Russia In “No Position to Negotiate”

Garrett Partain is a senior political science major from Lepanto.

I didn’t think it was going to happen. During the months-long build up, I said it was merely posturing. After Putin announced “peacekeeping” operations within the rebel Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, I thought it would just end there. Gambling that the entirety of the European continent wouldn’t react negatively to the first full blown invasion of a sovereign country since the end of the Cold War is a move that can only be made in pure incompetence, or pure disregard for the welfare of your own nation-state. I thought cooler heads would prevail. But, as Russian forces come closer to encircling the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and as Russian artillery is beginning to ramp up its shelling campaign of the country, cooler heads have clearly failed. Many credible news sources now think we are at the dawn of a new Cold War.

This new era of heightened tensions, though, is nothing like the Cold War that came before. While the Soviet Union’s economy couldn’t hold a candle to the United States’, it was still an economic powerhouse that had complete totalitarian control over its people and its resources. It also had an iron grip over half of Europe which it kept through a major military presence in those countries. Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, is anything but a superpower on that scale. Its economy, even before more recent events, was sluggish and underdeveloped, and it has lost its military presence in all but one ex-Iron Curtain nation. Almost all of Europe is directly allied to the United States and those that aren’t are heavily aligned with it. Yet, Putin still parades like a modern-day Stalin, who can bring Europe to its knees. 

But who can blame him? For decades at this point, the Kremlin has been making moves in the Caucasus Mountains, where many small ex-Soviet nations lie, even going to the point of invading the country of Georgia in 2008, and the global community barely even wagged a finger in disapproval. NATO seemingly took a stance of “live and let live,” allowing the Russian Federation to intervene in smaller countries to avoid direct conflict with the new regime. This has only served to embolden Putin, as it would any leader who seeks aggressive expansion. 

This was until the invasion of Crimea in 2014. After this, the U.S., European Union and many other nations imposed sanctions on those deemed most responsible for the conflict. Even China made statements voicing support for Ukraine. Clearly, “live and let live” was no longer an option. The same was true for Russia. Their position in the international system was challenged and security compromised. Russia was now in a position where it had to continue to bully to survive, else retribution would be coming. This was the beginning of a new Cold War, but instead of an ideological battle between capitalism and communism, between somewhat equal players, it became a desperate game of survival between a superpower and a criminal syndicate disguised as a government. 

This has been made evident with the current full-blown invasion of Ukraine. Since the international community has taken substantial action in the form of major sanctions, the Russian economy is in free fall, which is the only way to truly hurt the kleptocratic oligarchs at the center of it all. Just like the Cold War before, a conventional war between the U.S. and Russia would lead to death on a scale never seen in human history. Just like the Cold War before, the threat of mutually assured destruction will make sure that it never gets that far. But unlike the Cold War before, Russia is alone against the world and is seemingly in no position to negotiate. 

Categories: Opinion

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