Whatever happens, global leaders cannot allow Putin’s war in Ukraine to escalate into global conflict.
The news this week that Ukrainian forces have achieved a substantial victory over Russian forces, reclaiming some territory lost in previous struggles, has ignited the media landscape from social media sites to more traditional media outlets with speculation.
Is Russia on the ropes in the Ukraine? Are Putin’s forces in imminent danger of falling to Ukrainian opposition?
German officials, reeling from a worsening energy crisis, dependent on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline reduced to zero recently by Russian energy consortium, Gazprom, have been feeling the pressure in recent weeks.
Gazprom, Russia’s largest oil and gas company, has since trolled the European Union in general and Germany in particular with dystopian visions of a killing German winter without the imports of Russian energy it has become so dependent on.
Of course there are alternative sources for natural gas and oil products. E.U. officials and the German government, as well as the German political parties in opposition to Germany’s current government, have been working overtime to develop those supplemental sources.
There is also great potential in renewables, in which Germany is also investing heavily.
All those sources are years away, however. And winter is coming.
Yet even if the war in Ukraine ends tomorrow, with the surrender of Russian troops and the complete humiliation, resignation and trial of Vladimir Putin, the German government, and the E.U. as a whole, would likely prove reluctant to return to a critical energy dependence on any one nation, let alone Russia.
Shutting Germany’s energy supply through the Nord Stream 1 to zero was a card Vladimir Putin could only play once. Members of the German government, past, present and future, have seen critical energy dependence as the national security issue it is and always was.
They cannot unsee it.
Other countries have seen it, too, and will be thinking more carefully about not putting too many energy eggs in potentially-unfriendly baskets.
Whatever Gazprom does now, it has lost a good customer in Germany and lost something from its reputation. It isn’t personal, or even political: It’s business. An energy supplier willing to cuts off customers heading into winter for political reasons just isn’t a dependable supplier.
Whatever Vladimir Putin does now, he has shown himself to be willing to let impoverished Germans freeze to death this winter in order to lift E.U. sanctions against Russia and eliminate all residual resistance to his Ukrainian aggression.
Anyone who tries to thwart his intention to bring the Ukraine back under the auspices of the Russian government and the purview of its president Vladimir Putin would meet the same treatment.
So come what may, Germany is already on a path leading to a different energy future than the one it was on before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Two things have become clear in the months since.
First, it’s obvious in retrospect Putin always intended to invade Ukraine at some point. He had been softening the country up for over a decade with information warfare, hacking attacks, military operations, propaganda and efforts to undermine the government and keep Ukraine out of NATO.
Why would he bother? He wasn’t trolling for fun; he was always at war with Ukraine. He was only waiting for the right opportunity to invade.
Second, after Putin launched his invasion on Ukraine, it soon became obvious he planned to use Germany’s energy dependence on Russia to get away with his actions.
Russia’s president may have even had to carry out his plan for Ukraine sooner than intended.
On its previous energy future trajectory, lest we forget, Germany was about to become even more dependent on Russian energy than it is currently. Had the Nord Stream 2 been completed as planned, Putin would be holding even more of Europe’s energy cards than he does now.
By cutting-off the Nord Stream 1, Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be, at the very least, a threat to the economic foundations of Germany. Such a targeted attack against a nation’s energy supply is a killing stroke.
The current German government has little choice but to diversity its energy portfolio. Even if Russia were to course-correct immediately and beg the world’s pardon tomorrow, continuing to place faith in an unreliable supplier for such a vital piece of infrastructure is a major policy failure; the political opposition would have a field day.
The news of a Ukrainian victory over Russian forces likely has Germany’s leaders breathing a bit easier today. It is possible Putin will yet fail in his current effort to annex Ukraine.
“Given the seriousness of the military situation and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the chancellor urged the Russian President to find a diplomatic solution as soon as possible, based on a ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Tuesday.
“Further Russian annexation moves will not go unanswered and would not be recognized under any circumstances,” the Chancellor added.
The statement comes as Germany, and other nations, face increasing calls to provide ever more weapons, money, military aid and material support for Ukraine’s war effort.
But a Russian government fearing defeat may prove more dangerous than world leaders yet realize. Intense care must be taken- on the heels of the this recent Ukrainian military victory which may or may not be a harbinger of things to come or a sure sign of a turning of the tide in Ukraine’s favor- to keep this conflict from escalating in a full-scale, global military conflict.
Faced with the prospect of losing the war he started, what measures might Putin resort to next?
Ukrainian forces could likely not have achieved this victory without military aid and material support from the United States and European Union. How long before Putin seeks to punish the west for interference?
Attacking members of NATO, or the United States, in retaliation for aiding Ukraine would be a terrible idea; likely to plunge the world closer to World War III.
That doesn’t mean Putin wouldn’t try it. The Russian government has other cards to play; the Nord Stream 1 isn’t Putin’s ultimate Ace in the Hole.
The world’s unwillingness to engage in war is his best protection. Unfortunately, it is also ours. This conflict must be prevented from escalating. German officials are correct; a diplomatic solution is the only solution. A solution that always creates more problems than it solves is not a solution.
The threat of global thermonuclear war is with us; and even a Cold War II stand-off between Russia and western nations would be far less than ideal. Isolating half-a-continent of people away from the world at large in order to prove a political point accomplished very little, if anything the last time it was tried on a major scale.
Nor is such a scenario even remotely possible anymore.
It isn’t just Russian forces invading Ukraine which changed things; it’s the economic war which has since ensued, the political brinksmanship.
The steps Russia took to mitigate western sanctions and embargoes were extremely successful in financial terms. The Russian ruble is currently having quite a run even as the economies of the west continue to suffer under crushing inflation and high energy costs.
India and China strengthened their trade and diplomatic ties with Russia even as western world leaders were burning bridges before Vladimir Putin could get to them first.
As a result, any attempts at starting “Cold War” with Russia won’t only be with Russia; relations with China and India will also be threatened. It will be that much easier for Russia, China and India to form one side, with western nations on the other.
While the limitations of globalization are real and can’t be ignored, globalism is something the world still needs, very much and perhaps more than ever before in human history.
We are living in a world with enough highly-advanced weapons of war to destroy the world many times over. Besides the horrors of nuclear warfare, we now have biological and chemical weapons to contend with.
And those are the ones we know about. There may be hypersonic sound weapons, seismic weapons; not all those “unidentified aerial phenomenon”, as the U.S. Military has rebranded UFOs, can be extraterrestrials, no matter how much you, “want to believe.”
In fact, most of them are probably advanced weapons being tested by our friends and enemies, hence the increased scrutiny from the military.
In many ways, much damage has already been done by the actions of the Vladimir Putin. The world will never be the same.
The glut of globalization in which world leaders have been indulging over the past decades, outsourcing manufacturing, energy production and other vital infrastructure and economic pillars, is under threat.
The drawbacks of 10,000-mile long supply chains dependent on petroleum have been laid bare, first by the pandemic then by the conflict in Ukraine.
There are almost certainly to be other conflicts brewing in mankind’s future. China has its eye on Taiwan, as it once did Hong Kong, and has merely been biding its time, learning, no doubt from Putin’s recent struggles in Ukraine.
World powers, and their leaders, are in receipt of a sacred and terrible trust; inherited over generations.
We have just indulged in a 10,000-year long arms race with one another, give or take. Our weapons of war put our other scientific breakthroughs in technology, and ourselves, to shame.
If world leaders don’t band together to outmaneuver and outthink Vladimir Putin; if he is allowed to escalate this conflict, we may all become victims of our own terrible success in the arms race.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)