GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 623, 20 March 2022

The US and Europe: Isolate Moscow, without a direct military engagement
D Suba Chandran

What happened?
On 18 March, a media note published by the White House referred to the telephone conversation between the American and Chinese Presidents. It said: “(The telephone conversation) was substantive and it was detailed.  The two leaders spent the preponderance of their time discussing Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, as well as the implications of the crisis for U.S.-China relations and the international order.” The media note also referred to President Biden’s message to President Xi on China’s Russia support. According to the statement, “President Biden made clear the implication and consequences of China providing material support — if China were to provide material support — to Russia as it prosecutes its brutal war in Ukraine, not just for China’s relationship with the United States but for the wider world.”

On 16 March, President Biden said, “We are crippling Putin’s economy with punishing sanctions that’s going to only grow more painful over time with the entire NATO and EU behind us, and many other countries.” 

On 16 March, President Biden also said, “The American people are answering President Zelenskyy’s call for more help, more weapons for Ukraine to defend itself, more tools to fight Russian aggression.  And that’s what we’re doing…On Saturday, my administration authorized another $200 million to keep a steady flow of weapons and ammunition moving to Ukraine.  Now I’m once again using my presidential authority to activate additional security assistance to continue to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s assault — an additional $800 million in assistance.  That brings the total of new U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to $1 billion just this week.  These are are direct transfers of equipment from our Department of Defense to the Ukrainian military to help them as they fight against this invasion.”

On 17 March, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the German Parliament; in his message, he said: “This is the wall now, and it will grow ever taller … Chancellor Scholz, tear down this wall.” Earlier, on 16 March, he also addressed the US Congress. He reminded the Americans of the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941 and the 9/11 attack. 

What is the background?
First, increased military support to Ukraine by the West. While the US and Europe have deliberately avoided getting into the war and directly engaging with Russia militarily, there is increased military support to Ukraine. For example, during the week, the US alone announced new military assistance worth USD 800 million, including Stinger anti-aircraft systems; armor systems; tactical unmanned aerial systems; grenade launchers; small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds; and body armors. The American and European military strategy in Ukraine is getting clear: don’t engage with Russia directly, but arm Ukraine to fight the Russian troops.

Second, building national consensus within on Ukraine. Despite the war entering into the fourth week, there are hesitations in the West to directly engage with Russia and provide more political space to Ukraine. President Zelensky’s messages to the Parliaments across the West – the US, Canada, the UK and Germany are a part of building a larger domestic consensus. The objective of the West to provide a platform to President Zelensky is also aimed at convincing the lawmakers within and building a national consensus on Ukraine. He is addressing the lawmakers in the West, trying to convince them to take a stronger position against Russia and also support Ukraine’s political and military position within Europe.

Third, isolating Russia internationally. The US and Europe are trying to isolate Russia – economically and politically. The vast sanctions imposed by the US and Europe aim to isolate Russia economically and prevent the rest of the world from dealing with Moscow. Biden’s telephone conversation with the Chinese President aims to prevent external support to Russia politically. 

What does it mean?
As the War in Ukraine enters into the fourth week, the strategy of the West is getting clear. First, the US and Europe do not want to engage Russia militarily in Ukraine. The objective of this strategy is to prevent a direct military engagement, that could escalate into a larger regional war. The West wants aims to keep the war localized and limited to Ukraine. Second, though the West does not want to fight the Russian troops in Ukraine, it does not want Russia to expand its political and military footprint. The West aims to achieve this by arming Ukraine with advanced weapons. Third, the US and Europe want to pin down Russia by isolating Moscow politically and economically at the global level. The sanctions and phone calls are a part of this.

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