Countercurrents | June 13, 2022
Momentum in the Ukraine War has begun favoring Russia, and as a clear signal, the NATO Secretary-General has told Ukraine to decide how much territory it likes to concede in exchange of peace.
A New York Times report — “Momentum in Ukraine Is Shifting in Russia’s Favor” (June 11, 2022) — said:
Ukraine lacking the weaponry it needs, and Western support for the war effort fraying in the face of rising gas prices and galloping inflation.
The report said:
Russian forces did appear to be making slow, methodical and bloody progress toward control of eastern Ukraine.
The heady early days of the war have begun to fade. In their place is a war that is evolving into what analysts increasingly say will be a long slog, placing growing pressure on the governments and economies of Western countries and others throughout the world.
Nowhere is that slog more evident than in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Despite urgent pleas to the West for more heavy weapons, Ukrainian forces appear to lack what it takes to confront Russia’s use of artillery for scorched-earth shelling of towns and villages. While Ukraine is holding Russia back in the major regional city of Sievierodonetsk, it is suffering heavy losses — at least 100 fatalities a day, although their full extent is not yet known — and desperately needs more weapons and ammunition.
Russia also appears to be making headway in establishing control in towns it has captured, including the leveled Black Sea port of Mariupol.
The New York Times report said:
The Russian economy has shown surprising resilience.
The report added:
In Africa and Asia, support for the West — and for Ukraine — is more nuanced. Many countries see little difference between Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the U.S.’ invasion of Iraq in 2003; they seem unlikely to be persuaded otherwise.
More generally, there is resentment in much of the developing world of what is seen as U.S. domination, viewed as a hangover from the 20th century. In this context, the strong partnership between China and Russia is viewed not with the hostility and anxiety that it provokes in the West, but rather as a salutary challenge to a Western-dominated global system.
With inflation hitting levels not seen for four decades in the U.S. and Britain, financial markets tumbling, interest rates rising and food shortages looming, such a drift in focus away from a long war toward more pressing domestic concerns may be inevitable.
The report said:
A combination of high inflation and recession, viewed as plausible by many economists, would be reminiscent of the 1970s, when the first oil shock devastated the global economy. With midterm elections in the U.S. only months away, President Joe Biden and the Democrats can ill afford a campaign season dominated by talk of $5-a-gallon gasoline and nearly double-digit inflation.
Yet the ingredients of a long war are clear enough. There is no sign of a Russian readiness for territorial compromise.
Other media reports said:
U.S. official says Russia will likely control region in eastern Ukraine within weeks.
An area of eastern Ukraine could soon be under Russian control as Ukrainian officials continue to plead with the West to send more weapons.
An unnamed senior U.S. official told The Washington Post the Luhansk Oblast would likely be under Russian control in a matter of weeks. The official said two cities, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, were particularly vulnerable and could fall to Russian forces in the next week.
Russia has made some notable advances. The Donbas shares a border with Russia and includes Luhansk and Donetsk.
As fighting continues in the east, the strategic city of Severodonetsk has been a focus of Russia’s offensive and is largely under Russian control, despite Ukrainian officials saying earlier this month their forces had recaptured some of the city.
The UK said last week it would send “cutting edge” guided rocket systems to Ukraine to help defend against long-range artillery used by Russia.
Ukraine To Decide How Much Territory It Trades For Peace, Says NATO S-G
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that the U.S.-led alliance aims to strengthen Ukraine’s position at the negotiating table, but added that any peace deal would involve compromises, including of territory.
Stoltenberg spoke at the Kultaranta Talks in Finland, following a meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. While the NATO chief said that the West was willing to “pay a price”to strengthen the Ukrainian military, Kiev will have to make some territorial concessions to Moscow in order to end the current conflict.
“Peace is possible,” he said. “The only question is what price are you willing to pay for peace? How much territory, how much independence, how much sovereignty are you willing to sacrifice for peace?”
Stoltenberg did not suggest what terms Ukraine should accept, saying that “it’s for those who are paying the highest price to make that judgment,”while NATO and the West continue supplying arms to the Ukrainians to “strengthen their hand”when a settlement is eventually negotiated.
The secretary general did not directly endorse the ceding of Ukrainian territory, but he did bring up the example of Finland, which gave up Karelia to the Soviet Union as part of a peace deal during the Second World War. Stoltenberg described the Finnish-Soviet settlement as “one of the reasons Finland was able to come out of the Second World War as an independent sovereign nation.”
Stoltenberg’s statement comes amid growing sentiment that Ukraine may soon be pressed into a peace deal by its Western backers. While U.S. and UK officials publicly insist that Ukraine “can win”its war with Russia, a recent CNN report suggests that officials in Washington, London and Brussels are meeting without their Ukrainian counterparts in an effort to plan a ceasefire and peace settlement.
Finland Would Not Join NATO Without Sweden
Finland will not join the U.S.-led NATO bloc without Sweden should the latter run into an impasse on its ascension path, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said. The official made the remarks during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Helsinki on Sunday.
“I say that Sweden’s case is ours. That means we will go further hand in hand,” Niinisto stated.
The NATO chief, for his part, signaled that the alliance has not imposed any deadline to accept the bids of Finland and Sweden but seeks to iron out the differences between them and Turkey “as soon as possible.”Stoltenberg insisted that the upcoming summit of the alliance, scheduled for late June, has been never seen as the deadline to accept the two prospective members.
“The Summit in Madrid was never a deadline; at the same time, I would like to see this solved as soon as possible. And therefore we are working hard with our NATO Ally Turkiye, and also with Finland and Sweden, to address those issues that Turkiye has raised,” Stoltenberg said, referring to Turkey by its new official English-language name.
Stoltenberg’s remarks signaled an apparent change of NATO’s stance on the time frame for the potential ascension of Finland and Sweden.
Earlier this week, the bloc’s Deputy Secretary General Camille Grand expressed hopes that the differences between Turkey and the two prospective member states would be resolved before the summit.
Finland and Sweden have scrambled to join NATO amid the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. While both Nordic nations have maintained close ties and military cooperation with the U.S.-led bloc for decades already, de jure they have remained neutral countries.
The potential accession of the two nations to the bloc, however, has run into a deadlock as Turkey, a major NATO nation, firmly opposed their membership bid. Ankara accused the two countries of functioning as “guesthouses for terrorist organizations”and hosting members of outlawed Kurdish groups it deems to be “terrorists.”
NATO acknowledges Turkey’s concerns, Stoltenberg said, and encourages negotiations between Ankara and the two Nordic countries.
“So when a vital, key ally like Turkiye raises a concern like terrorism, then of course we have to sit down and take this seriously. And that’s exactly what we do,” he stressed.