A number of European leaders harbour the quixotic thought that as the first year of the War in Ukraine rolls by today, February 24, 2023, the Ukrainians will militarily defeat Russia. They prefer a continuation of the war, and, their writing the epitaph of Russian and Ukrainian youths who will be killed, rather than allow a peaceful resolution. However, as they are fixated on a military conquest, related events suggest that the European and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, alliance may crack partly due to the terrorist attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia with Germany.
The United States, US, has been pointedly accused by one of the most famous journalists in the world, 85-year-old Seymour Hersh, of carrying out these terrorist attacks in the Baltic Sea. The US has, curiously, been virtually silent while the United Nations, UN, says it will not lead any investigation to unravel the culprits.
French President Emmanuel Macron on February 18 made an ambiguous statement that he wants Russia defeated but not crushed. According to him: “I want Russia to be defeated in Ukraine, and I want Ukraine to be able to defend its position…I am convinced that, in the end, this will not conclude militarily.” He added that neither side could fully prevail and does not want the war to spread to Russian territory. Macron does not come out clear on who he wants to defeat Russia: NATO or Ukraine?
I am sure he knows that it would be militarily impossible for Ukraine to overrun Russia, so he might simply be priming that country for more unnecessary deaths rather than engage in negotiations to end the war. Perhaps Macron and his fellow European leaders simply want to wear out Russia and make it vulnerable. Also, they may hope that elongating the war can lead to a coup in Russia. But they should realise that this can also happen in Ukraine.
Three days later, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, while not ruling out peace talks, declared that any peace that entails the surrender of Ukraine cannot be real. Italy, she said, is considering sending more air-defence systems to Ukraine, but ruled out the supply of military planes. In other words, Italy wants conditional discussions. The Foreign Ministers of seven countries: Germany, Canada, France, Japan, US, United Kingdom and Italy in a joint statement offered Ukraine more support and additional sanctions against Russia.
President Joe Biden, who visited Ukraine, announced a new military aid package worth $500 million for Ukraine to continue the war. He vowed: “Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia.” Buoyed by such support, myopic Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ruled out peace talks, declaring: “Dialogue is useless.” Rather, he told Biden: “Together, we are going to a common victory and we must ensure it this year.”
In reaction, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country is pulling out of nuclear talks with the US. However, while the focus is on military victory or defeat, the terrorist attacks on the Nord Stream pipeline that can transport 55 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Europe, may begin to redefine the NATO alliance as Germany, Sweden and Denmark who are investigating the incident are livid. They have established that the damage to the pipelines was caused by “powerful explosions due to sabotage”, and have taken their case to the UN.
They complain that the attacks caused “substantial and worrisome” effects in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Russia, backed by China, has also demanded a UN probe and has approached the UN Security Council for an independent inquiry.
However, a 15 February investigative report by Hersh concluded that the terrorist attacks were carried out by the US Navy, the American Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, and the Norwegian Navy. He reported that in June 2022, US Navy divers under the cover of a multi-nation war-games simulation known as BALTOPS 22, placed explosive C4 charges on the pipelines. The explosives he claims, were detonated remotely three months later by a signal from a sonar buoy.
Hersh said the attacks were desperate American moves, adding: “The fear of losing European support in the Ukraine conflict made the US to take out the only option Europe had should it want to restart buying fuel from Russia.” The US, he said, is afraid that Europe could have a rethink on the Ukrainian conflict, decide to make peace and resume its oil and gas trade with Russia. He said the attacks were to “cut into the notion that they (Europeans) can depend totally on America, even in a crisis”. The US, he wrote, has always wanted to stop Russia selling oil and gas to the rest of Europe.
The White House’s reaction was to describe Hersh’s report as “complete nonsense”. However, it has made no public efforts to debunk the facts contained in the report, including the military exercise or the claimed agencies and means used. A major headache for the US is that Hersh is one of the most famous journalists in the world and one of the most decorated in American history. He is a four-time winner: 1969, 1973, 1974, and 1981, of the George Polk Award. This prestigious award goes to “the intrepid, bold, and influential work of the reporters themselves, placing a premium on investigative work that is original, resourceful, and thought-provoking”.
In 1970, he won the Pulitzer Prize, a prize established in 1917 for America’s best in print journalism, literary achievement, and musical composition. He is also a two-time winner of the National Magazine Award, and the 2004 George Orwell Award. Undoubtedly, one of the outcomes of the Ukrainian War is that it has made Europe far less reliant on Russian oil and gas. Ironically, Russia has ready markets for these commodities, especially in China and India. Another is the enormous sanctions the EU is capable of imposing on a country. The reverse side is that Russia has demonstrated that sanctions can also strengthen an economy. For instance, the Ruble in 2022 rather than become weak under the weight of sanctions, actually gained strengthen, and became the most improved currency in the world in terms of value.
Also, while the West thought it was tightening the noose around Russia by using international finance systems, alternative systems were being promoted by the BRICS nations comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Interestingly, in the past year of sanctions against Russia, at least a dozen countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Argentina, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, have expressed interest in joining BRICS. It is in the collective interests of humanity to end the war in Ukraine by peaceful means because a military solution will be too costly, harmful and unpredictable.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of African workers, is a human rights activist, journalist and author.
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