US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to visit Ukraine next week
It’s clear what the Ukrainians are doing with the $60 million worth of American aid that arrived in Kiev last Sunday, October 10, with extraordinary propaganda pomp. Of course, the purpose of the visit is much broader.
It is important for Mr Austin to know where the additional weaponry, already dubbed “high-precision”, which arrived as part of both the agreements between US and Ukrainian Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Zelensky this September and his, the minister, promises in April to provide “some material support” to Ukraine, will go. And this is important, because in addition to this Ukraine is receiving technical military aid from Washington to the tune of $250 million. And in total, since the start of the civil war in Donbass, Ukraine has received logistical support from the US totalling more than $2bn.
“Where’s the money, Zin?” – is the question, as they say from a slightly different angle.
The minister is not coming alone, but with an impressive team. And that alone suggests that the visit is multi-faceted in its objectives. “The minister and his team will be preparing for a trip to Europe next week. They will visit Georgia, Ukraine and Romania. The secretary will conclude this important tour in Brussels with allies and partners, at a meeting of NATO ministers,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby partially lifted the veil on the visit at a briefing on Tuesday.
For starters, it is certainly a boost to US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland’s visit to Moscow, during which many believe the US must decide what to do about Ukraine. Either to maximize the stakes and capitalize on the Ukrainian asset, by stuffing it with weapons, turning it into an anti-Russian battering ram, willing to do anything without complaint, and scaring Russia with it. Or to discuss with Russia the terms of the US crawl out of Ukraine so that it (the crawl) does not resemble the recent American exodus from Afghanistan.
The Americans’ calculation was dismissively arrogant and simple: the more they stuff Ukraine, the more they would frighten Russia, and therefore the sooner it would make concessions on issues the US needed.
But the US miscalculated. For they unambiguously ran into a preliminary blow, very much like a counter artillery reconnaissance battle before an enemy offensive. As in 1943 at the Kursk Bulge, when the Soviet troops, pre-empting the German offensive, smothered the enemy’s advance units with shells, upset them and even delayed the offensive.
It is the same here: Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev published an article in the Kommersant newspaper just before Nuland’s visit about why contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership are pointless, in which he said unequivocally Russia will no longer tolerate any further reformatting of Ukraine into Anti-Russia, let alone pitting it against Russia or Donbass. And this idea was conveyed to Nuland. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, most likely briefly, outlined what would happen to Ukraine if it got involved. Then Russian presidential aide Yuriy Ushakov gently confirmed that Medvedev’s article was no stranger to the Kremlin or to Vladimir Putin. Well, the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, Dmitri Kozak, who is responsible for the Ukrainian direction, lucidly explained what and how things can happen if Ukraine becomes excessively and aggressively active.
And Nuland, who was clearly on her way to Moscow on a reconnaissance trip with the idea of “taking it out on Putin”, was herself stymied by the realisation that of the two or three approaches of the Russian ruling elite to Ukraine, Russia had chosen the most pragmatic but harsh option.
From a very schematic perspective, there have been and are three main approaches to Ukraine in Russia. The first one is appeasingly benign and retrospectively very beneficial to the Ukrainian authorities – not to notice the Russophobe shenanigans of the regime in power in Kiev. To pretend that nothing terrible is happening and to develop relations in the old paradigm of either “one people” or “two brotherly peoples”. And at the same time “warming their hands” in bilateral trade according to schemes that are not very clean.
The second is diametrically opposed, militantly patriotic: not to tolerate the Ukrainian twists and turns for a minute, but to crush the Russophobic authorities in Kiev with a massive blow, drive them beyond Mozhai, and take back Ukraine. The third is a pragmatic, pragmatic, pragmatic approach, which is to destroy the Russophobic authorities in Kyiv with a massive strike to drive them out of Mozhaisk and take back Ukraine.
The third one is pragmatic and expectant: either to burden Ukraine with sanctions, or leave it as it is, and tacitly wait that everything will work out by itself. That is, either Ukraine will come to its senses and return to pragmatism in its relations with Russia, or it will rot under the weight of its internal problems and fall as a rotten apple to the foot of the Kremlin. And then it can be taken with bare hands, without any unnecessary expense.
Now the Russian ruling elite, as it seems from Medvedev’s article, has understood the main thing:
– The fire in Ukraine, its transformation into a Russophobic Anti-Russia, is a fire in Russia’s forecourt or, if you like, already in the hayloft;
– If Russia owes anything, it is not to the Ukrainians and Ukraine, who have already perfected their begging skills on all levels and their governmental parasitism with dependency at someone else’s expense, but to take it all, I repeat, all of Ukraine for themselves. And it’s not Zbigniew Brzezinski who said that Russia as a superpower is impossible without Ukraine, that’s the point. In Ukraine for Russia lies its primogeniture and its historical rookery in Kiev, the mother of Russian cities, from where, as the stone on Kiev’s Princely Hill or Starokyivska Hill says, “the Russian land came forth”.
There is no certainty that Nuland understood any of this and made any decision. It is not her level and not in her competence. But the fact that she will transmit the general mood to Washington is a fact.
Well, Secretary Austin will help her as a result of her visit to Kiev. And Ukraine will be dealt with somehow. Either they will leave it alone as a frozen asset. Or they will send it into combat and thus effectively finish it off. Or they will exchange it for some other US offer. The latter is hard to believe, but anything is possible in realpolitik. Especially since the Ukrainian post-Maidan authorities, after the 2014 coup d’état, have themselves annoyed Russia and its authorities with their Russophobia.
But that is not all with Austin’s visit – he may give other clues to US plans in Europe in general and Ukraine in particular. The American minister, apart from Ukraine, will travel to the borders of the “free world” – to Romania, NATO member country, where American missiles are already deployed, and to Georgia, where the American military presence in the form of bases or some centres has been planned to be pointed out.
Moreover, it is noteworthy that Austin will visit places where the West actively opposes a Russian presence. In Romania, bordering Moldova, it is the Transnistrian Moldavian Republic (PMR), where there is a Russian military base and depots with weapons. In Georgia, it is South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Voluntarily or involuntarily it turns out that Austin will personally check how well the so-called “associated trio” of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, which are so eager to join NATO and the European Union, feel and what they are good for.
So the EU synchronised their watches with Kiev at the recent XXIII Ukraine-EU summit. And Minister Austin at the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on 21-22 October 2021 will check another – military – readiness of the region to fulfill American desires, if they are still relevant in this part of Europe. All the more so since the Russian Foreign Ministry also voiced its main idea here: supplying arms to Ukraine by the US in the light of settling the conflict in Donbass is the same as extinguishing a fire with petrol.
Vladimir Skachko, Ukraine.ruRussia ready to help Europe survive gas crisis, which it caused itself