The long-suffering first meeting of the Presidents of Ukraine and the United States of America takes place at a bad time for our country. Instead of discussing the “expansion and deepening” of cooperation between our allies, preparations for August 31 are taking place in a nervous environment, which has very specific reasons.
THE BEGINNING OF BIDEN’S ADMINISTRATION
Biden’s statements in support of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia at the beginning of the year were frankly encouraging. We have witnessed an outbreak of activity in the field of military cooperation, statements of support from the newly appointed US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, his active coordination of the anti-Moscow coalition, and a demonstration of military power in front of Moscow. After all, we all remember how Biden called Putin a murderer – the sense of victory of justice that day did not leave me, as did many Ukrainians around the world.
Cooperation with the military continues today – we have full understanding in this area. However, the problems began with the “political wing” of the USA. The first so-called bell was the announced priorities of the newly appointed State Department: China, ecology and, of course, COVID. The issue of Ukraine and the Russian-Ukrainian war simply fell out of the key issues, although a few years ago the State Department confirmed to us that Ukraine is in the TOP-5 priorities. For the first time, there was a feeling that the rattling of weapons, the demonstration of American strength in front of Russia, was nothing more than taking the best positions for future negotiations. And soon, in confirmation of this, we saw the sluggish position of the American leader after the talks with Putin in Geneva.
EUROPE AND CHINA
Why did this happen? The Biden administration is building a global coalition against China, and Russia seems to have been called upon. The price of such a union – the unblocking of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, an energy project of Russia and Germany. After its launch, these two countries will no longer need “logistical agreements” with the countries of Eastern Europe, and most importantly – Ukraine. And if to compare the logistics of the North and South Streams, it is clearly seen that these energy highways are laid bypassing the main allies of the USA: Poland, Romania, Ukraine. Naturally, our country, together with Poland, will feel a possible blow after the launch, as there is no longer a coherent European transit policy. Russia managed to divide Europe.
OPPOSITION IN THE USA
Here our interests coincided with the opposition to the government in a broad sense. And it’s not just about the supporters of the opposition Republican Party. Agreements with Moscow (Red or Putin’s) have traditionally caused natural resistance in much of American society. And Republicans are exacerbating this confrontation, appealing to clear terms of the old-aged confrontation between Moscow and Washington. The surrender of Ukraine today is one of the most important arguments “against” Biden’s policy.
Biden is well aware that the “card of Ukraine” can play both “for” and “against”. Hence the delay in the meeting of the presidents and the reluctance of Zelenskyy to convene both houses of Congress in Washington. And the problem here is not because Biden is afraid of Zelenskyy, but because this is how the geopolitical schedule was formed, and the issue of Ukraine was already painful not only for him, but also for his two predecessors. At the same time, the Ukrainian actor-president has already shown that he knows how to play geopolitical parties to the end. The statement may sound too pretentious, but Biden is even more interested in the successful outcome of the meeting than Zelenskyy. And in order to “calm down” Ukraine, the USA and Germany have prepared a number of measures, including visits to Kyiv by political leaders, such as Chancellor Merkel.
Against this background of growing tensions in Europe and at home, the USA obtained a scandal with:
- Miscalculation of its own intelligence on Afghanistan (the government there should have lasted at least until the end of the year – that is, all negotiations on building an anti-Chinese coalition should be over);
- Accordingly, the failure of the organized evacuation of Allied forces (terrible panic shots from Kabul airport flew around the world, instantly making Afghanistan a problem for the USA).
I do not want to go into the analysis of the decision to withdraw troops. The logic of the Americans is clear: the future confrontation with China requires money, so America can no longer afford a huge corruption hole, the size of 1-2 trillion dollars of taxpayers, in the form of Afghanistan.
It is possible to analyze the forecasts: by withdrawing troops, the USA creates a problem for the entire region, especially for border states, especially Russia and China. I do not undertake to analyze the possible effects of Pakistan’s intelligence on the Taliban, the economic prospects for China, the threat to Russian-controlled Tajikistan and Uzbekistan… After all, such a rapid and irresistible change of government has more signs of a national revolution than a military confrontation between government troops and terrorists.
