Trump is doing everything in his power for his ‘Make America Great Again’ at the expense of international law, as he did with his latest rejection of the JCPOA. Putin is doing the same in his own way. Putin built the bridge connecting Crimea to Russia, a bridge that is a vital umbilical cord to Russian interests in the region. This bridge is part of Putin’s strategic vision of resuscitating the power of both the Russian Empire and the former USSR, a very compelling image in the imagination of the Russian people. Putin’s ideology is based on cultural and historical authoritarianism inherited from the Tsars and Stalin.
The West and Ukraine have denounced the bridge, using their rejection to express once again their condemnation of the annexation of Crimea. The chorus of refusal and condemnation will continue, then it will calm down as is always the case.
Moreover, Russia is aware that territorial disputes between states have never been totally resolved by the UN Security Council (e.g. Morocco-Western Sahara, Palestine-Israel…). The UNSC is only temporizing, and that is why Putin solved the problem in the way that suits him the best (the annexation of Crimea) while giving it a legal facade (“the Crimeans wanted the annexation”).
The tension will persist and Russia will keep on with its plan, knowing that it has emerged victorious, without problems despite the 2008 financial crisis and the fall in oil prices. A country the size of Russia, on two continents and with its wealth, its resources and its military power is able to carry on despite sanctions much better than smaller countries. Russia also has the ability to work with countries that reject the West, such as China. The current rise in oil prices also serves Russia’s interests, and speculation will continue in the energy market, fueled by the various sources of tension in the region.
Are there any options available to Ukraine, and/or the West to break the stalemate?
The options for Ukraine are limited. Ukraine will continue to suffer, but it is not in a strong position against Russia. All it can do is complain to the UN. Ukraine knows it cannot count on the West because the latter is hypocritical in his discourse and actions. The not-totally-disinterested West ditched it in the past, so nothing good is foreseen for the future.
The options for the EU are limited to the use of a double language. On the one hand, the EU will officially support Ukraine, in an echo of the Catalan case. On the other hand, with Russia, it will be business as usual.
The options for the United States depend on Trump’s whims. He may offer logistical assistance to Ukrainians while continuing to ‘humor’ Putin. He has other bigger fish to fry, both elsewhere and at home. The U.S. will leave most of the problem to the Europeans. Trump will continue on his current foreign policy path, which no longer offers much support of its Old Continent allies.
The options for China are interesting. The Dragon will be ready to listen to everyone and collaborate with anyone from an economic point of view. China will closely monitor the situation and may offer suggestions. No one should forget that Taiwan is China’s Crimea. In this sense, China will align with Russia.
The options for the UNSC are limited to calming the situation and giving hope for a peaceful solution. Remember, Russia and China are two veto members; the UNSC has become in some ways ‘pentaphrenic’ and not schizophrenic!
In conclusion, in the short term, there is no real and concrete possibility to break the stalemate. And, if there is a war against Iran led by Israel and the Arabs with the blessing of the U.S., there is a good chance that Russia will annex another part of Ukrainian territory. This will probably be an era in which international laws are disregarded (Trump’s JCPOA case), and only the will and desires of authoritarian leaders prevail. In the long term, Russia wants Ukraine to return to the fold of Greater Russia, but too many unknowns and imponderables are happening on the world stage to be able to make any clear predictions.
A piece written by Nolan Peterson includes my view: