Rostislav Ishchenko: Ukraine – Outside the Brackets of the Great Game

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Rostislav Ishchenko, President of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting, for RIA Novosti Ukraine

When at the same time many tasks simultaneously fall at one’s feet and they are afraid of not having the time to do them, the responsible, organized people rank the challenges primarily focusing on the most important and urgent ones that need to be resolved. It means that if nevertheless there will not be enough time, it is the secondary tasks that do not have decisive importance that are delayed.

States, when they lack the capacity to simultaneously solve all problems, behave in the same way. They focus on areas of strategic importance, and reduce or even temporarily cease activity where a quick decisive victory is impossible to achieve.

About a pencil for a thousand dollars

When the United States fifteen or twenty years ago unleashed the campaign of disruption of international relations, the destruction of dozens of States, and the chaotization of the world political process, they came from the fact that they significantly posses more resources than their potential global opponents. Consequently, America still will not have the time to deal with serious problems, while its geopolitical enemies (Russia, China) will have to exert themselves and plunge into a serious crisis.

Everything happens exactly in the contrary. There are many reasons for this. Including the vicious practice of calculating GDP in the US’ manner (in terms of its dollar expression). It turns out that if we set the price of a pencil at a hundred dollars per unit, then the economic power of our country will be estimated as a hundred times greater than where the same pencil costs one dollar. And if we were also resell our pencil ten times, while the dollar pencil will be sold only once, then our economic strength will officially be a thousand times more. But in reality both they and us only have one pencil.

Thus, focusing on nominal figures of GDP inflated due to high prices and a long chain of resales, the Americans overestimated their real economic power. In fact, if we compare the indicators only of industrial production on purchasing power parity, then the gap between Russia and the US will be 15-20%, and not significantly by orders of magnitude. And China, even more so, has had already for a long time an industrial production ahead of the US.

In the real world, in the world of things, and not in the world of virtual money arising from the air, the resource base of the US in the noughties was not absolutely superior, and for the last ten years it even significantly (twofold) started to lag behind the total resource base of Russia and China. As a result, the US began to exert itself early.

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Their situation was exacerbated by the fact that Moscow, Beijing, and joining them Tehran, and later also other allies were able to concentrate on one or two issues most important for them, while for the United States it was necessary to ensure absolute dominance in all crisis zones. Contrary to the US’ projections, it became known that the resource base is comparable, but the spending of resources for each of the opponents is much less than the United States is constantly forced to spend.

About critically important directions

The electoral campaign of Trump relied on the support of that part of society and those layers of the elite that realized that it is impossible to be strong everywhere, and suggested to America for the restoration of its power to focus on critically important points, the loss of which will mean the loss of the whole fight for world hegemony.

While secondary directions can be left for later, or in general to cede way – let the opponents stretch their resources in these directions.

There are 3 points in the world that are critically important for the US.

The first one is Europe – the traditional Transatlantic ally and major economic partner of the United States. The US’ dominance on the European continent and the political subordination of Brussels to Washington are the basis of the American concept of economic and military-political security.

The second one is the Asia-Pacific region (APR) – the workshop of the world, resource storage and multi-billion dollar market, which is rapidly acquiring sufficient purchasing power. In addition, control over the Pacific ocean is no less important to ensure the security of the US than control over the North Atlantic.

The third one is the Middle East – the most important communications line between two regions that are critical for the US. Besides this, the Middle East accounts for most of the countries that are mining hydrocarbon energy (oil and gas). The country that controls the Middle East at the same time controls the world trade of hydrocarbons and is the major crossroads of world trade routes.

The US more and more clearly loses in all three aforementioned regions.

How allies scatter

The EU recently started to refuse to unconditionally follow in the wake of the American policy. In some cases, Washington manages to break the resistance of its European allies, but this takes up time and consumes resources. And more and more often the US finds itself not being able to convince Europe to act on their side.

In the late 90’s-early 2000’s the “zone of responsibility” of NATO was arbitrarily extended from the North Atlantic to the whole world. Europe was obediently sending their troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. And suddenly, in 2017, the EU refused to support the American ultimatum to North Korea under the pretext that Korea is outside the area of responsibility of NATO.

