U.S. digs in as many others try to dig out of Ukraine crisis
Russia as well as many other European leaders are trying to find a way out of the crisis, but the U.S. is digging in deeper. Here, a Ukrainian soldier digs a trench in Zolote, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine. | Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

For the second day in a row, war hawks in the U.S. and NATO Wednesday had to contend with increased efforts by several European leaders to cool the crisis over Ukraine by at least freezing the growing buildup to war and possibly by even discussing some starting points for negotiation.

French President Emmanuel Macron raised hopes Tuesday after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin by becoming the first European leader to emphasize that security for Europe was impossible without security for Russia. He proposed several possible solutions, including that Ukraine could follow the example of Finland during the Soviet era when, rather than joining NATO, it became a neutral country, living peacefully alongside the USSR during the Cold War.

Macron and Putin also said Ukraine and the West could finally implement the 2014 Minsk Protocol, which called for autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk, the Russian-speaking provinces in eastern Ukraine. Despite signing on to the agreement, Ukraine has so far refused to honor it.

The other diplomatic effort underway is a continuation of the so-called Normandy Format talks, a group that includes Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany. These talks aim to concretize how the Minsk Protocol can be formalized.

Putin also said Wednesday that he intends to leave open the door to continued negotiations, despite the fact that the U.S. has not publicly indicated any interest in the ideas he discussed with Macron.

While President Joe Biden has been silent on the Macron ideas and the Normandy format talks, some in the U.S. are actually stepping up the war talk. Retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey blew off Macron’s efforts, declaring on MSNBC that the French president was “mucking things up” and that he should let Biden take the lead in solving the crisis.

The problem, of course, is that the people of Europe have economic and security needs that NATO and the EU alone are not able to fulfill. Trade, cooperation, and peace with Russia would be of tremendous benefit to the majority of people in Europe. It is basically only the military profiteers and the fossil fuel companies around the world that want to see a destroyed and divided Russia from which they could extract even more wealth than they already have.

While Putin, like everyone else, would lose in the long run if there was a war, he has nothing to lose right now by using the attention he has gained from his military buildup around the borders of Ukraine.

The ruling powers in the West have, since the end of the Cold War, never taken the security interests of Russia seriously. Now they see that those interests and the interests of Europe, too, cannot be met by the status quo of an ever-expanding NATO.

In addition to the Russian troops stationed on the borders of Ukraine, Putin has other ways too of keeping the focus on Russian security needs. Those include NATO’s knowledge of his huge nuclear stockpiles and their knowledge of the cyber capabilities that exist within Russia. If Russia was really interested more in hurting Ukraine than it was in its own legitimate security interests (preventing NATO from further expansion), it could already have shut off most of Ukraine’s power supply.

Despite U.S. claims to the contrary, Russian President Vladimir Putin is in no rush to launch an invasion of Ukraine. In fact, along with other European leaders, he says he’s keeping open the chances for dialogue. But Putin and Europe are still waiting for the Biden administration to express any interest in a diplomatic solution. | Thibault Camus / Pool via AP

Like it or not, the issues Macron and others have begun trying to resolve will have to be addressed, and that will not be achieved by a NATO military encirclement of Russia or threats of sanctions against Russia.

It should have been clear to the Pentagon and to the war hawks in the U.S. and their supporters in NATO that what they thought was a free hand to do whatever they liked in Europe after the demise of the Soviet Union would not last forever. Russia’s strategy, against this backdrop, is to use its renewed military strength and economic stability to compel the West to negotiate. Europeans, reliant on Russian gas and oil, are also contributing to the push for diplomacy rather than war.

Those like U.S. Sec. of State Antony Blinken and others in the Biden administration who had hoped they could bully their way into controlling major world events are learning a bitter lesson. Early on, they had hoped to throw their weight around by challenging the alleged dangers of a strengthening China. The current crisis over Ukraine has forced them to turn attention away from China, for now, and may eventually force them into realizing that negotiations, diplomacy, and cooperation should be the norm for relations among all countries.

Up until the end of the first six months of the Biden administration, it was still believed that the basic rules of what to do in Europe were unchanged since the demise of the Soviet Union. The idea was that with Trump removed there would again be a happy parade of allies following the U.S. in a continuation of the policies it has pursued since the end of the USSR. No one was concerned about the need to re-examine the entire structure of relations with Europe, including with Russia, which is a part of Europe. The reality that we are in a new world is now beginning to set in.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.