The US’s refusal to accept reality in Ukraine could get a lot of people killed

“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently met with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Washington and declared that the US commitment to Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity is “ironclad.”

The meeting between the two officials came as Moscow stationed 90,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, leading many to fear that a large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent. Ukraine has been mired in a war with Russia and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region of the country since 2014.

Blinken’s comments are just the latest example of a top Biden administration official failing to accept the geopolitical reality of Ukraine.”

“Is Biden really prepared to send young American men and women to fight and die over Ukraine? This kind of rhetoric from the Biden administration does not serve US interests and counterproductively increases the risk of the United States being dragged into a war with Russia.

By continuing to provide quasi-security guarantees to Ukraine, Washington is playing a dangerous game of escalation with Moscow. Russia’s deployment of 90,000 troops near the Ukrainian border is likely Moscow calling Washington’s bluff.

The United States has provided $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine since hostilities broke out. Despite this significant investment, the war has continued because the underlying geopolitical causes of the conflict have not been addressed — namely Russia’s concern that Ukraine will be granted NATO membership.”

“Russia has proven that it is willing to bear significant monetary and human costs to prevent a western-aligned Ukraine. Years of tough economic sanctions and the estimated loss of several hundred Russian soldiers has done little to change Russia’s objectives in Ukraine.

Unlike Russia, the United States simply does not have a strong enough interest in Ukraine worth risking a potential nuclear war over.

Ending the conflict will require a comprehensive political settlement that takes Russia’s geopolitical anxiety into account. One may not agree with Moscow’s security concerns; however, it is necessary to address them in pursuit of a peaceful resolution. Such a settlement should see Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty restored and position Ukraine as a neutral buffer state, neither aligned with Russia nor the West.”

“Working toward a realistic resolution in the form of a neutral and non-aligned Ukraine could provide an opportunity for the world’s two largest nuclear powers to form a stable and predictable relationship.”

Wait, is Russia going to invade Ukraine?

“Ukraine is central to this vision. Culturally and economically, Putin sees Ukraine as tied to Russia. Putin used his hot vax summer to publish an article about how Ukrainians and Russians “were one people — a single whole,” according to an English translation posted on the Kremlin’s website. For him, the ex-Soviet Republic is not really a sovereign state but belongs to Russia, or at least would if not for the meddling from outside forces (read: the West) that have created a “wall” between the two.

“Step by step, Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia,” Putin wrote.

This issue of Ukraine being a “springboard” for military action against Russia is also unacceptable to Putin. He wants to recreate a “sphere of influence” for Moscow, and Ukraine is the buffer between it and NATO. As Ukraine moves closer to the West, that buffer crumbles.

“The reason there’s a war in Ukraine has a lot to do with Russia’s perception of the post-Cold War order in Europe, this notion that Western states have been moving closer and closer to Russia’s borders, and indeed, gobbling up its natural sphere of influence,” Oliker said. “Ukraine’s the front line on that.””

“NATO and member states within NATO like the US and Great Britain are cooperating with Ukraine on security, they’re helping in training and reforms, and providing (or selling) military equipment. But a close partnership is not the same as membership, as it doesn’t come with the obligation of mutual defense, and the NATO countries don’t exactly want to sign themselves up for a potential war with Russia.”

The U.S. Approach to Ukraine’s Border War Isn’t Working. Here’s What Biden Should Do Instead.

“U.S. policy has generally been to offer sticks to Moscow and carrots to Kyiv. Successive administrations have tried to use coercive instruments—largely sanctions or the threat of them—to incentivize Russia to withdraw forces from rebel-held areas of the Donbas and deter further incursions. In parallel, Washington supports Kyiv economically, politically and militarily. The assumption is that the U.S. can coerce Russia into backing down by threatening consequences while strengthening Ukraine’s defenses and anchoring it to the West.”

