By Sergio Rodriguez Gelfenstein *
In a surprising statement made during a press conference on Monday the 7th, the spokesman for the United States Department of State, Ned Price, said that the crisis in Ukraine “has to end through dialogue and diplomacy”. Price continued straighforward: “There will be no decisive victory on the battlefield.”
Without wanting to draw conclusions a priori and even much less, starting “songs of victory”, these words nevertheless could be interpreted as a sign that, given the clear evidence that Russia is not going to be defeated militarily, it is necessary to open space for the diplomacy.
The prediction of the White House press secretary Jen Psaki seems to have been left behind, who on April 11 had assured: “The Russian economy will collapse in three days.” Nor did the conclusive verdict of Josep Borrell has come true, who on August 28 had stated: “Russia has already lost the war”. Also not corfirmed was the opinion of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who had asserted on October 11 that “Russia is actually losing [on] the battlefield”.
Several “offensives, counterattacks and counteroffensives” on paper have been carried out in this period that have caused great human and material losses with the sole objective of continuing to attract resources to a war that a military man with minimal operational knowledge knows is lost. Now, they are proposing a new “offensive” in the south, in the province of Kherson, but they no longer present it as a strategic objective in the context of the military development of the conflict, but rather as a way of obtaining a victory to put on a possible table. of negotiations. Russia has ordered the withdrawal of its troops from the city after evacuating 115,000 inhabitants.
General Sergei Surovikin, commander of the Joint Group of Troops, has requested from the higher command to withdraw the military forces from Kherson, based on the argument that the city and its surroundings cannot be supplied and lead a normal life due to the constant Ukrainian bombardments. Ukraine here has even used prohibited methods of warfare by attacking the population and civil institutions.
Surovikin pointed out that the Ukrainian plan to blow up the Kajovka dam in order to flood the city could have disastrous repercussions for both the civilian population and the troops, who could even be totally isolated.
In these conditions, Surovikin understands that it is best to organize defense on the left bank of the Dnieper River by preparing troops for combat and freeing “part of the forces and means, which will be used for active operations, including offensive ones, in other directions. in the zone of operation”, that is to say at the main address located in Donetsk.
The Russian High Command accepted General Surovikin’s appreciation, understanding the priority of the life and health of the military as well as the civilian population, and ordered the safe withdrawal of the troops.
Russian decision to withdraw from Kherson
The original US plan was for Ukraine to recapture Kherson before November 8 so that it could be displayed by Biden as a manifestation of the success generated by military and financial support for Ukraine. However, that goal was not met. It must be remembered that the United States prohibited Ukraine from negotiating with Russia in March when several rounds were even held. It is worth remembering that one of the main and most enthusiastic Ukrainian negotiators, Denis Kireev, was mysteriously assassinated on March 5 when hostilities were just beginning, without the crime having been clarified until today.
In any case, the decision to withdraw from Kherson will not change the strategic course of the conflict. Next step is the introduction into combat of the 318,000 new soldiers who have been training in recent weeks and who are expected to be incorporated at the end of November and the beginning of December, producing a definitive change in the correlation of forces soldiers in the conflict.
It is worth saying that the Ukrainian armed forces, despite the Russian announcement of withdrawal, are afraid that this is another manifestation of “maskirovka”, that is, a great deception maneuver both on the tactical and strategic levels. The Russian armed forces from the times of the Soviet Union have developed these. According to that judgment, the maneuver consists of falsifying the capabilities, plans and operations to be carried out, misrepresenting the true objective of the exercise, leading the enemy to an erroneous assessment that leads to erroneous decisions. At least, that is the opinion of Nataliya Gumenyuk, spokeswoman for the Southern Command of the Ukrainian Army.
In the field of diplomacy there is a lot of information, some denied, others unconfirmed and a good amount of rumors that remind us of that old saying that “when the river sounds, it is because it brings stones”.
In recent days it has been revealed that there were indeed high-level talks between the United States and Russia. Although both parties have been quick to report that the Ukraine issue is not on the agenda, but rather a probable nuclear arms limitation agreement under the format of New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) or the old format signed during the war cold to set a limit on the number of nuclear missiles each superpower possessed. This agreement should have been renewed in 2020, but it was not extended due to the refusal of President Trump.
In that context, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, María Zajárova, reported that “specific contacts” are maintained with the United States on “urgent” matters, although she pointed out that between the two countries there are still “relations in a complete format.” “Moscow is not opposed to a mutually beneficial dialogue with Washington”, she said.
