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America is left with three options, none of which is ‘propitious’

By M K Bhadrakumar

US President Joe Biden spent  with a record number of ‘presidential actions’ but almost all of it devoted to America’s domestic agenda  employment opportunities and equal pay for workers with disabilities; search and rescue operations in response to Hurricane Ian; community policing and public safety; cybersecurity awareness; breast cancer awareness; ‘cultural vitality’ in the arts, humanities, and museum and library services; the staffing of National Council on Disability; designation of the clinic of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Mishawaka (Indiana) as Jackie Walorski VA Clinic; a White House reception to celebrate the Jewish New Year; appointments to the President’s advisory commission on educational equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for Hispanics; recovery efforts in Virginia in areas affected by flooding and mudslides; suicide (second leading cause of death among young Americans); expected landfall of Hurricane Ian in South Carolina; and a $225-million training grant for healthcare workforce. September 30 will stand out as a uniquely purposive page in the chronicle of the Biden presidency. POTUS has messaged that he does care in such hard times. The midterm elections are just 38 days away and he is seized of the public perception that he cared more for Ukraine than for America, which is not helping him politically. Biden issued, though, a taciturn statement on ‘Russia’s Attempts to Annex Ukrainian Territory’. He pledged to ‘continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through $1.1 billion in additional security assistance… announced this week.’  Biden added that more sanctions on individuals and entities were in the pipeline and the US would ‘rally the international community’ to denounce Russia’s actions and ‘hold it accountable’. He concluded with a carefully framed assurance that Washington ‘will continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs to defend itself, undeterred by Russia’s brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbour’. Biden neither invoked NATO nor threatened the re-united Russian territories in Ukraine’s erstwhile eastern and southern regions. He ignored President Zelenskyy’s specific request for an ‘accelerated accession’ to join NATO. (Speaker Nancy Pelosi also declined to endorse Zelenskyy’s bid, but said she supports a ‘security guarantee’ for Kiev.) Biden’s statement doesn’t add up. The good part is that he didn’t make false promises. Undoing on the ground the new map of Russia that the Kremlin formalised on Friday is not only beyond American capability, but also can be self-destructive. In the most explicit language possible, Russia’s ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov wrote in the National Interest last Wednesday: ‘I would like to warn American military planners about the fallacy of their assumptions that a limited nuclear conflict is possible.  They apparently hope that the United States would be able to take cover behind the ocean if such a conflict happens in Europe with British and French nuclear weapons. I would stress that this is an extremely dangerous “experiment”. It is safe to assume that any use of nuclear weapons could quickly lead to an escalation of a local or regional conflict into a global one.’ The ambassador’s words carried the imprimatur of the Kremlin. Putin also underscored in his speech on Friday at the Kremlin ceremony: ‘We will defend our land with all the forces and means at our disposal… This is the great liberation mission of our people.’ It is ‘checkmate’ by Russia. By uniting the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine under the Russian flag, backed by a ‘partial’ mobilisation of 3 lakh troops, Putin has shrugged off the hybrid war that the US plotted in the first instance as a quagmire for Russia. Russia outsmarted the Biden administration. Biden is left with three options. One, he can permit Kiev to sue for peace instead of repeating the diabolical act of torpedoing the Istanbul agreement between Russia and Ukraine in March by staging a false flag operation at Bucha. But it will be a terrible loss of face for Biden personally and will tarnish US reputation worldwide, especially after the cowardly sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. Alternatively, NATO openly wades into the Ukraine conflict. But, will the NATO countries blindly follow the Pied Piper all over again and this time around, on a very risky path inexorably leading to nuclear confrontation? Above all, is the US itself in good enough shape to fight a continental war of such mammoth proportions by this winter when a massive Russian offensive is expected? Certainly, the European countries are in no position to switch to a war economy. Putin has drawn red lines. Russian operations will continue, which in future may even bring Mykolayiv and Odessa Regions as well as Kharkov under Russian control. In fact, a buffer zone along the Dnieper River may be the most likely outcome. The realistic way forward may be for Washington to settle at this juncture but that will be a bitter pill to swallow. The forthcoming meeting of the NATO defence ministers may announce some sort of ‘security guarantee’ to Ukraine, which will look good in optics. There is talk of the Pentagon establishing a ‘Ukraine command’ headquartered in Europe. In his Kremlin speech, though Putin reiterated willingness to negotiate with Kiev, he seemed reconciled to the long haul. His whole tenor brutally frank in characterising the western powers as predatory enemies and articulating unvarnished truths from colonial history  suggests that it is no longer a question of whether or not the world is going to witness a new Cold War but how much more of anger and hate will go into the making of its alchemy.

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