The Big Geopolitical Chessboard: How Not To Lose Ukraine in the Fourth World War
Ihor Zhdanov, Information Defence Project, Open Policy Foundation
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Centres of "soft power"
Ukraine is at the centre of a great geopolitical game, the external manifestation of which is the russian-Ukrainian war, or rather the Fourth World War, if the "Cold War" is considered to be the third one.
Several world geopolitical centres of influence ("soft power") have an impact on its course. Last week, the interests of these centres became clear in the information space, where one of the main topics was the discussion of the russian-Ukrainian peace agreement and Ukraine's territorial concessions.
Below we will try to analyse what interests each of the centres of influence has and how they are projected onto our country.
1. Ukraine and its closest allies Poland, the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. During this war, Ukraine has become an international talking point. Thanks to the heroic actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and diplomacy, it has gained great respect on the international stage, while its strategic importance has magnified in significance.
Ukraine's national interest lies in the unconditional victory in the russian-Ukrainian war and in restoring the country's territorial integrity (including the Crimea and the Donbas). Ukrainians are ready to fight to the last person against Putin's russia.
There is a political and social consensus around such strategic goals of the war in our country. According to the data poll of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 82% of Ukrainians support the position of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and renounce any territorial concessions to achieve peace.
What are the goals of Ukraine for the post-war period?
We need to rebuild the economy and infrastructure of a democratic country (we must work with partners regarding the Marshall Plan today), learn how to live in a country now under constant russian military threat, build the Armed Forces as independently as possible, resist the russian Armed Forces, and create a powerful and effective global security system. The new security system, in light of the new russian aggression, should guarantee us comprehensive political support and the immediate provision of military and military-technical assistance.
The first elements of the new security landscape are already being seen: the creation of a new military-political union, the outlines of which have already been outlined today - Ukraine, the UK, Poland and, possibly, the Baltic countries and Turkey. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the possibility of creating such an alliance as an alternative to the EU.
russia's status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council is being questioned all over the world. After all, the heart of the system of world order that emerged after World War II was eventually destroyed by russia's actions, including its actions as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
There are growing calls for the denuclearization of russia as an irresponsible country that threatens the world with its actions, which could provoke a global nuclear war, and, therefore, it should not possess nuclear weapons.
Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia certainly understand that in case of Ukraine's defeat, they will be the next targets of the russian aggressor, so their geopolitical interests at the present stage completely coincide with our national interests.
2. russia and its satellites. russia’s goal is not only to remain a superpower, but also to significantly expand its geopolitical influence across the world and throughout Europe, and reduce the role of the United States and NATO.
The conquest of Ukraine, its inclusion in the russian sphere of geopolitical influence - would only be russia’s first task in trying to achieve a more global goal.
russia seeks in every way to destroy Ukraine as a sovereign country. It does not matter how this is done - it can be the creation of a protectorate loyal to russia, and the division of our country into separate parts, and its attachment to russia.
russia has not achieved any of its strategic goals. On the contrary, thanks to putin's failed policy, russia has sustained a strategic collapse and its actions have achieved completely opposite results:
- After eight years of anti-terrorist operation, the occupation of the Crimea, russian aggression, and the Bucha massacre in which hundreds and thousands of civilians and servicemen were killed, Ukraine has been completely transformed into a fractious country.
- russia's role as a superpower is significantly diminished, and russia's sanctions have left it politically and economically isolated.
- NATO has not weakened, but, on the contrary, strengthened its position, with the beginning of russian aggression; the bloc gained a new meaning for its existence. Today, the alliance is expanding with new members, and Finland and Sweden want to join NATO. The reason for this decision is russian aggression against Ukraine. russia's border with NATO will increase by several thousand kilometres.
The russian political class and the majority of russian society is trying to deny Ukrainians national identity and existence as a separate sovereign country. Therefore, even after being defeated at the present stage of the russian-Ukrainian war, russia will prepare for the next war in order to completely destroy Ukraine.
3. The USA, the UK and their allies. The United States has come a long way from preventing the defeat of Ukraine to the need to ensure the defeat of russia. At the same time, the US political elite is categorically not interested in russia's territorial disintegration and the spread of nuclear weapons in various regions.
The US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has made clear the goal of the war: to defeat russia in such a way that it cannot threaten Ukraine and the West for at least ten years after.
The United States has developed bipartisan and public support for Ukraine's resistance to russian aggression. According to various polls, about 70% of Americans support the provision of weapons and other assistance to Ukraine. To conclude, military aid was increased to $ 40 billion, a land lease law was passed, and coordination meetings were held in the Ramstein format.
At the same time, the Ukrainian issue is being actively used in the inter-party struggle between the Democrats and the Republicans, especially now, during the primaries of the elections to the US Congress, which will take place in November this year. Any negative impact of the russian-Ukrainian war on the US economy, rising inflation and fuel prices could shake the socio-political pendulum toward traditional American isolationism, which is now represented by Donald Trump's supporters.
Joe Biden's administration also has various influence groups trying to limit military aid to Ukraine. Emphasizing the prevention of escalation of the conflict and the prevention of the use of tactical nuclear weapons by russia, representatives of this part of the US political elite "push" restrictions on the supply of weapons to Ukraine.
A clear example of the consequences of such a policy is the delay in the supply of MLRS multiple rocket launchers. Another example was the following unhelpful intervention: the New York Times published a speech by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger under the banner ‘Italian peace plan’, which called on the United States and other countries to limit aid to Ukraine, and for the Ukrainian government to prepare for peace with russia with territorial concessions. It is possible that this unhelpful opinion piece was not inspired by putin's lobby, but was caused by internal reasons. However, it had a serious resonance for Ukraine.
