Biden and Putin’s ‘game of chicken’: round two - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

Biden and Putin’s ‘game of chicken’: round two

A muscle-flexing show was expected to go down between the U.S. and Russia in the Black Sea over the crisis with Ukraine. The developments have been compared to those dark days of tension during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. At the end of March, Russia had deployed 100,000 troops to the eastern borders of Ukraine on the pretext of conducting military exercises. However, according to anti-Russian hawks in the U.S., Moscow was planning on invading the east of Russia. Well, what was the path to Ukraine’s salvation? Becoming a NATO member as soon as possible. However, even though Ukraine is extremely keen on the idea, the EU members of NATO are not. The EU does not want to cross the “red line” declared by Russia. 

From the very beginning, Russia has had beef with the fact that eastern and southeastern European countries joined the bloc. Moscow perceives NATO's expansion in these areas, which include the Balkans and former Warsaw Pact members, as a "threat" to itself. During negotiations between the Soviet Union and United states that ended the cold War, the U.S. had promised that NATO wouldn’t expand to Russia’s borders. However, the U.S. did not keep its promise. From the late 90s onwards, NATO members doubled. Russia virtually perceives Ukraine’s joining of the bloc as grounds for war. Additionally, it strongly opposes the attempts of Georgia, which lies on the east of the Black Sea, to join NATO as well. Turkey for its part, which also surrounds the Black Sea, joined NATO in 1952, whereas Romania and Bulgaria became a part of the bloc in the year 2004. With the addition of Ukraine and Georgia, the Black Sea will virtually become a “NATO lake.” Russia, of course, would never allow this, and will spare no effort to prevent it from happening. 

Following Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders, the U.S. announced that it would deploy two warships to the Black Sea mid-April. There have been serious concerns that tensions resembling those of the 1962 Cuba Missile Crisis would flare in the Black Sea. Like i said in my article on Apr. 11, titled ‘Washington is playing a game of chicken with Beijing and Moscow!’ these two former players of the Cold War are planning to pull the brakes at the very last second. They did this back in 1962 as well, quickly swerving from the verge of a nuclear war that had the world on tenterhooks.  

And events unfolded as I expected as the U.S. changed its mind at the last minute and decided not to deploy warships to the Black Sea. Russia, for its part, announced that it would withdraw the troops it deployed to the borders of Ukraine. In an announcement by the Russian Ministry of Defense, it stated that due to the escalating tension in the Donbass region of Ukraine, the reinforcements that the Russian army had sent to the eastern border of Crimea and Ukraine to measure their capability of acting during urgent interventions had now started to withdraw. However, it also stated that most of the heavy weapons deployed to the region will stay for a while longer. The U.S. and Russia thus prevented a face-off that did not bode well, to say the least. If we were to read between the lines, Russia's announcement means, “I’m withdrawing troops, but I can quickly re-deploy them when necessary.”

Russia’s troop deployment is applying serious pressure on Ukraine. Biden wants to line up NATO-member EU countries against Russia. As it has it, none of them wants a Ukraine-Russia war. Hence, it’s not possible for EU countries to go beyond anything other than applying diplomatic pressure and sanctions. During the Trump era, the U.S.’ relations with its allies in Europe was not all butterflies and rainbows. Biden's administration had declared that it would pursue a policy that prioritized repairing fractured relationships and restoring trust with allies. So, it’s problematic for the U.S. to implement policies, whether it be against China or Russia, without mending frayed relations. Europe’s security perception has changed, and it won’t run the risk of taking on China and Russia with the U.S. just for old times’ sake.

Furthermore, the “differences of opinion” between the U.S. and Europe regarding Russia are another bone of contention. These differences are mainly composed of the argument of whether Russia is a “threat” to the West, or just an “issue.” A similar debate is taking place among the U.S. foreign policy elite. "Globalists" and "nationalists" have different perspectives. Anti-Russian hawks like to use the title "threat," whereas liberal doves like to use the term “issue.” These two concepts, of course, contain very different policies.


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