If the metaphor of the “Great Game” can be applied to the Ukrainian crisis, with the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) at it core, it has begun causing reverberations across the entire Eurasian space. The great game lurking in the shade in the Caucasus and Central Asian regions in recent years is visibly accelerating.
The edge of the game is above everything else the targeting of Russia and China by the United States. This unfolding game cannot be underestimated, as its outcome may impact the shaping of a new model of the world order.
Starting with the Caspian Summit in Ashgabat on June 29, the inter-connected templates of the great game in the Caucasus began surfacing. The fact that the summit was scheduled at all despite the raging conflict in Ukraine — and that Russian President Vladimir Putin took time out to attend it — testified to the high importance of the event.
Finance ministers are the pangolins in the world of international diplomacy, solitary animals and predatory, unlike foreign ministers who are like glowworms, mesmerising and gorgeous animals that create light through their tail. While the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attending G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali a week ago staged a dramatic walkout when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rose to speak, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen simply sat through the speech by Russian minister Anton Siluanov at the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs that began in Bali on Friday.
Indeed, Yellen said her piece — calling Russia’s war in Ukraine the “greatest challenge” to the global economy and all that — while Russian Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov who was present, calmly listened. But a joint communique is unlikely, as the US is pressing G20 allies for a price cap on Russian oil, where consensus is lacking. All the same, the moderation in Yellen’s behaviour catches attention, as she realises, perhaps, that she no longer sets the global agenda.
The wider Ukraine meaning lies in this insight: Other leaders are no longer naïve when the West offers glass beads (or paper dollars) in exchange for their real riches
The West, in its cavalier manner, entered upon war with the Russia-China axis, without due care. It expected easy ‘wins’ with sanctions imploding the Russian economy, and with military urban-war tactics borrowed from Syria, bleeding out the Russian army. Instead, it is turning-out to be a monumental débacle. More than that, its multiple failures and insultingly-cocksure propaganda are proving a breakpoint, ushering-in a new era rather than nailing down the old order, as the West had hoped.
Why is this new era so grave? Firstly, because of that which lies ‘beneath’. The structural weaknesses and ‘dry rot’ that have been accumulating over decades, in damp basements. It was kept away, out of sight. The ‘children’ were removed from earshot, when ‘adults’ spoke amongst themselves, to acknowledge the decay and rot affecting their Mansions.
“Americans are in Ukraine,” states the New York Times, noting that the exact number of U.S. citizens fighting on the front lines of the conflict is unknown.
The New York Times adds that some of these Americans are also volunteering for casualty evacuation teams and to be bomb disposal specialists, logistics experts and instructors.
The New York Times also claims that there are currently small teams of former special operations members providing training to Ukrainian soldiers and, in some cases, helping Kiev’s forces plan combat missions.
On July 1 at the White House, US President Joe Biden made a startling disclosure that “the idea we’re going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term.”
American gas exporters have positioned themselves accordingly to fill the gap as Europe turns away from Russian imports. FT reported recently that “US liquefied natural gas producers have announced a string of deals to boost exports as the industry capitalises on shortages that have left Europe with a mounting energy crisis.”
The deals are so lucrative that Cheniere, America’s leading gas exporter, has taken an investment decision to push ahead with a project that will boost its capacity more than 20 per cent by late 2025, anticipating long-term supply deals and locked in purchases of US gas over the coming decades. The US producers of gas are reportedly running plants flat-out to increase supplies to the EU.
Henry Kissinger predicted some three weeks ago that the Ukraine war was dangerously close to becoming a war against Russia. That was a prescient remark. The NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in a weekend interview told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that in the alliance’s estimation, the Ukraine war could wage for years.
“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine. Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices,” Stoltenberg said. He added that the supply of state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would increase the chance of liberating the Donbass region from Russian control.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday stressed that the public needs to keep up its support of Ukraine after nearly four months of war.
Media reports said:
“The worry that we have is that a bit of Ukraine-fatigue is starting to set in around the world,” Johnson told reporters on the back of a trip to Kyiv. “It is very important to show that we are with them for the long haul and we are giving them that strategic resilience that they need.”
Johnson on Friday made his second surprise trip to the Ukrainian capital. The British government, in a show of support, offered Ukraine a military training program that could train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days. Johnson’s office said it would “fundamentally change the equation of the war.”
Ukraine’s allies are in disagreement on the question of the war.
On June 14, a New York Times report — A Link to Besieged Ukrainians Is Cut, as Allies Question Strategy — said:
“The last bridge to the city of Sievierodonetsk fell as battles raged, and some Western officials questioned Ukraine’s ability to keep resisting Russia.”
The report said:
“Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, insists that his country may yet prevail if it is given more powerful weaponry, but as Western military leaders prepared to meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, some officials sounded dubious, with talk again turning to what an end to the war might look like — and how to bring it about.”