By Dr. J Scott Younger*
Jhe war in Ukraine, Putin’s war, is now over 100 days old and has reached a sticking point. One day the Russians have made small progress in Donbass, the eastern border lands of Ukraine, and the next day we learn that they have been stopped and pushed back. In the meantime, the promised more powerful armaments, with greater range, from Britain, the United States and some European countries are coming into production, albeit belatedly and slowly, and these could and should fend off the Russians. So we hope it’s more than just a speech. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister is not at all happy with this development of Western support for what could soon be an EU member, and warns against an escalation of activities. It is perhaps a risk that Ukraine must take to recover the lost lands.
Will be Vladimir Poutine seek accommodation if it becomes apparent that his troops are being pushed back? This will likely be encouraged sooner rather than later by some European countries that are hurting because they are heavily dependent on Russian sources of oil and gas or that also espouse some Russian sympathies, such as Hungary and Serbia. However, Ukraine must strive to recover all or part of its land, since it has lost an important part of it and which must include Crimea, looted in 2014, and the entire southern coast, vital maritime outlets for the Ukraine, before agreeing to sit down with their so-called brothers.
Putin, who is said to be ill, is said to be more involved in leading the ‘special military operation‘, as he calls it. This should be helpful to Ukrainians since history shows that dictators who wage wars from afar rarely succeed, ie. Philip II of Spaina monarch who wielded dictatorial powers, and the fearsome Spanish Armada unleashed on a relatively weak England in 1588, and most recently Hitler in the 1940s.
One of the unexpected results of the war was the strengthening of the West and its defense alliance against Russian aggression, NATO. Sweden and Finland joined in and didn’t need much persuasion after what happened. Finland, in particular, has a long border with Russia and has had good reason since World War II to fear the intentions of the Russian bear. For NATO, in the future, the EU must take more responsibility for its functioning, because the United States will gradually see its attention drawn to Chinese ambitions.
In the wake of Brexit, however, although Britain is a strong supporter of NATO, it is debatable whether NATO is weakened because it left the EU. NATO’s history shows that it has been primarily dependent on the United States, with Britain playing the second most important role. This needs to change, although it probably would have been easier had Brexit not happened. Interestingly, by the way, the OECD has estimated that Brexit has cost Britain 35 billion so far and that next year the country will show, in these difficult times, zero growth. The country is in trouble after Brexit and after the pandemic.
In the long term, Europe, with or without Great Britain, must take the lead in this defensive alliance. The United States will be increasingly involved in the Pacific.
With more or less US?
IIt is somewhat concerning that the United States has become a fairly divided and somewhat inward-looking country. His focus on external affairs has diminished, and until he gets a firm grip on his gun ownership problem, it will continue. Currently, it is the only country in the world with more guns than people, and it has an abysmal record of gun violence and the killing of innocent civilians. Bothn/a The amendment to the Constitution grants every adult the right to own and bear arms, ostensibly to defend themselves and their families. The Republican Party considers this to be sacrosanct and will not tolerate any changes or adjustments to this amendment. It may have been valid in the formative years of the 19e century but hardly needed now where there is a large police force which is armed and the anarchists, the early days are over – although one wonders!
One may wonder how this is so. It becomes clear where the strength of the Republican Party vis à vis Democrats lie. The latter draw the majority of their support from urban areas, which are found primarily on the coastal states, while the Republican sway is found in the many states with large tracts of land with many rural communities. While the Senate, the upper house, is made up of two members per state unlike Congress, the lower house which is more representative of the population and much more numerous in number of members. It becomes understandable how frustrated Congress is doing anything since the Senate is usually held by Republicans.
George Friedman in his 2008 book, The next 100 years, conjectured that the United States would gradually decline in the later part of this century. Europe is taking note. However, the disruptive nature of politics in America in recent years, with the extremes more noticeable, raises fears that it will be sooner rather than later unless the country pulls together.
Meanwhile, China, while the world has been otherwise distracted by Putin’s war, has stealthily and steadily increased its influence in the Pacific region. He signed a support agreement with the Solomon Islands that alarmed Australia and other Pacific islands. This ‘buzzed‘ an Australian aircraft in international airspace to clear away, and quietly moved with the arming of their defenses ‘he is‘. If they see that the West is otherwise still preoccupied with Russia, they may well be interested in Taiwan, which would be a good reason for the United States to now pay special attention to the Western Pacific and expect to Europe, along with Britain, to witness Putin’s war and the political fallout that followed.
*Dr. J Scott YoungerEBO, is a professional civil engineer; he spent 42 years in the Far East undertaking assignments in 10 countries for WB, AfDB, UNDP. He has published numerous articles; he has been a columnist for Forbes Indonesia and Globe Asia. He has served on the boards of the UK and European Chambers and was Vice President of the International Chamber of Commerce for 17 years. His expertise is in infrastructure and sustainable development and he is interested in international business. He is the International Chancellor of President University, Indonesia. He is a member of the advisory board of IFIMES. Lived and worked in Thailand from 1978 to 1983 and traveled to Burma, Bangladesh and Nepal for projects.