Talks are underway between the U.S. and Russia to resolve the Ukraine crisis, however, there is no sign of an agreement as of yet. Meanwhile, various scenarios are being discussed with Washington concerning Russia’s real intentions in Ukraine.
According to one such scenario, Russia does not intend to invade all of Ukraine. There’s a strong possibility that Russia may launch a military operation in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, which is controlled by local pro-Russian forces.
Another scenario would see the Russian army advancing toward Kyiv, as Russia might want to use the Kyiv trump card in negotiations with the U.S. and NATO.
According to Harlan Ullman of the Atlantic Council, an influential American think-tank, Putin's aim is to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to guarantee that he is giving up his NATO membership aspirations.
The American decision to deploy 3,000 troops to Romania, Germany, and Poland has ramped up the tension. U.S. President Biden also approved the dispatch of 8,500 troops to NATO member countries in Eastern Europe in case Russia does decide to invade Ukraine after all.
Russia strongly opposes both the NATO membership of countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union and the presence of foreign forces in these states.
This is the bone of contention that Russia prioritizes in its talks with the United States and NATO, as Moscow sees NATO expansion in Eastern Europe as a threat.
Meanwhile, The U.S. is in two minds about going to war with Russia over Ukraine. The conflict with Moscow has also breathed new life into the pro-war neocons, prompting observers to dub this situation as the "return of the neocons." A quick reminder: The neocons are one of the strongest components of the American Military Industrial Complex, which feeds on wars and arms sales.
On the other hand, a confrontation with Russia is welcomed by the mainstream wings of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Meanwhile, the Democratic left and staunch Trumpist Republicans are both opposed to a conflict with Russia.
Hardline pro-Trump Republican Senator Josh Hawley sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, asking for a de-escalation of tensions with Russia.
Hawley has been accused by both the White House and anti-Russian hawks of being a Putin mouthpiece.
A number of American strategists point out that focusing on the Ukraine crisis will atrophy the great power struggle with China. Senator Josh Hawley also argues in his letter that the Biden administration's decision to send forces into Eastern Europe could undermine the United States' ability to modernize its military deterrence against China in the Indo-Pacific. It was also remarkable that Washington Post author Jennifer Rubin rebuked Hawley—and extremely harshly at that.
According to strategists who criticize NATO's policy of expanding to the East, the United States does not have any strategic interests in Ukraine. The real danger comes from China, which is trying to displace the U.S. from its role as a "global hegemon.”
According to strategists who argue that the alliance between Russia and China will weaken the U.S.’s hand, hawkish policies towards Russia will further drive Moscow into the arms of Beijing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who met in Beijing, demonstrated their united front against the U.S. in a joint statement, in which the two countries agreed on the non-enlargement of NATO, and that alliance must abandon its ideological parameters of the old Cold War.
In the statement, it was also emphasized that Russia reaffirmed the principle of "One China" and that Taiwan is an integral part of the country. While making this statement, a U.S. bill to strengthen economic competition against China was passed by the House of Representatives.
A similar bill drafted by the Biden administration was previously passed in the U.S. Senate with the support of nearly 20 Republican senators. The bills are expected to be combined and submitted for U.S. President Biden's approval.
This bill indicates that America’s geo-economic war with China will only intensify in the coming weeks.
Although both the Ukraine and Taiwan crises seem to have nothing to do with each other, in essence, they reflect the great power struggle between the U.S. and China. War games in both countries gain extra significance as they are perceived as the front lines of this competition. The real danger seems to be that these games may turn into hot conflict, either by accident or due to false flag provocation.