We will openly respond to those who offer us territorial concessions: you have a very wide range to fulfil your proposals and whims, from Alaska and Hawaii to Tuscany and Sicily.
The United Kingdom plays the role of a ‘bad cop’ for russia in this alliance. With a smaller arsenal of weapons and opportunities for their production, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has become a kind of leader of the development of military-technical assistance and a defender of Ukraine. As we have said above, the United Kingdom proposed a new union with Ukraine and other countries.
4. The countries of the "Old Europe", France and Germany, after the end of the "Cold War", for almost forty years nurtured their cosy world, where you could live carefree and comfortably, a kind of "warm European bath".
However, the "Old Europe" has always been hampered by the break-up of Yugoslavia and ethnic cleansing on its territory, the challenges of NATO and EU enlargement, the coronavirus pandemic and the millions of refugees from the Middle East.
After russia's unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, the European elite realized that the world would no longer be how it was before February 24th. Nevertheless, what it should be, at least in its approximate contours - neither in Germany, nor in France, nor in most European countries has yet come about. The only thing that is clear to the European elite today is that peace for Europe after the end of the russian-Ukrainian war cannot be worse than the one that existed before February 24th.
Therefore, unlike most other countries, the "Old Europe" has not yet clearly defined its interests, has not outlined its policy in the russian-Ukrainian war, and it demonstrates constant fluctuations in its "general line". The situation is particularly sensitive in Germany, where there is a coalition government, groups of pro-russian "intellectuals" and pseudo-experts traditionally integrated into political culture, plus a large number of russian agents.
Meanwhile, on the personal order of the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the much-needed weapons have been removed from the list of weapons to be handed over to Ukraine, and Scholz has stated that soon Ukraine must decide on the essence of its peace agreements with russia without external pressure.
It is clear that these countries will not support the aggressor unrestrictedly. Those who have elected them will not understand their actions and this is a threat to the relative harmony of their own future existence. However, today, to make statements about the immediate provision of weapons and equipment to Ukraine, to qualify the massacre in Bucha as genocide of the Ukrainian people, and tomorrow to ask "not to drive putin into a dead end" and "enable him to save face", and offer Ukraine a peace agreement with territorial concessions, - such a shocking course of events is absolutely inherent in the political style of the "good old Europe".
The uncertainty of their own policy of some European countries, their misunderstanding of the basic principles of the future world and the role of Ukraine in the future world security architecture has a decisive impact on the European prospects of our country.
According to project analysts, Ukraine may receive EU candidate status in the near future, but it is difficult to predict whether it will become a full member of the union and when this may happen.
At the same time, it was the EU as a political and economic union that was united in its actions and took a strong anti-russian stance. Perhaps the only exception to this rule is the issue of the oil and gas embargo. Thanks to Hungary's opposition, the EU has not been able to impose a sixth package of sanctions, as predicted in previous reviews by Information Defence experts.
In Europe, there is a struggle between supporters of the aggressor's traditional appeasement policy, the "new Munich II" and the followers of the resumption of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance, which determines the outlines of the future peace and security architecture for the European elite.
5. China. China has made two major geopolitical mistakes. The first is that its President Xi Jinping promised putin before the russian-Ukrainian war to support russia. However, after tough consultations with the United States, the Chinese leader realized all the negative, primarily economic consequences of such a step. For reference: US-China trade is 35% of China's GDP, and with russia is 17 times less. The choice was predictable.
According to Information Defence analysts, such an ill-considered move was perhaps the last stone that could launch a change of power in China at the next CCP (Chinese Communisr Party) Congress in November.
The second mistake is to underestimate the severity, and the depth of sanctions against russia, and their negative impact on China's own economy. China is sustaining heavy losses, pushing it into an economic recession.
China is largely neutral in the russian-Ukrainian war and has denied russia military-technical assistance. During the great global crisis, the Chinese leader is looking with interest at Taiwan and russia's Far East. However, it is unlikely that their militant intentions can be realized in the near future.
Geopolitical game for the future world: victory or defeat for Ukraine
As banal as it may sound, today the main geopolitical centers of "soft power" are fighting for the landscape and content of the future world.
Ukraine alone will not be able to win this struggle, because its military prospects at the Front depend not only on the level of command of the Armed Forces, the heroic efforts of the Ukrainian military, but also on Western military-technical assistance, its capacity and promptness.
In game theory, there is a so-called win win strategy, according to which all parties will benefit from their cooperation. The same strategy should be applied by Ukraine working with its partners - the United States, the EU, NATO, the UK, France, Germany, and the Baltic countries.
We need a clear understanding of the difference between our national interests and the interests of other countries and their unions. Our task is ensuring Ukraine's security, restoring its territorial integrity, its sustainable economic and democratic development. This is a contribution to the development, stability and security of these countries. On the other hand, the destruction or marginalization of sovereign Ukraine is the first step towards the marginalization of the "Old Europe", the destruction of their "warm bath".
The only country to which this policy categorically cannot be applied is russia. Here we turn to the strategy of a zero-sum game, according to which any of our victories are defeats of the russian aggressor, and vice versa.
russia not only denies our history, language, and culture, it does not recognize the existence of the Ukrainian nation and the sovereignty of Ukraine.
The question today is whether we or they win; either putin's fascist russia or a sovereign democratic Ukraine.
With the beginning of russia's unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, experts of the project Information Defence of Ukraine prepare daily reviews of the military-political situation in Ukraine in Ukrainian, English and Russian. The first review was released on February 26th. Besides, the experts moderate the Telegram channel Information Defence of Ukraine.
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