The theory of victory

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By GILBERTO LOPES*

If the civilized world does not stop them, these savages will lead us to World War III

The offers are the most varied, all with the aim of defeating Russia, including the disintegration of its State. The Russian Federation is made up of many nations, which could form separate states after Russia's defeat, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said at a debate in the country's capital, Tallinn, on May 18. She is one of the most aggressive voices on the stage of this conflict, along with her colleagues from the other Baltic countries, Latvia and Lithuania. They set the tone for a debate in which, among others, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk feels comfortable.

We need to take a minute to review the war scenario and reflect on the meaning of this proposal. We are at a time when Russia maintains the initiative and advances on all fronts, while the West redoubles its military support for Ukraine, discusses scenarios that could involve its direct participation in the conflict and prepares to appropriate Russian resources frozen in Europe and in the United States to finance Ukraine.

They do not lose hope of defeating Russia. It is the “Victory Theory”, which they defend, in an article published in May in the magazine Foreign Affairs, Andriy P. Zagorodnyuk, Minister of Defense of Ukraine (2019-2020), and Eliot A. Cohen, State Department advisor from 2007 to 2009, and professor of strategy at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based institution “that seeks practical ideas to address major global challenges.”

“The West needs to make clear that its objective is a decisive victory for Ukraine and the defeat of Russia”, argue the authors, arguing that the commitment to support Ukraine “as long as necessary” is a proposal that lacks a more precise meaning.

“With the right support and focus, Kiev can still win,” they say. “Threatening Russia in Crimea and inflicting serious damage on its economy and society will certainly be difficult.” “But it is a more realistic strategy than the alternative of negotiating a deal with Vladimir Putin.” “Ukraine and the West must win or face devastating consequences,” they argue.

Their CSIS colleagues Benjamin Jensen and Elizabeth Hofmann suggest five strategic problems that must be resolved for Ukraine to achieve victory, including its greater incorporation into the Western economic and security order.

Andriy Zagorodnyuk and Eliot Cohen support the same objectives contained in the Ukrainian peace proposal that will be discussed again next month in Switzerland. Moscow, which will not participate in this discussion (like other countries, such as China and Brazil), considers it disconnected from reality and rejects it immediately.

The idea of ​​both (and of the political leaders who try to convince European citizens of these consequences) is that, if Moscow wins, it will not stop in its ambition. Something that Moscow also rejects out of hand. It is difficult to imagine an objective for such achievements, which have no political, economic or military meaning and which could only be carried out at the risk of provoking a nuclear war.

But that's the tone of Andriy Zagorodnyuk and Eliot Cohen's article. According to them, the solution to the conflict must be the military defeat of Russia. For them, resources, funds and technology overwhelmingly favor the West. If they are channeled in sufficient quantities, Ukraine can win.

They exclude the possibility of a Russian nuclear response in the event of a Western victory. But this nuclear response could be completely discarded if the conflict escalates, with the direct involvement of NATO, as both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other European leaders, from the President of France to the rulers of Poland and the Baltic states?

It seems clear to me that this question cannot be answered affirmatively without running the enormous risk of leading the world to nuclear war. Will Russian warnings about its security challenges, including the first tactical nuclear exercises on May 21, continue to be ignored?

Although, as we will see later, there is no shortage of people who consider that, in both the Ukraine and Taiwan conflicts with China, the United States should be inspired by the policies of the Cold War years, especially when it rejected Soviet pressure in Berlin, then occupied by the four winning powers of the Second World War.

Win the war against a nuclear power?

For British Defense Minister Grant Shapps, the only way to end the conflict is to inflict a military defeat on Russia. Grant Shapps makes the same argument that if Vladimir Putin is successful, he won't stop in Ukraine. Russia’s victory is “unimaginable and unacceptable”. We simply “will not allow that to happen.” “It is absolutely unthinkable that Vladimir Putin could win this war,” he said at a Royal Navy, on May 13nd.

For the Prime Minister, the conservative Rishi Sunak, “defending Ukraine is vital for our security and that of the whole of Europe”.

