Biden’s folly: Recreating Afghanistan in Ukraine

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NATO has entered into the wrong war at the wrong time with the wrong country, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat

Regime change enthusiasts in the United States have persuaded President Biden what the future of Ukraine should be, should a Russophobic government not remain in control. President Zelenskyy is making unceasing appeals to Ukrainian citizens to “take to arms to fight Russia in every city, every street, every village”. He has ordered the distribution of weapons to any person who asks for such lollipops.

This is similar to what NATO did in Syria and Libya, when it handed out weaponry to any local citizen who asked, without making any enquiries about their ideological preferences. Whether it be Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria, the effects of such non-discrimination were clear from almost the start. Ukraine is next in line for that disastrous fate. Just as President George H.W. Bush with his CIA training understood how to destroy the USSR from within by dangling imaginary carrots before CPSU General Secretary Gorbachev, the KGB-trained Putin must be aware that Zelenskyy’s sudden acceptance of Russian claims on Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk is intended to get Moscow to accept his continuance as President of Ukraine.

Armed personnel in Donetsk. (Photo by Victor_Xinhua_IANS)

After the sacrifices that Russia has made, Putin needs a leader in Kiev who would crush efforts at a Syrian, Libyan or Afghan-style “freedom struggle” in Ukraine, once his “Special Military Operations” (aka invasion) of Ukraine concludes. Were he to remain in charge, Zelenskyy would delight Biden›s  regime change enthusiasts in the US by promoting the cause that he has been exhorting them to adopt, which is to take up arms against any government that would get installed in Kiev that would avoid provoking another intervention by Russia. Such followers of the new Biden doctrine in the US are going forward with such a scenario. They regard as irrelevant what took place in Afghanistan after the 1980s, ending in the Trump-initiated surrender by Biden to the Taliban in 2021.

Why Zelenskyy favours a path that is certain to cause immense misery to his people is unclear. Conspiracy theorists claim that it is because Zelenskyy «is a US citizen and is obeying President Biden despite the damage that such an insurgency would do to his native country». This is an absurd view, for however unrealistic may be his approach to NATO and to Russia. Zelensky is as much a patriot as Yanukovich was. The misery of Ukraine is substantially because of Poroshenko-Zelensky policies that prioritized the objectives of NATO over the needs of the Ukrainan people. Given its geography and history, stability in Ukraine is possible only when Kiev and Moscow have a close relationship. The opposite has been the case since the Russian-speaking President,Viktor Yanukovich, was driven out of his country through street violence.

Just as Zelenskyy is not a CIA agent but a (somewhat clueless) patriot, Yanukovich was no FSB agent when he understood that joining the EU or NATO would be to cross a red line that would lead to conflict with Russia. Not just Putin but any leader after him would need to adopt the same policies that he has, given the history of the Gorbachev-Yeltsin period. The people of Ukraine have paid an increasing price since Yanukovich was deposed.by those Ukrainians who were under the spell of their country becoming part of NATO and the EU, and who believed that Washington, Berlin and Paris were strong enough to deter any effort by Moscow to prevent such a union. They may in future understand that such confidence was misplaced, but at an unbearable cost to a country that was a part of Russia for almost all of its existence.

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It is apparent from their policies that neither Joe Biden nor Boris Johnson is allowing the carnage in Ukraine to affect their “Gung Ho” spirit. Both are vying with each other in slapping sanctions after sanctions on “Putin’s Russia”, just as they earlier did on “Saddam’s Iraq” or “Assad’s Syria”. As for the economic distress that such efforts will cause to US and UK voters as a consequence of the predictable reaction of Putin to such blows, it’s “all Putin’s fault”. Biden and Johnson are fortunate for now that their political opponents are singing from the Biden-Johnson playbook. It is this duo that has propelled  Volodymyr Zelensky into actions that have led to disaster for his people.

Zelenskyy and much of his entourage are enthusiasts of the Afghan precedent from the 1980s, and display the same lack of judgment that President Biden did in the manner of his recent goodbye to Afghanistan, and the rollout of the red carpet to the Taliban. Former showman Zelenskyy and his entourage are in the performance of their lives, with the Ukrainian President cast as in the tragic hero of the Greek drama playing out in his country. Given the Gung Ho spirit of Boris Johnson and Joe Biden, few of the NATO member states have found the courage to explain the facts of life to this disastrous duo.

Pic credits @EmmanuelMacron

Neither Emmanuelle Macron nor Olaf Scholz (both of whom seem aware of the situation into which the Biden-Johnson duo are taking them) could bring sense into the unreal deliberations within the EU. Both have refused to do so. As a consequence, NATO has entered into the wrong war at the wrong time with the wrong country. After having declared war on Russia by financial sanctions designed to destroy that economy, thereby causing the war and “Putin’s inflation”, those in authority in Asia will not forget that NATO is the very alliance that surrendered to the Taliban in Afghanistan after fighting that rag-tag force since 2001.

The manner of the predicted action-reaction cycle now playing out between NATO and Russia is heading towards a kinetic ending. The rest of the world would simply be collateral damage, and as such, clearly irrelevant to the policies that have for years been implemented towards Russia by NATO since 1992. As Nazi Germany found out during 1941-45, Russia is not a country that gives up easily. It seems clear that NATO expected Putin to fold under the sanctions barrage, in the manner that Hitler expected Stalin to surrender after the Wehrmacht during 1941 and 1942 had occupied much of European Russia, at the cost of more than two million Soviet soldiers killed or captured. The pain threshold in Russia, whether it be “Putin’s Russia” or the still more hardline leader who would assuredly take over from him should Putin do what NATO asks of him, is much more than it is for the US or the EU. There is little incentive, personal or strategic, for President Putin to blink first in the game of chicken that NATO is playing at such great risk to the future of Europe.

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