• Checkmate in Ukraine

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Tue Feb 1 08:13:46 2022
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    Checkmate in Ukraine
    January 30, 2022

    Seen in retrospect, Russia’s demand for a written response was a trap,
    one neither the U.S. nor NATO yet recognizes, writes Scott Ritter.

    By Scott Ritter
    Energy Intelligence

    Back in December, Russia sent the U.S. and NATO two draft treaty
    documents spelling out its demands for security guarantees related to
    NATO’s posture in Eastern Europe. These demands came in a climate of
    tension fueled by both a Russian military buildup bordering Ukraine,
    and U.S. and NATO hysteria over what they deemed an imminent Russian
    military incursion into Ukraine.

    The written replies that arrived on Jan. 22 failed — as expected — to address any of Russia’s concerns, including the red line of continued
    NATO expansion. Rather, the U.S. and NATO listed alternative pathways
    to diplomatic engagement, including arms control and limits on
    military exercises, and they now couch the ongoing crisis as a choice
    between accepting the diplomatic offramp they dictated, or war.

    Russia, however, is far too sophisticated to allow itself to be boxed
    into such a corner. In the weeks and months ahead, Russia will be the
    one dictating the outcome of this crisis — which will be a resounding
    Russian victory.

    The Russian buildup in its western and southern military districts, as
    well as in Belarus, has two purposes. The secondary goal is to
    demonstrate Russia’s ability, at a time and place of its choosing, to
    project sufficient military power into Ukraine to overwhelming defeat
    the Ukrainian armed forces and bring down its government.

    To be clear, Russia has threatened neither of these outcomes. It
    maintains that the military buildup is simply an exercise designed to
    ensure it can respond to NATO’s aggressive expansion of forces along
    its western flank. It traces the confrontation to NATO’s “original
    sin” of expansion.

    Historical fact supports the Russian interpretation: The Russian
    mantra of “not one inch eastward” is derived from an oral promise made
    by former Secretary of State James Baker to Soviet President Mikhail
    Gorbachev at the time of German reunification. But Russia’s goal is
    not to score debating points, but rather to reverse NATO policy and
    posturing it deems harmful to its national security.

    To this end, the primary purpose of Russia’s military buildup is to
    expose the political, military and economic impotence of the U.S./NATO partnership by a range of crises — independent of any military
    incursion into Ukraine — for which the U.S. and NATO have no viable
    response other than to give in to most, if not all, of Russia’s
    demands for security guarantees.

    Crying ‘Wolf’

    The stage for the current crisis was set back in the spring of 2021,
    when Russia mobilized around 100,000 troops along the lines seen
    today. The U.S. and NATO immediately began a rhetoric-based war of
    perception management, using mainstream media and think tanks to paint
    a picture of Russian malfeasance and Western resolve.

    A face-to-face meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and
    U.S. President Joe Biden resulted, and Russia eventually drew down its
    forces — but not before making several salient points: It demanded
    that the West hold Ukraine’s feet to the fire regarding fulfillment of
    its obligations under the 2015 Minsk agreement. And after a “freedom
    of navigation” exercise which brought a British destroyer into
    contested waters off Crimea, it declared red lines Russia was prepared
    to defend, with force if necessary.

    Russia took away two lessons from this. First, that neither the U.S.
    nor NATO had a viable military response. Russian military superiority
    in any future conflict with Ukraine was all but assured. Second, that
    the only response either the U.S. or NATO could come up with would
    center on economic sanctions. This stress test exposed several
    critical weaknesses Russia could exploit.

    Armed with these important insights, Russia waited until last fall to
    repeat the stress test, again mobilizing more than 100,000 troops near
    Ukraine and deploying tens of thousands of elite shock troops — the
    First Guards Tank Army — into Belarus. Again, Russia issued no
    threats, stating repeatedly that it was simply conducting routine
    military exercises.

    The U.S. and NATO, in contrast, immediately cast the Russian buildup
    as proof positive of its intent to invade Ukraine. In drawing this
    conclusion — despite Russian denials and Ukraine’s rejection of the inevitability of such an outcome — both the U.S. and NATO effectively
    founded their position on the principle of the inviolability of NATO’s “open-door” policy, which says that any nation qualified for NATO membership should have the opportunity to join.

