The world held its breath while Biden and Putin had a meeting that lasted two hours. It was no secret that the focus was going to be Ukraine, where tensions have been mounting for a while. Provided that this issue is at the core, both sides discussed a general assessment of the relationship between them on a larger scale and the measures that can be taken.
Then came the mutual statements. Usually, it’s easy to dismiss these as nothing more than a case of “the mountain gave birth to mice” when considered together with the tension-filled lead-up.
We can say that the American statement is the one that decisively gave it away. Because if it mentioned anything that remotely pointed to a possible military response should Russia invade Ukraine, we would have been bracing ourselves for a dramatic showdown, that a Cold War climate was upon us again, and perhaps we would have begun to brood. But it didn't.
The White House statement instead said that if Russia entered Ukraine, the reaction would be severe economic sanctions. Could this deter Russia? If Russia really is determined and ready to go to war with Ukraine, we can guess that this threat will be insufficient to deter it. Because we know that the party that feels stuck here is Russia itself. Putin sees the U.S. as thwarting him in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. He predicts that if he loses Ukraine, Russia will also fall. It has turned for Putin into a question of life and death. Then there's nothing he won't risk, including the possibility of nuclear war. This increases Putin's determination and intimidates the United States.
Washington has taken a step back in the face of this determination from Russia, which it has recently squeezed through Eastern Europe and the Black Sea.
To sum up, the victor in this meeting is by far Putin. We can say this by looking at the results. After Afghanistan, the credibility of the U.S. in the eyes of the world states continues to erode in Ukraine.
Well, then we also have to ask the question: Did the U.S. not anticipate that things would reach this point and that it would have to take a step back? What was it counting on? Biden will meet with the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy after his meeting with Putin. What to expect from these talks? That these leaders would egg him on by shouting battle cries? Putin controls the natural gas faucet. Considering the winter conditions that have already started in Europe, leaving the continent to freeze looks like it could be a viable move. Not to mention that European economies, which have slowed down and entered recession after the pandemic, are slowly grinding down to a halt again. Germany is experiencing these issues most acutely. France, while further away, would not want Germany, and the EU more generally, to experience such dramatic distress. Could the EU enter a war to save Ukraine, the outcome of which will be disastrous for all concerned parties? This will not come to pass…
Could the U.S. not foresee them? If Washington has such an incalculable and thoughtless strategy, it's already done. If the issue is limited to keeping the arms industry afloat and therefore escalating regional tensions, this indicates that U.S. policies have become simplified and that they have gone beyond the medium and long-term ranges. Because, after a certain point, no state, not even satellite terrorist organizations, will be able to do business by relying on Washington.
My guess is that the provocative Black Sea and Eastern European policies and strategies carried out by the U.S. were done with the aim of instigating a bloody war between Russia and Ukraine and then withdraw. They brought things to a certain threshold. We can already see Zelensky playing his part in this scenario. At this stage, the ball is in Putin's court. If he orders his armies to attack and wage a war, he will be playing into Washington’s hands. I personally don't think he will fall for it. I think that from now on, Putin will punish Ukraine, which has been abandoned to its fate by the West, especially the U.S., via other ways, for example by cutting off gas supplies, and from there Putin will work on plans to overthrow the Zelensky government.
There is however, one scenario where this trend could be reversed. Let's dive in: It has been announced that Biden will also meet with Zelensky after he speaks with European leaders. We can assume that Zelensky, who knows that he is bound to lose, may want to play his last trump card in this meeting and quickly get Ukraine into NATO. I don't think that it’s an easy ask, but if we assume that it actually comes to pass, it means that World War III will break out. I’m deeply doubtful about whether the U.S. will take that kind of risk… In short, my personal opinion is that no one will pull the trigger and this crisis will deal a heavy blow to Ukraine.
While all eyes are on the Black Sea and Ukraine, I guess that the main critical escalation will come from way south. It directly concerns the Israel-Iran faultline. I have been for a long time been warning that Israel will strike Iran sooner or later. Perhaps the time has come. Who knows, maybe the Iran issue was talked about much more than Ukraine over the course of the Biden-Putin meeting.