Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin



If the intention of the United States was to weaken Russia, before facing China, things do not seem to be working that way.

The defining moment at US President Joe Biden's press conference at the White House on December 21, during President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit, was his virtual admission of the embarrassment he finds himself in in the proxy war that his country holds in Ukraine, since European allies do not want a war with Russia.

To quote Joe Biden: “Now, you might say, 'Why don't we just give Ukraine all there is to give?' Well, for two reasons. One, that there is an entire Alliance that is fundamental, to secure Ukraine [on our side]. And the idea that we would give Ukraine material that is fundamentally different from what is already going there would look to the prospect of breaking up NATO and breaking up the European Union and the rest of the world… I spent several hundred hours face to face with our European allies. and the heads of state of these countries, arguing why it was in their interest to continue to support Ukraine… They fully understand this, but they do not intend to go to war with Russia. They are not looking for a third world war.”

Joe Biden realized, at that moment, something along the lines of “I’ve probably said too much,” and he abruptly ended the press conference. He probably didn't realize he was reflecting aloud on the fragility of Western unity.

The whole point is that Western commentators largely forget that Russia's central agenda is not territorial conquest – as much as [Ukraine's geopolitical place is vital for Russian interests – but, rather, the expansion of NATO. And that hasn't changed.

From time to time, President Vladimir Putin revisits the fundamental theme that the United States has always aimed to weaken and dismember Russia. Last Wednesday, Putin invoked the Chechnya war of the 1990s: “the use of international terrorists in the Caucasus, to crush Russia and divide the Russian Federation… They [the United States] stated that they condemned al-Qaeda and other criminals. However, they considered it acceptable to use them on Russian territory, and provided them with all kinds of assistance, including material, informational, political and any other, notably military, to encourage them to continue fighting against Russia”.

Vladimir Putin has a phenomenal memory, and he would be referring to Biden's careful choice of William Burns as his CIA chief. Burns was none other than the US embassy representative in Moscow for Chechnya in the 1990s. Vladimir Putin has now ordered a nationwide campaign to eradicate the vast tentacles that US intelligence has planted in Russian soil for the internal subversion. The Carnegie [Foundation], once headed by Burns, closed its Moscow office, and its Russian staff fled to the West.

O leitmotiv of the expanded Defense Ministry Council meeting in Moscow last week, addressed by Vladimir Putin, was the burning reality that Russia's confrontation with the United States will not end with the war in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin urged Russian officials to "carefully analyze" the lessons of Ukraine and the Syrian conflicts.

It is important to underline what Vladimir Putin said: “We will continue to maintain and improve the combat readiness of the nuclear triad. It is the main guarantee that our sovereignty and territorial integrity, strategic parity and general balance of forces in the world are preserved. This year, the level of modern weaponry in the strategic nuclear forces has already exceeded 91%. We will continue to rearm the regiments of our strategic missile forces with modern Avangard hypersonic missile systems with nuclear warheads.”

Likewise, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed at Wednesday's meeting a military build-up "to bolster Russia's security," including:

  • the creation of a corresponding military grouping in northwest Russia, to counter the entry of Finland and Sweden as members of NATO;
  • the creation of two new motorized infantry divisions in the Kherson and Zaporozhya regions, as well as an army corps in Karelia, opposite the Finnish border;
  • an increase of seven motorized infantry brigades in motorized infantry divisions in the Western, Central and Eastern military commands, in addition to the North Naval Squadron;
  • the addition of two more air assault divisions in the Airborne Forces;
  • the deployment of a composite aviation division and an army aviation brigade with 80-100 combat helicopters, within each combined arms (armored) army;
  • the creation of three additional Air Division Commands, eight Bomber Aviation Regiments, a Fighter Aviation Regiment, and six Army Aviation Brigades;
  • the creation of five district artillery divisions, as well as super-heavy artillery brigades for the constitution of artillery reserves along the so-called strategic axis;
  • the creation of five naval infantry [marine] brigades for the Navy's coastal troops, based on the currently existing naval infantry brigades;
  • the increase in the number of Armed Forces to 1,5 million soldiers, with 695.000 professional combatants hired.

Putin summarized: “We will not repeat the mistakes of the past… We will not militarize our country or militarize the economy… and we will not do things that we really don't need, to the detriment of our people, the economy and the social sphere. We will improve the Russian Armed Forces and the entire military component. We will do this calmly, systematically and consistently, without rushing”.

If the neoconservatives in charge, on the Beltway,[I] wanted an arms race, they have it now. The paradox, however, is that this will be different from the bipolar arms race of the Cold War era.

If the United States' intention was to weaken Russia before taking on China, things don't seem to be working out that way. Instead, the United States is now locked in a head-to-head confrontation with Russia, and ties between the two great powers are practically at breaking point. Russia most likely no longer expects the United States to reverse NATO expansion, as promised to the Soviet leadership in 1989.

Neoconservatives were counting on a “win-win” outcome in Ukraine: a Russian defeat and an ignominious end to Vladimir Putin's presidency; a weakened Russia, as in the 1990s, groping for a new beginning; the consolidation of western unity under a triumphant America; a major boost in the coming fight against China for supremacy in the world order; and a New American Century under the [liberal] “rules-based world order”.

However, instead, the operation is becoming a zugzwang endgame classic – to borrow the term from German chess literature – where the US now has an obligation to make a move in Ukraine, but any move it makes will only worsen its geopolitical position.

Joe Biden already understood that Russia cannot be beaten in Ukraine; and that Russian citizens would not be predisposed to any insurrection either. Vladimir Putin's popularity is at an all-time high as Russian goals in Ukraine are continually being achieved. So Joe Biden is probably tasting the vague sense that Russia isn't exactly seeing things in Ukraine as a binary win-lose game, but is preparing for the long haul, when it intends to dispatch NATO once and for all. all.

The transformation of Belarus into a “nuclear-capable” state carries a profound message from Moscow to Brussels and Washington. Joe Biden can't let this slip out of sight. (See my article "NATO's nuclear compass has become unavailable").

Logically, the option open to the United States at this point would be to disengage from Ukraine. But that would prove to be an abject admission of defeat, it will spell the death knell for NATO, and Washington's transatlantic leadership will be shattered. Even worse: the powers of Western Europe – Germany, France and Italy – may go in search of a modus vivendi with Russia. And then (and above all), how can NATO survive without an “enemy”?

Quite evidently, neither the United States nor its allies are in a position to fight a continental war. Even if they were, what about the emerging scenario in Asia-Pacific, where the “limitless” partnership between China and Russia added an unusual layer to geopolitical “normality”?

Os neocons from the Beltway wanted to bite off more than they could chew. His last card will likely be to press for direct US military intervention in the Ukraine war under the banner of a "coalition of the wills".

*MK Bhadrakumar He is a retired Indian diplomat, former ambassador of his country to Uzbekistan and Turkey. He writes as a geopolitical analyst for the AsiaTimes.

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published on Indian Punchline.


[I] Translator's Note: Beltway: road belt that demarcates the central region of Washington DC where United States government agencies are concentrated, the offices of lobbies parliamentarians and the media mainstream American agency that covers the government, in addition to think tanks influences on US domestic and foreign policy. In other words: the nest of imperial power, in all its facets.

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