    For its part, Russia noted that NATO’s eastward expansion has created
    an unacceptable national security risk. It claims a right to exert a
    sphere of influence around its borders, implying that any accession to
    NATO by the former Soviet Republics of Ukraine or Georgia is viewed as
    an existential threat that would require a “military-technical”
    response. Russia said as much in the two draft treaties it submitted
    in December. Furthermore, Russia demanded that both NATO and the U.S.
    respond in writing.

    Seen in retrospect, Russia’s demand for a written response was a trap,
    one neither the U.S. nor NATO yet recognizes. By rejecting Russian
    demands for security guarantees, the U.S. and NATO have married
    themselves to a posture defined by the “open-door” policy on NATO membership. Moreover, when Russia refused to cease its mobilization in
    the face of sanctions threats, the U.S. and NATO had no choice but to
    shift gears and create the perception of a military response designed
    to put pressure on Russia’s eastern flank — even though Washington has pointedly said it would not defend Ukraine from a Russian assault.

    What emerged was, first, that neither the U.S. nor NATO is able to
    project meaningful military power even within NATO’s own borders.
    Putting 8,500 U.S. troops on alert for potential deployment to Europe
    is like bringing a garden hose to a three-alarm fire.

    Moreover, threatening to activate NATO’s rapid response force for a
    non-NATO issue created fractures in the unity of NATO. Germany has
    been hesitant. The Czech Republic and Bulgaria have forbade their
    troops to be involved in any such adventure. Turkey views the entire
    Ukraine crisis as a U.S./NATO conspiracy to contain Turkish regional
    ambitions by tying it to a conflict with Russia.

    These military fractures, in concert with Europe’s hesitation to
    commit economic suicide by going along with sanctions that would sever
    it from Russian energy it needs to survive, has provided Russia with
    three main takeaways: NATO is militarily impotent; no unanimity exists
    within either NATO or Europe on economic sanctions targeting Russia;
    and NATO — a consensus-based organization — is deeply fractured politically.

    Moves to Checkmate

    Despite the repeated Western warnings, Russia is highly unlikely to
    invade Ukraine — at least not yet. Instead, Russia appears to be
    entering a new phase of crisis management that seeks to exploit the
    weaknesses in the U.S./NATO alliance highlighted by their written
    responses to its demands.

    First, Russia will keep the diplomatic option open, but on its terms.
    Moscow has already engaged in so-called Normandy Format talks
    involving Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine over the ongoing crisis
    in Donbas. In the initial meeting, all parties agreed to respect the
    cease-fire in effect and to meet again in 10 days — the exact opposite
    of any imminent invasion by Russia. Note the absence of the U.S. and
    NATO from these talks.

    Next, Russia will turn the threat of sanctions against the U.S. and
    Europe. Russia has already declared that banning it from the Swift
    system for international monetary transactions will result in the
    immediate halt of Russian energy supplies to Europe. Russia is
    expected to sign major economic agreements with China soon that will
    further insulate it from economic sanctions. China has made it clear
    it supports Russia in the current crisis, recognizing that if the West
    prevails against Russia, it will soon face a similar attack.

    Finally, Russia will exploit U.S. hypocrisy on spheres of influence
    and military alliances by entering military relationships with Cuba,
    Venezuela and Nicaragua and deploying a naval squadron to the
    Caribbean, with the potential for additional force deployments in the

    With these three measures, Russia seeks to further isolate the U.S.
    from NATO and Europe. In the end, the U.S. will be confronted with one
    of two options, either agree to trade NATO’s open-door policy for
    Russian agreement not to deploy into the Western Hemisphere, or force
    a confrontation that will result in a Russian invasion of Ukraine that
    is seen by Europe as being the fault of the U.S..

    The chess pieces are already being moved. While the U.S. may not see
    it, a Russian checkmate can be predicted sooner, rather than later.

    This article is from Energy Intelligence.

    Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer whose
    service over a 20-plus-year career included tours of duty in the
    former Soviet Union implementing arms control agreements, serving on
    the staff of U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War and
    later as a chief weapons inspector with the UN in Iraq from 1991-98.


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