Not long ago, United States President Joe Biden warned that there would be no NATO if former U.S. President Donald Trump won reelection. Now that Trump has lost the elections, Biden faces a new challenge, a Europe divided over a possible U.S. face-off with Russia in Ukraine.
According to a New York Times report, Biden predicted that "(Russian President Vladimir) Putin will order Ukraine invasion" but also warned that in such a scenario Putin will have to pay a dear price for invading Ukraine.
The tensions are mounting between the U.S., Europe and Russia on Ukraine’s possible invasion, with both sides accusing each other – the West blames Putin over his territorial expansions into Europe, and in turn, Putin is unhappy over NATO’s eastward expansion. Unfortunately, both NATO and Russia are sleepwalking toward a major conflict.
Keir Giles, the author of "Moscow Rules: What drives Russia to Confront the West," claims that "Russia wants to see NATO rolled back." Given the growing divide within the NATO alliance especially Germany and France, it is no wonder that Putin has defeated the West in the first round.
It seems that Putin calculated his risks and opportunities well before the military buildup on Ukraine's borders. Alexandra Brzozowski, a reporter at the Brussels-based EURACTIV, told me that "Ukraine is not in NATO. So NATO cannot defend Ukraine, it can only supply arms or technical support."
Despite growing concerns about Russia’s potential invasion in the Western media, a few critics are not ready to believe it will happen. Obviously, the West has been weak, especially after the fall of Kabul, it learned a lesson that the U.S. is no longer the sole superpower.
A few writers like Sean Mathews predict Crimean Tatars and volunteers from the former Soviet Union will say "Muslim militias would be an effective fighting force" in the event of a Russian invasion.
That could be a fathomable scenario since the U.S. has learned that the West is not united and rallying behind it in the new war in Europe. The question is if Russia invades Ukraine will it stop there or stretch its arms further into Europe? What will be the role of NATO in emerging conflicts? Will it sustain its position?
For decades, the Western imperialist powers have invaded one nation after the other on the pretexts of restoring democracy, defending liberal values, protecting human rights, or bringing justice and freedom to oppressed communities of the lands they invaded.
Today, Putin’s Russia is on the same track, meddling in the U.S. elections in 2016 and 2020, while also repeating the same practice of invasions – from Syria, Libya and Armenia to Donbass in Ukraine – fanning fears of yet another grand-scale conflict between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War.
Many leading commentators and strategists who have reflected upon Russian hegemonic designs warned of emerging conflicts on the Russian borders with Europe. Anna Ohanyan, the Richard B. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Stonehill College, fears "Russia’s vast Eurasian borderlands have become the Kremlin’s buffer zones – a nearly uninterrupted expanse of armed conflict and war."
Others like Vladimir Isachenkov and Irina Titova of The Associated Press (AP) noted Russia’s strategic expansion in the "Arctic shipping routes" including the port city of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula and the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula would further worsen the already tense relations between the West and Russia.
Currently, the European Union is Russia’s largest trading partner, especially the bordering EU states of Estonia, Lithuania and Finland, which get a third of their imports from Russia. Many Eastern European countries and Germany and France in the West are heavily dependent on Russian gas.
The message is clear, both the West and Russia are on a collision course over seizing natural resources and securing hegemonic projects. While the West seems ready to defend its "values," Russia is unwilling to make any compromise on its plans to secure its global influence and rights to natural resources.
True though, Russia is an "energy superpower" that has successfully made alliances with China, Turkey, India and several other powerful nations.
Putin has expansion plans regarding Europe and may annex parts of European lands, for instance, the island of Gotland in northern Sweden. The recent Russian naval exercise in Irish waters and attempts to exert its influence in the area of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania and beyond in Europe are indications of Russia’s future strategy in Europe.
A BBC report cited unnamed senior intelligence officials saying: "Let’s not be blind. If Russia initiates a scenario of any kind it will also initiate action against NATO members. To think war could be contained to one nation would be foolish."
In fact, Russia already annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and also backed separatists in its east. The point is NATO has failed to halt Russian aggression and its capture of the Crimean Peninsula. The question is whether NATO is capable of protecting Ukraine now?
After the fall of Kabul, many Western analysts began to argue that the "American century" was over. Visibly, numerous U.S.-led interventions and invasions have only brought death, catastrophes and destructions. Many Western observers like Simon Tisdall, a foreign affairs editor and commentator of The Guardian, learned that the U.S.' "global policeman" role and its "forever wars" have resulted in "calamity, more refugee chaos, and the threat of renewed terrorism, which, once again, will principally affect Europe" and hence, "Pan-Americana is over – as is NATO."
Tisdall’s assessment is a commonly shared view in the European capitals mainly because the U.S. is losing its reputation as a superpower. Today, NATO is divided "over Russian aggression against Ukraine" as France and Germany may not side with the U.S.
On PBS NewsHour, American broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff's report finds that "the trans-Atlantic alliance is not unified over how to punish Russia" as French President Emmanuel Macron "broke Western unity" when he proposed "the EU should hold its own talks with Russia. For both us and Russia, for the security of our continent."
Macron has sounded the alarm of destruction if EU nations go to war with Russia over Ukraine as a U.S. ally. Professor John Mearsheimer rightly outlined the conflict as "Why is Ukraine the West's fault?"
Both Europe and Russia cannot sustain a war on their soil in the wake of a deadly pandemic. Our world is changing and new alliances are emerging not necessarily to wage wars but for human development.
Leading Ukrainian scholar professor Yuliya Shamaeva told me that: "there is political instability, anxiety, and a feeling of (the) absurd happening. Anything can happen any minute. A permanent cognitive dissonance as for inborn values and memory. Search for the spiritual. Music, education and arts like never before versus the conflict's darkness. A scary global game. Not human. The institution of family is acquiring a new potential, protecting your own world. Prayers for peace and health in everybody’s heart."
Sadly, both the U.S. and Russia have not learned lessons from their recent past failed adventures in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The U.S. should recognize the international community doesn’t mean the U.S. and its allies only, but rather a wider globe. Similarly, Russia must not ignore that it was the Soviet Union in the past and a war in Afghanistan that broke it into separate states. So, the future of NATO lies not in war but in supporting peace, otherwise, it becomes irrelevant.