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“They (America and Russia) will confront each other one day and then we will see struggles of which the past cannot give any idea” – Thiers, Sainte-Beuve, 1847, quoted by André Fontaine in Histoire de la Guerre Froide, 1983

By José Carlos Palma

Primitive and ancient peoples used to beat their drums intensely and almost deafeningly as a sign that they were preparing for war. This way of acting served two objectives. First, to create a state of mind or collective conscience by giving courage to your warriors and, second, to frighten your enemies with their war cries and cadenced and repetitive sounds.

These are the external demonstrations of the battle cries that run fast in an increasingly globalized and virtualized world. As for internal preparations, these are only known to the highest levels of countries that are preparing for any eventuality of one or more wars and to enemies or allies through intelligence or espionage services.

In the early sixties, when the world was living under a climate of nuclear terror, with two superpowers facing each other, the Soviet leader Nikita Krushev who once slammed his shoe into the UN rostrum, was secretly installing nuclear missiles in Cuba, with two objectives, as he would later say, first to defend Castro Island from an America attack and, second, to have a base a short distance from the US, the other superpower, making it possible to launch nuclear warheads on American territory.

After many speeches by both parties, realizing that the Kennedy government could take preemptive action against both Cuban and Soviet territory, the Soviet government was forced to dismantle its nuclear apparatus in installation on the island and ended up being demoralized. both internally and externally. Some say that this was, in fact, the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet empire.

At the moment the drums of War are heard deafeningly in Ukraine. To understand why this happened after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, we have to make a deep analysis of the mistakes made by the West that allowed the soviet empire to rise again, now called Russia.

When the diplomatic delegations from Russia and the United States sit at the table in Geneva, two decades of Vladimir Putin’s politics will be at stake.

The president of Russia, who took over from the ruins of the ten years of crisis after the end of the Soviet Union, worked out a clear geopolitical plan.

Critics accuse him of seeking to restore the communist empire, but his concerns are the same as those of rulers of the world’s largest country since imperial times: increasing the distance between his territory and opponents, lost when the union fell in 1991.

There are other points, such as the protection of ethnic Russians who were left behind, and the maintenance of popularity, which has the idea of a strong Russia as one of its pillars. The adversary, of course, is NATO, led by the Cold War victors, the US.

Three decades on, the West finds itself cornered by the Russians in Ukraine, a crisis Putin is trying to resolve with a checkmate — or an ippon, to stay in the judo he enjoys. Next, I will try to summarize in a questionnaire the path that brought the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals in the world face to face, once again.

What is happening in Ukraine now? In early November, Putin deployed more than 100,000 troops and equipment to areas relatively close to Ukraine. The neighbour, the US, and NATO have accused him of planning a military invasion, which he denies.

But what is there that interests Putin? In 2014, Kyiv’s pro-Russian government was overthrown (coup or revolution, depends on who counts). Putin realized that NATO and the European Union could absorb the neighbor and acted, promoting the annexation of Crimea, an ethnic Russian territory that had been ceded to Ukraine in Soviet times, in 1954. And he fomented a civil war of pro-Kremlin separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which is at the center of the confusion right now.

The UN said what? She does not recognize Russian Crimea.

Does anyone recognize it? Just eight Kremlin allies. But in practice, annexation is seen as a fait accompli in the diplomatic community.

And the autonomous areas? Here things get complicated. First, because they are not so ethnically homogeneous; second, because Putin has not thrown all his military weight to decisively support the rebels.

But didn’t that interest? Annexing the Donbas would be much more complex and expensive, as well as having a clear military and human cost. Putin’s priority is another: to prevent Ukraine, or any other ex-Soviet country, from joining NATO and, perhaps more secondarily, the European Union.

But wouldn’t that be a country issue? Yes, that’s what international law and Western logic say when it matters. Politically, however, the US behaved like less than magnanimous winners of the Cold War, missing the opportunity to lure Russia into a more stable partnership with its European allies.

And then Putin acted. He first fought a war in 2008 in Georgia, a small country in an explosive region, the Caucasus, which is one of the historic routes of invasions and wars — in this case, against Turkey. Today, the problem there is the infiltration of Islamic radicals, as the two wars Moscow fought in Chechnya, which is part of its territory, demonstrated.

In the Georgian case, the then president of the country had an aggressive attitude and was seen as reckless in provoking the Russians, giving the excuse for them to attack behalf of the ethnic minority that inhabits two areas of the country. As a result, Georgia today does not control 20% of its territory, which in practice prevents it from joining NATO.

Which is exactly what Putin wanted. Yes, and that’s why he’s seen as a villain in the West, for using brute force when he sees fit. The next step was the series of actions in Ukraine in 2014.

And did Western sanctions have any effect? There is pressure on Russia, but experts are divided on the real impact because the result of the sanctions was an increase in the domestic market, the greater detachment of the international financial system, and a certain diversification of the economy, which is still dependent on the export of hydrocarbons ( Oil and Gas).

And Europe continues to buy Russian gas. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, completed last year, will allow when Germany allows Russia to operate, to remove much of the transit of the natural gas it sells to Europeans through old lines that pass through Ukraine. As a result, Kyiv could lose much of the $2 billion it earns annually in fees. Nord Stream 2 and its operating brother, branch 1, link Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. Today, 40% of the gas that Europe consumes comes from Putin, and the US is fighting to make the gas pipeline unfeasible because it believes that the Europeans play a double game.

Why didn’t Ukraine join NATO and the EU? For the same reason as Georgia: club rules do not allow countries with active territorial conflicts. This makes Western discourse convenient, as no one wants to pay to see a direct confrontation with Russia. Thus, Kyiv receives support and some weaponry from NATO, but no troops are expected to defend it.

Putin wants to see the 2015 Minsk Accord 2, which froze the civil war in Donbas, implemented. But they provide a degree of autonomy to Russian areas that Kyiv does not accept. When deploying his troops, he hints that he might use force like in 2014, which some think is a bluff.

The Ukrainian Army cannot defeat the Russians, but cause a good deal of damage. And an invasion would involve annexing areas, costing billions that Putin does not have. That was the risk of NATO changing its mind and defending Kyiv, which would risk a dangerous escalation, perhaps nuclear. Not coincidentally, the five atomic powers recently pledged never to start a war with these weapons.

And the crisis in Kazakhstan, how does it fit into that? There are two theories as to why legitimate protests against fuel increases turned into a near-revolution, with armed people on the streets. First, it was fostered by the West to weaken Putin. Second, it was the work of the Kremlin to, quickly resolved, put him in a position of strength. Whatever it is, or none of it, the chance that Putin will emerge stronger from the episode, as a peacemaker of Central Asia, is very good.

Are there other implications? The crisis has brought Russia even closer to China, which has supported Putin and said both countries need to defend themselves against the West together. It is a trend that was already in place, but that may have effects in the near future.

Another sign of the drums of war, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last Tuesday that the crisis in Ukraine is extremely dangerous and that Russia could launch an attack on the country at any time.

The top diplomat on US President’s team, Joe Biden, will visit the capital Kyiv this week after talks with Russia last week ended in a stalemate, amid concerns in the United States and other Western nations that Moscow is preparing to invade Ukraine again.

Ukrainian defense officials are in daily contact with American colleagues at the Pentagon, the source said, bracing for a variety of different actions the Russians may take.

The Drums of War echo across the European plains. The ghost of war is real!

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