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EU countries also have significantly reduced their activity in Syria. Even if they continue to carry out some auxiliary military functions, then the political activity with the transfer of the seat of negotiations from Geneva to Astana ceased altogether.

Europe also ignores the wishes of the United States to increase the contribution of the EU for the maintenance of NATO, bringing the military budgets to the agreed 2% of GDP.

In the Middle East the United States lost the civil war in Syria. Assad managed to remain. Now they risk to lose also the post-war settlement. Washington’s stake on the Kurds leads to the formation in the region of an anti-American coalition in the face of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, which is able to insist on the withdrawal of the US from the settlement process and to refuse to take into account their interests.

Here the United States’ ally Saudi Arabia loses the civil war in Yemen, which will provide the strengthening in the country of a pro-Iranian government.

Not only Egypt, but also Libya, which seeks to stabilize the internal political situation and realizes that the American policy in the region is a major obstacle to achieving their goals, searches for contacts and finds understanding in Russia. Qatar also moved from the American to the Iranian-Turkish camp.

In general, the position of Washington in the region is weakening by the day, and allies flee and move to the side of opponents.

Beijing drives forward

In the Asia-Pacific region the United States, despite all attempts, including the threat of force, failed to stop the construction of Chinese bases in the South China sea. Beijing is close to establishing control over the strategic Strait of Malacca (which connects the Pacific and Indian oceans). Realizing that the growing influence of China, which the US’ allies in the Asia-Pacific region already began to run across to, must be stopped, and not being able to achieve this by a direct military confrontation, the United States tried to humiliate China through a regime change in North Korea.

It was difficult to defend Kim Jong-un, who ignored international pressure to stop his nuclear and missile programs – a direct violation of UN resolutions was evident. Especially as Washington knew very well that the ideological and militarized Korean authorities, possessing nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, bears an eventual threat also to Russia and neighbouring China.

Nevertheless, even here Washington managed to lose. The measured but firm stance of Beijing, which promised to defend Korea only if it will be attacked and will not attack itself, is in line with international law, while the actions of the US, which were not empowered by anyone to disarm North Korea and to change power in this country, obviously are outside the law.

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As a result, even Europe condemned the reckless actions of the US and urged Washington to show greater restraint.

Ukraine as an encumbrance

Losing in points that are key for itself, the US cannot find enough resources for active action in the secondary theaters of the political war, particularly in the Ukrainian one. The loss in Syria or the Asia-Pacific region will be a global loss for Washington, while the loss in Ukraine will be even less of a puncture than the overthrow in Egypt of the pro-American Muslim Brotherhood by the multi-vector field-marshal al-Sisi. Just a small pain.

The Americans tried to exchange with Russia Ukraine for concessions regarding the Syrian issue. It did not work, because Moscow is well aware that Kiev is a commodity that represents not value, but an encumbrance. The Americans also tried to use the Ukrainian-Polish union to disrupt Russian gas transit to the EU. This also did not work, and precisely through the fault of Ukraine.

If Poland courageously refused the laying of the second line of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline to prevent Gazprom from maneuvering its capacities, then Ukraine has never been able to safely and permanently block gas deliveries through its gas transportation system, having demonstrated to Europe the unreliability of Gazprom as a supplier, and giving the US a trump card to compel the EU to switch to alternative (American) sources of gas supplies. Poland and Ukraine also failed to convince the EU as a whole and Germany in particular to refuse the construction of “Nord Stream” and then “Nord Stream – 2”. Ukraine failed to block the construction of the Turkish Stream.

Ultimately, and this is the most important, having propped itself up using the Bandera ideology as a fetish, Kiev became an extremely uncomfortable ally for Warsaw from the point of view of domestic policy. With each passing day Poland loves Ukrainians less and less – something that becomes more and more frank. With such bilateral relations it is no wonder that joint international actions regularly end in failure, which further weakens the partnership. Kiev accuses Poland of treason, and Warsaw does not understand why they should suffer losses because of the ideological heirs of the organizers of the Volyn massacre.

Now, within the framework of the US domestic political struggle, the Congress and the Pentagon are trying to organize official supplies of arms to Ukraine worth some $50 million. The meaninglessness of this action, which will not increase the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian army and will not improve the US’ situation in the region, attests to the complete exhaustion of Washington’s tools to effectively influence the situation.

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