If this is what is at stake, we are facing an escalation that will not stop until this eventual victory. England is probably the country most directly involved in military operations in Ukraine, with logistical and intelligence support. It multiplied its aid to three billion pounds a year, the largest military aid package ever given by the country. Even so, it is much less than the 60 billion dollars recently approved by the United States.

In the summer of last year, when all the West's expectations were pinned on a major Ukrainian offensive, French President Emmanuel Macron said that they would guarantee that Russia would not emerge victorious from this war. Meeting in Paris with his German and Polish colleagues, Olaf Scholz and Andrzej Duda, in June 2023, Emmanuel Macron said they expected the greatest possible success of this offensive “to be able to start a negotiation phase in good conditions”.

As we know, none of this happened and the Ukrainian offensive was a huge failure. Almost a year later, in May of this year, with Russia taking the initiative on the battlefield, the French president threatened to send troops to Ukraine. “If Russia wins in Ukraine, there will be no security in Europe,” he said.

Will there be no security in Europe? Why was security in Europe not negotiated with Russia when Vladimir Putin proposed it several years ago, including in his speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007?

“If Russia achieves its political objectives in Ukraine through military means, Europe will no longer be the same as it was before the war,” say Liana Fix, resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, and Michael Kimmage, visiting fellow at the same Fund. . It is not only the United States that will have lost its primacy in Europe, but also the idea that NATO (the “armed wing” that ensured this supremacy) will have lost its credibility.

Last January, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former NATO secretary general and former Danish prime minister, and Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's presidential office, stated in an article published in Foreign Affairs that Ukraine's victory was “the only true path to peace.” For them, “Ukraine belongs to the heart of Europe”. As long as Vladimir Putin is at the helm of the Russian state, “Russia will be a threat not only to Ukraine, but to the security of all of Europe.” To avoid this, Russia has to be defeated on the battlefield.

The idea is repeated over and over again in North American and European conservative think tanks. “This war”, says, for example, a report prepared by Rand Corporation and published in January last year, “it is the biggest conflict between States in decades and its evolution will have the greatest consequences for the United States”.

The Security Report of this year's Munich Conference highlighted the dissatisfaction of part of the international community (of the “powerful autocracies” and the “global South”) with the unequal distribution of the benefits of the current international order.

This year's report claims that Russia's war against Ukraine is just the “boldest attack” on this “rules-based order” that the West and its leader, the United States, imposed on the world at the end of the Cold War. The preservation of this order is in the fundamental interest of Washington and its European allies.

Russia was not invited to Munich this time. The war in Ukraine is the center of the 100-page report. This explains the billions of dollars invested in Ukraine, which have no relation whatsoever to any other investment in solving humanity's greatest problems.

Are Rasmussen and Yermak right? They believe that all civilized countries support their proposals. But I would like to suggest something else: that they are just part of that Europe that already owes us two world wars and that, if we don't tie their hands, will lead us to a third...

The aspirations of the “civilized world”

The opinions cited reflect what is at stake for the “civilized world”, that of Rasmussen and Yermak, or that of Zagorodnyuk and Cohen, the same world that led us to the two previous world wars.

It is clear what is at stake, the reasons for the West's hitherto unstoppable escalation in this war and the risks this represents for the truly “civilized” world, which is looking for a negotiated solution to avoid a possible Third World War.

Emmanuel Macron caused perplexity and debate in Europe when he suggested, last February, the possibility of sending NATO troops to Ukraine. It was his policy of “strategic ambiguity” that left the door open for a direct confrontation between Moscow and NATO. Neither the United States nor England supported the idea… yet. It remains to be seen what will happen if the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate for Ukraine.

But in Europe – both in its governments and in its press – they only talk about war. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, a former “pacifist”, member of the Green Party, one of the most aggressive voices in the German government, called on the West to urgently supply more weapons to Ukraine, in a visit to Kiev on 21 May.

Preparations for war with Moscow are multiplying. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced the construction of a defense line on its borders with Belarus and Russia. During a military commemoration in Kraków on 19 May, he announced that Poland would invest 2,3 billion euros in creating fortifications and barriers, as well as adapting terrain and vegetation for these purposes, along 400 km of border. These works, he claimed, would make Poland's borders “impenetrable” in the event of war.

