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Russia holds ground against Ukraine’s counter-offensive, West’s sanctions

New Delhi, Dec 10, 2023
After it sent troops across the border into Ukraine last February, Russia faced a barrage of sanctions from the Western powers, who also began funnelling in advanced weapons and funds to Kiev, with the bid of handing it a comprehensive strategic, political, diplomatic and economic defeat.

Nearly, two years later, the West’s hopes have been badly belied – and even worse, led to lots of self-inflicted harm.

Despite a few tactical retreats, PMC chief Evgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny, and a spate of disingenuous reports in Western tabloid media on the health of President Vladimir Putin, Russia is far from folding.

The sanctions have hit, but not to the extent that the West envisaged, and measures like the price cap on Russian crude have universally been flouted as the prime destination for exports shifted Asia-ward to China and India.

The exit of Western businesses has not done anything except lose them a market – and create bad blood in the common citizen, most of whom would not patronise them, even if they return.

Diplomatically, Russia is far from an outcast. It may have lost its place in boards of some global bodies, but organisations like the BRICS — soon set to majorly expand — and the SCO means it continues to figure in international discourse.

And, as the Hamas-Israel war rages, Putin visited the UAE and Saudi Arabia — where he was warmly received, and then returned home to host his Iranian counterpart before announcing on Friday, that he would be contesting the March 2024 Presidential elections.

“Moscow holds the advantage on the military, political and economic fronts”, the Wall Street Journal acknowledged as one-time champions of Ukraine in the Western media and strategic community slowly admit that things are not going their way.

Russia’s adversaries, from Kiev to Brussels to Washington, are themselves in disarray.

Given Russia’s historical superiority in holding on – as Napoleon and Adolf Hitler realised belatedly, it has managed to hold the line in Ukraine after overrunning large swathes of its territory, including a land bridge to Crimea.

On the other hand, the much-vaunted Ukrainian counter-offensive has petered out with heavy losses in men and materiel due to strategic miscalculations – and according to its Western allies, not heeding their advice, by undue focus on Artyomovsk/Bakhmut, and ignoring the principle of concentration of effort.

Consequently, the blame game begins between politicians and soldiers over the course of the war has begun in Ukraine, and the grand-standing of President Volodymyr Zelensky seems a bit curbed as support wanes and money and arms supplies diminish and the possibility of a military unravelling as supplies dwindle may not be that far-fetched.

The Europeans face their own set of challenges, including rising costs, especially of fuel due to their own sanctions. Then, their own weapons stockpiles are depleting due to the largesse in supplying Kiev, with soldiers of various countries revealing the pitiful few days that stores would last and how the soldiers might even have to throw stones!

Rifts are emerging among the EU members over the future course, with Hungary opposing any measures against Russia, eg in nuclear technology, that run counter to its interests, or admitting Ukraine, or even beginning talks on the process. Its stand has also received support from neighbour Slovakia, where a change of government, had led to policy changes, including on further arms supplies.

Additionally, the costs of unequivocally backing Ukraine are causing political ripples, as the economic situation spurs rise of right-wing, populist parties, like Geert Wilders, who has won power in The Netherlands, and the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) in Germany. Worryingly for Brussels, these elements have a leaning towards Russia, and are notoriously Euro-sceptical.

There is also anxiety over US political configurations with the possibility of a Donald Trump triumph signalling further cut in Washington’s support, and leaving the Europeans to tote the entire burden.

Here, the Joe Biden administration is itself hamstrung as the Republicans in the Congress are determined to wring major concessions on border security and immigration before they agree to further aid for Ukraine.

Here, Biden and his Democrats have to consider whether the cost of supporting Ukraine outweighs compromising on core beliefs and if alienating more supporters in an election year is wise.

The war in Gaza has already seized much of the West’s attention – and resources, while loading up the perception against them in the Global South on the double standards on international law and human rights they follow in the cases of Ukraine and Israel. This will also rebound to Russia’s benefit.

Russia’s victory – or rather, achievement of its goals, both in Ukraine and in a post-conflict European security re-arrangement, may not be definite yet, but the chances of this outcome are rising as 2024 approaches.(Agency)





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