From Ekspert, June 27, 2022, p. 18. Condensed text:
. . . The G‑7 and NATO summits last week became a geopolitical watershed – paradoxically, not because of their substantive agendas, but essentially the absence of such. The leaders of the “free world” stated that the obvious political and economic instruments of pressure on Russia have been exhausted, and that the goal – i.e., the collapse of the Russian economy and mass riots – has not been achieved. Further sanctions would be a painful blow to the entire world, and the West has no plans to get involved in a military confrontation with Moscow.
So the status quo was maintained: For the foreseeable future, the allies will be dealing with their own economic problems and going through rough electoral cycles while entrusting the task of deterring Russia to the Ukrainians. At the same time, new military aid packages cannot fundamentally change the situation at the fronts, but they will keep Kiev on a short leash despite [its military] defeats and the impoverishment of its population.
Nor can NATO’s new strategic concept, in which Russia has finally regained the status of the No. 1 threat, giving the alliance a raison d’être, be called sensational. NATO started preparing for a confrontation with Russia back in 2014, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, finally resolving all questions about the causes of the special military operation in Ukraine [see Vol. 74, No. 8, pp. 9‑13].
European countries keep doing the US’s foreign policy bidding, bearing all the costs involved and losing their economic competitiveness. It is important to understand that Washington’s actual goal is not struggle with Russia, but rivalry with China. And it is impossible to achieve this goal without the EU’s suicidal support. The Europeans will accept anything.
This is not a full stop, but only an operational pause. The danger is that at the next stage, Western leaders will have to either look for deescalation methods or move toward more radical tools to pressure Russia. While the first option is still quite realistic and has obvious supporters among politicians in France, Italy and Germany, the second requires a transition to an existential confrontation with Moscow. Otherwise, it will be increasingly difficult to explain to fellow citizens the causes of their decline in living standards. East European and Baltic countries have already made this choice. The British and the Euro-bureaucracy are opportunistically scoring points. And above all of them is the US, which has preserved its flexibility and is keeping all options open.
An existential break is only possible after the rupture of all economic ties: As long as you trade, it is easier to talk. This must be why Russia is seeking to preserve lines of trade despite all the unfriendly steps. . . .
For now, our “partners” are trying to consolidate [their] economic and military unity – with varying degrees of success.
The G‑7 and the EU.
At the G‑7 summit, which took place in the Bavarian Alps, the leaders of the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, joined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, issued a joint statement saying that they are willing “to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
It was announced that Kiev will receive $29.5 billion from the G‑7 countries in 2022 to cover its budget deficit. This sum coincides with the International Monetary Fund’s estimate that Ukraine needs around $5 billion a month to keep its economy functioning. The G‑7 [countries] believe that their commitment to provide indefinite financial support and weapons to Kiev will dash Russia’s hopes for Ukraine’s imminent economic or military collapse. . . .
Sanctions hit a snag.
But as soon as the G‑7 moved from political declarations and promises of future economic assistance to specifics, the “[show of] unity against Russia” ceased to exist. The G‑7 failed to implement a plan to cap the price of Russian oil. The initial plan was as follows: The West would set a new (below-market) price for Russian oil, as a result of which Russia would sustain losses and oil buyers would save money.
At first, [French President Emmanuel] Macron supported the plan to cap oil prices, describing it as a “good idea” and even proposed extending it to Russia’s [natural] gas shipments. But then a video captured Macron telling US President Joe Biden that the United Arab Emirates was at maximum output and Saudi Arabia could [promptly] add only about 150,000 barrels a day.
Obviously, the implication was that under such circumstances, an attempt to reduce Russian oil supplies to the world market could come at a price. Biden was clearly not prepared to argue with the French president: Surging gasoline prices in the US are the main target of attack from the Republican Party in the run-up to midterm congressional elections. By all indications, other countries were clearly not thrilled by the idea, either.
Nor did the club members support the idea of imposing an embargo on gold imports from Russia. But that did not stop the US, UK, Canada and Japan from imposing a ban on Russian gold imports unilaterally, since these countries would not incur economic losses as a result.
Furthermore, [the G‑7] failed to agree on a new package of anti-Russian sanctions: It was left to the conscience of each individual country whether to impose them.
In his closing statement, the summit host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said that G‑7 members and the guest nations (India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa and Argentina) had different views on the Ukraine crisis.
At the same time, he described the G‑7 summit as “intensive and constructive.” . . .
Officially, the positions of Berlin and Paris do not conflict with London’s stance. Scholz and Macron not only support the idea of ramping up pressure on Russia but also say that peace in Ukraine cannot be achieved within the next several weeks. However, while [Boris] Johnson is calling for Ukraine’s military victory to be ensured at any cost, Scholz prefers to recall the negative impact of the anti-Russian sanctions that have already been imposed. . . .
Russia is a threat to NATO.
The NATO summit in Madrid approved a new strategic concept declaring Russia “the most significant and direct threat” to the allies’ security. In the previous concept from 2010, Russia was called a partner.
According to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO currently has two main tasks: to provide support to Kiev and to prevent the military conflict from spreading beyond Ukraine.
