Ukraine Resists Russia Alone: A Tale Of The West's Broken Promises

Ukraine is under a massive Russian assault. Kiev is under siege. Russian President Vladimir Putin's main objective is to keep Ukraine permanently out of NATO, the western nations' military alliance. Putin says the West has broken its promise to not expand NATO after the end of the Cold War. Ukraine is complaining that the West has left Ukraine at the mercy of Russia's powerful military after it agreed to give up its nuclear weapons under firm security assurances contained in the Budapest Memorandum. 

NATO Expansion. Source: BBC

Ukraine Gave Up Nukes:

When Ukraine became independent in the early 1990s,  it was the third-largest nuclear power in the world with thousands of nuclear arms. In the years that followed, Ukraine made the decision to denuclearize completely based on security guarantee from the U.S., the U.K. and Russia, known as the Budapest Memorandum.  Ukrainian analyst Mariana Budjeryn explained in an interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly as follows: 

"It is clear that Ukrainians knew they weren't getting the exactly - sort of these legally binding, really robust security guarantees they sought. But they were told at the time that the United States and Western powers - so certainly, at least, the United States and Great Britain, they take their political commitments really seriously. This is a document signed at the highest level by the heads of state".

NATO Expanded: 
In a meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, the US Secretary of State James Baker gave “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. 
The US and Western European nations have added 14 former East Bloc nations and former Soviet Republics as NATO members in spite of repeated protests by the Russians.  Putin's anger boiled over when the US supported a coup in 2014 that removed pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych from power in Ukraine. In a leaked taped conversation, US assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland can be heard discussing with the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, the plans to replace Mr. Yanukovych. 
Broken Promises:
Russia and Ukraine are both nursing grievances against the West. Russians feel aggrieved because the West has continued the NATO expansion to include several countries on its border where NATO has based US forces. Russians see these forces as a serious threat to its national security. Ukrainians resent the fact that they were persuaded by the West to give up thousands of nuclear weapons in the 1990s which could have prevented the Russian invasion of their country. The bottom line is that the Ukrainians are now facing the might of the powerful Russian military alone. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech that Ukraine has been “left alone” to defend against the Russian invasion. “Today, I asked the twenty-seven leaders of Europe whether Ukraine will be in NATO. I asked directly. Everyone is afraid. They do not answer", he added. 
Lesson For Pakistan: 
Commenting on Ukraine, Russian analyst  Alexey Kupriyanov told Indian journalist Nirupama Subramanian: "For us, Ukraine is the same as Pakistan for India". What he failed to mention is that Pakistan has developed and retains its nuclear arsenal while Ukraine gave up its nukes in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. Many Ukrainians now regret this decision. Ukrainians know that no country with nuclear weapons has ever been physically invaded by a foreign military. They now understand the proven effectiveness of nuclear deterrence.  They realize that all the talk about "rules-based order" is just empty rhetoric. The reality is the Law of the Jungle where the strong prey on the weak. The US military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that Washington is just as guilty of violating the "rules-based order" as Moscow. 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on February 26, 2022 at 10:44am

It is true that the Ukrainians could not have launched Soviet nuclear weapons. They didn't have the command, control and nuclear launch codes which were held in Moscow.

However, the Ukrainians had all the knowledge, the skills and the capability to build their own nuclear weapons.

Some of the top Soviet nuclear scientists and engineers were Ukrainians.

Please read this:

"Ukraine played a significant role in the Soviet nuclear program development. Before the Second World War, many of the best Soviet nuclear physicists worked in Ukraine. However, during this period the capacity of Ukrainian nuclear research capabilities was underestimated by the Soviet government—Soviet leaders did not recognize the significance of proposals by Kharkov physicists regarding the producing of nuclear weapons. The rejection of Victor Maslov’s suggestions was a historic mistake for the Soviet Union. Had the Soviets began their weapons program in earnest prior to the Second World War, one could speculate that the Soviet Union might have been able to create nuclear weapons almost simultaneously with the United States. After WWII, Ukraine continued to play a significant role in the Soviet civilian nuclear industry. While the Ukrainian institute of Physics in Kharkiv did not actively participate in the production of Soviet nuclear weapons, many Ukrainian physicists were part of the efforts underway in Russia"

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 26, 2022 at 7:34pm

Hundreds of #Pakistani students stuck in #Ukraine #Pakistan embassy in #Kiev tweeted it's helping stranded Pakistanis to evacuate, advising them to reach Ternopil so they can be transported to #Poland. Pakistan's national airline PIA to airlift citizens

KARACHI, Pakistan -- The families of hundreds of Pakistani students stuck in Ukraine following the Russian invasion are urging their government to help bring them home.