So, despite the essentially logical and correct decision to end the military mission in Afghanistan, the mechanism of such a decision hit President Biden personally: the inability to predict the collapse of the system, the inability to guarantee protection for loyal Afghans, total corruption, loss of military equipment and technology – all this creates in society a sense of defeat for the USA in the long war with the Taliban. And now we see the whole system of Russian and Chinese disinformation working to reinforce this feeling in Western societies, showing America as a weak, treacherous country capable of abandoning its allies.
Against this background, just before Zelenskyy’s trip to Biden, the USA is hastily trying to communicate the topic of Afghanistan.
- According to official channels – in fact, the decision to withdraw troops is correct and beneficial for Ukraine, because it will distract Russian forces from eastern Ukraine;
- Because of the loyal leaders of public opinion – the funniest excuses for the US decision like “America has decided not to put up with the corrupt regime of Afghanistan, so it left support. We need to work hard on reforms to earn America’s trust and not repeat the fate of Afghanistan”.
Well, good attempts to somehow explain the failure are mercilessly broken into banal logic: it turns out that the USA has tolerated corruption for 20 years? After all, Biden worked at least during the Obama presidency. For 20 years, all their intelligence could not detect corruption? Do they honestly admit that Afghanistan had the system they built? And, it turns out, incredible corruption did not prevent the transfer of high-precision weapons to the Afghan army (which was seized without a fight by terrorists). It turns out that billions of infusions have been made into the Afghan economy without any conditions, moreover – institutions. It turns out that “it was possible”. And American military bases were also possible. But if the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will create such inconveniences for Russia, then where is America’s clear position: Russia, get out of Crimea and Donbass? Where is the consistent policy, the “red lines” for the occupier, high-precision weapons in sufficient numbers to deter Russia from attacking? If Ukraine is a “shield of Europe”, then why does all the burden fall only on the Ukrainian economy?
For the eighth year, the Kremlin is conducting an open war against Ukraine. Over the years, we have felt the support of our Western allies in diplomacy, military instructors, and mostly non-lethal support. However, neither the soldiers of the Western coalition nor the entire spectrum of American weapons are fighting in our war. That is why the Ukrainian people pay a high price for freedom, independence and the values of Western democracy, both in the lives and health of the military and civilians, and economically.
From the beginning of the Russian aggression in Ukraine according to the UN:
- 13,000 – 14,000 people died, including about 4,150 Ukrainian military and 3,375 civilians;
- 29,500 – 35,400 people were injured, including 12,608 servicemen of the Armed Forces (as of May 05, 2021 according to the General Staff) and about 9,000 civilians;
Russia occupied 44,000 square kilometers, or 7% of the Ukrainian territory: the Crimean peninsula, part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
In addition, as of July 06, 2021, according to the Unified Information Database on Internally Displaced Persons, 1 473 650 migrants from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea were registered (~ 3.5% of the total population of Ukraine). The actual number of IDPs is even higher.
Ukraine’s losses from Russia’s annexation of Crimea amounted to about USD 135 billion – three quarters of all Ukrainian GDP in the last year before the annexation in 2013. And this is only a minimal proven estimate of losses. Losses from Russian occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk regions amount to about USD 120 billion.
Ukraine’s defence budget – almost 6% (5.93) in 2021 and 5.4 GDP in 2020. For comparison, in 2020 only Turkey spent the most on defence in Europe – 2.8% of GDP, and Germany – 1.4% – Fig.1
Comparison of US military assistance to Afghanistan and Ukraine
According to the US Congress, America has spent a record USD 143 billion on rebuilding Afghanistan. Of this, USD 88.32 billion spent to the creation of the Afghan security forces, including the Afghan National Army and police While US aid to Ukraine is only about USD 3.7 billion.
That is, military aid to Afghanistan averaged USD 4.4 billion a year. The USA provided Ukraine with a total of USD 2.5 billion in military assistance – about USD 358 million a year.
Despite the practical withdrawal of troops, the USA and NATO promised the democratic government of Afghanistan before its fall to allocate USD 4 billion annually to finance its own forces. To Ukraine promised 3 sovereign credit guarantees of USD 1 billion each.