Practical measures to strengthen NATO will include an increase in the number of its rapid reaction force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops. Two more squadrons of F‑35 jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons will be stationed in Britain. A permanent headquarters of the US Fifth Army Corps will be established in Poland, including a field support battalion. In Spain, the US will increase the number of its destroyers from four to six. The warships are equipped with Aegis [missile defense] systems and are part of the US global missile defense system.
In Romania, the US will deploy a rotational Army brigade combat team consisting of 3,000 fighters and 2,000 [other] personnel. In the Baltic countries, Washington will enhance its rotational deployments, including armor, aviation, air defense and special operations forces. An additional short-range air defense battery will be stationed in Italy. In Germany, the Pentagon will forward station approximately 625 military personnel to reinforce an air defense artillery brigade.
It was also announced that Finland and Sweden will be accepted into the alliance, since Turkey dropped its objections. To that end, the interests of Washington’s former allies – the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds that the US relied on to fight the Islamic State [aka IS] (banned in Russia) – had to be sacrificed. Finland and Sweden agreed to end their support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (designated a terrorist organization in the US and the EU), the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Fethullah [Gulen] Terrorist Organization (FETO), a movement led by [Muslim] preacher Fethullah Gulen. Furthermore, according to Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, Ankara expects Helsinki and Stockholm to extradite Kurdish activists. Sweden and Finland also pledged to end an arms embargo against Turkey in place since the start of Ankara’s military operations against Syrian Kurds in 2019.
At the same time, no decision was made on lifting the US embargo on the sale to Turkey of F‑16 and F‑35 fighter jets, as well as air defense systems, but Biden promised to promptly resolve the issue. . . .
Money for arms and defense.
Zelensky addressed both summits via video link, asking for arms and money. He complained that the alliance proclaims an open door policy but is not admitting Ukraine. In addition, the Ukrainian president reminded [attendees], just in case, that Kiev needs $5 billion a month for defense.
Stoltenberg said that NATO countries do not have a list of weapons that cannot be supplied to Ukraine, but he dodged a question of whether the alliance could grant Ukraine fast-track membership without a NATO membership action plan, as in the case of Finland and Sweden.
Granted, there was no disagreement at the summit over arms supplies. Biden announced a new $800 million [security assistance] package for Ukraine, including modern air defense systems, artillery systems, counter artillery radars and additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). Responding to Zelensky’s criticism, Biden recalled that the US has now sent $7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.
As for collective defense spending, NATO countries have yet to reach a consensus, but the alliance said they are working on it. “In our case that means meeting, and being prepared to exceed, the target we set for ourselves a decade ago of everybody spending 2% of our [gross domestic product] on defense,” said Boris Johnson, announcing his intention to increase Great Britain’s defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030.
Furthermore, Johnson announced another 1 billion pounds ($1.22 billion) in military assistance to Ukraine, which is 50% larger than the latest US security package. Johnson’s “generosity” is largely a result of domestic political problems: He and his party have been plagued by a series of scandals. The foreign policy activity of the eccentric prime minister is designed to shift the British public’s focus to “more important” problems. . . .
Setting sights on China.
. . . There is no question of Washington forgetting about Beijing. On the contrary, [Washington’s] proclivity for systemic approaches in the area of foreign policy enables [it] to convert a retreat on one diplomatic front into an automatic success at another.
Convinced that Beijing did not dare to provide military assistance to Moscow and is even afraid to ship Chinese-made smartphones to Russia, the US continued to exert pressure on China.
At the conclusion of the G‑7 summit, Biden announced that the allies had pledged to raise $600 billion by 2027 to finance infrastructure in developing countries and counter China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. Judging from leaks to the media, the question had been discussed at the G‑7 summit in June 2021, but at the time only the British, French and Canadian leaders supported the US, while the other countries evaded the prospect of a conflict with China.
This time, Washington managed to get Germany, Italy and Japan to change their positions, and to enlist the support of the entire EU, as represented by Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel. Furthermore, the G‑7 urged the Chinese leadership to “exert pressure” on Russia to end the special military operation in Ukraine.
It should also be noted that NATO’s new concept describes China as a country whose policies challenge NATO’s “interests, security and values.” “The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” the document says. . . .
Thus, Washington has managed to get NATO involved in a confrontation with China – something that most of the organization’s European members used to avoid.
Remembering that malicious talk and sanctions can achieve more than malicious talk alone, on the NATO summit’s opening day the US imposed sanctions against five little-known companies in China for allegedly supporting the Russian Armed Forces and defense companies “before and during the Ukraine invasion.” . . .
US official representatives had previously said that China was not violating US sanctions, but when did such formalities ever stop the White House? As for Beijing, which tried to avoid US pressure at the cost of abandoning its geopolitical independence, it has not only lost flexibility and been slapped with sanctions, but also faces the need to make new concessions.
Is the US concerned about a possible rapprochement between Russia and China? Yes, this is by far its greatest fear! It is this threat that makes Washington act so forcefully in Ukraine, exerting intense pressure on its European allies and threatening Beijing so effectively.