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Monday, September 19, 2022

OPINION:

These are the cold, hard facts: Russia, the country cornering the European energy market, is profiting from its war against Ukraine, while the West’s adversaries gain economic and global dominance. U.S. Warhawks and like-minded ideologues of the European Union (EU) have enabled a war that grinds on destroying Ukraine, while its leadership poses artistically for Vogue magazine. And now, in the ninth month, the citizens of the EU too, are preparing for a cold dark, winter and a fight for which they did not ask.

Even if Ukrainian soldiers have won a tactical territorial victory, the Russian Army will never simply pack up and go home. The Russians will no more “quit” Ukraine than they did Crimea. 


Russia is making record profits from this war, taunting the losers with pictures of a looming European “ice age.” Russian President Vladimir Putin planned for this, cutting back the natural gas supply to the EU months before the war started, causing gas prices to soar.

Before the war, Russia supplied about 40% of Europe’s natural gas. Over the past nine months this number strategically continued to decrease; with the recent shutdown (again) of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline (and if it fails to reopen) supply will have fallen almost 90% from a year ago. For anyone paying attention, Mr. Putin’s use of energy as a war weapon was a clue to how effective western sanctions would be. 

At the beginning of 2022, it was in the best interest of Ukraine for U.S. and EU leaders to step up and negotiate peace. This was barely mentioned — instead President Joe Biden continuously threatened ambiguous “severe sanctions” if Russia should invade Ukraine.

Strategically decreased gas supply and the subsequent surge in global gas prices gave Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, record high profits of about $42 billion in the first half of 2022, a 20% increase in shares, and even a nice $10 billion dividend for the Kremlin. Where then, are the “severe consequences” promised by Mr. Biden? According to analysts, Mr. Putin could reduce gas exports to Europe by 20% for up to 3 years and cut supplies completely for over a year “without adverse consequences” to his economy.

China is also winning, securing Russian natural gas at a 50% discount throughout 2022, preceded by signing a 10-year $80 billion oil deal with Russia in February. As Russian oil exports decrease to Europe, the U.S., Japan, and Korea, China overtook the EU as Russia’s biggest buyer of oil products in June. And while Russia circumvents western “sanctions” by selling to China, China obtains the energy resources needed toward fulfilling its dream of economic hegemony over the U.S.

More concerning is the “Great Power Competition” ramifications of a growing Sino-Russian partnership, and what this means for the future of the U.S. and its allies. China and Russia promise “no limits” to cooperation, with an in-your-face attitude toward the U.S. Largely unreported by media or Biden’s administration, a global power shift towards Asia, spurred by western sanctions “dismantling what’s left of European economies” is publicly flaunted by Mr. Putin. 

Anyone could foresee that Russia would be little hindered by western sanctions for two reasons: 1) The Russian military is superior to the Ukrainian military; and the West, though freely flying the Ukraine flag in a show of solidarity, will not commit the level of equipment or troops needed to win–- simply because it is not in their national interests and, 2) Europe is reliant on Russian energy.

But western leaders chose to fight this war by proxy — with inconsequential sanctions and by supplying Ukraine with billions of dollars in foreign aid with little accountability or oversight.  What has this accomplished except an ongoing war and deeper American taxpayer debt during a recession?

The Russian military is ruthless — for anyone who doubts this, Google pictures of Grozny, Chechnya following the second Chechnyan war. You will see the consequences of Russia’s brutal, relentless army: Thriving cities turned into lunar-landscape-like images of death and destruction.

These are facts not welcome in most circles, but to ignore them is folly, most importantly for Ukrainian citizens and now for Europeans facing a winter of blackouts, deep recession, and “shuttered” factories. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, who turned average citizens into the militia, should be encouraged to seek armistice and concede Ukraine as a neutral country. Geographical concessions to Russia are likely while gaining back monetary concessions for the loss of territory and life.

Peace will not come to Ukraine until the U.S. and Russia sit down face-to-face and negotiate specific terms and conditions of a peace treaty. Nothing short of that level of negotiation will be effective, respected, or guaranteed.

No matter how much one might admire the bravery of Ukrainian citizens, they cannot continue to hold off Russia without bearing the deadly and costly penalties. What is left is the negotiation of peace.

• Shea Bradley-Farrell, PhD, is a foreign policy and national security professional in Washington, D.C., the president of Counterpoint Institute for Policy, Research, and Education, and a policy fellow at George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government.


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