In parallel, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Andrei Rudenko, assured that his country is willing to enter into talks with Ukraine “without requiring preconditions except for the main one, which is that Ukraine shows goodwill.” However, he recalled that it was Ukraine that withdrew from the negotiating table in March and now has a law that prohibits holding peace talks with Russia. Rudenko ensured that his country was always willing to dialogue.
Biden calls Zelesnky top open himself to the “possibility of a negotiated solution”
In this context, the NBC News chain announced that in a telephone conversation held in June, President Biden “got out of his mind”, rebuking and harshly yelling at President Zelensky, demanding that he stop asking for money and show results in the war against Russia. Likewise, more recently, the Washington Post has reported that Biden had strongly requested Zelenski to open himself to the possibility of a negotiated solution in the conflict.
What has happened? Why these changes? Many answers could be given. Perhaps it has to do with the interest of the United States to prioritize the negotiation of the START treaty now that, with the existence and development of hypersonic missile technology, Russia shows an overwhelming superiority over the United States in this matter. Hence, Ukraine has moved into the background of interest, while a negotiated solution is sought to the issue, for which the United States could have asked Russia to hand over Kherson so that Ukraine does not expose itself to a total defeat in the negotiating table. It is clear that the START is a strategic and long-term matter, the Ukraine on the other side of tactical and conjunctural nature. For the United States and NATO, the 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in these eight months are not very important. For Russia, taking care of its combatants and its civilian population is a primary task.
Underlying the idea is that Russia has not been able to be defeated militarily. Politically, the government and Putin in particular today are stronger than on February 24, and the popularity of the Russian president increases more as the conflict develops. Nor did the United States achieve the international isolation of Russia. A large number of countries have refused to be part of the sanctions against Russia, including some very important ones such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Hungary and Türkiye among others.
In the economic and financial spheres, although there are obvious effects, the Russian economy has withstood the thousands of sanctions against it. The ruble is stronger today and revenues have broken all records, also reversing serious consequences for the sanctioners.
OPEC rejected US demands
Likewise, it is important to say that the United States failed in its attempt to ask OPEC for an increase in oil production necessary to strengthen its finances, since it must import 7 million barrels daily to cover its consumption, without altering strategic reserves. On the contrary, OPEC not only did not increase, but also decreased exports by 2 million barrels per day, dealing a severe economic and political blow to Biden, who saw how one of his main allies, Saudi Arabia, pushed to reach that figure, after Russia had proposed a cut of “only” one million barrels.
Crushing governments in the West
The economic situation in Europe and the United States itself is being increasingly affected, which has begun to produce undesirable political changes, as witnessed by two fallen governments in Great Britain, as well as those of Sweden, Italy, Bulgaria, among others, and a defeat of the Democratic party in the United States parliamentary elections which, according to President Biden himself, heralds “two horrible years” for the country. Meanwhile, Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the Communist Party of China and Vladimir Putin continues to be the president of Russia, now with much greater strength.
On the other hand, it could also be interpreted that the United States and NATO have begun to realize that these repercussions, which are related to the strategic sphere, are part of the great deception to which they were subjected by Putin when he began a large operation in February surrounding military, to later withdraw from territories occupied at the beginning of the operation that have no relation to the objectives set from the outset. I remember them: liberate Donetsk and Luhansk, demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.
It is worth saying that while the Russian troops are withdrawing from Kherson, they have been developing for two days a powerful and successful offensive in Donetsk that creates better conditions to achieve the strategic objective of capturing Kramatorsk and Slaviansk, the two urban centers of some significance still in Ukrainian hands. That mission should be resolved with the introduction into combat of the newly mobilized reinforcement troops.
Upon completion of this mission, the objectives of the special military operation would have been largely achieved, the Ukrainian armed forces have been semi-destroyed, today only operating at 30% of their initial capacity as of February 24. The rest is paid for by the NATO in its material part, while the human resource continues to be supplied by Ukraine. When the conflict ends, the country will have to start paying the almost one hundred billion dollars that it has received up to now in credits, not knowing from where to get the necessary resources. The country in fact will be transformed into an unviable country in the future when they have lost the most important part of its industrial potential and large amounts of the most productive land. The goal of denazification will remain latent, but now it will be Europe’s turn to do its part when thousands of terrorists who will have been left “out of work” spread throughout the Old Continent, carrying with them their burden of hatred, death and destruction.
I repeat, without wanting to “let the bells fly”: It seems that the time has come to give diplomacy a chance so that times of dialogue, negotiation and agreements come. Hopefully.
* Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein is a Venezuelan international relations expert, who was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TELESUR. Gelfenstein has written numerous books, among them “China in the XXI Century – the awakening of a giant” which has been published in several Latin American countries. You can follow him on Twitter: @sergioro0701