BREAKING: The U.S. State Department has ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion. https://t.co/uZrsOLhiRe
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 23, 2022
Great Britain is withdrawing staff from its embassy, Biden is thinking about deploying troops, and Europe is divided on what to do.
“Did you hear what’s going on in Ukraine right now?”
I asked several friends—and the answer was shocking. Most of them haven’t even heard about the dramatic events in Eastern Europe.
So, what is this all about?
The conflict started in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea. Western countries call it an aggression that violates international law, and Vladimir Putin apparently thought it was okay to invade a neighbouring country. After ongoing fights in Eastern Ukraine for almost seven years, Putin decided to deploy 100,000 Russian soldiers at the Russian-Ukrainian border.
So, what happens if Russia really attacks Ukraine?
Nobody knows if it’s really going to happen, but it’s a realistic scenario at this point. The United States and NATO allies already sent military equipment to Ukraine and advised diplomats to leave the country.
The United States and Great Britain are determined to counter the Russian aggression, but European allies (mainly Germany) are not on the same page. Why is that?
Germany has a new government. There are several reasons why Germany has no interest in escalating this situation. The main reason is called Nord Stream 2.
Germany depends on Russian gas. Before Nord Stream 2, Germany received its Russian gas via Ukraine, but the new pipeline takes a different route. So, Ukraine doesn’t get any money from Germany, and Germany’s gas supply fully depends on the goodwill of Russia.
Former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, is a high-paid lobbyist for the state-owned Russian energy supplier Gazprom. And that company built Nord Stream 2 with the help of the former German leader. And that man is a member of the party that leads the new German government (SPD).
And if that wasn’t already complicated enough, the Green Party (also part of the new government) is against Nord Stream 2—and the new German Secretary of State is Annalena Baerbock (Green Party). She cares more about human rights than Russian gas. But she also knows that canceling the pipeline would make it much harder to get rid of nuclear power plants and coal mines.
Some European countries are already quite upset with the new German government. Some observers accused Germany of weakening NATO. And, as a German, I see their point.
But what does Putin actually hope to get out of this? Why is he escalating this situation?
The main Russian argument is that they don’t want Ukraine to join NATO. They already didn’t like it when several Eastern European countries joined NATO in the early 2000s. Putin wants to stop Ukraine from joining NATO at all costs.
And that’s basically what this is about. Putin wants to tell Ukraine what to do, and the United States and (most of) Europe want to expand their influence in Ukraine. I am not the referee, but it seems hard to find a middle ground in his situation.
But I want to say this, “Whatever happens in Ukraine, it’s not worth starting World War III.”
Don’t get me wrong; I think Putin is wrong. The voters in Ukraine should decide which route their country is going to take—not Russia, not NATO, not anyone else.
But that’s not how international politics work.
If this had happened a few years ago, the United States would have been able to keep Russia in check, but times have changed. NATO is not as powerful as it used to be. We saw that in Afghanistan, Mali, and Syria.
Russia is not scared—and China is watching.
If the United States deploys military troops to Ukraine, who is going to defend Taiwan? Does anyone think China is not watching this escalation in Eastern Europe? They know that NATO is not able to go to war with Russia and China at the same time.
In that context, it’s not surprising that North Korea also started testing its rockets again. Iran is thinking about building a few new nuclear power plants with the help of Russia. Putin even threatened NATO and openly thinks about sending the Russian military to Cuba and Venezuela.
This is not only about Ukraine—and it could escalate very soon.
Global markets are tumbling, electricity is already far more expensive in Germany, and nobody knows what will happen next.
Some say that this wouldn’t have happened if Trump was still president. And they might be right on that. Putin probably feels that this is the right time to test our red lines.
Why does he feel this way? Maybe because all Western countries are in a state of chaos and confusion right now.
Biden is fighting with Republicans about the infrastructure bill, Boris Johnson is out of control, France is having elections this year, Germany has a new government, and almost every Western country is still struggling with COVID-19.
On the other side, we have China, which is about to host the Olympics, and a Russian president who wants to see what he can get away with.
I am sure China and Russia also have no interest in starting a World War. But that doesn’t guarantee anything.
This is an extremely dangerous moment in time. I am 37, and I feel this is the closest we’ve ever been to an all-out war between superpowers in my lifetime.
It’s needless to say that it blows my mind how this is not all over the news.
And as a German, I am even more worried. Why? Take a look at the map.
Please make no mistakes, President Biden!