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America, Russia and Ukraine Crisis: Turning Point or Stationary Point

Is the Ukraine war a turning point in the US/Russia relations on the global theater?
September 2022
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Alireza Miryousefi

Is the Ukraine war a turning point in the US/Russia relations on the global theater? Mathematically, the short answer to this question is No.Many people mistake the turning point and stationary point in everyday life and even mathematical diagrams. For example, when the oil, property or currency prices reach their maximum or minimum points, they consider it the turning point. To understand the matter better, pay close attention to the following diagram. Most people consider the maximum and minimum points ( circular red points) in this diagram as turning points, while  the turning points which are of more importance  and attract less attention have been marked with rectangular blue points. suppose the following diagram is related to the oil price fluctuations in a specific period which fluctuates from $35 to $120, consider the points at which oil has reached its minimum and maximum extent and have had an increasing or decreasing shift of direction as the turning point, people get worried at these times, while the turning point is the point where the continuous increasing trend is increased or the decreasing price slows. That is, before that point, the price increases by two dollars eachweek, and from that point on, the increase in price becomes one dollar a week. This point is the turning point in the mathematical point.

The media usually focus on the maximum and minimum points. For example , when the gold , property or currency price shifts state from increasing to decreasing, people get worried  and think of selling them before too much loss occurs, and vice versa. This is while the specialists are mostly focused on the turning points, and long before reaching the maximum and minimum points, predict it and write scenarios for the consequences, or prepare recommendation.

Also about the Ukraine crisis, though the bulk of attention has gone to the crisis after the Russian military invasion to Ukraine began, the turning point for Russia and America had happened since years ago at the 2008 NATO Summit, and both sides were preparing and planning scenarios for the current situation since then. This meeting led to the qualitative development in the US/Russia relations, and after the event, the US Defense Missile systems were deployed to Poland and Czech at the pretext of countering the Iranian missile program, but in fact curbing Russia, and the bill to admit Ukraine and Georgia into the NATO bloc was approved with full support from the US (though not finalized). Thissession was in fact an ending point to Vladimir Putin’s, the new Russia‘s president and architecture, imaginations and proposals , who saw Russia as part of Europe, and proposed the policy of integrating Russia into a European collective security structure. The Bucharest session was in fact the revival of the Cold War relations based on threats to Russia, and made Russia’s mind up regarding NATO and the US and sent tensions between Russia and America soaring.

However, before the session in two steps in 1999 and 2004, Nato had expanded to east, during whose period, Russia was unable to prevent it due to its extreme weakness and the sparks of Russia’s European vision being still alive.However, Russia repeatedly opposed and described these steps as against the promises of James Baker, the former American Secretary of State, and Manfred Worner, the German Nato General Secretary, in 1990 promising non-expansion of NATO to the Russian borders, especially to Georgia and Ukraine, two countries having significant territorial disputes with Russia and having anti-Russian governmentsafter their color revolutions.These events disrupted Putin’s European dream and rendered Russia relations with the US quite confrontational.

The Abkhazia war and the partitioning of South Ossetia from Georgia were the consequences of the first Bucharest meeting, and in practice made Putin regret his full alignment with the US following the 9/11 attacks,as well as his country’s inaction in the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq , leading him toshifting course.

However, after the 2008 US elections and Barack Obama coming to power, and some of his actions in public diplomacy, like symbolic resettingof the US/Russia relations by then foreign ministers of the two countries and temporary shelving of the Ukraine and Georgia joining the NATO, as well as magnifying the Iranian nuclear and missile programs, led to a temporary reduction of tensions. Also the Russianaccompaniment of sanctions resolutions against Iran at the UNSC took place at the same time.

However, over the course of time, the tensions between Russia and America soared. Chief among reasons, the US and NATO members  role in toppling the Gaddafi government in Libya and efforts to overthrow the Bashar Assad in Syria , both considered Russia allies , as well as the US and NATO resuming provocative measures , and more importantly the new color revolution in Ukraine against the pro-Russian administration of Yanukovych and his ouster, led to the tensions between the US and Russia being rekindled  and the situation going into a direction of no-return to the 2008 conditions.

The Crimean occupation by Russia and the crippling sanctions by the US on Russia were the results of this heightening of tensions. At the time, most American specialists did not see the annexation of Crimea as turning a point ofRussia in Ukraine and predicted an imminent largerwar in 2015 and 2016. The result being, the Americans put on their agenda immediate military strengthening of Ukraine as well as imposing hefty sanctions on Russia and opposing Russian economically strategic projects in Europe, which of course the trend stopped due to Trump election in America and his differences with Zelensky over the Hunter Biden (son of Joe Biden) dossier.

The point ignored in most media analyses is the importance of the 2014 anti-Russian sanctions. These sanctions, though not attracting much attention, led to the practical stopping of the Russian economy under Putin, and Russia turned from an open growing economy to an economy of monopoly and livelihood, which both negatively greatly influenced Putin popularity inside Russia and reduced the importance of the new sanctions in Russia’s strategic calculations for taking action in Ukraine. In fact, the Russian government has been since 2014 until the breakout of this war planning and preparing for withstanding the probable sanctions, and measures likeconverting huge financial resources into gold and efforts to establish a banking messaging system independent from SWIFT and expansion of cooperation with China are parts of these preparations.

As pointed, the Trump election in America and his positive positions towards Russia, and at the same time , his deep differences with the new Ukrainian president over non-cooperation in the alleged Hunter Biden’s corruption file postponedthe exploding crisis between Russia and Ukraine ( US as well) for four years. With the election of Joe Bide, and revival of Obama policies towards Russia and Ukraine, the ashes were rekindled, leading to a war which all anticipated since 2014. The Biden administration immediately after taking office, resumed the halted military aids to Ukraine and by precisely assessing the intelligence, examined the Russian scenarios in Ukraine and briefed its allies. Despite gross intelligence defeats of the US in recent years (including erroneous assessments about Afghanistan and Iraq, and so on), the US assessments have so far been correct on Ukraine.

 According to the assessments of the US intelligence institutes, that is the two NIE and CSIS reports which were published before the war, the worst scenario for Russia was being made to occupy Kiev and the entire Ukraine, which would render the country into a quagmire for Russia, and Russia since the beginning had no interest in it. The best scenario was Zelensky fleeing the country (asGhani from Afghanistan) and formation of a pro-Russian government in Kiev, which did not materialize. Of course, the Americans were not sure of Zelensky resistance, but had probably provided necessary advice that was influential in his resistance. According to these assessments, the desired next scenario of Russia was occupying eastern provinces of Ukraine and cutting Ukraine access to the Black Sea, and keeping Ukraine in a state of war and insecurity, which apparently is being pursued. According to these assessments,the US since the beginning decided not to directly get involved in the war,and amassed a western coalition in support of Ukraine and hyped sanctions and pressure on Russia, and tried to make Ukraine as much tougha morsel to swallow as possible for Russia and maximize the costs for Russia.

In sum, the Ukraine war is not a turning point, but a stationary point in the recent decade, for which Russia and the US have readied themselves for years. And due to this, this is a calculated war, neither side is interested in immediate terminating and withdrawing from. This war is, in fact, a symbolic manifestation of the Russian dispute with the US over the past years, but it will accelerate the past trends that have taken shape in the past 13 years.

Alireza Miryousefi , Senior Expert at IPIS

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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