Russia will never be able to subdue the whole country, and the consequences will range from a long and costly uprising to the de facto division of eastern and western Ukraine.

In addition to the refugee and energy crisis, there will be permanent instability on Russia’s western border. Putin has other less reckless military options available, but he still retains the ability to order a full-scale attack. Only he knows if he will use it.

Although Putin’s actions have indeed revived the Western alliance, it is clear that Germany and France are on a slightly different path from the United States and Britain. President Emmanuel Macron has long stressed the importance of a separate EU foreign policy for the United States and NATO.

Berlin is unwilling to follow Washington and London in sending arms to Kiev. And, thanks to Angela Merkel’s demolition of Germany’s nuclear power plants following the destruction of Fukushima, Germany is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas. Chancellor Olaf Schulz cannot afford a major conflict with Russia, and this represents one of Putin’s greatest strengths.

Ukrainian armored vehicles conduct live fire drills near the town of Chogyu (Photo: Sergei Bobok / AFP via Getty Images)

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Ben Wallace warns Russia not to ‘step out of gas’ over Ukraine

The Western alliance has come at another cost. Failure to agree on sanctions against Russia. Germany may be willing to suspend the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for a few months, but it cannot afford to suspend it indefinitely. There is no consensus on the strategy of excluding Russia from the Swift payment system.

In fact, it is possible that Western sanctions will not hurt Russia as much as Europe would have to pay for the suspension or ban on Russian gas supplies. US efforts to find alternative sources of supply to Europe in Qatar and elsewhere have only been partially successful. Qatar sells most of its gas to Asian markets. It may send some more LNG tankers to Europe, but this surplus supply will never fill the energy gap.

Both Western trends (on the one hand the United States and Britain backed by the Baltic Republic and most of Eastern Europe; on the other hand France and Germany backed by most of Western Europe) know that Putin Trying to sow se
eds.

People rally in Kiev, Ukraine, to show solidarity amid growing tensions with Russia (Photo: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

For this reason, the two are careful to limit their criticism of each other. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace’s comment on “Munich’s voice in the air” was a rare expression of concern about what Macron and Schulz were talking to Putin.

The agreement under discussion seems to be a formula that would acknowledge the fact that Ukraine will never join NATO. Ukraine’s ambassador to London has already suggested that his country could accept the outcome if it stopped the attack.

This could include the implementation of the stalled and deeply flawed Minsk II agreement of 2015, which provided Russia with ample opportunities to sow the seeds of division within its borders with its de facto enclaves in Donetsk and Luhansk. does.

Both measures would be counterproductive for Ukraine and would repay Putin for his bullying. However, if only hesitantly, they could be approved by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.

Will that be enough to convince Putin to end his costly military preparations? He cannot afford to come empty handed or come up with some vague diplomatic concessions which later turn out to be illusions.

He will want the agreements signed and this is where Paris and Berlin will need formal approval from Washington and London. That could put US Presidents Joe Biden and Boris Johnson in trouble.

Refusal to ratify an agreement could lead to Russian military action, while ratification would be another manifestation of Western weakness following the Afghan failure last August.

Whether such an agreement is really satisfactory is a matter of perspective. The Baltic states will undoubtedly be as restless as Georgia. Taiwan will also wonder what the outcome of such an agreement will be for Beijing.

However, if the Western alliance breaks down, its long-term consequences will suffice. The value of NATO membership will be damaged. Putin will be the winner, and his sphere of influence will be Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The United States and Britain will appear isolated for a time and their diplomacy will be criticized as the possibility of war disappears. But Putin will return to charge at a later date. It still has incomplete business in the Baltic states, Georgia, Moldova and the Balkans.

Compliment has been made a dirty word by Munich 1938. In fact, many who fought in the trenches between 1914 and 1918 and lost their families and friends welcomed the Newell Chamberlain formula that sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia and brought peace. ۔

Chamberlain is being re-examined by historians because he made good use of the extra year of peace to re-arm Britain and prepare it for war. One wonders whether Chancellor Schools will spend the rest of this decade in an urgent effort to end Germany’s dependence on Russian gas before Putin returns to seek more concessions.

Tim Willase-Wilsey is a visiting professor at King’s College, London and a former senior British diplomat.

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