Portrait of Count Alexander Suvorov.
“The U.S. focus on prioritizing the Far East– particularly the defense pact between the U.S.-U.K.-Australia (AUKUS) coupled with the trauma created by the withdrawal from Afghanistan– have rattled the Euro-Atlantic security community. The Russia-Ukraine crisis erupted right in the aftermath of these developments…”
“We are looking at a long-term challenge and diplomatically exhausting marathon in the region and beyond.”
While critical reporting of the conflict in Ukraine is updated hourly, the accompanying passage from independent Turkish-language news and analysis site Perspektif takes a step back and puts the crisis into the greater context of global geopolitics and great power competition, including analysis of the possible long-term repercussions of the crisis.
The authors highlight the timing of the crisis, which is significant in two ways. First, the crisis erupted in the immediate aftermath of several developments that they claim had already “rattled” the Euro-Atlantic security community. In particular, the “defense pact between the U.S.-U.K.-Australia (AUKUS),” which they note reflects the “U.S.’s focus on prioritizing the Far East in recent years”; and “the trauma created by the withdrawal from Afghanistan.” They suggest the crisis erupted at a time when Euro-Atlantic relations were not at their peak. Timing is also important because the crisis is taking place when both the European Union (EU) and NATO are forming their future strategies. As the authors point out, the EU is in the process of finalizing its five-year Strategic Compass document, while NATO is preparing to ratify its new Strategic Concept for the next 10 years at the 2022 Madrid Summit. The authors note that the crisis will “leave deep marks” in these documents, which will inform these two organizations’ future strategies.
The authors also point out that NATO will likely come to the aid of Ukraine, even militarily; while also warning that Ukraine contains certain unique “sensitivities” and should not be the stage for the next proxy war among great powers. Here they are likely alluding to the fact that Russia views eastern Ukraine as an extension of itself, making this an existential issue for Russia unlike the southern Caucasus or Syria. Finally, they point out that European countries have so far shown solidarity against Russia; however, they have differing levels of threat perceptions from Russia. In particular, “the Germany-France-Italy-Spain quad” does not perceive Russia as high a threat compared to East/Southeast Europe and the Baltic countries, which does not bode well for a long-term European unified front against Russia.
Mithat Çelikpala and Fatih Ceylan, “Dinyeper’de Kabaran Sular Ukrayna ve Rusya’yı Nereye Sürükler? (Where will the Rising Waters in the Dnieper [River] Lead Ukraine and Russia?),” Perspektif Online (independent Turkish-language news and analysis site), 10 December 2021. https://www.perspektif.online/dinyeperde-kabaran-sular-ukrayna-ve-rusyayi-nereye-surukler/
The Ukraine crisis, re-ignited as of November 2021, is taking place within the big picture in ways that can be summarized below:
1. In light of the U.S.’s recently adopted global strategy; the U.S. is in an open wrist fight with China in the Far East. Throughout 2021, the U.S. did not refrain from maintaining a military presence in the Taiwan Strait and the South/East China Seas to deter China; even though Biden had expressed that they do not intend to start a “Cold War” with China. The contention between the U.S.-China is among the top challenges on the international agenda.
2. The competition between these two countries is starting to expand into a greater geographic area, from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, from the Balkans to East/Southeast Europe, to include the greater Black Sea basin, within the framework of China’s BRI project.
3. Due to the Ukraine crisis, relations between the U.S./West/NATO and Russia have entered a period of spiraling tension. The situation has triggered an increased U.S. military build-up in the region and created circumstances that directly impact Black Sea security. Tension in the region will ebb and flow until a sustainable middle ground (modus vivendi) regarding Ukraine can be achieved within the strategic contention between great powers.
4. The U.S. focus on prioritizing the Far East– particularly the defense pact between the U.S.-U.K.-Australia (AUKUS) coupled with the trauma created by the withdrawal from Afghanistan– have rattled the Euro-Atlantic security community. The Russia-Ukraine crisis erupted right in the aftermath of these developments and resulted in both sides pulling their swords while also trying to establish dialogue.
5. Ukraine is not a member of NATO; it is a partner. Therefore, when Ukraine is attacked, NATO’s article 5 does not apply. On the other hand, it can be predicted that, in such a scenario, NATO and its members will provide all kinds of support, including military support, to Ukraine. However, it should be remembered that Ukraine has sensitivities that make it impossible for it to be the stage of a proxy war.
6. In the face of the Ukraine crisis, European countries have so far shown solidarity; but this does not mean that there is total agreement among them regarding the threat they perceive from Russia. In this context, for example, the Germany-France-Italy-Spain quad’s threat perception from Russia is different than that of East/Southeast Europe-Baltic countries. This is the main obstacle to [European countries] having a united stance.
7. The Ukraine crisis, which has been ignited in two separate time periods within the year, has erupted at a critical time. The European Union is at the late stages of preparing its five-year Strategic Compass document. NATO’s Strategic Concept for the next 10 years will be accepted at the 2022 Madrid Summit. If the crisis with Russia deepens at a time when these two important documents are being prepared, there is no doubt that its repercussions will leave deep marks in their future strategies.
8. In reality, Russia has lost Western Ukraine, but directly/indirectly gained control of the Crimea peninsula and the Donbass region. It will continue its efforts to legitimize the control it has established in these regions. It would be realistic to say the problems related to each of these areas are “frozen” and call them “hot disputes” which are difficult to solve; and to establish positions based on this view. However, this does not mean the recognition of illegitimate/illegal Russian domination in these areas. We are looking at a long-term challenge and diplomatically exhausting marathon in the region and beyond. The shadow of the geopolitical/geostrategic competition that impacts the entire world and that has become inflamed this year is poised to create new challenges and disputes from Ukraine to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean via the Aegean.
Image: Portrait of Count Alexander Suvorov.
Attribution: Public Domain