However, despite the heavy losses, Ukraine has been acting as a shield of Europe, a defender of the values of freedom and democracy for 8 years. And we have clear criteria for our effectiveness:
- Fighting spirit. Since 2014, the Ukrainian army has been conducting an armed struggle on its eastern borders (it has not capitulated to a stronger enemy, but on the contrary has strengthened its military potential);
- Institutional capacity. Ukrainian state institutions are working, civil society has mobilized to defend the state after the Revolution of Dignity, and now the reform process is under way.
- Diplomacy. Ukraine is not only upholding justice for its own state, but is working to restore the world’s confidence in the effectiveness of Western diplomacy (not just military force) – it is for this purpose that Ukraine has launched the Crimea Platform. The maximum representation of the Western Allies and the joint declaration on Russia as an occupier opened a new – diplomatic – front of the struggle for the deoccupation of Crimea.
At the same time, recognizing Ukraine as a “shield of Europe” against Russian aggression is inconvenient for some countries not to commit themselves to additional obligations. On the other hand, Germany and Russia are doing their best to convince the democratic community that they are acting only in the area of their own geopolitical interests and that the Russian Federation is not a threat to the West, but an ally.
Having been conducting a hybrid war against Russia for 7 years, we have studied well our opponent and its “handwriting”, which is recognized all over the world.
- The Kremlin has long been conducting a hybrid war against the West:
- Cyber attacks on governments and infrastructure in the USA, UK, France, Germany, etc.
- interference in democratic elections
- political assassinations in the EU and other countries
- terrorist acts, in particular explosions at military depots in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Ukraine
- inspiration of the migration crisis in Europe.
- Russia has already absorbed Belarus and went directly to the borders of the EU, which already has catastrophic consequences:
- organization of the flow of refugees on the border with the Republic of Lithuania
- deployment of Russian special services and military on Belarusian territory (expansion of the border control zone with NATO countries)
- hijacking of civilian aircraft for the purpose of political violence
- detention of the opposition
- final destruction of democracy
- Russia stops only where it is stopped.
As a result, Russia is currently being stopped from advancing by only Ukraine, which continues to resist and defend the values of a democratic world at all costs. Therefore, it is logical that Western partners must also share this price with each other.
Commitment to democracy today must come not only from Ukraine, but also from allies in Europe and North America. But as of now, allied aid to Ukraine is not even close to that of Afghanistan, which, after billions of dollar infusions and significant military aid, fell under Taliban pressure in less than a month after 20 years (not to mention that the military capabilities of the Taliban and Russia are incomparable).
The Kremlin’s authoritarian model is essentially the Eurasian Taliban, a state based on Orthodox fundamentalism called “Russian peace”. This “measure” does not recognize the fundamental rights of nations to self-determination, freedom and democracy. There are no borders and respect for them (Crimea, ORDLO, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, etc.). Russian forces shoot down civilian aircraft (MN-17), torture (Isolation Prison in Donetsk) and kill (constant escalation on the line of contact in Ukraine).
TWO WAYS FOR THE WEST
The truth is that today the civilized world looks with horror primarily not at the actions of the Taliban, but at the USA, which has denied security guarantees to the Afghan people. Therefore, the questions that are fair: is it possible to believe the promises of the West? has diplomacy exhausted itself and only brute force remains to resolve issues?
The case of Afghanistan presented the collective West with two ways of further development:
First: further disintegration of Western institutions, because “their security guarantees are no longer valid” – this narrative is being actively promoted in the world today by Russia and China to split the democratic community, and Russia has been working in this direction for many years.
Second: to mobilize and rectify the situation by demonstrating to the world the unwavering determination of Western democracy. The first step should be to stop Russia’s interference in Western affairs, to hold Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia accountable and restore their territorial integrity. Demonstrate to the world the victory of the Western system of collective security, which, after the Afghan defeat, lies in Ukraine. This is a major issue that needs to be resolved at a meeting of the two presidents in late August. And only an adequate solution will assure both Europe and US civil society that the Western system of collective security is strong, complies with declared principles, and does not crumble under the first blows of terrorist organizations or terrorist states.