At a media briefing late Friday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the Pakistani embassy had been temporarily moved from Kyiv to Ternopil on the border with Poland, to facilitate evacuations.

Media reports say some 1500 Pakistanis, including 500 students, have been stuck in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on Thursday.

Syed Waqar Abbas, a software engineering student in Kharkiv National University, is among the students in Ukraine waiting for consular help. His family in the southern port city of Karachi said Saturday that they remain worried about his safety.

“My son is in Kharkiv which is being bombarded. He lives close to the border and that area is very dangerous," said Shabana Bano Abbas, his mother. She told the Associated Press that her son had no resources to help him get out.

“He has just informed us that a station close to his area has been bombarded, how will my son get out of that place?" she said, demanding the government to help stranded children return.

His sister Rubab blamed the Pakistani authorities of being unresponsive. “He has been trying to contact the Pakistan Embassy for two days but the embassy has not been giving any response to him.”

The Pakistani embassy in Ukraine said in a tweet that it was helping stranded Pakistanis to evacuate, advising them to reach Ternopil so they can be transported to Poland. Pakistan's national airline PIA said it was ready to airlift citizens home from Poland.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 27, 2022 at 10:34am

CBS reporter Charlie D'Agata reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine:
Ukraine “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen"

D'Agata later apologized: “I spoke in a way I regret, and for that I’m sorry"

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 27, 2022 at 11:41am

War Propaganda About Ukraine Becoming More Militaristic, Authoritarian, and Reckless
Every useful or pleasing claim about the war, no matter how unverified or subsequently debunked, rapidly spreads, while dissenters are vilified as traitors or Kremlin agents.

Glenn Greenwald

Less than a week into this war, that can no longer be said. One of the media's most beloved members of Congress, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), on Friday explicitly and emphatically urged that the U.S. military be deployed to Ukraine to establish a “no-fly zone” — i.e., American soldiers would order Russia not to enter Ukrainian airspace and would directly attack any Russian jets or other military units which disobeyed. That would, by definition and design, immediately ensure that the two countries with by far the planet's largest nuclear stockpiles would be fighting one another, all over Ukraine.

Kinzinger's fantasy that Russia would instantly obey U.S. orders due to rational calculations is directly at odds with all the prevailing narratives about Putin having now become an irrational madman who has taken leave of his senses — not just metaphorically but medically — and is prepared to risk everything for conquest and legacy. This was not the first time such a deranged proposal has been raised; days before Kinzinger unveiled his plan, a reporter asked Pentagon spokesman John Kirby why Biden has thus far refused this confrontational posture. The Brookings Institution's Ben Wittes on Sunday demanded: “Regime change: Russia.” The President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, celebrated that “now the conversation has shifted to include the possibility of desired regime change in Russia.”

Having the U.S. risk global nuclear annihilation over Ukraine is an indescribably insane view, as one realizes upon a few seconds of sober reflection. We had a reminder of that Sunday morning when “Putin ordered his nuclear forces on high alert Sunday, reminding the world he has the power to use weapons of mass destruction, after complaining about the West’s response to his invasion of Ukraine” — but it is completely unsurprising that it is already being suggested.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 27, 2022 at 1:21pm

Europe relies on Swift to pay Russian producers for 40% of its natural-gas supply. Fear that Russia's natural gas exports could be frozen sent Europe's natural gas prices shooting up as high as $40 per million BTUs vs. about $5 per million in the natural-gas-rich U.S.

If sustained, such prices would plunge European economies into recession, as consumers struggled to pay bills and manufacturers were forced to shutter their factories.

Germany has already halted certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia as the Ukraine invasion loomed. It also said it'll take steps to wean itself off Russian gas over time. But pressure is building on Germany to accede to harsher sanctions.

There would still be potential workarounds, if Russia is cut off from Swift. BCA Research said it expects Germany to find an alternate way of transmitting payment instructions to keep energy flowing.

Russia might use China's much smaller CIPS messaging system for conducting regional commerce, driving the countries closer together. Still, it's not clear how effective any of these alternatives will be, so risk will rise of price increases or supply disruptions for a number of key commodities.

Russia's Other Riches
Russia's economy is "basically a big gas station," but otherwise of little global importance, Jason Furman, top economic advisor to President Obama, said recently.

