Monitoring Report: President Joseph Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated. Biden said that Putin thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined because he (Putin) met the Ukrainian people. I think Putin knows Ukraine much better than Biden because it had been historically and politically linked with Russia, not with the United States.
Will US strategy to bleed Russia in Ukraine work?
US President’s rhetoric and superficial words of support for the beleaguered people of Ukraine who are experiencing brutal Russian aggression reflect the fragility of the US leadership. If the US sends troops then there is the threat of a nuclear war in case of US/ NATO military involvement to salvage Ukraine from further Russian onslaught and economic costs because of rising inflation in the US and rising global oil and gas prices. It seems that the Biden administration’s hesitance in confronting Russia in Ukraine may be linked to the humiliating US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.
Although the US imposed sanctions on Moscow, sent forces to NATO member countries bordering Ukraine, and committed to providing several hundred million dollars of military assistance to the besieged Ukrainian regime of Kyiv, all that still seems to be just moral support. Those defending the Biden administration suggest that the lukewarm support for Ukraine’s resistance against Russian aggression is to bleed Moscow in Ukraine. Once the Russian forces are stalled in Ukraine, they will focus on occupying Ukraine. However, they will then be faced with a liberation struggle from the Ukrainians, which will result in a humiliating Russian withdrawal. The US/NATO strategy to transform Ukraine as a graveyard of Russian forces may or may not yield positive results but it will certainly put Moscow under severe pressure.
A two-pronged US strategy to bleed Russia in Ukraine is very much a reality. First, to cripple the Russian economy by imposing hard sanctions, and second to isolate Moscow internationally through global condemnation against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Only time will reveal how long the $600 billion Russian reserves will sustain US/Western pressure. However, the slump of the Russian ruble and pressure on Russian banks by imposing financial restrictions cannot be overlooked.
First, within the US there is a political divide because former President Donald Trump, who still enjoys clout within the Republican party, is against military involvement in Ukraine arguing that such a gamble will cause irreparable physical and economic damage to the US. Former President Trump is known for his tilt towards Putin and pursuing a soft approach towards Russia over the Crimean occupation in 2014. Democrats had accused Russia of interfering in the November 2016 presidential elections in favour of Trump, which reflected a nexus between Trump and Putin. On these grounds, regardless of sympathy for the Ukrainian people and the rage against the Russian aggression, it may be difficult for Congress to declare an act of war against Russia.
Second, President Biden, regardless of his leadership’s weaknesses, is mindful of the fact that Russia should not be underestimated because it has a substantial conventional and nuclear arsenal and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Also, its nexus with China may suggest that Russia will not suffer a defeat in Ukraine. Although sanctions will have a long-term impact on the Russian economy, presently Moscow will try its best to prevail over Ukraine and seek regime change in Kyiv.
The US and its Western allies feel that they should sustain high moral ground instead of engaging in a military confrontation with Russia, which may end up in a zero-sum game. President Putin does not appear to be in the mood to withdraw Russian forces to negotiate with the Ukrainian regime. Russian nationalism and the ideology that Ukraine belongs to Russia and Moscow will not allow NATO foothold in its backyard is generally accepted in Russia.
However, the US strategy to bleed Russia in Ukraine seems to be a shrewd and clever move to cause colossal physical and economic loss to Moscow. We have yet to see the extent to which President Putin will fall into this trap because the Russian capability to absorb Ukraine cannot be underestimated. The US debacle in Afghanistan and Biden’s hasty military withdrawal from Kabul last year led to US disgrace, which was reflected in the hearing of the Senate to discuss why the Biden administration ordered a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even Trump criticised the haphazard withdrawal and stated that the Biden administration should have at least kept control of Bagram airbase. It appears that the Afghan nightmare has so far prevented Biden to give an equivalent response to Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
Third, the US may exert moral, political, and economic pressures on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, but it is the defiance of President Putin against the US and NATO, which led to the Russian attack on Ukraine. In a recent statement, President Biden asserted that “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive manner.”
NATO allies want to let the people of Ukraine experience Russian occupation and encourage them to launch a movement of national resistance to bleed Russia. So it looks like Kyiv is a theatre and spectators are NATO leaders and this play will go for several acts.
What form will a battle for Ukraine take? One answer came from David Ignatius in his column in The Washington Post published on January 26, 2022. It was based on the conversations he had with defence officials in Washington and Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. They foresee “a long, bitter battle — probably broken by pro-Russian coup attempts, intermittent ceasefires, and desperate peace plans — that will leave a volcano of violence festering in the middle of Europe. As during the Cold War, the path of eventual victory for the West will be unity, patience, and refusal to compromise on matters of principle.” However, “President Biden and other allies have said they won’t use U.S. troops directly to support a country that isn’t a member of NATO so the world will have Ukraine’s back, but not its frontlines.”