In front of the cameras on Feb. 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees to recognize the independence of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR), regions that pro-Russian separatists declared breakaway states in Ukraine in 2014. Following Putin’s action, Venezuela, Syria’s Bashar Assad regime and Nicaragua declared that they are ready to recognize these two regions, where there is a United States ban on commercial activities.
Right after the Kremlin’s decision, agencies started reporting that Russian soldiers stationed at the border were entering Ukraine through the Donbass region. The military activity, which Russia called a “peacekeeping operation,” was evaluated as an “occupation” by the White House.
Will those who predicted that Feb. 22, 2022, would be the mysterious date when Word War III would begin to be proven right? Will U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has been saying for months that they “will respond in the hardest way,” be able to respond militarily to Russia?
The developments and the actual situation so far show that such a possibility is not in the cards. The U.S. statements claiming that they "will not remain unresponsive to a new military move by Russia” are an indication that Putin's move so far has been digested. Washington taking action via NATO is also a fantasy, since Ukraine is not yet a member of the organization. Moreover, we have witnessed many times that NATO remained silent even when its member states were under threat.
The situation is not different for the United Nations, which even failed to make a clear condemnation after its session on Feb. 22. This is because one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) is Russia itself.
While all eyes are on Ukraine, China is threatening to open a front in the Pacific via Hong Kong. The country hosted Putin as a “strategic partner” at the Winter Olympics in Beijing a few weeks ago. Currently, the only card available to Western powers, including the U.S., the European Union and the United Kingdom, is economic sanctions. However, Putin is very used to such economic sanction games. The Russian leader thinks that he can continue this economic and psychological war for a long time thanks to oil and natural gas prices, which have jumped to a seven-year peak due to the crisis. Russia is also a state with a market on every continent except Western countries.
The fact that there is a global balance amid the horrific threat of nuclear war ensures that the crisis will not go beyond a cold war-like process, a fact Putin has clearly stated. In many fields, especially economically, Putin has managed to create a stronger and more resilient Russia than the USSR, which waged a cold war with the U.S. for many years. The Russian leader is not a stranger to such a process. Also, he is apathetic toward what Western leaders and media say about him. The references he made to Soviet leaders like Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin in his historic speech on Feb. 21 are also a sign that the Russian leader sees himself as the latest savior of his country.
As former U.S. President Donald Trump said, wherever the U.S.'s power vacuum is felt, Putin believes that he will get away with whatever Russia takes. Considering the current situation, it can be said that Putin’s call for the recognition of the status of Crimea while the West remains unresponsive is not a bluff.