For S&P 500 companies, Russia only amounts to 0.1% of total sales, according to a Bank of America report.

Yet Russia controls big enough slices of key commodity markets beyond oil and gas to roil global supply chains that are still trying to recover from Covid disruptions.

Russia accounted for 6% of global aluminum and 5% of nickel supply in 2021, according to the Cru Group's commodity market research.

On Thursday, aluminum prices rose more than 3% to hit an all-time high $3,450 per ton, while nickel reached a decade-plus high around $25,000 per ton.

Inventories of base metals are already extremely low, JPMorgan said in a note to clients. That leaves "very little additional cushion for further supply disruptions — either from Russia directly or via higher-for-longer gas and power prices," the firm's analysts added.

Russia also controls 35% of palladium and 10% of platinum supply. Those precious metals are used in catalytic converters to reduce auto emissions.

The U.S. neon supply, key in the advanced lithography chipmaking process, comes almost entirely from Russia and Ukraine, says the Techcet research and consulting firm.

With nearly 25% of the global wheat supply between Russia and Ukraine, the invasion also could exacerbate food inflation.

For the U.S. and its allies to target these crucial commodities with sanctions would be shooting themselves in the foot.

Ukraine Invasion Timing
The West will sanction less-essential Russian exports, like diamonds. Still, Russia's major income streams will remain intact, as Putin surely counted on. The surge in oil prices and global inflation pressures mean Putin has invaded Ukraine at the most opportune time.

"Putin was ready for this crisis," said Lori Esposito Murray, president of The Conference Board's public policy arm, in a podcast this week. "He's been planning this for a while."

Murray highlighted the $630 billion in currency reserves that Russia has built up to buttress its economic foundations for war.

That's not to say Russians won't pay a steep price from the Ukraine invasion and sanctions. Biden noted Thursday that the ruble had fallen to an all-time low, while Russian borrowing rates soared. Amid currency depreciation, a recession in Russia looks like a given.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 27, 2022 at 6:21pm

To punish for invading #Ukraine, the #West is rolling out tough #sanctions on #Russia but going out of its way to preserve the country’s biggest source of revenue: #energy #exports. #gas #oil #Germany #Europe #EU

The West is rolling out increasingly tough sanctions on Russia but it is going out of its way to preserve the country’s biggest source of revenue: energy exports.

In the latest example, the European Union said late Saturday that it had agreed with the U.S., the U.K. and Canada to eject some of Russia’s banks from the global financial system’s payments infrastructure, Swift. The move, if applied to all banks, would be powerful, essentially blocking money transfers in and out of the country. By cutting only some, Western countries are allowing payments, including for energy, to continue through non-sanctioned banks.

Russia is one of the world’s top oil and natural-gas producers, and energy exports represent half of the country’s foreign sales. The country, now embroiled in a bitter war in Ukraine, provides around 40% of Europe’s natural gas. The commodity heats the continent, fuels many of its power plants and is a critical input for a range of industrial processes. Russia’s crude production is a major factor in the global oil marketplace.

As the U.S. and its Western allies wage economic war against the Kremlin to coerce it into abandoning its invasion of Ukraine, policymakers have tailored their pressure campaign to protect their energy supply, prevent a surge in oil prices and minimize the damage on their own economies.

“You can’t get away from the fact that Europe still has a dependency on Russia,” said Justine Walker, head of sanctions and risk at the Associate of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, even as observers argue the exemptions for energy sales dilute the sanctions’ impact.

The U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia’s largest banks— Sberbank and VTB—but provided broad exemptions on payments for purchases of crude oil, natural gas, fuel and other petroleum products. The EU, meanwhile, chose not to sanction them for now. Already-sanctioned banks will be kicked off Swift, but others will be allowed to stay.

A senior Biden administration official said Saturday that officials were carefully selecting which Russian banks to eject from the Swift network to minimize disruption of energy markets.

“We know where most of the energy flows occur, through which banks they occur,” the official said. “And if we take that approach, we can simply choose the institutions where most of the energy flows do not occur.”

The exemptions enable European nations and others to continue buying Russian gas and oil. That tempers prices, including for oil, which have jumped by roughly 40% over the last three months over concerns of disruption to oil markets from a conflict in Ukraine. Higher oil prices boost the amount of money Russia makes for every barrel sold, and spurs inflation across the world.

