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America’s 911 call and global response to Ukraine war

America’s policy options in Ukraine are influenced by many strategic assumptions but two wrong assumptions are already leading to bad decisions, poor planning and unwanted outcomes for the US in the war in Ukraine. The first assumption was related to the use of non-military means and was based on the premise that using non-military means such as implementing economic sanctions, imposing economic blockades, forming coalitions, breaking off diplomatic relations and conducting information and legal warfare, including President Vladimir Putin’s arrest warrants by International Criminal Court, will weaken Russia and subject it to international isolation. It was assumed that as the war drags on, Russia will grow weak and so will Putin’s hold on power.
Twenty-four months later one can say that the employment of non-military means has not been as effective as the US desired. Neither has Russia buckled under pressure nor has Putin’s hold on power weakened. At the outbreak of war, the US dialed 911 and hoped that the entire world will take its call. The calls were taken but the global response was a clear split and countries, specially from Africa, Asia and even Latin America, employed hedging as their preferred diplomatic and alignment strategy to simultaneously keep good relations with both the US and Russia.
One would not like to blame these states, as taking clear sides in these uncertain times means maximising your risks and minimising your future opportunities because both the US and Russia are great powers and this war, like all wars, will eventually end but the status of these countries is likely to remain the same. What cannot end for the small and weak states is an enduring relationship that will like to continue with both the great powers. The assumption of using non-military means also has a political component that contributes not to unifying but dividing the world.
The coalition against Russia is built under the banner of ‘Democratic Peace Theory’. This theory states that democracies are more certain of each other’s intentions and not so about undemocratic countries. So, all democratic countries must stand up together to fight the forces that are undemocratic and a threat to a peaceful world. This is political warfare and a direct attack on the political systems of not only Russia but China also, both of which are not only great powers but two strong pillars that are likely to hold and sustain the foreseeable multipolar world. Will the US continue waging wars against autocracies after every few years? Is this serving democracy or its Military Industrial Complex (MIC)?
Two decades earlier, President Bush had built a coalition and carried out an invasion of Iraq on the wrong pretext of seeking out and destroying Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in an illegal war. Removal of Saddam Hussein from power and liberating a nation held hostage by an autocratic leader was another war aim. But many analysts have argued that the control of oil resources in Iraq was the main rationale of the US invasion. One big lesson that the world learnt from the Iraq war was that the strategy of causing ruptures in autocratic settings through military campaigns is inherently fraught with huge risks, but the US hasn’t stopped doing this.
Dividing the world in democratic and non-democratic blocs is a big mistake and the US has actively pushed this global division for past two decades by employing its militarised foreign policy. This is reflective in the US attempts to democratise the non-democratic countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and the greater Middle East during the time of Arab Spring. Today, democracies all over the world are backsliding and nobody is sure when some other democracy will also become an authoritarian state. US double standards have also opened up the gap between its principled polices and its unprincipled implementation. Military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are wrong because they overthrew democratically elected governments but military coup in Egypt was right because it served the US interests regardless of the fact that it installed a brutal dictatorship under Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who together with his military dragged his country back to a repressive and authoritarian rule. The US is not only alright with authoritarian rule in Egypt for the past one decade but also continues to support Sisi’s authoritarian rule with annual security aid of $1.3 billion. So, if some countries in the global south no longer take America’s 911 call, it is because they no more relate to the US double standards and the people in these countries actively support the leadership that not only promises to fight against the western neoliberal colonialism but demonstrates a clear political resolve not to work under American watch, pressure, influence and interference.
If the first American assumption of isolating Russia by non-military means has not worked, the second wrong US assumption didn’t either help the US formulate the right policy in Ukraine. The second wrong US assumption was an operational assumption that as the Russian forces will invade on multiple fronts, they will overrun their logistics and will be cut off from their base and thus interdicted as they lay exposed. But last year Russian forces withdrew to the western bank of Dnieper River and executed further mobilisation and drafting of new soldiers. Russian forces are now deeply entrenched and Ukrainian counter-offensive initiated three months earlier has little gains to show and has almost completely stalled. Ukraine doesn’t have the army of a great power to undo the land acquisition by the army of another great power. Russia will continue to fight to retain the Donbas region in the Eastern Ukraine and without strong army Ukraine will find it extremely difficult to challenge Russian military gains.
So, the world should be ready to witness a long-protracted war in Ukraine where Ukrainian soldiers may have to fight long protracted battles to regain what they have already lost. In the end the Ukrainian politicians must consider the cost Ukraine’s people and armed forces are paying for acting as expandable commodity for implementing the US policy based on wrong assumptions. You can coerce a great power but can never defeat it without confronting it directly. That may be the one great lesson that the world will learn from the war in Ukraine.

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