From Rossiiskaya gazeta, Feb. 16, 2022, p. 8 Complete text:
Wednesday [Feb. 16] was declared a watershed moment – US President Joseph Biden told his allies that Russia would launch its attack on Ukraine on that day. Then, however, the date shifted, until National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitted that Washington could not name the exact day. But [he added that] the fact of an “imminent invasion” was indisputable, and that it could happen “at any time.” All of these are public statements by American and British officials, and not leaks or references to “sources.”
As for sources, they are proposing something different: a wide assortment of scenarios for a Russian military operation, each more bone-chilling than the next. An influential observer for The Washington Post who is considered a well-informed intelligence community source described not only the war itself but even what will happen after Russia occupies Ukraine at a very high cost to itself, meeting stiff guerrilla resistance. It’s better to not even delve into the military details. The important thing is that it’s working. The world has been convinced that Russian boots are about to march on Ukrainian soil. Some are outraged, others inspired, while others yet remain indifferent. But overall, the information machine is running like clockwork.
Let’s set aside the inevitable emotions and assess the essence of these processes.
In late 2021, Russia submitted tough demands that it couched as an ultimatum. We are talking about changing the security system that developed in Europe after the cold war. It never suited Russia, even during the brief period in the early 1990s, when it did not openly object to it. Now, the question has been posed point blank: Things will never go back to the way they were. And the way the question has been formulated means that it is not situational but a matter of principle. Russia intends to force the West to admit that the momentum of events in the late 20th century is over, the slogan “NATO is security” in inapplicable, and that it’s time to set new terms for relations. Moreover, during the past 20 years, Russia has restored its potential to be an influential player and is prepared to use that clout.
However, the issue [of security] is no less fundamental for the West. The system that has existed until now has been extremely beneficial and comfortable for it. It is the result of [the West’s] cold war victory. And the West does not understand why it should change anything to make the situation more suitable for Russia. So both sides are digging in their heels. And alas, such contentious issues as the [security] architecture of Europe are not decided through amicable agreement. In the old days, they were decided through wars that established a new balance of forces. But today, a war between the parties, both of which have nuclear weapons (in this case, Russia and the US), is practically impossible because of the extremely high risks for all involved.
Therefore, other forms of confrontation are being leveraged. Both sides are using their competitive advantages.
Russia’s advantage is that its military capabilities in the conflict region are far beyond those of the US and NATO, and that Russia is ready to use them in the extreme scenario. It has already demonstrated that, unlike Western countries, which are categorically stating that they are not going to directly participate in the conflict. Generally speaking, when NATO was expanding, engulfing new territories and giving promises of future membership to countries like Ukraine and Georgia, no one seriously thought that the newest members of the alliance, or especially membership candidates, would demand collective security guarantees. It was just assumed that this would never happen. When that suddenly came to be, it turned out that the touching flag-waving and fireworks displays were fraught with the prospect of a direct military confrontation with the superpower next door.
America’s advantage is its practically complete (for now) dominance in the global information space, and the ability to create a narrative that’s favorable to it and extremely unfavorable to others (namely, Russia). Moscow is [being portrayed as] a predatory and ruthless aggressor, which it is everyone’s universal duty to stand up to. [The US] can also create mass hysteria. And the US is leveraging this instrument to the fullest, easily creating mass psychosis on a global scale. The funny thing is that [the US] is ignoring even the weak objections to such escalation from its protégé (Ukraine), which is its first victim.
What we are seeing is intended to supplant a war. It’s possible to draw some parallels to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, albeit in a highly deformed shape. There is no direct threat between the two nuclear superpowers, and the parties’ resources are asymmetrical. Meanwhile, the line between real and virtual dangers has been erased. Finally, this [conflict] is on a regional – albeit a very significant – scale. However, in terms of raising the stakes, it’s somewhat comparable to [the Cuban missile crisis], thanks to the aforementioned informational tools.
The best way out is also the same as before. At some point, [the parties] will recognize how great the danger of further escalation is and start a conversation on the fundamentals of mutual [security] guarantees. This worked in 1962, making it possible to develop a system of relations that helped avoid a full collision between the USSR and the US in the latter half of the cold war. Today, something similar, adjusted to the current context, will also be the optimal scenario. But to reiterate, Russia posed the question in such a way that it’s hardly surprising that tensions are as high as they are.