What war will Tusk be thinking about? Last month, President Andrzej Duda suggested that the country would be happy to receive NATO (i.e., American) nuclear weapons.

Last January, neighboring Estonia announced its intention to build around 600 bunkers along its border with Russia, a project that would be joined by Latvia and Lithuania to form the “Baltic defense line”.

The president of Finland – which, along with Sweden, are the two newest members of NATO – Alexander Stubb, expressed enthusiasm for nuclear deterrence, stating that weapons of mass destruction are “a guarantee of peace”.

As Volodymyr Zelensky said to The New York Times, the West should participate in the war by shooting down Russian missiles, giving Ukraine more weapons and authorizing their use to directly attack Russian territory.

In his opinion, there is no problem in involving NATO countries in the war. This idea is similar to that of the former US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, for whom the time has come to help Ukraine attack military targets on Russian territory. “I think it's time to give more help to the Ukrainians in attacking these bases inside Russia,” she said.

The only possibility for Russia to eventually return to the “society of civilized nations” is through a defeat that puts an end to Putin's imperial ambitions, argue Zagorodnyuk and Cohen in the aforementioned article.

Like in the Cold War?

“Taiwan is the new Berlin”, says Dmitri Alperovitch, president of Silverado Policy Accelerator, an organization dedicated to advancing American prosperity and leadership in the 1960st century. Defined as a “visionary”, successful businessman and former advisor to the Department of Defense and Homeland Security, Dmitri Alperovitch believes that the United States should be inspired by the policies adopted in the XNUMXs to face the challenges presented by the Soviet Union in Berlin occupied by the winning powers of the Second World War.

What policies were these? Those of defending “North American strategic interests, even at an unimaginable cost”. In other words, a nuclear war. For Dmitri Alperovitch, it is a matter of convincing Russia – and above all China – of this same disposition today.

It seems to me, however, that Dmitri Alperovitch's proposal lacks a fundamental element. The strategic position of the powers involved in this conflict, the political scenario, is today very different from that of the 1960s, when the United States had no rival. China denounced the intention to approach these problems with Cold War criteria, which could lead to errors with dramatic consequences, taking into account the role of each actor in today's world, including the United States, but also China and Russia . Taiwan is by no means a “new Berlin”.

The civilized world

“The time has come for allies to consider whether to lift some of the restrictions they have imposed on the use of the weapons they donated to Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Economist,.

It is another step in NATO's escalation to confront the advances of the Russian army. But Stoltenberg insists they “will not be part of the conflict” in Ukraine. The reality is that it is NATO that bears the brunt of the conflict. Without your resources, your weapons, your intelligence services, without your training of Ukrainian troops, this war could not continue.

This is a new step, but with the imminent Russian victory, no other can be excluded, given what is at stake for the West in this war. It's not just about weapons. Despite many warnings to the contrary, the use of Russian money frozen in Brussels and Washington to finance Ukraine appears to have already been agreed upon.

The West is betting on a military solution and the world is once again faced with the risk that Europe will lead us into a Third World War. They will do this if we don't tie their hands.

How can I do this? Trying. It is necessary to form an alliance of the civilized world to close the political space to those who imposed the most devastating wars of the last century on the world. Both with the aim of defeating Russia.

In this effort by the civilized world, the meeting between Wang Yi, China's main diplomatic representative, and Celso Amorin, special advisor to Brazilian President Lula, is the most recent initiative. Meeting in Beijing on Thursday, May 23, they issued a declaration of “China-Brazil Common Understanding for a Political Solution to the Ukraine Crisis”.

The six-point document reaffirms that dialogue and negotiation between the two parties are the “only viable solution” to the crisis. As an alternative to the West meeting next month in Switzerland, without the presence of Russia, to approve the Ukrainian proposal, they invite the civilized world – the “international community”, in the terms of the document – ​​to support this proposal, an attempt to tie the knots together. hands of those who threaten to lead us into a new world war.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). Author, among other books, of Political crisis of the modern world (uruk).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.


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