Analysis | Will the war in Ukraine spread? | War in Ukraine

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Analysis | Will the war in Ukraine expand? | War in Ukraine

A year ago the first Russian tanks entered Ukraine.

A year ago today, late on February 23, 2022 – it was already the 24th, seen from America – Russian forces launched the “special military operation” decided by Vladimir Putin to take control of Ukraine . A “little walk” for the Russian army, which was intended to be as brief as it was lightning.

Even the Western intelligence services, which moreover had correctly predicted the invasion, initially thought they saw this operation as a sure, almost inevitable success for the aggressor. With the crushing and rapid surrender of the unfortunate country invaded by the neighboring giant, incomparably superior in number and in striking power.

We know that it turned out otherwise. The immediate and massive resistance of the Ukrainians, a veritable spasm of national survival (at the assumed cost of individual lives), has somehow forced the hand of Western states.

After many hesitations and delays, they rushed – in successive waves and always more from one time to another – to the rescue of Ukraine.

Ukraine has become, over these twelve months of bloodshed, a symbol of the struggle for freedom against the forces of tyranny, in the words of US President Joe Biden during his spectacular February 20 visit to Kiev, resumed the following day in Warsaw.

President Biden delivered a speech in Warsaw, the Polish capital, following his visit to Ukraine the day before.

In fact, the analysis according to which the war in Ukraine was a kind of trap set by the United States and NATO for Russia is completely contradicted by this initial sequence.

In reality, in Paris, Berlin and especially in Washington, we tried until the last second to dissuade the Russian president from taking action. We feared this invasion, because we predicted an easy victory for Russia and a further weakening of the West and its cohesion. Such were also, by the way… Vladimir Putin's analysis and plan!

When he committed the irreparable end of February 2022, the United States seemed ready to move Ukraine very quickly through profit and loss.

Proof of this is the famous American taxi offer to exfiltrate Volodymyr Zelensky from Ukraine in complete safety… which would have confirmed the instant defeat of the Kiev government. Offer to which, according to the Associated Press, Zelensky responded with an arm of honor: It's not a taxi I need, but ammunition to defend myself.

Subsequently, from one stage to another, Western military aid to Ukraine, from the famous (and derisory) 5000 helmets offered by Germany (January 2022) to Leopard tanks (January 2023 ), went crescendo… but each time, with infinite reluctance to move up a gear.

Canada is among the states that have decided to supply tanks to Ukraine.

All this shows that the complicity of Westerners was not at all obvious, at least at first. And if NATO undeniably took advantage of this war to regain its vigor, it was in no way premeditated.

We can rather speak of profitable opportunism, revealing itself over the course of unforeseen events, for an organization of which many have not given much in recent years. In December 2019, President Emmanuel Macron of France had he not declared: NATO is in a state of brain death.

We are dealing with a miracle or a ghost , rather than an all-powerful one who would have planned and manipulated everything!

After a year, should we expect another year or more of this horror? Or to a kind of stalemate and fatigue of the warring parties, which would lead to a frozen conflict, with periodic skirmishes and without substantive settlement, as there are elsewhere in the former USSR? This is unfortunately a possibility, even if other scenarios cannot be ruled out.

There are several ways to end a war. One is the clear victory of one camp over the other. We still have to define what a victory is. For Moscow, is it the total absorption of Ukraine, which was the initial objective? Or rather: be content with Crimea, plus Donetsk and Luhansk regions?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

For Kiev, the official line is: total reconquest of territory national, including Crimea – Crimea which has been Ukrainian for more than 60 years (including almost 25 years in independent Ukraine, after a referendum where the Ukrainian yes, in 1991, also won in the peninsula) .

Among kyiv's Western backers, the line usually heard and repeated is to say Support for Ukraine; Ukraine must win this war; it is the Ukrainians who will decide, if necessary, whether or not they should accept a compromise, in particular territorial. So much for the principles.

In fact, in many European capitals, you will hear politicians whispering to you, for example, that Crimea represents a red line from Moscow… which it might be better to respect. Others expand the concept to say that a status quo ante to the situation before February 23, 2022 (with significant fractions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions out of Kyiv's control) would be an acceptable compromise. /p>

Recent statements do not suggest, in the current state, any evolution of positions that could lead to such compromises, which remain theoretical speculations.

