Never a More Unsettling Strategic Landscape, by Alastair Crooke

China, Russia, and Iran are drawing nonnegotiable red lines, and they can make them stick. This is a new experience for a lot people within the U.S. government. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

It is the first time that others are dictating to the West rather than being instructed on how to conform to American red lines.

There was an almost audible sigh of relief echoing around western corridors. Though there were no breakthroughs in the Team Biden-Putin virtual meeting, the talks not surprisingly, were heavily focussed on the matter of immediate concern: Ukraine – amid widespread fears that the Ukrainian volcano might irrupt at any moment.

At the meeting: Agreed was the proposal to initiate ‘lower-level’ government-to-government discussion of Russia’s red lines and any halt to NATO expansion eastwards. Jake Sullivan, however, spilt a little cold water over that when he firmly emphasised that the U.S. had given no commitments on either issue. Biden (as advertised in advance), warned of strong economic and other measures should Russia intervene in Ukraine.

What was more notable however, was that the U.S. is ‘only’ threatening to sanction Russia, or to move more troops into the region, as opposed to posing explicit western and NATO militarily intervention in Ukraine. In earlier statements, Biden and other U.S. officials have been vague about what Washington’s response to a Russian invasion would be: warning repeatedly of ‘consequences’, even as it re-committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty.

So, should we all begin to breathe again? Actually, no. In fact, the immediacy of the Ukraine issue was always something of a red-herring: Russia has no desire to wade into the thick, cloying mud of a regional quagmire, however much some in the West would ‘love it’. And the Kiev forces are tired, bedraggled and demoralised from sitting in cold trenches along the Contact Line for months. They have little appetite to take on the Donbass militias (unless aided from the outside).

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