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Why is the Ukraine war not ending?

The future of the world rides on how the crisis in Europe plays out. For the war to end, a lot of deals will have to be struck, including one on burying deep the origin of the Coronavirus.

By Sanjay Kapoor
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publive-image A father walks along the rubbles of a building carrying his child in the war ravaged Ukraine | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

The Cold War years

In a Netflix serial scripted against the Cold War backdrop, Russian KGB agents are embedded in American society. Like Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, they step out from their shadows and from the comfort of their American identity only when they get orders from their handlers to execute a project, like ‘bomb a place’ or ‘kill’ someone. At times these KGB agents are torn between the country of their origin and their love for the American way of life. Many Hollywood offerings build on this ideological conflict of the agents and how they jettison their commitment to Marxism and Leninism and the stability of the Soviet state in favour of the US or the countries of the West.

Save for some documentation of the famed double agent, Kim Philby, who belonged to the British external intelligence service, MI6; there has been no mention of many other intellectuals and western spies who switched from the decadent West to the revolutionary Soviet Union. All this was before the sprawling Union cracked up in 1991, and Russia and the rest of the breakaway countries became sold to the Washington consensus pursuing the same neo-liberal economic policies.

Ideally, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that began in 2014, spurred by the US and other NATO countries, should have opened the floodgates for Russians to defect to the US or Europe, but there has been no notable or high-profile movement of a celebrity during 2014-22. The truth is that there is no ideological conflict that is spurring people to opt for a system different from that prevails in Russia. The big collapse of socialism in 1991 and the pulling down of the Berlin wall resulted in doing away with any differences that might have remained between the people of the two worlds.

Looking for a place to park their ill-gotten funds, Russian oligarchs moved their wealth to Western banks - away from the prying eyes of Putin. However, there was no protection for them once the US and Europe brought their claustrophobic sanctions against Russian investments in different parts of the world. They did not even spare the luxurious yachts that were docked in many countries. It was clearly an act of illegality, but the US found the laws to justify these actions. 

publive-image Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Crown Prince and Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud in 2019 | Photo courtesy: #KremlinRussia_E | Twitter

Washington DC also found ways to seize Russia’s 300-odd billion dollars out of the war chest of 600 billion that Moscow had set aside for this “military operation”. It did not take much time for Russia to fill up this gap as in the 8-month war, it has been earning $1 billion a day from the sale of expensive oil and gas. The friendly attitude of the world’s biggest supplier of oil, Saudi Arabia, has helped Russia’s cause. Riyadh refused to display enthusiasm for the demand of US President Joe Biden to increase oil production and bring down the prices. Saudis saw merit in the Russian pressure to keep production low and prices high. That way, most of the oil-producing countries are enjoying windfall profits that are shifting global wealth from Europe towards fossil fuel producers. This rankles Europe the most as it has been pushed by the US to give up on Russian gas. The US has benefited enormously from the sanctions that it has imposed on Moscow. One of the major realisations of the Ukraine-Russia war is that Moscow is not really fighting with Kyiv but with Joe Biden and Washington.

Why is the US so determined to vanquish Russia?

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin says, has been a legacy of the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Russian leadership has been mindful of the designs of the US to take Ukraine in its embrace and diminish Russia. The United Kingdom, for its own reasons, has been at the vanguard of this strategy. Advice from foreign policy experts like Henry Kissinger and John Mearsheimer was not to antagonise the Russians and threaten their existence. Quite visibly, the US recently persuaded independent countries to join the EU and NATO. This is despite the fact that President Putin had wondered why NATO was still relevant when the reason for its existence, the Soviet Union, had been consigned to history. Russia waited in vain for accommodation from the US, but it never came. Worse, its policy to use natural gas to integrate itself as a European power was resented by Washington.

In 2014, Russia managed to capture Crimea from Ukraine. It also found to its mortification that the US had entrenched itself in Ukraine politics, as its officials, Victoria Nuland, and Ambassador Geoff Pyatt were busy at Kyiv Maidan to provide cakes and help those protesting against the Russian-backed President. Since then, the two countries have been at war with each other, and if Russians are to be believed, more than 14,000 people have died in this low-intensity war. Russians dug up Ukraine’s Nazi past to show that what was happening was the continuation of the Second World War. Moscow also alleged that Ukraine’s Azov brigade wore Nazi insignias like the swastika and was populated by mercenaries mobilised by the US. History was dredged to find out more reasons for this fratricidal war.

publive-image The war ravaged Ukraine | Photo courtesy: @Carnegie_Europe | Twitter

Its Orthodox Church supported Russia, and this violent stand-off was seen as an attempt to settle an old dispute between the two divisions of the Christian faith. These differences date back to the middle ages when the Byzantine Empire’s capital, Constantinople, representing Eastern Christian Orthodoxy, was overrun by the Ottomans in 1453. Russia and Greece became the inheritors of this orthodoxy, but it never reconciled to the loss of the Empire to the Muslims.

Be that as it may, there is still a lack of clarity in the minds of many as to why the war between Russia and Ukraine continues to rage even after eight months. Now the war has entered a phase where it can lapse into something dirtier. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed fears about Ukraine using a dirty bomb, which is another name for a nuclear device. This has disastrous implications and could create a catastrophe from which Europe and the world would find it difficult to emerge anytime soon.

There is a convergence of motives for the UK and US when it comes to trapping Russia in the Ukrainian quagmire. Unknown to most, the UK is at the vanguard of providing training, weapons, and intelligence to the beleaguered Ukrainian army. They are also managing the social media for President Zelensky of Ukraine and his country. The UK's grouse with Russia is deep-seated. They hate Moscow for pursuing an independent foreign policy and undermining NATO. 

The US, too, has similar concerns. It wants to see Russia diminished and end Europe’s gas dependence on Russia. It is largely forgotten, but the war on Ukraine was mounted by Russia under extreme provocation by Washington. Long before the war was formally declared on February 24, 2022, the skirmishes had begun much earlier at the Ukraine – Russia border. This is the reason why US President Joe Biden was so confident that Moscow was about to attack its neighbour. The US has also provided weapons and logistics. There’s a view that the war in Ukraine has been precipitated by the US as it does not want the Russians to get their hands on many bio and germ labs that have sprouted in this east European country. There are allegations that these labs have something to do with the spread of the epidemic in different parts of the world. Fox News and the right-wing media routinely talk about Biden’s son, Hunter’s interest in these labs. However, there is near unanimity that the war is really between the US and Russia, and it will end only when Putin and Biden meet and makeup.

publive-image Meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin for a bilateral in Geneva last year | Photo courtesy: @WhiteHouse | Twitter

European powers that are suffering due to an extreme economic crisis are hoping that a collapse or diminution of Russia will help them reorder the contours of the continent and NATO. Germany, hence, has been accused by France of being disloyal to the concept of the EU. French voices claim that Berlin is building a compact with the East European countries and jettisoning those of old Europe. Germany has managed to cover its flanks by filling up its oil and gas tanks so it will ride out of the crisis in the short term, but would hope that the war does not aggravate to upset its calculations.

The future of the world rides on how the crisis in Europe plays out. For the war to end, a lot of deals will have to be struck, including one on burying deep the origin of the Coronavirus.


Sanjay Kapoor is a Senior Journalist based out of Delhi. He is a foreign policy specialist focused on India, its neighbourhood and West Asia. He is the Founder and Editor of Hardnews Magazine and he is also the General Secretary of Editors Guild of India.