On February 22, Putin repeated his classic imperialist speech, according to which Russia is fighting for its historical borders, a vague and very broad concept that can encompass, in addition to Ukraine and Belarus, Georgia, the South Caucasus and even to parts of Central Asia.

Russia according to Putin is an empire, not a nation. It is also, he already said with a laugh in 2016, a concept that has no borders. But he was only half laughing.

A Ukrainian soldier pets a dog while on patrol in Bakhmout, a city hard hit by the Russian offensive in Ukraine. Behind him, on the wall, we can read the word “love”.

Yes, but such a possibility can also, sometimes, be an element of language to talk about the enemy in propagandist terms.

For example, in a newspaper interview LeMonde published on February 22, Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov makes a sensational claim: We are nearing the end of the war in Ukraine.

Propaganda? Rodomontade? Budanov argues that the Russian army is in an advanced state of exhaustion, that the latest recruits in the field are just cannon fodder, sent in hastily, under duress and under-equipped, barely capable of conquer, at the cost of thousands of human lives, a few square meters of territory.

He declares in particular: Russia will be forced to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory under military pressure, under the pressure of political processes internal to Russia, and under the pressure of diplomacy. Russia will be forced to make this withdrawal soon, otherwise it will lead to the collapse of the regime.

But we also hear, among certain pro-Russian French or American commentators (for example the retired Colonel Douglas Macgregor, or the indefatigable Scott Ritter, former UN inspector), that an imminent collapse awaits the army on the contrary. Ukrainian.

It is true that Macgregor made such a claim a year ago, in the very first days of the invasion, and then he repeated it at least two more times: at the beginning of summer (battle of Severodonetsk) and these last days… Perhaps the analyst is confusing his desires with reality?

It is possible, but there are many imponderables. When will the famous Leopard super tanks arrive? How many of these tanks will actually be delivered? Will they be able to break through the Russian trenches southeast of the Dnieper River, on the way to Crimea?

Will these deliveries be followed by very long-range missile launchers? Or F-16 type fighter jets, which could give Ukraine air superiority?

Among the imponderables, there is also Western production capacity. Will she follow the request of the Ukrainian defense? This is the question posed, not without anguish, by the eminent American specialist on Russia Stephen Kotkin, in a recent interview with the weekly The New Yorker.

Kotkin points out that, so far, Westerners have mostly dipped into their existing stocks, but will soon need to produce. On the Ukrainian side, simple artillery shells would be close to being out of stock, and European industry unable to supply on demand.

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 dlqbmr">Russian President Vladimir Putin received the first Friendship Medal from Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in March 2022. (File Photo)

< p class="e-p">In recent weeks, there has been a marked rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow. It culminated on February 22 when Chinese foreign policy chief Wang Yi visited Moscow where he met Vladimir Putin. It announced an upcoming visit by Xi Jinping to Russia.

In its approach to the war in Ukraine, Beijing is shifting from distanced circumspection to an increasingly anti-Western and pro-Russian stance. China squarely blames the US for the war. And Wang Yi went to Moscow, in his words, to strengthen Russia's strategic partnership and all-round cooperation.

On February 20, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Beijing of planning to send lethal weapons to Russia. Despite the denial of the Chinese – who would not want to be caught doing precisely what they accuse Westerners in Ukraine! – there are unmistakable signs.

On February 14, 15 and 16, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made a long stay in China. With Xi Jinping, we discussed, among other things, the necessary common struggle against the ugly Western hegemony, for an alternative model to the hypocritical liberal democracy: the same speech we hear in Moscow.

We also discussed military cooperation between the two countries. From there, we can push the reasoning: Iran is already a supplier of military drones to Russia; China itself is a drone producer; Iran could act as intermediaries in a possible Beijing-Tehran-Moscow axis, etc.

Of course, there are obstacles to such a commitment by China, which must monitor its economic backs. This great trading country has an interest in sparing its partners, in hiding its game, in not throwing oil on the fire, even if these partners are at the same time ideological and diplomatic adversaries (especially after the balloon affair which further chilled Sino-US relations).

Will ideological and diplomatic adversaries tomorrow become military adversaries in a proxy war in Europe? The question is relevant and distressing.

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