“But Moscow’s current military buildup has been accompanied by dramatically tougher rhetoric in recent months, suggesting that this time is different. President Vladimir Putin may believe Ukraine is at an inflection point and that it’s time to up the ante. The risk of a major war seems real enough to justify a new U.S. approach. The current policy of threatening punishments and bolstering Kyiv might be morally justified, but it is highly unlikely to alter Putin’s calculus. The Biden administration should accept the unsatisfying reality that it will likely not be able to coerce Putin to de-escalate if he is determined to act. America’s leverage is limited.

Where the United States does have significant leverage is with Ukraine—and this leverage is largely untapped. Rather than focusing only on coercing Russia, the Biden administration should also push Kyiv to take steps toward implementing its obligations under the Minsk II agreement, which Ukraine has shown little desire to do since the deal was brokered six years ago. Ukrainian steps toward complying with the agreement, flawed as it is, might actually invite de-escalation from Russia and reinvigorate the languishing peace process.

The threats against Ukraine implicit in Russia’s troop buildup are morally reprehensible and contrary to Moscow’s international commitments. But to avoid a war, persuading Kyiv to make the first move might be our best hope.”

Why Belarus is using migrants as a political weapon

“Belarus has sent thousands of desperate migrants to its border with Poland in a bid to antagonize the European Union over sanctions imposed last year, in the wake of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on political opponents and protesters.
The influx of migrants, which EU officials say Lukashenko has deliberately provoked as a “hybrid attack” on the EU, comes at a difficult moment for the EU as the bloc struggles with internal tensions of its own, but has so far resulted in an increasingly unified EU response.”

“People trying to leave places like Sulaimaniya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, have received Belarusian visas, bought a ticket on one of the many flights run by the state-operated airline, and headed to Minsk, Belarus’s capital, where some have been housed in government-run hotels, according to the New York Times.

But far from providing humanitarian aid and a safe haven for migrants, the Lukashenko regime is pushing them toward the borders of Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania in an attempt to put pressure on the EU to lift sanctions on the nation.

Belarus has also taken direct action to make things harder for its EU neighbors: The New York Times reports that Belarusian security forces have provided migrants with instructions on crossing the borders and tools like wire cutters and axes to break down border fences.

On Saturday, Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan tweeted that Belarusian forces were attempting to destroy fencing at the Polish border and using lasers and flashing lights to temporarily blind and confuse Polish soldiers stationed there in an attempt to help migrants get across the border.

Despite Belarusian efforts to force migrants into neighboring EU countries, however, the vast majority of those currently at the border are stuck there, with little protection from the elements. As winter sets in, migrants are sleeping in tents, often with inadequate clothing and supplies, and EU countries are thus far refusing them entry. Already, at least nine people have died; some estimates are even higher, and conditions could still worsen as winter sets in.”

“Despite the severity of the humanitarian crisis unfolding at Belarus’s borders, Lukashenko’s aims appear to be primarily political. The strongman president desperately wants to bring the EU to the negotiating table over sanctions imposed after he was fraudulently reelected last year and force the bloc to again recognize him as the country’s legitimate leader.”

A Soviet-Style Strongman Still Rules Belarus

“Democratic governance, freedom, and flourishing in Belarus have long been hampered by Alexander Lukashenko, a demagogue and dictator who took power in 1994. In the country’s first and only open election, Lukashenko—who ran on an anti-corruption platform—was elected president. But once in office, he proved reluctant to let go of power or tolerate dissent.
“Openly nostalgic for Soviet times,” as the Associated Press put it in 1996, Lukashenko was dismissive of the country’s parliament, hostile to constitutional limits, and enthusiastic about state control of information. From the beginning, he was warm to Russia, signing a friendship treaty in 1995 that included concessions such as allowing Russian troops to be stationed in Belarus. He continues to encourage the people to speak Russian, not Belarusian.

By 1996, Lukashenko was proposing constitutional amendments to extend his term in office and expand his power. Parliament would not approve a referendum on it, instead proposing impeachment. “I will not give up the reins of power,” Lukashenko vowed in response. And he hasn’t.

Lukashenko has held on to his position by quashing opposition, suppressing nonstate media, interfering with elections, and otherwise denying civil liberties and political freedom to Belarusians.”