“The way that...President Biden has approached sanctions is we want to take every step to maximize the impact and the consequences on President Putin, while minimizing the impact on the American people and the global community,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday on ABC News. “And so energy sanctions are certainly on the table. We have not taken those off. But we also want to do that and make sure we’re minimizing the impact on the global marketplace, and do it in a united way.”

U.S. officials say the exemptions were critical for winning political support for a coordinated and complementary pressure campaign from a broad range of economies including the U.S. and U.K., and the 27 member states of the EU.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 27, 2022 at 7:53pm

#Indian Rupee-#Russian rouble deal with #Russia likely to be fortified after #SWIFT freeze. #India-#Russia #Trade

The central government is planning to strengthen the rupee-rouble trade arrangement with Russia after the European Union, the US, and other Western partners decided to cut off several Russian banks from the global Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) payment system.

On Saturday, European countries and the US decided to block many Russian banks' from accessing SWIFT, following Russia's assault on Ukraine. The move was intended to force a military pull-back, isolate and dessicate President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions of financing the ...

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 28, 2022 at 8:12am

Several journalists have been called out on social media for dishing out casual racism as they reported on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis triggered by the war. The common theme of the remarks that many found to be irresponsible and borderline racist was that conflicts like these were commonplace in the relatively poorer regions of the world, not in "civilised" Europe. Most were aghast that those fleeing the war-ravaged country were what they called "people like them".

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 28, 2022 at 8:13am

#NBC Journalist's #Racism in Reporting on #Ukraine. Kelly Cobiella of NBC: “To put it bluntly, these (#Ukrainians) are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine... They're Christian, they're white, they're very similar." via @YouTube

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 28, 2022 at 10:22am

Q&As with Professor John Mearsheimer:

Q: Now Russia and China are cultivating a friendly relationship premised on the U.S. as their common enemy. Do you think Russia and China will be compatible in their stances toward Asia?

A: The U.S. has foolishly driven the Russians into the arms of the Chinese. I think Russia is the natural ally of the U.S. against China.

In 1969, the Soviet Union and China almost fought a war in Siberia. The Soviet Union and China -- and now we're talking about Russia and China -- have a history of bad relations, in large part because they share a border and each occupies big chunks of real estate in Asia. Russia should be an ally of the U.S. against China, and the U.S. needs all the allies it can get to contain China.

But what we have done by expanding NATO eastward is we have precipitated a huge crisis with Russia that prevents us from fully pivoting to Asia. We can't fully pivot to Asia because we're so concerned about events in Eastern Europe. That's the first consequence. The second is that we have driven the Russians into the arms of the Chinese. This makes no sense at all.

Q: The current tensions along the Ukraine border raise the question of whether the U.S. is capable of dealing with European and Asian issues simultaneously.

A: Let me chose my words carefully. The U.S. has the capability to deal with a conflict in Europe and a conflict in Asia at the same time.

However, it does not have the capability to perform well in both campaigns at the same time. By getting involved in a conflict in Eastern Europe, we, the U.S., are detracting from our ability to contain China and to fight a war against China, should one break out.

Q: Looking at Asia, some countries like North Korea continue to engage in nuclear arms brinkmanship. Will the world become a much more unstable, multipolar world? What is the way forward?

A: North Korean nuclear weapons are a significant problem, for Japan, for South Korea, and even for the U.S. As long as the U.S. maintains close alliances with Japan and South Korea, North Korea will not use its nuclear weapons. The American nuclear umbrella protects both Japan and South Korea from a strike with nuclear weapons from the North.

China is content to allow North Korea to keep its nuclear weapons. China has concluded that North Korean nuclear weapons are a force for stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia more generally.

However, the Chinese worry about Kim Jong Un engaging in nuclear brinkmanship, and the Chinese have told him in no uncertain terms that that is unacceptable. As a result he has curbed his behavior.

If Kim Jong Un goes back down that road, the Chinese will tell him, 'no more' because they don't want a nuclear crisis.

Q: The Biden administration hosted a summit of democracies last year. Do you think this approach is effective in curbing the rise of authoritarian countries?

A: No. This is a geopolitical competition, and we should think of it as a geopolitical competition and not an ideological competition.

The fact that Japan and the U.S. are democracies is very nice, but the truth is that they should be allied against China because China is a threat to both countries, regardless of ideology.

If you take the ideological argument too far, then you get to a point where you say Russia cannot be in the balancing coalition against China, because Russia is not a liberal democracy. I believe that would be foolish. What you ought to do is form an alliance with any powerful country you can find that will help you contain China. China is a formidable adversary.


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