Who Gains from Ukraine?
The recent meeting of the G-7 demonstrated a triumph of zeal over the members’ self-interest. The seven were overwhelmed with a host of crises; inflation, energy, climate change, impending food shortage, and Ukraine offered no solution to any of the problems.
Speaking of Ukraine, they agreed to impose the 7th round of sanctions and promised to keep the war going as long as it takes. They simply did not know what else to do. So, they spent the rest of their time mocking Putin instead evaluating the West’s vulnerabilities and understanding Kiev and Moscow’s objectives and strategies.
Ironically, the meeting outcome bodes well for Zelensky and Putin. President Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and former British Premier Boris Johnson had no idea how this Eastern European game is played. They have been adroitly deceived by both their “sworn friend” Vladimir Zelensky and their professed adversary Vladimir Putin. Despite their differences, Zelensky and Putin converge on one crucial aspect: neither wants to end this war.
Ukraine earned the title of the most corrupt country in Europe for a reason. Since winning independence, corruption has been the predominant pursuit of Ukraine. Zelensky and his cabinet are not motivated by the stability and integrity of Ukraine. Instead, they are motivated by billions in financial aid. Between 2014 and 2020, Ukraine received more than $51.3 billion in and economic aid. Much of this enormous financial assistance was simply stolen by the commercial, military, and political elites. As French economist and author Frederic Bastiat warned ominously, “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Zelensky and the ruling elite’s moral code is to be, in some sense, the Palestinians of Europe. Defeated by superior force, they want the EU to adopt them and make Ukraine a black hole for billions of dollars and euros, with no end. And just like the case with the Palestinians, every defeat functions as a catalyst to attract worldwide sympathy.
So, the more Ukrainian cities are destroyed, and civilians are killed, the greater the territorial losses -- the more victimized Ukraine is perceived -- the better for Zelensky politically.
Since Zelensky was sworn into office, he had been walking with an outstretched hand in Europe and wagged his tail standing on his hind legs begging IMF for one or two billion. The war offered immediate benefits; besides billions of military supplies and economic assistance, Kiev demanded $7 billion per month and laid the ground for 750 billion for reconstructing Ukraine after the war. So, as long as billions of dollars and euros keep coming, Kyiv has no incentive to negotiate a cessation of hostilities. With little subtlety, Zelensky is inciting and manipulating the rivalries between Russia and the United States to serve his agenda.
Russia’s rationale is strategic. The country runs a huge budget surplus due to high energy and commodity prices, thanks to the sanctions, and sees the conflict as a massive drain on the Western economy and military resources. Moscow believes that time is on its side. Moscow expects that when wishful thinking meets reality, it will be a cold, dark, and hungry winter of discontent in Europe. Moreover, since Moscow controls much of the gas supply, the entire European economy is in danger of collapsing should Moscow cut off the supply. Industries, such as aluminum, glass, chemical, and petrochemical, are especially vulnerable. The economic collapse may leave Western consensus broken.
Russia’s militarily campaign is also going well. After initial attempts to take Kyiv and Kharkiv failed, the Russians changed their strategy and concentrated on taking the Eastern Part of Ukraine, called the Donbas region. They also changed their tactics; they no longer storm the cities, which proved costly, but encircle them and use their overwhelming superiority in artillery and the air power to inflict heavy casualties, forcing the Ukrainian infantry to surrender or die while keeping their losses to a minimum. Zelensky plays along by denying multiple requests of encircled unit commanders to retreat and save personnel and equipment. While it leads to catastrophic losses of up to 1000 men daily, according to Western intelligence, it ensures the continuation of financial and military aid.
Therefore, as long as the West acts as a knowing and willing Russian partner in its own destruction by funding both sides of the conflict with high energy prices and massive aid packages, Moscow has every incentive to prolong the war.
Zelensky addresses the United States Congress
As an additional benefit, Moscow is getting access to the most sophisticated Western military hardware. The retreating Ukrainian army is leaving behind huge quantities of materiel. Incidentally, on June 21, Germany delivered a few PzH 2000, the most expensive and most sophisticated self-propelled Howitzers in the world; a few days later, one of them was damaged and shipped to the Urals.
Also, according to the numerous press reports, two 155mm self-propelled howitzers donated to Ukraine by France, found their way to Russian manufacturer Uralvagonzavod. When Zelensky says that Western weapons make the difference, he means his and his cronies’ bank accounts. Indeed, despite enormous Western assistance, the Ukrainian army is poorly equipped, suffers low morale and lack of discipline.
Moscow calls this hostilities a “special military operation” not a war because it employs about 200 000 troops, a fraction of its 1.2-1.3 million army. Any notion that Ukraine can win this war, whatever it means, is ludicrous.
The fall of Lisichansk, the last Ukrainian heavily fortified stronghold, is a prelude to an even bigger Russian offensive on Kharkiv, Nikolaev and Odessa. After depriving Ukraine of its industrial base and access to the Black and Azov seas, Moscow would be in a position to pose the offensive and tell NATO, “You wanted Ukraine, you can have it.”
After all, NATO would not be coming out of this war empty-handed; due to unintended consequences, it is adding Finland and Sweden -- two stable democracies -- to its portfolio. And NATO finally discovered the enemy that could justify its existence.
The poignancy of this war is that while Kyiv is making money, Moscow is making money, and American Military-Industrial Complex is making money, Europeans are suffering, Americans endure the burden of record-high inflation, and Ukrainians are dying.
Correction: aid to Ukraine corrected
Alexander G. Markovsky is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a conservative think tank that examines national security, energy, risk analysis, and other public policy issues. He is the author of Anatomy of a Bolshevik and Liberal Bolshevism: America Did Not Defeat Communism, She Adopted It. Mr. Markovsky is the owner and CEO of Litwin Management Services, LLC. He can be reached at alexander.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
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