Diplomatic options fade and the war escalates

Cj Polychroniou

Newspaper La Jornada
Monday November 21, 2022, p. 16

Russia’s war against Ukraine has dragged on for almost nine months and has escalated to highly lethal levels. Putin focuses his attacks on the energy infrastructure and has repeatedly invoked the specter of nuclear weapons. The Ukrainians, meanwhile, continue to believe that they can win the battle and even reconquer Crimea. Certainly, the standoff has no end in sight. As Noam Chomsky points out in an exclusive interview with Truthout, progression has made diplomatic options fade.

Chomsky is a professor emeritus in the MIT departments of linguistics and philosophy, as well as an award-winning professor of linguistics and chair of the Agnese Haury Environmental and Social Justice Program at the University of Arizona. He is one of the world’s most cited academics and an intellectual considered a national and international treasure by millions. He has published more than 150 books on linguistics, political and social thought, political economy, media studies, US international politics, and international affairs. His most recent works are the secrets of words (with Andrea Moro, MIT Press, 2022), The withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and the fragility of US power (with Vijay Prashad, The New Press 2022) and The Precipice: Neoliberalism, the Pandemic, and the Urgent Need for Social Change (with CJ Polychroniou, Haymarket Books 2021).

–Noam, the war in the Ukraine is approaching its ninth month, and instead of detente, we see it heading towards an uncontrolled escalation. It is turning into a never-ending showdown now that Russia has, in recent weeks, attacked energy infrastructure and increased its assaults on the country’s eastern region, while the Ukrainians increasingly ask the West for more weapons, convinced they have the potential to defeat Moscow on the battlefield. At the current juncture, can diplomacy still win the conflict? How do you de-escalate at such a high level, when the parties seem unable to make a decision and see beyond their disagreements? For example, Russia will never agree to return to the border limits that existed on February 24, when it launched the invasion.

–Tragedy announced. Let’s recap what we’ve discussed for months. Before Putin’s invasion there were options based, broadly speaking, on the Minsk agreements, which could have prevented this crime. There is an unresolved debate as to whether Ukraine should have accepted those agreements. At least verbally, it seems that Russia would have done so even a little before the intervention. The United States dismissed them in favor of integrating Ukraine into NATO, that is, its military command, without taking into account any of Moscow’s security concerns. These maneuvers accelerated under the Biden government. Was it possible for democracy to triumph and tragedy to be avoided? There was only one way to find out: by trying, but this option was ignored.

Putin rejected the efforts of French President Macron who, almost at the last minute, offered a viable alternative. He spurned every opportunity and ended up shooting himself in the foot and Russia, furthering the United States to achieve its most cherished dream: to have all of Europe in its debt. To the crime of aggression was added that of stupidity.

The negotiations between Ukraine and Russia took place under the auspices of Turkey recently, between March and April. They failed. The United States and the United Kingdom opposed them. Lack of consultation is the ruling circles’ way of belittling diplomacy. We don’t know to what degree that was a factor in the collapse.

Initially, Washington hoped that Russia would conquer Ukraine in a few days and was preparing a government in exile. Military analysts were shocked by Russian military incompetence and notable Ukrainian resistance, as well as by Moscow’s failure to follow the well-known US-British model of warfare, also employed by the Israelis against defenseless Gaza: going for the jugular of the infrastructure with conventional weapons. , as well as destroying the means of communication, transportation, energy and everything that keeps a society running.

Then the United States made a fateful decision: to continue the war in order to severely weaken Russia, thereby preventing any negotiations, and then make a dire gamble in the belief that Putin would pack his bags and fade into oblivion, defeated, without having used the weapons they knew it had to destroy Ukraine.

If she wanted to take a chance on that bet, that’s her business. The role that the United States played in impeding negotiations is our topic.

Putin’s escalation in recent weeks consists of attacking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and increasing his attacks against the eastern region of the country, now following the American-British-Israeli model that is justly condemned for its brutality, although those who condemn they are the same ones who accepted the original offensive with little questioning and whose horrendous gamble laid the foundations for the escalation. There will be no accountability, although some lessons may have been learned.

Liberals who made tepid calls for the diplomatic option while giving their full support to Ukraine are now the subject of debasement, but also fear. In contrast, voices calling for diplomacy from within the ruling political class are exempt from this treatment. This includes posting Foreign Affairs.

It may be that concerns about a destructive war, with the potential for increasingly dire consequences, are catching up with the neoconservative hawks who seem to guide Biden’s foreign policy.

It is very possible that they are listening to other voices. While US military and energy corporations are happily on their way to the bank, Europe is hit by cutbacks in Russian inputs due to US-imposed sanctions. This is particularly true in the case of German industry, which is the bedrock of the European economy. The question remains whether European leaders will be willing to monitor their continent’s economic decline along with its increasing subservience to the United States, and whether its people will tolerate the consequences of complying with American demands.

The most dramatic blow to the European economy was the loss of cheap Russian gas which is now being replaced by more expensive US inputs (which contribute far more to pollution from transit and distribution). That’s not all: Russian mineral supply plays an essential role in European industry, including driving efforts towards the transition to renewable energy.

The gas supply to Europe was severely damaged, perhaps permanently, by the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline, which links Russia and Germany across the Baltic Sea. This is a major blow to both economies. The United States greeted the news with enthusiastic applause. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the destruction of the facility as a tremendous opportunity to eliminate once and for all the dependence on Russian energy and thus deprive Vladimir Putin of the opportunity to use it as a weapon and a means to advance his imperialist designs.

US efforts to block Nord Stream date from long before the crisis in Ukraine and the current feverish accusations about Putin’s long-term imperialist designs; they go back to the times when Bush II looked into his eyes and perceived that his soul was good. President Biden informed Germany that if Russia invaded Ukraine there will be no Nord Stream 2. We will put an end to it.

Despite being one of the most important events in recent months, the sabotage faded very quickly into obscurity. Germany, Denmark and Sweden carry out investigations but keep the results quiet. There is a country that surely has the capacity and the motive to destroy the pipelines; however, the subject is considered unmentionable by polite society. Let’s leave it that way.

Is there still an opportunity for the diplomatic efforts that are proposed from the ruling political class? We can’t be sure. As the conflict escalates, the options for diplomacy are on the decline. At the very least, the United States could refrain from insisting on fighting this war in order to weaken Russia and thus open the way for diplomacy. A stronger stance is voiced by mainstream political class voices about options that can be explored before the horrors worsen, not just in Ukraine.

Officials of the latter claim to have a strategy to retake Crimea. Moscow illegally annexed it in 2014. Similar announcements were made even before the invasion, although no military strategist believes Ukraine is in a position to recapture Crimea. Is this not further evidence that there is no end in sight to the war? Isn’t this a reason not to give the Ukrainians the Atacms long-range rockets they say they need?

Originally posted on truthout

Translation: Gabriela Fonseca

full version in the day online: https://bit.ly/3UVXZVK

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