“Globalization” of the Conflict in Ukraine

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Friday was the first anniversary of the war between Ukraine and Russia. Despite the generally stalemate on the fronts, there is little hope of a rapid resolution
Instead of the usual calendar cycles, time on the European continent has been given a new concept – before and after the war in Ukraine. Exactly one year has passed since the sirens wailed in the neighboring country and columns of Russian equipment moved into Ukrainian territory. Since then, the situation on the front has changed almost constantly. But by the late 2022 and the early 2023, the situation on the line of contact, despite occasional revival, had generally “frozen”, resembling the summer operational pause. This is most likely due to attempts by the warring sides to accumulate reserves for a decisive (counter)strike. But on the whole, the state of the front seems to be stalemated, and according to the laws of the military genre, it should encourage the opponents to sit down at the negotiating table. In this respect China’s peace plan of twelve points has come just in time for the anniversary. Beijing has called on all the parties involved in the military conflict to cease hostilities and “abandon Cold War mentality”. The Chinese believe that the time has come to start peace talks, end unilateral sanctions, respect sovereignty, ensure the stability of production and supply chains, reduce strategic risks and promote post-war reconstruction. An attempt at a peace initiative is certainly important and necessary, but, judging from even initial reactions, it is unlikely to succeed. It will be important to understand what further actions will follow from Beijing after the almost inevitable abandonment of its peace plan. A closer look at what Vladimir Putin said a year ago on the eve of the invasion of Ukraine reveals that his plans for a lightning-fast “bloodless” blitzkrieg and the notorious “demilitarization and denazification” have failed. Twelve months later, on the contrary, Kyiv is heavily militarized with various types of NATO-style weapons, and the Ukrainian national code has finally taken shape. On the other hand, Moscow has broken through a land corridor to Crimea, annexed some new territories, seized one of Europe’s largest nuclear power plants, destroyed Ukraine’s economy, and forced millions of Ukrainians to leave their country, most of whom are unlikely to return. These are only interim results of the Russian-Ukrainian armed confrontation, which has no end in sight. The intense heat and predictions by experts that a major offensive by the Russian army would begin in early February and then by the anniversary date have by no means come true. The main battles, meanwhile, unfolded on diplomatic fronts. February, in fact, was a time of various mediation initiatives and diplomatic “special operations”. The Ukrainian authorities put the main emphasis on ensuring maximum support for the UN General Assembly resolution, which was adopted yesterday at an extraordinary special session. 141 countries voted in favor of the document on the need to achieve “a comprehensive, just and lasting” peace in Ukraine as soon as possible, in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter, 32 abstained, and only 7 – Belarus, DPRK, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria – spoke against it. Many had expected some clarity on the way forward and the prospects for ending the conflict from the speeches by Biden and Putin. But it ended with very vague statements, which were largely aimed at domestic audiences in the US and Russia, i.e. were mostly electorally focused. According to experts, Washington and Moscow have de facto launched a new cold confrontation that, unlike in the second half of the last century, will not have clear rules or regulations. Therefore, its predictability will be extremely low and thus far riskier. Judging by the direction of Russia’s actions, not shy of appealing to the “last resort” in the form of nuclear weapons, we are all steadily moving towards a “Caribbean Crisis 2.0”. Nevertheless, by his presence in Kyiv Biden showed that after a year the collective West has “not run out of steam”, has been able to inflict at least a tactical defeat on Russia, and Ukraine is totally in the orbit of its influence. Ukrainian territories are no longer seen as “historical lands” to which Moscow can still have any claims. Putin, on the other hand, has tried to convince the Russian elites with all his appearance that the state has survived the military-sanction attacks of the West and that the main battle is yet to come as Russia has become the “instigator” of the struggle to change the existing Western-centric world order. Thus, one year later, we can say that Russia’s so-called “special military operation” on Ukrainian territory has been defeated, and the Kremlin has no choice but to go for broke and globalize the conflict by zeroing in on the basic nuclear balance agreements of the world. As a result, the future formula for a Russian-Ukrainian settlement is greatly complicated, and the Kyiv-Moscow conflict is already becoming part of a broader global strategic security arrangement. Biden’s presence in Warsaw had an important symbolic meaning and as support for the countries of Eastern Europe, which fear Russian revanchism the most and need the special protection of Washington. In contrast to Germany, France and other countries of the Old World, which continue to cherish secret hopes of renewed cooperation with Moscow. In his speech, the US leader emphasized not only Ukraine and Belarus, but also Moldova, which is apparently seen by Washington as part of the free democratic world and is a special focus of US foreign policy. Tragically, Kyiv faces another difficult phase of an armed clash with Moscow, which demonstrates dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs and intends to continue fighting and to achieve its plans for the territorial and political truncation of Ukraine. Despite some distance from the front line, Moldova has been severely affected by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In addition, Moscow has openly challenged Chisinau and throughout the year has staged various internal political, energy and politico-military “experiments” on our country, hinting that our republic is seen as a zone of Kremlin interest and influence in the post-Soviet space. Most likely, the fate of Eastern Europe and states such as Moldova will be part of that larger global arrangement, where a variety of European security issues, including long-standing territorial conflicts, will be added.